How Bean Bag Toss Works

History of the Bean Bag Toss

The origins of bean bag toss or cornhole are unclear. Some say it was invented in 14th century Germany by a farmer who may have been named Matthias Kueperman. Apparently he saw some boys throwing some heavy rocks into a hole and thought of making a safer game. German immigrants who settled in the U.S. brought the game with them [source: Cornhole Game Fun].

Others insist it was actually a Kentucky farmer in the early 1900s who inspired the game [source: Cornhole Game Fun]. Either way, it became popular in pockets of the Midwest but may have gotten its big break when far-flung relatives visiting family -- or tailgating at Cincinnati Bengals football games -- saw it in action and helped spread the word around the U.S. [source: Cornhole].

Bean bag toss is quite similar to a game once played by the Native American Blackhawk tribe in Illinois, although game players tossed pig bladders filled with dry beans instead of corn-filled fabric squares [source: Ungar].

Today, bean bag toss is the fodder of charity fundraisers, school carnivals and amateur tournaments. There's even a professional organization, the American Cornhole Organization, with tournament competition formatted much like college basketball's Final Four. The cornhole field is narrowed from a nationwide pool of 64 players to the CornyForty (top 40) to the Top Gun Twenty (top 20) before resulting in a champion named the "King of Cornhole." And, because the tournaments have a professional, rather than amateur, designation, players can win prize purses and sport pro jerseys [source: American Cornhole Organization].

Author's Note: How Bean Bag Toss Works

I'd just finished a traditional Kansas Thanksgiving when I encountered a game I'd probably seen played before, but never knew by name: cornhole. After asking at least three times whether I'd heard correctly, I realized it was indeed named "cornhole" and that it was as simple -- and fun -- as it looked. The stuff of tailgate parties and school carnivals, this game is addictive and allows players to participate across generations. What could be bad about that?

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  • American Cornhole Association. "ACA Official Rules of Cornhole / Corn Toss." July 13, 2009. (July 18, 2013)
  • American Cornhole Organization. "Got an ACO Cornhole FAQ?" (July 19, 2013)
  • Betts, Stephen. "Dierks Bentley Stirs Up a Snazzy 'Cocktail.'" The Boot. Aug. 27, 2009. (July 18, 2013)
  • Cornhole. "History of Cornhole." (July 18, 2013)
  • Cornhole Game Fun. "An Interesting Cornhole Game History." (July 19, 2013)
  • Dyke, Jeremiah. "Teaching Integer Addition and Multiplication Tables Using Corn-hole." Hands on Math. Nov. 20, 2012. (July 19, 2013)
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  • Ungar, Stuart. "For a Game With Regional Flair, Try Cornhole." Courier-Journal. May 29, 2005. (July 23, 2013)
  • Watts, Cindy. "Craig Campbell Hosts 'Celebrity Cornhole' Charity Event in Nashville." The Tennessean. May 31, 2013. (July 18, 2013)