How to Play Portagee Horseshoes

How to Play Portagee Horseshoes

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Also known as Portuguese or podagee horseshoes, portagee horseshoes aren't played with horseshoes at all. Large washers take the place of horseshoes, and a wooden box with a hole in the center -- known as the cup -- substitutes for a horseshoe pit. The portable boxes make it easy to play this game anywhere, with no need for pounding in stakes.

Setting Up the Court

The portagee court consists of two wooden boxes, approximately 5 feet by 3 feet, with a 4-inch hole in the center. The box has a board positioned across the back as a backstop. Position the boxes on each end of the playing area, with the holes positioned 21 feet away from each other. The game is best played outdoors, so the metal washers don't bounce off the board and strike breakable surfaces. The eight washers are 2.5 inches in diameter, with four painted a different color than the others.

Beginning the Game

Decide which team goes first by a coin toss or other arbitrary means. The first player steps up even with the cup opposite the one he will throw into. He may take one step forward, if desired. Using an underhand throw, the player tosses his first washer at the opposite hole, attempting to make it in. He then follows with his remaining three washers. The second player then throws his four washers one at a time, attempting to score and knock his opponent's washers out of the way. Once the washers are scored, teammates on the other end of the court retrieve the washers and throw them toward the opposite box.

Scoring Points

Only one player scores in each round, based on the washer closest to the hole. A washer that is on the box but not touching the hole is worth a single point. If the washer is laying partially over the hole where you can see down into the cup through the hole in the washer, you get three points. A washer that falls down into the cup is worth five points. Your opponent can negate your "cupper" by throwing his own on top of yours. Should his throw knock yours into the cup or to a better position on the board, it's his loss and you get the points.

Ending the Game

The game continues until one team reaches 21 points. The team that scored on the previous round throws first, giving the other team a chance to knock their washers off the board. Should one team reaches 11 points before the other team scores, it is a "skunk" and the scoring team wins. One variation on the game ends the game if a thrown washer ends up balanced on top of the backboard. The team that has the most points when this happens, wins.

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