With the popularity of air hockey increasing steadily , one needs to learn some of the facts about the game.

For example, did you know that once you score a goal, your opponent only has ten seconds to get the puck back into play? If he or she delays, then a foul is charged (unless a timeout has been called).

Another interesting rule in the game is that you have 7 seconds to take a shot with your mallet (also known as the paddle or pusher) once the puck has crossed the center line. If you fail to do so, its a foul.

While we're discussing seconds in a game of air hockey, players may each take one ten-second timeout during each game. Failure to abide by this time restriction results in a.foul! And, while we're on the topic of timeouts, you may not call your timeout unless you are in possession of the puck. You can possibly penalize each other with a foul if one of you tries to call a timeout without the puck.

Strict rules are in effect for the touching of the puck. No part of your body, be it hand, arm, or hip may touch the puck while it is in play. (This is called "palming".) In addition, your clothing may not touch the puck, either.

It is not permissible to stop the puck even with your mallet, unless you are trying to keep it from hitting you in the face when it becomes airborne. (And it will, air hockey pucks have a tendency to really travel!)

Stopping the puck with your mallet is called "topping", and is not allowed. Doing so will, you guessed it; result in a foul.

There is a time when "topping" isn't really considered "topping", and that is when a puck has flown up off the table or if you are trying to send it toward your opponent's goal. There is a fine line to be drawn here, but draw it we shall.

Of course, if you aren't interested in playing a regular game, and just want to hang out with your buddies and have beer, then you may wish to institute "house rules". For example, you may wish to rotate players whenever a goal is scored - a form of Round Robin. Failing to block a goal might require a player (or the spectators) to swig a beer. Thus you can innovate with the rules.

If you and your friends are serious players, then you can keep in mind the rules mentioned above. However, if you are just playing for the fun of it, you can create your own rules.