Marbles (di ga da yo s di)

The game of Marbles, or di ga da yo s di, dates back to approximately 800 A.D. It is a complex game of skill and strategy played by adults on a five-hole outdoor course. Until the early part of the 20th century, players used marbles chipped from stone, smoothed into round marbles about the size of billiard balls. Today, there are still some traditional marble makers, but many players now use billiard balls for play. The contemporary rules for Marbles state that "players may use any ball legal for use in billiards as their marble. This means numbered balls 1-15, red snooker balls, specialty billiard balls, cue balls, oversized cue balls and 8-balls."

The game is played on a field approximately 100 feet long and containing five holes about two inches in diameter, 10 to 12 yards apart forming an L-shape. Any number may participate as long as each team has an equal number of players. While the game is historically played by adult men, children may play on their own teams against another children's team.

Each player uses one marble and must keep track of its location as well as the opposing players marbles. The players toss the marbles at the holes with the object of advancing by landing in each hole in sequence and then returning to the starting point.

Players must toss their marbles and knock the opposing players out of the way in a prescribed manner. The first team to complete the course is the winner. The game begins with each player throwing their marble while standing at the second hole then throwing toward the first hole. Players take turns throwing until the marble lands in the hole.

From the second hole, players throw into the first hole and then back to the second hole. Once a player has reached this point, the player can start using his marble to hit another team member’s marble away from the playing area. The strategy of the game is to prevent the other team players from making the holes while your own team advances through all holes and back again.

When hitting the marble of another player, one must make a direct hit or make one bounce then a hit within 4-6 inches of the opponent’s marble. A player cannot hit other opponent’s marbles more than twice without first making the next hole and then coming back to make the third hit. A hit to an opponent’s marble allows the player to make two additional throws of his marble. Additional throws can be either hits of an opponents’ marble or throws toward another hole. The team that first reaches the fifth hole and then returns to the first hole wins.

Once the game has begun, a marble must be picked up and thrown from the spot where it was retrieved. In throwing a marble, a player’s foot may step back, but not forward. An imaginary line is drawn where the marble had been lying and cannot be crossed when making a throw.

A team may informally identify a team captain that provides the directions of strategy to the team players. In the case of marbles landing outside the playing field, the player must make his next throw from wherever his marble landed.

In the case of a player making a hole, but having missed making the previous hole, the player must stay in the hole he/she just made until he/she is hit out by another player.If a player’s marble accidentally falls into a hole that he has been guarding, the penalty is that he must proceed on to the next hole.

When a marble is in a hole, another player can consider his marble “in the hole” or “made” if it leans against the first marble. The referree or player may check this by trying to move the bottom marble. If a player has already made all holes and is finished, they may go back and assist the team by hitting or guarding. If their marble accidentally falls into a hole, it must stay there until hit out by another player. If it is not a player’s turn and their marble is accidentally knocked into a hole, it must stay there also until it is knocked out. A player is allowed to brush away twigs and small obstacles out of the path of his marble, but not to dig a trail or path of any sort.

In a tournament, each team usually has three players. When there are more than three, the game can be expected to last longer, depending on the experience of the players. When the game starts at the second hole with everyone throwing towards the first hole, everyone has to make a first hole. A “hole-in-one” is accepted, but no special benefits are given the player.

A 6-inch zone surrounds each hole. If a player’s marble falls within that zone, the player can drop it in or place it in the hole on their next turn. Otherwise, the player must throw or roll the marble in to the hole.

A team may have 1 – 2 players to guard a hole while the others proceed to the next hole. This usually happens when the opposing team has not any “hitters” and the guarding players help ensure that their opponents do not make the second hole. Once a player makes the second hole, he becomes a “hitter” and can begin knocking the marbles of opponent players out of the way.

Only two hits are allowed to one opposing player before the “hitter” must proceed to the next hole and then is allowed to return and hit the same opposing player a third time. This process is referred to as: “I’m going to go renew.” When a player has been hit twice by an opponent, he can remind the hitter not to hit him a third time without “renewing” by saying, “I’m finished.”

A strategy of the team may be to send a good player ahead to make holes and be available to be a “hitter.” Sometimes a weaker player may be sent ahead to prevent him from holding the team up or from being left behind unprotected.

There are two ways of throwing the marble:

1. "Straight" or "Direct Throw". A player may throw a direct, hard hit to knock a player’s marble away from a hole. If missed, the player risks throwing his marble outside the playing area.

2. "Bomb Throw". A bomb throw has an arch and allows for better placement of the ball. It can be used to hit an opponent’s marble, but if missed, will leave the player’s marble closer to the hole. If the marble hits an opponent’s marble, it must hit it within 6 – 12 inches on a bounce to be acceptable.

Information provided by the Cherokee Nation Cultural Resource Center. For information regarding culture and language, please contact:culture@cherokee.org.