September 4, 2022
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Pogs were a recess staple and weekend hobby for school-aged kids throughout the first half of the 1990s, however, kids in Hawaii have been playing this iconic game since the 1920s. Forgotten the rules? Learn how to play pogs.
If you were a kid in the ’90s, you probably had a pretty sweet collection of Pogs, the small decorated discs with rad imagery that came in neon plastic tubes. Playing Pogs involves taking turns trying to flip as many stacked Pogs as possible using the “Slammer.” If you hit it just right, the Pogs should flip, allowing you to keep all of the Pogs you turned over on that round. Whoever has the most Pogs or bottle caps at the end wins.
While Pogs only gained national popularity in the 90s, kids in Hawaii have been playing this iconic game since the 1920s. The original Pogs were the cardboard caps from bottles of POG, a popular fruit drink in Hawaii. POG stands for P- passionfruit, O- orange, and G- guava.
While you may think the game involves a lot of stacking small discs, well, you wouldn’t be wrong, but it also requires skill and strategy. Did you know there’s a World Pog Federation? Yep, they even own the brand name “Pog.”
All you need is a collection of Pogs and a metal Slammer to play.
Pogs – The highly collectable flat circular cardboard disc. The top side of the Pogs often featured pop culture graphics or characters printed on them while the back side was either left blank or displayed a brand’s logo.
Metal Slammers – Slammers are sturdy metal discs, a bit bigger than the Pogs. You probably saw them being sold in big bins throughout the 90s. The best ones were engraved with unique designs, had some solid heft to them and were highly sought after.
Friends – Pogs is a minimum two-person game.
The first rule of playing Pogs is deciding if you’re going to play for “keeps” or “no-keeps.” If you play for “keeps,” the player keeps the winning Pogs. Playing for “keeps” is especially beneficial if your opponent has a Pog you have your eye on. All players must agree before the game begins to avoid any dramas.
Playing Pogs could mean a quiet game with your siblings or rallying the whole neighborhood to battle it out. Keep in mind the problem with big games is that the last player is always at a disadvantage because there may only be a few milk caps left.
You want a smooth, hard, flat surface for the best gameplay. Carpets, countertops, tables, and concrete are all solid Pog playing spaces.If you’re playing on concrete, sometimes it’s a good idea to stack on top of something else like a book or binder, so you don’t dent or chip your Slammers.
This is up to your discretion. Some fun ways to pick the first player include tossing a Slammer like flipping a coin, rock-paper-scissors, or seeing who has the most of a specific type of Pog. You could also play the winner goes first next round or do heads or tails on an actual coin.
Each player must put an equal number of Pogs into the stack. At least 10-15 Pogs per player is usually recommended. Not enough Pogs, and the game will be over too fast. Too many, and it’s nearly impossible to get the coveted ‘thwack’ when you slam. It’s totally cool to experiment with different stack sizes until you find the ideal size. If you’re playing for “keeps,” remember whichever Pogs you contribute to the pile may not come back. Which Pogs will you risk to get the ones you want?
All players add their Pogs into a pile, which is then shuffled well to ensure fairness by having the Pogs randomly distributed in the heap – especially important if playing for keeps. Next, arrange the Pogs into a big stack. Keep them facing down so you can’t see the images.
The first player aims their Slammer and launches it at the stack. All of a sudden, bottle caps are flying everywhere (hopefully). If the player misses the stack, it still counts as a turn. Playing Pogs doesn’t forgive a lousy aim. After the Slammer has hit and hopefully knocked over the stack, all the Pogs which end up landing face up – the player gets to keep.
Remember! In Pog rules, you have to let go of the Slammer in time. If you’re still holding the Slammer when it hits the Pog stack, or if your hand accidentally touches the stack, your turn is disqualified and you miss the round. If this happens, players must re-stack the Pogs, and the next person can have a turn.
The remaining face-down Pogs are re-stacked, so the next player can take their shot with the Slammer. This continues until all of the milk caps have been flipped over and won.
The player with the most Pogs at the end of the game wins and gets to keep the loot – if you’re playing for a “keeps” game. If not, the winner gives the other player their caps back.
Shuffle and re-stack the Pogs again until the bell rings, you’ve lost all your favorite Pogs, or you’re played out.
In American Pog tournaments (yes, those were a thing), the Slammer “had to be held between the index finger and the middle finger and flicked downward.” If you’re not playing pro, there are a lot of ways to hold the Slammer. Here are some standard techniques:
Pog aficionados use specific throwing techniques to improve their odds.
To nail your technique, you may want to take a page out of ‘The Unofficial POG and Cap Players Handbook’ by Jason Page. Is your flip-factor up to par? The best way to learn how to play Pogs is by brushing up on your slamming techniques. Kids in schools across North America in the 90s would tell you, the way you slam can make a huge difference.
Before playing a rousing game of Pogs, think about how you can use your Slammer to get you to the top. There are two kinds of shots (long range) and (short range). There are no official rules stating which technique you have to use to hit your stack of Pogs.
Long range shots are taken standing up to give you maximum power. While you’ll have more strength, keep in mind that you’re further away from the Pogs, meaning you may lose in accuracy.
Keep the long range shots for the end of the game. It will help you knock out the smaller stacks of Pogs.
Short range shots are taken kneeling or crouching. The shorter range allows you to be more accurate with your aim. Take a short range shot at the beginning of the game when the stack is full to guarantee at least a few flips.
When you’re learning how to play Pogs, the basic game is pretty simple, but there are variations that players like to use. They all have specific rules to make the game more challenging – and more fun!
Stack at 15. If you’re playing the best of 15, then the stack of Pogs must always remain at 15 when a person is ready to take a turn throwing the Slammer. It’s not important which player puts in more Pogs as long as the pile totals to 15.
Pogs where they fall. If you play this variation, then after the first player slams the stack with their Slammer, they pick up the ones they flipped. Then here’s where it gets interesting. Instead of restocking the pile of Pogs, leave them where they fell. This is one of the most challenging variations. You may want to get comfortable with your Slammer techniques before you play the Pogs where they fall.
Long-range Pogs. Depending on which game you’re playing, you can get right on top of the bottle caps before you slam them. In other games, players must stand a few feet away from the stack. This makes it much harder to actually hit the stack of Pogs with the Slammer. Adding more skill, fun, and strategy to the game keeps things interesting!
Non-stop play. One of the best parts of the non-stop play rules is that while you may lose your favorite Pog in one game, you can win it back in the next round, or the round after that. Be careful though, if you’re on a losing streak – non-stop play may see your collection seriously dwindle. That is, of course, if you’re playing for “keeps.” If not, then you don’t have to worry about bidding farewell to your beloved Spider-Man, Pokémon, or Skull-themed Pogs.
While these variations are the most common, there’s no saying you can’t create your own with your friends. That’s the beauty of playing Pogs – there really are endless options. You can keep things as simple or complex as you’d like.
For more on games from the era, check out our list of the best ’90s board games!
Players have to collect as many Pogs as possible to win the game. If you were a collector, the main goal was to earn as many new Pogs to add to your collection as possible.
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September 4, 2022
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