IT HAD BEEN RAINING all afternoon, and Bo Lewter was getting nervous. “It messed me up real bad,” he says. “I kind of panicked—I really did. I panicked, and I thought, Man, I don’t know what I’m gonna do.”
Bo and his partner, Allen “Doc” Wright, had come so far—it would be a tragedy for it all to be for nothing. “I just dropped my head and just kinda said a little prayer,” Bo explains. “I said, God, if you’re ever gonna make somebody miss, make them miss this one right here.”
As he looked up, he saw his opponent at the opposite end of the Clinton Presidential Center’s lawn lob one of the blue bean bags in a long arc toward the plastic board at Bo’s feet. The rain-soaked bag landed with a thud before flying off the back of the board. “Right then, I knew. I knew that something was fixing to happen,” Bo says.
Doc delicately gripped the bag in the center of the square between his finger and thumb, letting the filling gather at the bottom. He took a step and let ‘er fly. The bag sailed smoothly through the air and fell right into the hole.
Another toss from their rivals, another bag off the board. This was the moment for Bo and Doc, better known by their team name, The Mary Ellens. This was it: their time to shine. Doc threw one more bag and called it in the air.
Bo and Doc still had to play one more round before claiming the title, but it was really more of a formality for the team. In their minds, they’d already won. Twenty-one points later, it was official: They were the 2017 Baggo National Champions.
And while you may not be a national champ yourself, that doesn’t mean you can’t play like one. Use any of the six tried-and-true holds below, and you’ll be throwing like a pro in no time. (You might even give Bo and Doc a run for their money at next year’s competition.)
1. Grip the bag by one of its corners, and let the filling make its way to the bottom. Fold the bag in half, top corner to bottom; then fold in half again, left corner to right.
2. Using your thumb and index finger, hold the bag by a corner, and swing underhanded.
3. This is Doc’s preferred method of throwing, though he’s been known to call it “The Dirty Panties.” Pinch the bag in the center of the square on one side, and let the filling collect at the bottom. Toss underhanded, but with your palm facing down.
4. Smooth out the bag in the palm of your throwing hand so the filling is evenly distributed throughout the bag. Toss underhanded.
5. Start with the full Paducah Pancake, but fold the bag in half so it resembles a taco. Throw underhanded.
6. Bo’s hold of choice (though he will cop to throwing Dirty-Panties style every so often). For this one, just gather the bag in the palm of your hand, and toss softball style.
You say Baggo, I say Cornhole
Bag-toss games have been around in some form or another since around the late 1800s, but they’ve gone by many names over the years. Bags, cornhole, Baggo, doghouse, Polish horseshoes—the list goes on and on. But broach the issue with any die-hard player, and you’ll quickly learn that not all games are created equal. Scoring is usually the same—a bag on the board scores one point, a bag in the hole scores three, and the first team to 21 wins. But the main difference between the two most popular versions of the game, Baggo and Cornhole, lies with the boards. Cornhole is traditionally played with 4-foot-long wooden boards, while the Baggo board is made from molded plastic and measures a foot shorter. Additionally, Cornhole boards are positioned about 30 feet apart with Baggo boards placed a more manageable 20 feet. The origins of Cornhole are a little murky—we’ve seen it attributed to everywhere from 14th-century Germany to the American Midwest in the late 1940s. The official Baggo game, on the other hand, is currently manufactured right here in The Natural State—in Hot Springs, to be exact.