In some variations of the game, there is no specific object of the game. Play continues until time runs out. In this variation, when players are "out" three times, they must lean against the wall and wait to be hit by the ball ("Butts Up"). See below for more on this.
After the ball makes contact with the wall and bounces off the ground at least once, any of the players, including the thrower, may then try to catch the ball. If catcher mishandles the ball and the ball touches the ground, the catcher must try to touch the wall before another player fields and throws the ball against the wall. If the ball touches the wall before the catcher, the catcher is out and must face various consequences.
If the ball is caught before hitting the pavement, the thrower is penalized with one “out”, much like baseball. After three outs a player leaves the game. In some cases there are four outs which goes along with the number of letters in the word "butt" (hence the name butts up). Sometimes alternate words, such as "wall," are used instead.
If the thrower’s ball bounces before hitting the wall, the thrower must run to the wall and touch the wall before an opponent can pick up the ball and throw it to the wall. If the original thrower doesn’t make contact with the wall before the ball reaches the wall, the original thrower is out. If the thrower reaches for the ball, but has it bounce off his fingers and onto the pavement, this counts as missing the throw, and he must run to the wall.
In one variation of the game, a runner who does not reach the wall before the thrown ball hits must, in addition to receiving an out, stand facing the wall and allow the thrower to "peg" him or her with the ball (usually with all possible force).
In another variation, when a player is "out" three times, he/she must lean against the wall, bent over with his butt in the air ("butts up") and wait for the ball to be thrown at him. Other players take turns throwing the ball until he is hit. If he doesn't look back, the thrower must lob the ball in the air, but if he does, the thrower may peg him with as hard a throw as he likes. Also, in this version, the thrower must hit the player as he is running to the wall, rather than hitting the wall, to get the runner out.
The game continues until all but one player have received three outs and left the game. This form of the game is referred to as ‘three–out elimination.”
In a variation practiced widely in Santa Clara County, California elementary schools as late as the mid-1980s, each time a player earned an out, his "butt was up," and he would stand with hands against the wall, waiting to be pegged by the player who threw him out. If the player is hit in the "target area," he is convicted of the out, and gets a letter (B-U-T-T, for example), and leaves the game. In this variation, at the ice breaker's discretion, play may pass by number, i.e., player 1 breaks the ice, then player 2 must retrieve and throw the ball, followed by play 3, etc. In more physical games, the ball is not required to bounce after touching the wall, and aggressive players will stand near the wall, within arms' reach, pegging other players and quickly touching the wall, then retrieving the ball and throwing the other player out. Other rules included "Handsies," which prohibits players from touching the ball with both hands at once (the ball could be tossed in the air and caught with the other hand, but typically a great show was made of this feat in order to avoid even the appearance of a foul). Also, a player with ball in hand must keep one foot planted at all times, or, in the interest of justice, if a player was stranded well beyond throwing or relay distance (see "Savies"), he could take one large step toward the wall. If a player realizes he has mishandled the ball and thus must "hit the wall," and deliberately "spikes" the ball to frustrate others' attempts to throw him out, his butt is automatically up; at the other players' discretion, they may each take a turn at throwing that player out. the attack does not cease simply because a pegger has successfully scored in the target area; each player throws nonetheless, usually with intent to cause injury or disfigurement.
In more recent variations of the game, a player only receives an out if he/she is actually hit by the peg, rather than receiving it for having to be on the wall. Also, if a player wins without having gotten an out, the win is called a 'lockdown'.