How to Play Jacks

A traditional playground game of skill and hand eye coordination for 1 player. Jacks is also known around the world as Astragaloi, Dibs, Dibstones, Five Stones, and Snobs.

How to Play

The game is played with 10 jacks or crosses.  There are many different versions of the game of Jacks, but try this one first.  Place all jacks on the floor or table, throw the ball into the air, gather up the required number of jacks and, with the same hand, catch the ball before it bounces.  It's usual to start the game picking up one ball, then two, etc.  Pick up the prescribed number of jacks and then pick up the remained on one swoop.

For the easier game allow the ball to bounce once while picking up the jacks.

Alternative throw up one or two etc jacks into the air and catch them on the back of your hand.

For Top Tips to play Jacks see below and click to view our Jacks set.


The first mention of games like Jacks was in Greek history and then in Roman Britain (see History of Toys) when easily obtainable items such as stones, bones and nuts were used in games.  Girls and young women used to play ‘knucklebones’ by throwing the bones into the air, then trying to catch them on the back of their hand.

Playing with bones in some form would have been the forerunner of many games including dice games.

The original knucklebones have been changed into the modern day 6 pointed ‘jack’ or star shape.

Top Tips

*  Heavier jacks or crosses such as those made from metal are easier to play with that those made of lighter weight plastic.

* When throwing the jacks down to start the game, try to keep them reasonably close together, but without being piled on top of each other.

*  Try double bounces of the ball for beginners.