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3 Tips to Take Your Cornhole Game to the Next Level, According to a Professional Player

Time to dominate the classic barbecue game.

Barbecue season is finally here. And one of the great staples of any respectable cookout, in addition to burgers, beers, and that guy who hovers around the grill asking the guy cooking ‘what equipment are you working with?’, is cornhole. Thanks to the easy setup, simple rules, and narrow field of play, the classic tailgate classic where you try to toss corn-stuffed sacks into (or around) a target has pretty much overtaken Wiffle ball as backyard barbecue game of choice. But, while easy to learn, the game, which unleashes the competitive spirit of all players, requires a fair share of skill to really master.

That’s why we spoke with Trey Ryder, a prominent competitor and play-by-play commentator in the American Cornhole League (that’s right, there’s a American Cornhole League). Trey shared three cornhole strategies that will help anyone — from first time players, to bag-tossing pros — become the cornhole king of the neighborhood.

Learn to Throw a “Flat Bag”

To the casual player, cornhole seems easy. Set your feet and throw the bag underhand. But Ryder says that majority of cornhole players suffer from a lack of fundamental throwing form that makes them far less likely to score consistently.

“If you go to any barbecue or tailgate and watch them throw it’ll look like a knuckleball in the air and it will land on the board then jump in any direction,” Ryder says. “The throw might seem accurate but you’ve lost control. Even if you hit the perfect spot on the board, chances are it’s going to bounce.”

Ryder’s tip? Throw a “flat bag.” By this he means starting out with the bag flat in your palm, with four fingers below the bag and their thumb on top. Using this tactic, the bag, with the right release, will remain flat while spinning in the air, giving players “a good idea of where the bag will go pretty much every time.” Ryder admits that learning the “flat bag” technique can be difficult but once the technique is mastered, the entire game becomes easier.

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Don’t Neglect Defense

“If you play a skilled opponent, they are going to be able to make it into the hole a lot of the time unless you have a strategy set up to prevent them from doing so,” Ryder explains.

A good cornhole player knows that bag placement isn’t just about scoring points, it’s about keeping the other team from scoring points as well. That’s why one of the keys to a winning defensive strategy is throwing a bag that slides just in front of the hole, as that will earn you points while making it significantly harder for the other team to be effective.

“The easiest way to score consistently is sliding the bag into the hole over and over again, so blocking that access is huge,” Ryder says. “Suddenly, your opponent is forced to make much trickier shots and easy points are being taken away.”

Know Your Own (And Your Opponent’s) Playing Style

Cornhole might seem like a game where there is little that distinguishes good players from each other but according to Ryder, there are three types of cornhole players that exist — the power player, the finesse player, and the balanced player — and understanding these types gives players a huge advantage in terms of strategy.

“Power players have a tight and fast delivery that keeps the bag close to the ground,” Ryder explains. “The trajectory of their throws typically resembles a line-drive.”

Power players are those who are most likely to play defense, as they will push bags and utilize their throwing style to force other players to make shots with high levels of difficulty. On the flip side, Ryder says that finesse players play in a way that is “looser and more gentle.”

Basically, finesse players prioritize accuracy over strategy and are more likely to aim for spots that offer a higher reward but also have a greater risk if executed poorly.

Finally, there are balanced players, who “combine the two styles and utilize either based on whatever throw is better at that moment.

Why does any of this matter? “Knowing what type of player you and what type of player your teammate is will help you two work together better,” Ryder says. “If you are a power player, make an early move to get a bag in front of the hole. It also helps to recognize that in your opponent because you can often guess their general strategy.”