The Player's Corner
Below is a series of letters to all current and future cornholers. These letters are from Michael Heard. He is one of of the founding members of the Central Alabama Cornhole Club. He is also one of the CACC’s most decorated cornholers.
Please feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
As every cornholer should, he is always looking for advice and pointers to improve his game and strategy.
These letters are in a 3 part series:
Part I - Preparation
Part II - Match Play
Part III - Winning with “Class”
As a 2-time cornhole champion and 2-time most valuable cornholer (M.V.C.), I have seen a lot of what Cornhole has to offer. There have been times my back (or my partner's back) has been against the wall. In those situations, I have used some keen areas of strategy in order to better my opponents. I have also used some basic outlines in my preparation and execution of a Cornhole match. Since I'm not writing a book, I will offer you today some vital tips and strategies in preparing for a doubles Cornhole match. Later, I will show you the tips on match playing and on finishing like a champion!
Tip #1: Know your opponents. If one of your opponents is particularly stronger than the other, my suggestion is to put your stronger player with him/her. This evens the playing board a bit and avoids huge point bursts within the match.
Tip #2: Know your side. If you and/or your partner throws significantly better from one side of the board compared to the other, make sure he/she is on that side. If you are close in accuracy from either side, allow your partner to choose the side he/she prefers.
Tip #3: Know your opponents weakness. If your opponents like rum and coke, then make them a double rum and coke. If it's a screwdriver, then make it a double or even a triple. Most experts agree that a drunk cornholer is a bad cornholer. There are a few people that can actually play better intoxicated than sober. But, more often than not, they will become belligerent and sloppy.
And finally Tip #4: Know the bags/boards. In taking a few practice throws before a match, note tendencies of the bag. Does it slide or stick? Does it move more to the left or right? How is the wind affecting the throw. Cornhole boards, although built to specs, can be different. Is it slick or coarse? (Because of the surface area) Does it lean to one side? Does it shake a lot when contacted by a bag?
The more you know about preparation, the more comfortable you and your partner will be during a match. Don't take it from me, Michael Heard. Take it from Michael Heard 2-time Cornhole champion! And remember, "Toss with your hand, think with your head but win with your heart."
Alright. Now that you and your partner have prepared for your match, how do you go about winning it? During a heated Cornhole match, how you and your partner approach and execute a "match plan" is directly proportional to success. Anyone can go out there and toss some corn around, but can you outwit an opponent and strategically place the bags to frustrate and confuse them? Here are some sure fire tips on developing a "match plan" to defeat your opponent.
Tip #1: Initiate the pressure. If you have the first toss of an inning, you don't have to go for the jugular . Put the bag on the board. If you go for the hole and miss, your opponent has then 4 opportunities to score to just 3 for you. By putting the first bag on, you also make it more difficult for your opponent to "go for it". If you are the second person to throw, read your opponent. If they miss, you might want to just put it on the board to establish a lead. If they have been cold and missing a lot of their shots, you should go for the hole and try to get lots of points.
Tip #2: Bag placement. If you ask a lot of Cornholers, "Where is the best place to throw your bag?" They would probably say, "In the hole jerk!" Sure it's great to get a cornhole, but it's also great to play some defense. The best way to do that is to throw the bag to where it's directly in front of the hole. That way, the only way your opponent can get a cornhole, without pushing yours in, is to throw it very high and it drop in the hole without hitting the board. That is the most difficult shot in Cornhole. Most of the time they miss the board completely, leaving you with the advantage. Most of the time, the only way to get points is to stack bags together in front of the hole setting up a "wall". Usually, this ends an inning with no points or 1 point going to the person who threw the first bag close to the hole.
Tip #3: Minimize the damage. It's inevitable that sometimes you get down in an inning. Maybe your opponent has thrown a cornhole, maybe 2 or even 3. When that occurs, sometimes it's best to cut your losses and minimize the damage. If you're down by 2,3 or more points and you have a couple of throws left, make sure you at least get them on the board. You want to turn a potential 5,6 points for your opponent to a more manageable 3 or 4 points. This will mean more innings played which means more opportunities to get those points back.
(And finally) Tip #4: Finish the job. Once you get close to victory, don't lose your focus. Even if it's close, continuously apply the pressure by putting the bags on the boards. If you have an opportunity to win a match, go for it. If the score is 18-17, for example, and you have the last bag to throw, and the current inning is tied, go for the hole! If you miss, it's still 18-17. More times than not, the aggressor at the end will win the close ones.
Hopefully, these tips will help you in your next Cornhole event. If it doesn't, you probably need to practice more. Thanks for your time and hopefully I'll see you at the next tournament.
Winning with "Class":
After mentally grasping the concept for the past 2+ years, I have finally grasped the idea. Before I began, some may ask "Sure, you can win with class, but what about those other times. How do you lose with class?". The answer. There is no class in losing, no honor, no dignity. It is what it is loser! Now take your crap and go home! I'm just kidding, you can hold my beer.
OK. You've done your homework, you've properly evaluated your opponents, you've executed your strategy and you and your partner have won the match. How do you come off as a compassionate competitor rather than an arrogant jerk to your vanquished adversary?
Step 1: Lie. Give your opponent some fabricated story like "We've never thrown THAT well before" or "I think our bags were less slick than yours" or even "Just because you all got beat by 18 doesn't mean you don't have a lot of upside. A little more practice and who knows, you could be the King/Queen of the CACC (even though you're ignoring the fact that they throw granny shot style)."
Step 2: Invite them to other CACC competitions, particularly those that have money prizes.
If you want bigger prizes, we all need more numbers out there to make it happen. Don't be a jerk, spread the love!
Step 3: Teach the real players the game.
This doesn't apply to all. Some folks can't hit a Cornhole if the hole was the actual Grand Canyon. Those who have the talent need to know the strategies of spin and positioning. Those are the folks that will challenge the champions and provide the ultimate entertainment of each Cornhole enthusiast.
From Behind the Boards,
Michael J. Heard