How to win a croquet match: the 3 rules

This is not an instructional for beating your strange Aunt at backyard croquet during her annual summer holiday picnic. If you want to win that game, all you need to do is wait until no one is paying attention, pick up a couple of balls, and hide them. I doubt that anyone will know the difference.

I’m not trying to sound as though I do not respect backyard croquet, I suppose it offers a productive introduction to the game for individuals who may otherwise never play. But I do not respect backyard croquet, and once you have transitioned from backyard croquet to croquet, neither should you. I’ll try to illustrate the difference with the following images:


Backyard croquet. Notice the puppy and the clever smile. Oh how cute croquet must be!


Croquet. Of the US 6 Wicket variety. Notice the camera man sacrificing the body to get the shot, and the pure concentration exuding from every pore as players execute their shots. Oh, what a game. By the way, the action shot is from, not sure about the historic-ish looking image, it landed in my lap several years ago, and I do not know from whence it came.

A final note before we get to the rules, these work for 9 wicket and American Rules 6 Wicket. Apologies to those of you who get here looking for International Rules techniques (I love the distinctions but have only played a handful of International Rules matches. Also, while I think the rules may still work, the corollaries and explanations require tailoring, and my limited expertise in International rules gameplay will make it impractical for me to provide that data.).

This post is just going to cover the high-level rules and the corollaries which support them. I’ll follow up on each rule with a dedicated post involving simulated match-play examples for clarity. These rules do not outline “Go through your next hoop” or “take your opponent of set”; they assume these are axiomatic strategies. They instead detail end of turn scenarios and best practices. In my experience, these are the areas where players get in to trouble, and matches are won/lost. The rules are currently worded as though you are playing doubles. I assume you can alter pronouns as necessary for singles play. Sorry for the long-winded introduction, here goes:

  • The Deadness Postulate. You know the current deadness scenario, and refrain from adhering directly to rules which can not apply to you due to deadness. Ex., You must alter your actions under circumstances falling into Rule 1, Corollary B, if your partner is dead on your ball. This is because playing to a partner who is dead on you is generally a bad idea (except maybe in the case where your partner is set on his/her current wicket and about to clear their deadness, or your opponent is about to clear 1-back – in the case of 6 wicket).
  • Rule 1. Know when to partner up (The Deadness Postulate applies here)

    • Corollary A. When your opponent’s balls are together your balls should be separated and in striking positions (offensive or defensive - just somewhere threatening).
    • Corollary B. When your opponent’s balls are separated, your balls should be together (unless you are carrying partner deadness, in which case you probably already broke the third rule).
  • Rule 2. Be a good partner (The Deadness Postulate applies here).

    • Corollary A. Always put your partner where he/she needs to be - usually set on their next wicket, or sometimes in the vicinity of the ball which plays after them (Depending on the third rule, this includes occasionally sacrificing your play in the interest of ensuring a productive next turn for your partner.

      • Corollary B. When you can not place your partner where he/she needs to be, make sure that you provide him/her with a ball to easily get to where he/she needs to be. Ideally this is the opponent ball that plays after your partner, but often this becomes your ball (except when in violation of the first rule!).
  • Rule 3. Don’t Foul-up your shot (A more explicit version of this rule is generally accepted, and often easier to remember).

Those are the rules. Adhere to these, and you will win. If you lose while adhering to these, you lost to a better player - congratulate them and learn from the experience.

I know you’re saying the third rule sounds cheap, but it isn’t. This is the rule that instructs you not take a 100 ft shot on your opponent’s two balls so that you can break them up, split one of the opposing balls 100 ft back to your partner, while simultaneously sending yourself 80 ft to your wicket. Most players wouldn’t think twice in this instance, they would simply play defensive and wait for an appropriate time to strike. However, In the more median cases, where it “shouldn’t” be difficult to accomplish the goals of the turn, the third rule really shines. Is it really a safe bet that I am going to succeed at these four consecutive shots? If I fail to properly execute any of these shots, how much advantage am I giving my opponent? Sometimes you need to question your strategies, and determine the realistic probably of successfully executing your plan. This is where the third rule must be applied, and where you realize that each time you miss a shot, or execute a shot in a way that is less than accurate, you affect more than just that shot. These small mistakes can have drastic impact on the outcome of the entire match.

I’ll post some court diagrams and examples of various scenarios over the next few weeks. Good luck in your matches.

// TODO croquet rules, Habari theme(s), GWT/GAE, password management // –imperialWicket

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