The Game


POLO 101

For those attending their first polo match on January 8 or interested in sharpening their knowledge Magic Millions Spokesperson, Rob Archibald has provided a 101 insider’s guide to Polo.


  • One of the world’s oldest games, polo dates back over 2000 years, first originating in India before migrating to England in the 1860s.
  • Today, more than 50 countries play polo with the sport gaining increasing popularity as a premier spectator sport and can be an easy game for the first-time spectator to enjoy.
  • The dominant nations are Argentina, the USA and Britain, each with a thriving polo scene and industry. Other polo growth hotspots include China, Dubai, Switzerland, Singapore, New
    Zealand, South Africa, the Caribbean, Chile, Spain and, of course, Australia.
  • The first known polo game in Australia was played at Moore Park, Sydney in 1874.

Basic Rules

  • Generally there are two teams made of four players. Magic Millions will be showcasing two games with three players per team which will allow for a slightly more fast-paced game to be played, ‘similar to the 20/20 cricket’.
  • Team members are designated as “attack” or “defence” and each has the job of furthering their own goal tally while preventing the other side from scoring. The players should mark their opposite number; for example No. 4 should mark the No. 1, preventing that player from scoring by hooking and riding off.
  • A game is usually six periods (chukkas) of play. One chukka is seven minutes long with the clock being stopped every time there is any interruption. The breaks between each chukka are three minutes long.
  • Play starts with the umpire throw-in, where the ball is rolled between the teams.
  • The line of the ball and the right-of-way make up the fundamentals of the game. The line of the ball is the imaginary path the travelling ball is expected to take, which cannot be crossed by the opponent. A player who is going straight after a ball they have hit, or the first player to swing into the line of a rolling or flying ball, without hampering the others, may not be intercepted by any other player as this could harm the player or the pony.
  • Any time a ball crosses the line between the goal posts, it is considered a goal regardless of whether a horse or a mallet causes the ball to go through.
  • The most important rule in polo is always the safety of the horse and also the players!


  • Each player is individually ranked on a handicap scale that ranges from -2 (beginners) to +10. There are only a handful of players worldwide with a 10-goal handicap.  The team handicap is the sum total rating of its players, and in handicap matches the team with the higher handicap gives the difference in ratings to the other team.


  • Players score by driving the ball into the opposing team’s goal. Each goal is worth one point.

Polo Ponies

  • Polo ponies are usually full-size horses, ranging in size from 14.2 to 15.3 hands high and weigh between 400 – 500kgs. Thoroughbreds are regarded as the best polo ponies because of their speed, stamina, ability to accelerate, stop and turn quickly, and whose temperament is amenable to the rigors of the game. Ponies play for a maximum of two non-consecutive chukkas per match.


  • The umpires generally call fouls for dangerous riding or use of the mallet. Penalty for a foul can be anything from a free hit to a free goal for the opposing team.

The Field & Equipment

  • A polo field is 275metres long by 180metres wide, although if it is boarded it need only be 150metres wide.
  • The goal posts are 7.3metres apart, 3metres in height open at the top and collapsible on impact.
  • A polo player must have a helmet, knee guards and a polo stick (mallet). The mallet is pliable and hits of up to 150 metres are not uncommon.
  • The ball, once made of bamboo (9cm diameter), is now made of plastic and although only 130 grams is remarkably hard if it hits a player.


  • A player may use their mallet to block or interfere with an opponent’s swing by hooking the other player’s mallet. This is only allowed when a player is on the side where the swing is occurring or directly in front of or behind their opponent.
  • A bump, or ride-off, is used to break an opponent’s concentration, move them off the line of the ball or ruin their shot. When one player rides their pony alongside and physically connects with their opponent to lead them away from the ball, it is called a ride-off. A ride-off is permissible only at a 30-degree angle and at the horse’s shoulder.