One person should be designated to prepare the stump for play. After the first game, it is common for the winner to assume the honor of preparing the stump for the next game.
To prepare the stump, determine how many players (or teams) will participate in the game. One nail should be hammered into the top surface of the stump for each player. The nails should be hammered into the stump straight and as little as possible, however, they should be far enough in that they are sturdy and will not fling out if they are hit at an angle (usually an inch or so will do). The nails should be spread evenly in a circle around the surface of the stump.
Each player "claims" a nail by placing his or her finger on the nail. This will be his/her nail for the duration of the game. It is generally understood that people will claim the nail directly in front of them, though this does not necessarily have to be the case.
Each player must have a beer (can, bottle, cup, or other suitable container containing beer) on his or her person (defined as being supported entirely by said person and their clothing, not by any other objects) at all times. The only exception to this rule is during Home Improvement (see Rules of Play), when a player can legally put his or her beer down until Home Improvement is completed.
The seasoned veteran may choose to light the stump on fire before play. A crowd favorite.
The winner is the last player whose nail remains standing.
Basic hammer toss.
Each player, in turn, shall toss the hammer such that it makes at least one full 360-degree rotation before he touches it again. The player shall not be allowed more than one toss per turn for any reason (unless it is part of a Trick - see Rule 3).
Once the hammer is caught the player shall attempt to bring it down immediately and without hesitation upon an opponent's nail, driving it into the stump. Any attempt at "cocking", "aiming" or "re-gripping" the hammer shall be considered foul play and subject to criticism.
The standard toss is a back flip, such that the hammer flips claw first. However, all non-standard tosses are acceptable and encouraged, provided the toss does not violate Rules 1 or 2. Non-standard tosses are often referred to as "Tricks". If the Trick includes a double toss, it must remain a continuous motion and should not be an attempt to gain better control after a sub-par first toss. Attempting Tricks is considered to add general excitement to the game, and if successful, carries with it the potential for increased penalties for opponents (see Rule 4).
If a player succeeds in striking an opponent's nail, and the nail becomes visibly shorter or bent, that opponent shall sip from his beer an amount proportionate to the damage inflicted, with additional amounts consumed for any showmanship or Tricks displayed in the toss and catch (see Rule 3), in which case the number of sips should be a direct reflection of the victim's respect for the Trick or showmanship.
If any player sees sparks resulting from the hammer striking a nail, it is a Social. Every player must take a sip from his own beer. The common announcement one makes when he sees sparks is "Sparks!"
If a player drops the hammer during the toss, the player must then take a sip from his own beer.
If a player drops the hammer during the toss, and the hammer comes to rest directly on top of the stump, the person in the direction the handle of the hammer is pointing must chug his entire beer. The toss is still considered a Spazz, and the player who tossed must take a sip from his own beer.
If a player's nail should become bent during the game, he may, during his turn only, choose to fix his own nail. This process is called "Home Improvement". The player can take as long as he likes to fix the nail to his satisfaction, though his efforts are subject to comment by the other players. It is considered honorable to ensure that the nail is straight and in a position to be hit cleanly. During Home Improvement, it is generally expected that all other players will place a foot on the stump for stability. "Home Improvement" is often not recognized as a legitimate rule.
A player is eliminated from the game (and thereby takes no more turns) once any part of the head of his nail passes below the level of the surface of the stump (including bending over the edge of the stump without actually entering it). A generally accepted test of whether a player is still active is whether one can pass a fingernail underneath the head of the nail without obstruction. Any obstruction of free movement shall result in the player being deemed inactive. An alternative method (a "Credit Check") is to place a credit card under the head of the nail. If the credit card is able to slide under the head of the nail, the player is still eligible to continue playing.
Should a player's nail bend such that the head passes below the surface of the stump, thereby eliminating the player, this player can be resurrected if another player strikes the nail, regardless of intent, in such a way that the head of the nail emerges from the surface of the stump. The resurrected player will re-enter the game in the same rotation pattern as before elimination.
Inactive players should continue to comply with Rules 5 and 8.
Should a player be so drunk that they sink their own nail, they are out of the game and MUST go to bed, for no less than 1 hour. "Going to bed" means that they are to lie in a bed in a room alone with no lights, TV, Computer or any other form of entertainment for 1 hour. If they are still awake after this hour they may then rejoin the party.