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Ringer, The Tournament Marble Game

Here is what I found in the history of Ringer as a Tournament Game

Marbles became an organized sport in the United States in 1922 when Macy's in Philadelphia ran off a promotional tournament of seven boys and a girl; the Scripps Howard Newspapers took over sponsorship and created an annual countrywide elimination. As the matches got underway, with attendant publicity in the Scripps Howard press, Atlantic City requested that it be the official host city for the finals. The New Jersey shore has, for the 50-year history of the National Marbles Tournament, been the locale for the finals, with the site shifting from Atlantic City to Ocean City, then to Wildwood and Asbury Park, and finally and permanently back to Wildwood in 1959. Girls have participated in the nationals -- in their own division -- since 1948.

The tournament, once an event of high interest, began to lose attention in the last decade. in 1968, Roger Howdyshell, President of the Marble King Company of Paden City, instituted a $500 scholarship for the national champ which has helped the tournament get through its half century. Following are elaborate and quite rigid rules for Ringer, championship style, which is the game played in the National Marbles Tournament.

No less tha two and now more than six may play in one game of Ringer, except in tournament championship matches, where only two play. All tournament play is for fair, and marbles must be returned to owners after each game.


The playing surface shall be a smooth, level area of ground, hard clay or other suitable substances. The Ring is inscribed upon the area 10 feet in diameter, and all play within this ring. (Note: The outline of this ring shall not be so deep or wide as to check the roll of the marbles).
  • With the center of the Ring as a point of intersection, mark two lines at right angles to each other to form a cross, which shall be a guide for placing the playing marbles. Place one marble at the four branches of the cross, each marble three inches from the next one.
  • The Lag Line is a string draw thangent to the ring and touching it at one point. The Pitch Line is a straight line drawn tanger to the ring and directly opposite the Lag Line.
  • Playing marbles shall be round and made of glass. All marbles in one playing ring must be of uniform size. The standard size shall be five-eights in diameter. Slight variations may be allowed by the referee for manufacturing fault.
  • Shooters shall be round and made of any substance except steel, or any other metal, and shall not be less than one-half nor more than six-eights in diameter, as determined by the referee.

Plan of Playing

The Lag is the first operation in Ringer. To lag, the players stand, toeing the Pitch Line, or knuckling down upon it, and toss or shoot their marbles to the Lag Line across the ring. The Player whose shooter comes nearest the Lag Line, on either side, wins the Lag.

Players must lag before each series of games. The player who wins the lag shoots first and the others follow in order as their shooters were next nearest to the Lag Line. The same shooter that is used in the lag must be used in the game following the lag.

On all shots, except the lag, a player shall knuckle down so that at least one knuckle is in contact with the ground, and he shall maintain this position until the shooter has left his hand.

Knuckling down is permitted but not required in laggin. Starting the game each player in turn shall knuckle down just outside the Ring Line, at any point he chooses, and shoot into the ring to knock one or more marbles out of the ring.

A player continues to shoot when he knocks one or more marbles out of the ring -- provided his shooter remains inside the ring. When a player's shooter passes outside the ring, whether of not he has scored on the shot, he shall cease to shoot. He shall be credited with the marbles he has scored.

After a miss a player picks up his shooter, wherever it lies, until his next turn, and then is permitted to take rounders and shoot from any point of the ring line.

Playing regulations

  • Marbles knocked outside of the ring shall be picked up by the player who knocks them out.
  • Whenever a marble or shooter comes to rest on the ring line, if its center is outside the ring, or exactly on the ring line, it shall be considered out of the ring; if its center is inside the ring, it shall be considered inside the ring.
  • If a shooter knocks out two or more marbles in a combination play he shall be entitled to all points on the shot.
  • When a shooter slips from the player's hand, if the player calls "slips" and the referee is convinced that it is a slip, and if the shooter did not travel more than 10 inches, the referee may order "no play" and permit the player to shoot again. The referee's decision is final.
  • The game shall end when one player has knocked seven marbles from the ring.


  • For each marble knocked out by a player, he shall be credited with the score of 1.
  • The player having credited to him the largest number of marbles at the competition of the game shall be the winner of that game.
  • In games where more than two players are engaged, if two or more players lead with the same score, those in the tie shall play a new game to break the tie.
  • A player refusing to continue a game, once it is started, shall be disqualified, and if only two players are engaged, the game shall be forfeited to the offended player.
  • The score of the forfeited game shall be 7-0.


  • The officials shall be a referee and a scorer, if a scorer is available, otherwise the referee shall also keep score.
  • The referee shall have complete charge of the play.
  • He shall interpret these rules and have power to make decision on any points not specifically covered by these rules.
  • He shall have authority to disqualify any player for unsportsmanlike conduct.
  • He shall have authority to order from the ring or its vicinity the coach or other representatives of any player who conducts himself improperly.
  • The scorer shall keep a record of the game, making score of each player, shot by shot, and at the end of each game shall notify the referee of the score and the referee shall announce the winner.
  • The scorer shall assist the referee in enforcing the rule against coaching, and call to the attention of the referee any infraction of the rules.


A player shall *not:*
  • Lift his hand forward until the shooter has left his hand. This violation is known as "hunching."
  • Smooth of otherwise rearrange the ground or remove any obstacles. He may request the referee to clear obstructions.
  • Penalty (for all these violations): If any marbles were knocked out or dislocated on the shot, they shall be restored to their place, and the player shall lose his shot.
  • Change shooters during the course of the game. He may choose a new shooter on each lag, provided he uses that shooter in the subsequent games.
    • Penalty: The player shall be disqualified from the game.
  • Communicate in any way with his coach during the course of the game.
    • Penalty: Forfeiture of all marbles he knocked out of the ring; said marbles to be returned to the game and placed on the cross.
  • A coach shall not give instructions to either his own or any other player engaged in a game.
    • Penalty: Coach shall be ordered from the playing field if after being warned once, he continues this violation.
  • Players must not walk through the marble ring.
    • Penalty: After a player has been warned for violation, the referee *may* require the forfeiture of one marble to be returned and placed on the cross.

* * *

Additional rules:

  • In lagging, players shall lag together. If either shooter strikes the backboard, or the marbles or rack in the ring, that player loses the lag. If both shooters strike an obstruction the players lag over.
  • Backspin: Each player shall be responsible for the results of backspin. If the shooter on its return strikes any part of the player's body he shall lose the turn, but shall be entitled to any marbles knocked out on the shot.
  • Marble in action: A player shall not pick up any shooter or marbles while in motion and shall not stop a shooter's or marble's motion. Violation of this rule shall be considered a foul and the player shall lose his turn.
  • Practice shots: A player shall not take practice or warmup shots into the ring while a game is in progress or ready to start. Violation shall be considered as a shot. Players may take practice shots on the ssurface outside the ring.
  • Broken shooter: A player may not change shooters during a game *except* that if a shooter is broken the referee may permit a change, if in his judgment the shooter has become damaged enough to impair good shooting.
  • Wind action: If before the shot the wind moves a marble, the referee shall return it to its original position. However, any marble or shooter set in motion during a shot shall be allowed to continue until it comes to a full stop and if the wind carries it out of the ring it shall be counted out. The marble or shooter shall be considered dead once it comes to a complete stop. If the wind moves it thereafter, it shall be returned to position.
  • Wrong shooter: If any player carelessly shoots with one of the playing marbles he shall lose the shot and any marbles knocked out with the illegal shooter shall be returned to position.
  • Picking up marbles: Each player may use his own judgment as to whether to pick up his marbles after each shot or wait until he finishes shooting, excepting any marble which bounces back into the ring must be picked up immediately.
  • Forfeited game: Each player shall be responsible for keeping informed as to the progress of the game. If before the actual completion of a game, a player mistakenly believes he has lost and throws his marbles into the ring he shall be considered to have forfeited the game.
  • Slips: The rule regarding slips shall be enfored strictly and whenever the shooter travels more than 10 inches it must be considered a shot. If a player picks up his shooter on a "slips" before it has stopped it shall be considered to have gone more than 10 inches and he loses his shot.
  • The lag: Players shall lag before each set of games and the winner shall shoot first in all odd-numbered games.

* * *

In tournament play there are shots to avoid and shots for which to strive. If too much pressure is put on one's shooter, the shooter may skid across the ground, off course, or bounce over the target marble. The best tourney players shoot easily, but acurately. An important shot in tournament play is "Riding Snoogers." A snooger is a marble left near the rim of the ring. To ride a snooger is to hit this marble a glancing blow, knocking it from the ring, while bouncing the shooter into the mass of other target marbles in the center of the ring, thus paving the way for easy shots.

Song: "Goody, Goody"