Pok-A-Tok: The Ancient Maya Ball Game

Pok-A-Tok Is the Ancient Mayan Sport We Dare You to Play

After trying your hand at softball, volleyball, football, dodgeball, and handball intramural leagues, you might be looking for your next sporting fix.

Have you heard of Pok-A-Tok? It might just catch on! But you’ll need to be an archeologist specializing in Mesoamerican people to have any hope of tracking down a playing field and equipment.

What is it?

Pok-A-Tok was a ball game played by the ancient Maya well over 1000 years ago in what's now Cancun and Riviera Maya. And there’s evidence that the Toltecs and Aztecs played variations of the game, too, as there are stadiums (for lack of a better term) dotted throughout Mexico.

Do you consider yourself a huge sports nut? Pok-A-Tok gave added meaning to die-hard players.

Pok-A-Tok wasn’t just a game.

Although it was played by people from all levels of Maya society for fun, Pok-A-Tok was also used as a way to settle conflicts between warring groups and noblemen.

What's more, recovered sources indicate that the losing side’s leader (and perhaps the whole team) was sometimes killed and sacrificed to the gods. Those who have learned about Mayan culture know that death, the afterlife, and human sacrifice were seen as integral aspects of life.

Pok-a-tok stadium in Riviera Maya Mexico

How it was played (probably)

Pok-A-Tok is like a cross between soccer and basketball—except much, much more difficult to play. The object of the game was for the two opposing side to try and hit the hard rubber ball into a stone hoop placed at both ends of the playing field. The kicker? You could only pass and shoot the ball using your thighs and hips.

Varying greatly in size, most Pok-A-Tok stadiums featured a grassy, level middle section with sloping ends from which the goal hoops could extend as high as 20 feet above the court. Like cricket (and quidditch), games could go on for a long time—hours and sometimes days. There’s also a good chance that games were very physical. Helmets and mouth-guards? Not likely.



Visit Riviera Maya to See for Yourself

To learn more about Pok-A-Tok and experience ancient Maya ruins, book a tour departing from your Cancun resort.

For help planning your vacation to Mexico, get in touch with an AMA travel agent one of the following ways: