Foosball Table Buying Guide in plain English

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Budget

Most  tabletops are priced under $100. Stand-alone tables range anywhere from $100 to several thousand.

Mini foosball tables range between $100 to roughly $300.

Mid-level tables range betwen $400 to roughly $800.

Regulation-sized tables usually start at $1000.

Who’s it for?

This is a very important question to ask. Who will be playing it? How old are they? Are they beginner, intermediate, or at an advanced skill level?

Beginner

If the table is for children, beginners, or casual play in general, then buying cheap will do, especially if you aren’t sure if they will like the game or not. If they don’t like it, no big deal, you won’t be out of a lot of money. Tabletops are great for little kids because standard-sized ones are too high. However  it’s worth noting, that full-sized tables can also fit kids, but no tabletop will satisfy and advanced player 🙂

Intermediate

For experienced foosers, look for mid-level table so it can withstand play over a long period of time. Mid-level tables are more sturdy and made with higher quality materials. They are priced in the $500+ dollar range and suit those who play often and want to improve their skills. The heavier the table, the more stable it will be.

Advanced

For those who are either highly skilled or want the ideal playing experience, only the top-of-the-line models will do. Usually it means getting one of Tornado tables. These tables are  made with the highest quality of materials. They are also very heavy, some weighing more than 300 pounds. These tables are priced in the $1200-$2000 range.

Materials

Higher price usually means better quality of materials.

MDF is an engineered wood composite that is similar to particle board, but is much denser and stronger than particle board. Imagine if all of the sawdust was swept up from other wood product manufacturing processes, and then that sawdust was mixed with binders and pressed into large sheets the size of plywood.

Particle board

If a table has particle board, then durability is going to be a concern. Particle board can deteriorate over time, which can loosen the screws, and lead to the table falling apart. How do you know if a table has particle board? If the walls are less than 1/2″ thick or the table weighs less than 70 pounds.

These tables are suited for those who just want a table for their kids to play with casually for awhile, or don’t want to invest a lot of money in one. However, what you gain in affordability, you lose in quality of play and durability.

Pressed wood/Composite wood

99% of tables currently available are MDF. Not every model, but most of them, it makes sence for manufacturers. Some of it is pressed wood, and can warp over time because it tends to absorb moisture. If that’s you concern, I would recommend going for one of outdoor models instead.

Thickness however is important, so make sure to buy one that is at least 1″ thick for more durability. Some of the higher end models are 1.5″ thick which helps eliminate movement so the game isn’t affected.

Steel Rods

The three types of rods are hollow, solid, and telescoping. Hollow, steel rods are the highest quality. They are lighter, which allows users to play with more speed. This is ideal for very experienced players. Mid-level tables will often have solid steel rods, which are better for intermediates because the game is a little slower.

Some high-end tables have telescoping tubular steel rods, which consist of two pieces of metal. The inner piece slides into the outer, so it doesn’t stick out on the other side of the table. The benefit is that you won’t get poked by a rod from the opposite side. Very nice feature for kids’ safety.

A good alternative is the Rod Guard feature of Warrior Pro tables.

American or European style?

American/Texas Style: “Hard Court” Foosball is known for its speed and power style of play. It combines a hard man with a hard perfect rolling ball and a hard flat surface, which enables precise/consistent positioning of the ball. Excellent lateral control in maneuvering the ball beneath the rod makes for awesome Pull, Push and Kick Shots. Tic-Tac Series and Power Passing are signatures of American style. Its most controversial trademark feature is the 3-man goalie rod. The American-made Tornado brought this style of play into popularity.

European/German Style: is characterized best by its enhanced ball control – particularly in the “pinned” position. Improved feel or touch is often used to describe this style of table. Euro style of play is known for the Front-pin series, Back-pin series, Reverses, Bank shots and Razzle Dazzle type shots. The Tournament Soccer brand table of the 70’s and early 80’s made this style popular in the US.

But the main difference imo is the preferred grip. American tables are heavy, hence most players tend to use snake shot.

Europeans use the same shot, but the grip is different. This technique allows players to ‘walk’ the ball easier.

Space

A full-size table is  usually about 56Lx 30 W x 36H, plus you will need at least 5-10 feet of space around the table. Also factor in the playing the rods. Foldable tables can also be a nice solution if there isn’t much room.

Leg levelers

The main benefit for having adjustable legs is being able to even the table on an uneven floor. The better tables have levelers for this purpose. This is a useful feature, but not a critical one.

Foosball men

Some tables come with counter-weighted men, meaning they stay in a horizontal position until the rod is turned. By staying horizontal, they are out of the way when you are shooting. This feature is valuable when only two people are playing (so you don’t have to lift them up every time you shoot from the goalie position).

Also, men can be plastic or metal. Metal is heavier, which gives you more power when shooting, but it’s worth noting that even the best professional tables come with plastic men 🙂

Oh, and if you see ‘robot-style players’: it’s just a newer design of players’ feet. Old design used to have square boxes, now it looks something like this

 

When you see counter-weighted men as a feature, that will tell you it’s a professional table, but it doesn’t mean you have to overpay just to get counterbalanced players.

Three-Man or Single Goalie?

The three-man goalie table has the goalie mounted with two other defenders. Most American tables use this model, while European tables are more known for a one-man goalie.

In reality this won’t affect the game and is only a matter of personal preference.

Garlando G-500 Foosball Table Review

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In my eyes, this table isn’t bad at all, it’s just that there are not so many redeeming factors for its place on the market. Garlando G-500 is marketed as a younger brother for Garlando World Champion that would fit casual and intermediate level players, who don’t take foosball really seriosly. And I keep repeating myself, but that’s exactly what I like and is absolutely inline with my vision of this website.

But unfortunately, there are just better tables out there (for this category). One could say that this table is much better than Garlando Open Air (which weights much less, hence G-500 is sturdier and won’t break during intense play). Well, this is absolutely true and a good reason to opt in G-500 over Open Air.

One could also say that G-500 has a better, ITSF recognized cabinet design than Kettler Weatherproof. And this is true as well, but depends on how much you care about similarity with tournament level tables.

Overall, this table is seven out of ten and has great design, but before buying it you should at least check other two tables in this category!

Garlando Open Air

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One of the best brands out there, Garlando is well-known for their wide range of products: indoor and outdoor, coin-ops and small tables for kids, you name it. Also, and there is no official stats for this, but from my observations, it’s the most copied table, due to it’s simple and straightforward design.

Today we’re gonna take a look at one of the most popular Garlando models – Garlando Open Air.

High quality materials, well thought out design (ITSF recognized brand) and a reasonable price – holds true for most Garlando models. The biggest and the most obvious downside – it’s not heavy, so four adults in a bar wouldn’t enjoy playing on this table at all. But since it’s not designed for such circumstances, Garlando Open Air gets a free pass here.

On the opposite, it’s perfect table for families. Full-sized yet not too big, has telescopic rods (!!!) and a sturdy cabinet.

Essentially, this table combines some of the best features of different categories that I have on my website. It’s obviously a very good outdoor foosball table that can be easily used indoors as well, it doesn’t take too much space and it’s one of the safest foosball table for kids because of the telescopic rods.

Now, is it reasonably priced? Depends. For beginner and intermediate players, kids, or just adults who love the game, but never considered playing in tournaments – yes, it is actually a great deal.

Don’t buy this table if you are planning to practice for tournaments. First, there are no real tournaments on Garlando in US and even in Europe. Plus, most of the tournaments are played on Tornado, some on Warrior and only after that we have tournaments on EU tables outside of EU. In that case you’re better just spending your money on one of the traditional brands.

Overall, I’d say this table has won me over instantly. Yes, it’s not heavy, but it never really mattered to me, since i don’t own a bar 🙂 Otherwise – crazy sturdiness, portability AND I can easily transport it by myself or in a car? In reality it’s even better than it sounds 🙂

Foosball tips #5: 2 bar shots and concepts.

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Often times when playing offense I feel like a cheat: the opponent goalkeeper is either bad and gets scored on almost every single time, or, even when he’s good, the game itself puts him at a disadvantage and he still loses, which kinda robs the offense player of his full credit.

On the opposite – you basically can never fail as a goalkeeper because the expectation is so low, and a good block feels like much bigger of an achievement. Plus, when playing in a bar or smth, it is better to be a goalkeeper – that way, if you’re good, you have a much clearer win condition. Imagine playing with your girflriend who is not soo good at foosball – no one would like to lose in a situation like thatl. But, you can do the ‘heavy lifting’ and carry the game from defense. Basically, a good goalkeeper can make or breake the game.

There are many more reasons why imho it’s better for you to play defense, but esseintially – not only can you block, but you can also score in pretty creative ways.

And the second part is what really insipred me to write this post.

1) Enemy 3 rod -> enemy goalkeeper -> enemy 5 rod

If you’re new to it, only focus on outplaying opponents 3 bar when shooting from defense. If you’ve never practiced your shots to go through 5 bar (5 bar is incredibly variable in terms of position plus stacked players, and at first you simply don’t have the necessary level of control over your shot to succeed). There are common tendencies, but that would be more suitable for a separate guide about 5 bar, which in itself is a rich topic to explore.

You already have to shoot the ball through 3 bar and 2 goalie rods, so allow 5 bar to rely on chance, make sure the shot is executed properly.

2) Spray > Square

When shooting classic 2 bar pull shot from the goal, every technical aspect is the same as with the 3 bar. What changes is the viability and hierarchy of available shots. Here’s what I mean: on 3 bar long pull shot to far post is obviously associated with squaring technique and is basically the cornerstone of your game. If you can shoot that all other holes open up.

Vanilla long pull shot

Vanilla long pull shot

full pull shot from 2 rod

full pull shot from 2 rod

But on 2 bar you very rarely are forced to use this shot. I don’t mean it’s not important, it’s just that since the battle happens between your single dude on 2 bar and his single dude on 3 bar, it is better for you to not  focus on long squares.  And it’s not even the right terminology, since it’s 90% dead bar shot.

So tl;dr – squaring may be better to outplay opponent blocking you on 3 bar, but spraying is a superior technique for hitting the goal.

3) Mid > 1 and 5 posts

Spraying is also very handy if you’re trying to hit somewhere around the middle of opposing goal. Every noob goalkeeper starts off with positioning his goalie at one of the posts (1 or 5), plus center is such a wide and tricky area to defend. And sprayed balls are even more deadly. Abuse it, unless it is getting figured out by your opponents.

Your available range with a short pull

Your available range with a short pull

Your available range with a normal pull

Your available range with a normal pull

Your available range with a max pull

Your available range with a max pull

So adding up to the previous point about spraying the ball – use different shots and positions to bypass opponents 3 bar, but in your mind try also to shoot middle area diagonally (by spraying) and not 1 or 5 positions.  1 and 5 are extreme points of what you’ll be doing anyway, so you’ll learn them naturally. You still should practice hitting posts!

4) Push shot and viability of different shots.

Push shot works much better on 2 bar. It’s still worse than pull shot, but it can be another option in your arsenal.  Unlike 3 bar, where the process revolves around two shots (pull/snake shot) you can play much more versatile on 2 bar and it won’t look cheesy.

vanilla push shot

vanilla push shot

You can fake push shot with the closer dude to center pass and shoot  push kick.

Why he did that?

Of course I can’t know for sure and it’s a huge speculation, but imho he simply had to come up with something unorthodox because his opponent (who himself is a legendary player Robert Mares) blocked his previous, more vanilla shots, relatively well.

Why it worked?

Well, that’s the problem with blocking, eventually goalkeeper runs out of options and either has to pass or think of something new. And that new shot is not in your ‘library’ yet, you were focusing on standard blocks and a tiny surprise factor is enough because of how incredibly fast any shot can be performed. And btw foosball really, really rewards this stuff, you can perform complex shots in a split second, if you have practiced them earlier :> Ryan Moore is an amazing player, but anyone can do that, it just takes practice.

Also ‘mini kicks’ are a really good way to shoot, as in, instead of doing the full push or pull, you kick the ball lightly and then finish off with a shot. There are many more examples like that.

5) Don’t be that player

One thing I strongly dislike is when people roll the ball to ehm the high ground/ramps (on Tornado the equalent of that would be a slow pass from the dudes on goalkeeper 3 bar to 2 bar and then shoot) and shoot when the ball rolls back. Or people play of the wall too much. It sucks to be a prisoner of your very own next shot. It will get blocked.

Off the wall #1

Off the wall #1

Off the wall #2

Off the wall #2

So if previous four were do’s this is a giant don’t. It is a very bad habit that obviously mainly players from Europe are guilty of , but what is the real problem is when you allow the balls position dictate what shot you will execute.  Your opponent on 3 rod has eyes too and he also knows what shots are possible from the current position.

 

Foosball Tips #4: some offensive concepts for noobs.

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First of all, thanks to everyone for comments and upvotes, really preciate it. The format I used before (pick a subject and try to gather all thoughts in a structured manner) was really time consuming and I’m not sure everyone could follow it all the way. I was trying to write some sort of textbook for beginners, but I’m not sure anyone other than veterans of the game or real hardcore people would go through it all.

So for this one I’ve decided to just give two or three general tips and maybe go in-depth, but not as crazy as in my last posts. I’ll go over ‘traditional’ tips first and then move to my personal, perhaps a bit unconventional, tips.

So bare with me :>

Numero uno is rather abstract, but it is essential to playing 3 rod and offense in general – to win real games you need more options than your opponent.

On a very basic level I would put it like that: your opponent goes left – you go right. And in reverse. If you can’t go right – you lose.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with metagame/dynamics of many 1 v 1 sports, but this principle is universally true from chess to boxing. At some point you will meet an opponent with a similar skill level to yours (equal, in theory). That is where you find out what really works and what is just a bad habbit you were geting away with all this time.

In foosball offense player on 3 rod always has options where to score and goalkeepers job is to narrow down your options. It is not really difficult to learn how to recognize and shoot open holes. Tough part is having the discipline and the skills to be able to exploit any open hole at any given time.

My personal rule is that if you can shoot long pull shot (for instance) 8-9 times out of ten – consider you’re on the right path.

Second advice that I don’t see anyone give to noobs: work on your wrist!

Just put the ball near the center dude on the 3 rod and freakin move the player around the ball as fast and for as long as you can! This incredibly simple drill will improve your ‘foosball flexibility’ a ton! I guarantee you will be surprised by how easy it will be for you to control  the players after you put some time into the ‘helicopter’.

That is how good Collignon was in 2008, ten years ago!

Number three is the most unconventional, but even if I’m just stupid and completely wrong, you can still take away something.

‘Multistepness’ is imho the best quality your 3 rod can have. I’m talking about executions consisting of multiple passes and ending with a shot. Vast majority of foosball shots are simply about moving the ball from it’s current position and shooting immediately. This totally makes sense because of the natural advantage you have as an offense player who ‘triggers’ the events and forces the goalie to react. But my point is different. If I had to teach a child how to score, I would first explain the enormous advantages you get by simply moving the ball, and how you can make the goalkeeper play catch-up all the time.

The current position of the ball dictates all the upcoming events, it narrows the range of shots goalkeeper has to block. Needless to say that if he doesn’t respect and ‘follow’ all emerging possible shots when you dribble the ball around, he will probably get scored on.

Now, to me the current ‘meta’ of foosball, where snake/pull shot are so dominant, simply points on the sad state of human perception organs :> It basically means, that only one motion out of the current position of the ball is enough to create the space and open up the holes needed to score. If you ask me, foosball prior to 90s and 00s was the real deal. Viability of pull kick meant that offense-defense relations were much more about mind games, rather than playing odds and reflexes. At least it was a two-part shot.

But hey, this doesn’t mean that playing defense now is pointless or not interesting :>

The second thing is that we are not obliged to exclusively shoot such simple and straightforward shots. This ties up nicely to my initial point that “multistepness” (I know, as a foreigner I don’t have the right to torture English like that, I’m sorry :>) is the quality that can inspire people and help win games. Pull/snake are your bread and butter, yet sometimes they just won’t work. But if you think about it, constantly changing the ball position, dribbling tic-tac and constantly reversing the ball’s travel vector (please, forgive me) is uncounterable.

On each step of our routine/execution (that is trained in advance) you are in control and can choose whenever to release the shot, depending on how the goalkeeper “follows” you. Add the fact that from any spot on the playfiled there are usually numerous ways and directions you can shoot.

And the last, fourth concept goes something like this: shots that have ‘cutback’, that redirect the balls movement are increadibly deadly.

This is something my soccer coach explained to me many moons ago. One of the toughest shots for goallkeepers in european football to catch are the headers from the corner. Simply because you redirect the travel trajectory of the ball. I couldn’t find any article or even a proper youtube video to explain better, but I have found this.

And the best I could find from real world

Just notice how goalkeepers from the last video so often can’t do anything but stare at the ball. In the first clip the ball gets redirected twice which leaves zero chance to the goalkeeper. This is just human nature and it works in foosball too.

So yeah, this is basically it for today. The whole thing took me much less time to write than the previous guides, so hopefully, if this way of expressing my thoughts proves to be better, I’ll post more often. Cheers!

 

EastPoint Sports Hunter Foosball Table ($420)

EastPoint Durango best foosball table
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Just a little bit heavier than EastPoint Hunter (still well over 100 lbs), this table is my second favorite after Warrior Professional. TOP 1, if you consider that Warrior Pro actually costs around $600.

It is still not sturdy enough to be put in a bar or something, but other than that it is amazing and perfectly fits any family enviroment.

Just as Hathaway Primo, this table nails the visual part. They look quite similar, but I personally prefer this one over metallic, shiny appearance of Hathaway Primo. Overall the table was made to look akin to other pieces of furniture and complement the room, which is exactly what most non-professional people need.

There’s honestly not much to say about the actual gameplay. Leg levelers are absent, but it’s not the end of the world. Three man goalie setup is a nice touch by manufacturer, but as I always point out in every review, it’s not crucial either. In general you shouldn’t chase these little features, because most of the time they don’t affect the gameplay and are there for marketing reasons.

It’s very, very rare that you’d get both visuals and gameplay covered for $500 budget. Usually, you would have to compromise. That’s why I find this table so unique – fancy design comes as a nice bonus, rather than a cover up for low quality build. I was genuinely surprised by the quality of their tables.

If you consider that Warrior Pro doesn’t really fit the category “under $500”, EastPoint Hunter is imho the best table for the money.

Need to see more more opinions and reviews? Then click here.

Also a small video to help with assembly, props to EastPoint for creating videos like this for their products.

EastPoint Sports Preston Foosball Table (~$199/4.8☆)

EastPoint Preston Best Foosball table
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I’ve decided to include two products from EastPoint: Durango and Preston. Both models impressed me with the build quality (relative to the price it’s simply unmatched). Both tables are build to last, but this product in particular provides very smooth and enjoyable gameplay.

EastPoint Sports Preston is lightweight and mobile, but its dimensions are exactly the same as most tournament-size tables, which is bad for bars and great for home/recreational use. Some nice features for foosball enthusiasts include:

*Quality of the rods

*Leg levelers

*Robot style players

*Single goalie setup (you can read more about why I prefer this setup in the blog)

I honestly can’t say if you’ll be able to perform all the pro techniques, maybe  with a proper ball, not the one that comes with the table by default, because those are kinda crappy, but bearable.

EastPoint in general is quite a big company with rich past and nice customer service. Foosball tables are not their main point of focus, but that is actually why I am so impressed with their tables – because they hit a very nice spot between quality and price seemingly effortless.

So tl;dr; for this one would be: not for professional players, but great for home/office because of being a quality tournament seize table for a laughable price 🙂

 

Need to see more opinions and reviews? Then click here.

Also a small video to help with assembly, kudos to EastPoint for creating videos like this for their products

Foosball Tips #3: How to block a pull shot

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Hello, foosers, hope you’re doing well. My procrastination took a few steps back, so I decided to continue this big guide, hopefully it’ll be more useful and informative than previous ones.

Just a little reminder, original plan was to go over every position in offense from top to bottom and now it would make sense to discuss how to block the classic pull shot. I have to admit I postponed this one for a long time because it’s still somewhat of a gray are to me (meaning I don’t know an adamant way to block it 100% of the time).

So lets get started.

Pull shot in general is quite straightforward , compared to other shots. The variance of where your opponent can shoot is lower (obviously), so, just in theory, this gives us a better chance for a block. Personally, when my opponents go to option is a pull shot instead of a snake (or a pin shot) I tend to feel about 20% more confident. Not saying that’s the factual truth, just the way I chose to perceive it .

Bad news is that a proper pull shot is ‘unraceable’. Doesn’t mean you can’t block it, just that in a computer simulation a perfect shooter would score 100% of the time. Unless…

…we could predict this shot coming. Which is kinda easy, if you think about it. This shot is so iconic and popular, that literally any idiot would understand what is coming at him. This fact makes our job just a tiny bit easier. So (and this is not 100% adamant rule) in theory, this knowledge gives us an extra millisecond and a better chance for a block.

Lets try and analyze the situation in vacuum. This is a standard setup for a pull shot (hopefully you were able to recognize it )

straight pull shot

straight pull shot

middle pull shot

middle pull shot

Long pull shot

long pull shot

Now, what options does your opponent have (thankfully, pull shot is much less about mind games/ fakes and more about execution and experience)?

Well, in general, he can go for a straight, middle or long, long being the easiest option for the offense.

Why? There are several reasons, but the main ones (and we’ll get the boring part of playing against bad players out of the way):

  1. An amateur doesn’t have the level of control over his shot, to consciously shoot early, or in the middle of his motion, so he’s naturally dragged towards far post. It takes a lot of practice to take your shot from “almost missing the long, but sometimes hit exactly the far post” to “Not only my take off speed is insane, but I can also release the shot at whatever point I want”.

2. Out of main 3 options long is the hardest to race (assuming your opponent has decent speed). But, If he’s not that fast with his shot, long actually becomes the easiest to race, since you’ll have extra time to move your defense. No, I’m not high, it’s just how it works

There are also a few trick shots your opponent can go for – bring down the far 3 rod dude and shoot that way, instead of the center guy for example. Or do this fake shown by Zeke Cervantes.

 

But the chance of this happening is very, very low. What most people go for is the following: they just continuously set up the ball a few times. I’ll attach the video, but here’s the short text version: I set up the ball for a pull shot. Then I pass it down and set it up again. And again. And again. Then I finally shoot after the next setup. The idea being that the goalie has to follow the ball and respect every possible shot along the way. And you expect the goalie to misstep during these moves.

Loffredo pull shot

Loffredo pull shot

You don’t have to do it many times, but just the fact that you have the option to do so gives enough of an advantage. You can shoot early, you can shoot on the second setup, or on the third, it doesn’t matter. There isn’t really a counter to that except from not weakening your defense and staying focused on the main shot that is coming.

Let’s imagine your opponent knows what he’s doing.

The thing to understand here is that you, as a defender, are probably going to fight an uphill battle when defending a pull shot (or any shot in general). I mentioned this before, but still: accept and embrace the fact that you are probably gonna get scored on a few times (that’s a good scenario). It also helps a lot when you know how to execute the pull shot yourself. I’d even go a step further and state that it’s the most basic and crucial knowledge you will need. Or, at the very least, you should be aware of the danger of properly executed pull shot, even if you are not a great shooter yourself.

Another very, very important thing is knowing your opponent. What does he have in his arsenal? How fast is he, how reckless, or how disciplined. Metaphorically – is he trying to play foosball on hard mode? Or did he just learn to shoot a pull shot some time ago and never polished it. Any info like that will help you tremendously when you’ll have to face him 1×1. No need to say, people on tour usually don’t make silly mistakes, but even they have certain tendencies.

In general, you should keep your defense moving fast and unpredictable. Don’t fall into same patterns and try to brake your opponent’s rhythm. There will always be at least one hole open, so baiting is always a viable strategy. You never want to overdo it and give up an easy point. But some amount of baiting is crucial for your defense. Imo, baiting your opponent for a pull shot towards center is the best way to play most of the situations. I try to spread my spacing something like 50-30-20. This means that I try to give the impression that the straight is blocked most of the time, then middle, then long. Getting scored on with a straight is the worst feeling ever, you basically waste all your energy and efforts for nothing, plus it’s the easiest thing ever for the offense player. Long is the easy and most popular option, but I’ll go over it a bit later. Shot on the center, or just a relatively early release of the shot is hard to execute and very volatile. That’s the perfect battlefield to fight your opponent. So your movement should naturally push the opponent to shoot middle.

Now let’s discuss longs. Personally, when I’m against a guy with a good pull shot long, I race it 90% of the time. If the offense player is confident, then he’ll just shoot it long, this makes total sense. So I just blindly race for long, leaving other holes open. Technically this is the wrong approach and can be punished in different ways. For example what my friends call the Soft Palm style during our games in bars. In a nutshell they mean going counterintuitively slowly with your pull. You can see, why that would work versus someone who just blindly races your shots.

But again, they’re just casual bar players, they don’t spend hours perfecting their pull shot. Going back to our imaginary opponent with a good pull shot long, you can now see, why it’s often worth the risk to race long, especially if the opponent showed it already. I guess, my main point is this: if your opponent has a good long, then you can rely on him shooting long. This predictability is exactly what gives you a chance for a block. These guys don’t tend to fake, or make you split your attention between every possible shot. They believe that long is unraceable and will happily take the chance you give them. Your job is just to shift chances to favor you a bit more.

Don’t be afraid to race, seriously. Yes, a proper shot may be “unraceable” (in reality a normal person is usually just late to react, this is just a stupid word), but simply failing to race a pull shot is an incredibly valuable experience in itself you shouldn’t avoid. As I’ve already mentioned, anticipation is you best friend. Yes, your opponent might be fast, but it’s unlikely he’s a genius and a virtuoso of foosball. Mother nature took care of your reflexes, now use your experience and knowledge to make us all proud.
I wrote this in previous guide, but you should always stay calm and focused. Or at least don’t panic (42). There’s nothing wrong with getting a bit pumped up or exited during a match.

Staying calm will allow you to read the game better. There’s ALWAYS some useful information in every move your opponent makes, especially when he’s setting up for a pull shot. Just the way he does that can allow you to predict his intentions with surprisingly high accuracy. If you’re a pull shooter yourself, you already know that if he stopped the ball a bit behind the rod (deep), then his cutback will probably be good. And if he sets up the ball a bit outside, then you should watch out for sprays and cover a tighter area in the middle, dismissing longs. Again, you already know this, do not doubt yourself.

Even if you’re playing 2v2, essentially goalie vs offense is a 1v1 duel and your enemy is under pressure too. So the best thing you can do is to not choke yourself with responsibility and guilt for missing that one stupid shot in the beginning, but rather say to yourself: ”Yes, he’s most likely gonna score, but I’m not afraid and ready to take risks.” Don’t be the guy who loses the battle before it even starts and don’t put your expectations unreasonably high (in a pro match just getting a few blocks in crucial moments will often lead to your partner in offense winning the game => you did your job). And again, don’t be afraid to take risks, if you think you got the read on your opponent. Decide on what is his most probable shot, then decide what is his second most likely move and use 2 dudes that the table manufacturer so kindly provided.

Shuffle Defense (Louis Shuffle)

The last thing I wanted to add here is something rather unorthodox. I wrote a few paragraphs, but wasn’t sure if I should add them here, or save for the snake shot tutorial. But this topic was brought up on reddit recently, so why not. I’m not claiming any expertise on this, but I have some thoughts on shuffle defense, had relative success using it and it was often used against me with even more success.
This approach is very different to mine, where I try to predict exactly what is the opponent going for and executing the direct counter to his plan.

Instead, we’ll give all the initiative to our opponent. All we have to do is simultaneously and rapidly move both the goalie and the 2 rod defender along the expected path of his pull shot, which is usually 3/5 the length of the goal-line. Back and forward, as fast as possible.

 

Here is the best analogy I could come up with.

There is a famous trope in many Hollywood heist or escape-from-prison type movies. One that comes to mind first is a scene from 1996 The Rock movie. Basically, Sean Connery’s character perfectly times his way through a deadly multistep flame-spitting fan-like mechanism to escape from Alcatraz. I’m sure most of you know what I’m talking about. And perhaps some of you know where I’m going with this one.

In a nutshell, our goal is to emulate that deadly fan or whatever with our defense and force our opponent to try and find the tiny opportunity to score in between our moves.

Many people do this intuitively with the 5 rod. When you’re in the offense and you miss the block on enemy goalkeepers shot with your 3 rod, you can still make up for it by rapidly moving your 5 rod. I’ll probably never be able to explain the physics behind this, but it still works. When timed well, for a brief second this move transforms your normal rod with foosball players into a solid wall.
I understand that to some people this will seem incredibly wacky and stupid.

In many ways this approach aligns with traditional “school” of foosball very well, it is a usual practice to always keep your defense moving randomly and fast (especially on tour), breaking opponents rhythm and not falling into any rhythm yourself. But on the other hand it leaves many holes, it’s unreliable and, ehm, kinda braindead

For the sake of intellectual honesty, I have to go over the cons first.
If done wrong this will lead to many, many open straights. Basically, a straight shot is the deadliest thing against this type of defense, because it cuts half the job the attacker has to do. Now he doesn’t have to move the ball to bypass your defense (straight is normally blocked by default in a traditional static defense) and only has to nail the timing.

If you are slow, it will make his job significantly easier.

If you’re predictable and fall into the same patterns this approach also won’t work.

Basically, if you don’t do everything right, you’ll probably end up looking like an idiot.

And many more reasons not to do it, but lets get to the positives.

Often times this type of defense will put your opponents hand-eye coordination to the test. If he can’t see the gap in your defense, but he kinda knows it’s there – now the guy is forced to gamble with his shot and timing. Suddenly, if you’re an underdog, your chances to block the shot go from about 20% up to 40%-50%. There are many, many examples of pros using this approach and when it succeeds, everything looks pretty boring – the offense player just pulled and shot the ball right into goalkeepers defense. But that is exactly what we’re going for, stable boring blocks.

Sure, this doesn’t work other way around (I mean, if you are a better player), since, if you’re in a position of power and your opponent can’t bypass the defense you’ve put up, there’s no reason to give him a better chance to score.

Another good reason to me is the relatively low skill ceiling for this technique. You still have to practice A LOT, but it’s much less demanding of you. No ball control, much less mind games and the fact that all you have to do is moving the rods back and forward.

That’s basically it for today, guys, I can hardly fit in more tips in a structured way, so I will probably have to write version 2.0 for this guide based on the feedback I’ll hopefully get. I know that not every concept in this post would make it to the imaginary “textbook” of foosball, but hopefully, I was able to at least give you some inspiration to think about some problems in a different way. Cheers!

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Foosball Tips: How to play defense #2

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First I’d like to thank everyone for providing much needed feedback!

There were some things missing and I’ll try to go over them in this post.

I know it turned out to be flawed, but, please, bare with me. I’m figuring out this thing in the process and in the end I’ll cover 90% of the defensive concepts.

Even though I only discussed one (!) position in previous guide, it still turned out to be very incomplete.

Just as in previous guide, I’d like to give names to some concepts.

For (my) better understanding of the game, I’ve divided all the shots (in offense and defense) into two categories: shots from still position (best analogy would be free kick from soccer). Almost all the shots we’ll discuss belong here, since most of them are learned as drills and as a goalkeeper  you can instantly recognize the shot coming at you. Short way of what I’m trying to explain would be “unlike some sort of weird rapid shot from tic tac drible, as a goalie you can tell pretty easily, when the opponent is setting for a pullshot”.

Opposite to these shots are the ones I call dribble shots or from motion shots. Tic tac, pull/push kicks etc. belong to this category.

Basically, if the ball is still and the opponent is about to execute a pull shot, that’s what I call a shot from still position (no dancing, no bluffs, no fakes).

If your opponent is doing tic tac, dribbling the ball all the time and trying to hide his intentions that way – motion shot.

Sure, it’s not an official terminology, but it suits me and sometimes allows to go more in-depth.

Also, ‘him’ will usually mean your opponent and ‘me’ – the defender/goalkeeper.

So let’s jump right into it.

In the first picture the ball is yet again possessed by far 3 bar dude. Previously I mentioned 3 things your opponent can do:

  1. Diagonal shot to near/far post. Everything here holds true, but with some additional details (I’m sorry for the terminology in advance):

a) “Straight” diagonal from standing position without any pull/dribble (quick angle shot) – another perfect example of a ‘free kick’ shot. It uses the same technique as in infamous ‘bank shot’, you basically slap the ball towards the edge and not the center. Positioning your 2 bar  the same way as shown on the picture will easily block this shot.

foosball tips quick angle shot blocked

quick angle shot blocked

b) Trying to execute a mini pull shot with a follow up spray to far/near corner. Also called ‘dink shot’ (hope I got it right from kind people on reddit).  If you’re blocking the diagonal I described before, this is a logical next step for your opponent. The idea here is to fake a pass to the center man on his 3 bar, forcing you (as a goalie) to shift your defense towards center, leaving huge holes in the corners.

foosball tips dink shot

pardon the crossing lines, hope you get the idea, don’t move your defense too fast

Defending this shot is almost as straightforward, as previous one, you just have to follow his far 3 bar dude with your close 2 bar defender during his mini pull, but!!! THE BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH  THIS SHOT is not the shot itself, but the chance that he may actually pass the ball to center and then shoot (pull kick). I don’t know a reliable way to block this consistently, but I’ll go over this one later.

If kept very short, the best way imo is knowing your opponent. Where is he on this spectrum?

Poser trying to show off<—————>Pro who knows no mercy.

If it’s early in the match and he doesn’t show much respect – you block the dink shot. If dude’s trying to win or maybe you’ve already blocked a few of his dinks – expect the pull kick, since it’s more dangerous.

c) There’s also an extremely rare variation of this shot from back pin position – shuriken shot 🙂 Here’s a great intro quote for this passage:

“The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.”  Mark Twain

Unfortunately, I can’t demonstrate this via my usual playfield scheme, since it’s 2d, but I’ll probably attach an image or a gif. This is the most dangerous way of shooting this diagonal, but also very rare one (and obviously you will never see something as cheesy as this even at semi-pro level). It’s not a really a proper shot, since no one I know uses it, but it’s replicable, and that is enough for me. Plus, things like this keep the tone of the game (and this guide) a little bit less serious.

Basically, you push the ball tight into the table in backpin position, pull the rod and release the shot. If executed properly, the shot gets additional spin and the trajectory curves. I hope I can get the footage, perhaps film a match in a bar or something. Personally, my best result is shooting this shot 4 out of 10 times. That’s not great, but I’m sure you get the idea, when timed well this shot can give you an advantage (after all this guide is for “underdogs”). On one side it’s very easy to read when this shot is coming at you, but you could pretend to be just dribbling the ball.

foosball tips curved shot

“Shuriken shot”

It’s also very dangerous because from back pin position the attacker has more room to play with, the shot is more powerful and the distance between the ball and your defender is greater, which is bad, since, almost every shot is better blocked as early as possible.

As smart people on Reddit have pointed out, I didn’t mention the goalie positioning for these 3 shots. They’re absolutely right, but I also believe that 2 bar should be enough to block the diagonals. You still shouldn’t forget about the goalie and use him as your last frontier, but, as I said, all the diagonals can be blocked (and should be) by 2 bar defenders. Goalie positioning will be much more crucial when defending the pull kick and other shots.

2) Pull kick with the center dude on his 3 bar. Now, this is kinda the start of chapter 2 of this guide and a new discussion with new scenarios. Everything above can be considered an edit of the previous guide.

Imo, just as with snakeshot, there’s no adamant way to block pull/push kick. There are always holes in any defense and a good shooter should be able to exploit them. This doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail against a guy better than you. But you should understand that in theory, on the highest level of play foosball becomes almost completely a stats based game: you block a shot – you give your team a temporary advantage that your teammate in offense should capitalize on. Essentially, it’s like shooting penalties in real life soccer. And the offense scores most of the time.

This is also a reason good players say that the game is won from the 5 bar – all I’ve written above doesn’t work if you can’t get the ball to the 3 bar. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

So how do you defend the pull kick?

First, you should know and accept that your opponent will probably score his first pull kick. It’s not really raceable and you should focus on defending what will come after.

The main weakness (and a strength at the same time) of this shot is the moment your opponent passes the ball to his center dude. If executed properly, the pass and the shot become a single motion that is close to impossible to block.

When the ball is possessed by opponents far dude on the 3 bar (in a pull position), that exact dude, his center, and your close defender from the 2 bar create deadly Bermuda triangle with no escape for you.

You should accept the fact that you’re pretty much screwed. Imo only this mindset will allow you to succeed.

You already know the fact that he can shoot a dink to your far post, so your close 2 bar defender is locked at that position, blocking the most obvious shot. After you show the dink won’t fly against you, expect the pull kick. Anticipation is THE ONLY consistent way to block unraceable shots.

There’s good news too. First is the fact that not many players have deep understanding of pull kick. Most of the time, even when they shoot fast, they shoot early, from the same position and to the same corners. You’re experience may be different from mine, but that’s what I’ve observed for years. You rarely meet a person able to shoot pull kicks of different variations (I have prepared some demonstrational gifs and pictures from a game by Tony Spredeman as an example of excellent shooter, but even he misplays it a few times). More so, the second you block a well executed pull kick it gives you  nice little mental edge and momentum.

Secondly, the fact that he will most probably shoot the pull kick. This may sound stupid in some way, but KNOWING what he will shot even approximately is already half of the job. You will see that anticipation will be the main theme of this little article (and for a good reason).

People rarely set up the ball at the spot we’re discussing. Now, from these rare occasions, 80% of the time they shoot the pull kick.

Of course, that’s not all, there are many, many possible shots and scenarios you may find yourself in. And I’d love to give you all textbook blocks for all the shots, but I don’t know them myself. I wanted to make this guide as complete as possible, but I also realize it’s impossible. There’s always a trick shot, fancy dribble or some stupid shot like 3 bar to 5 bar pass and then shoot that may come your way.

BUT! You now have a base from which you can move on and develop your own system/style. This is very important and I probably should’ve put this passage to the top as a disclaimer, but it’s a good habit to keep the narrative sequential.

Now the drill: he has the ball on the far 3 bar dude in a pull position. We know he’s not gonna shoot the dink shot, but you’re still blocking the angle with your close 2 bar dude.

For beginners I would recommend using your another dude on the 2 bar, it’s a simple and easy to learn way to block this shot. But since I’ve already mentioned this technique and I wanted to make next  guide more advanced, we’ll try to execute something better this time.

Now, as soon as he starts the motion (pass to the center), you simply follow the ball with the very same dude that was blocking the dink (close 2 bar defender). From here there is a good chance he’ll shoot somewhere around the middle and that you’ll get the block. Even if you don’t, keep trying and you will get there.  Anticipation is very, very important here, be ready for rapid and unexpected executions. You have a tiny window during his pass, but even that is not warranted.

There’s also a good chance he will not shoot until the very last moment. Why? Because of a dead zone built in the most foosball tables (picture). Only the very best shooters shoot the pull kick from the max pull distance.

Pardon my poor vocabulary, but hopefully you see what’s the problem from the picture. You simply can’t follow the ball until the end with your 2 bar defender (logically, this works for both pull and push positions) aka dead man/dead zone. And here our goalie comes to play.

Traditionally, players divide the gates into 5 imaginary sections, approximately 5 times the width of the ball. Position 1 is where your goalie is sitting in every example that I’ve described. For beginners I would stick to Positions 1 and 5, it’s easier to learn and move the goalie only between these 2 spots.

What we’re interested in for our discussion of a max range pull kick is Position 5 of the goalie. I’m sure you get the idea. The goalie is your last frontier and in this case it’s on him to finish the job for our close 2 bar defender.

I hope all the above is somewhat understandable. I’m not a writer and my englihs is far from perfect, but luckily I’ve found a perfect video to demonstrate the dilemma every goalie faces in this scenario, I’ll embed the video with the whole match at the end.

Basically, Tony Spredeman is indisputable best player this match and his opponent goalkeeper has very rough time. He does well in the beginning, but then Spredeman just takes over, imo abusing the Bermuda triangle/dilemma that I described above.

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By blocking the quick angle you open up your defense for a pull kick

Yes, he tries different stuff, even goes for a push shot, but in general he scored with far 3 bar dude – quick angle if it’s open, or crazy fast pull kick to the far corner. This is just a perfect demonstration of “unraceable” quality of a pull kick and how you can’t really set up something in advance to reliably block both possible shots, you have to make reads and risk everytime.

Quick angle shot demonstration

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Quick angle shot a moment before the execution

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Quick angle shot “in action”

Proper pull kick

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Usual pull kick, before the pass

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Far post pull kick a moment before the goal, after the pass ( yes that yellow blur).

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Max range pull kick

Pull kick successfully blocked

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Nice goalie positioning a moment before the pull kick and block

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Nice goalie positioning and successul block

Foosball Tips: How to play defense #1

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This post is meant for people trying to find more stability when playing defense in foosball. If this little tutorial helps anyone I’ll be unjustifiably proud.

I didn’t include snake shot defense for two reasons: it’s a relatively complicated area with lots of nuances and the fact that it’s very easy to recognize, when the opponent goes for the snake shot.

My goal is to try to explain which shots are executable from your opponents current position, so that you have better odds of successfully defending them.

I’d like to say something about my philosophy about normal gameflow, dynamics or meta. In my head foosball is represented as a spectrum between fencing/dance and chess. Fencing and dance in the sense that it’s never absolutely static and often you don’t control the situation, you have to ‘dance’.

‘Chess’ however means that if you’ve drilled down any type of shot or a defense, it becomes a consistent weapon in your arsenal. It’s like unlocking an ability in a videogame. So yeah, in a computer simulation the player who simply has more hours drilling shots wins every time. But in the real world when playing against a human being, dancing, faking, trying to bait any sort of predictable move from your opponent – is a viable strategy.

Rule of thumb is that more skilled player wins most of the matches and if the skill gap between two players is large enough, winning even one game can be a good sign for an underdog. For information below to be useful, you should have at least couple of common shots in your arsenal.

So to finish the intro I’d say that this is my guide for winning more games as a relatively skilled underdog in a foosball match.

Shout out to foosbalsoccer.com, since their website was the only place I could find any sort of basic info on this subject. I’ve also borrowed their template, hope no one gets mad (still had to Photoshop it myself).

We’ll go from top to bottom, so the first scenario is when your opponent has the ball on his far 3 bar man in a pull position. So what is he gonna shoot?

1. Diagonal shot, the yellow belt of foosball, the first trickshot everyone learns and the ultimate weapon against noobs. There is no nobility in shooting this shot, but there is in defending it!
In picture n1 I show how to position the 2 men bar to block this shot early. Because obviously, most of the shots are better blocked as early as possible, since the ball travel trajectory is the narrowest in it’s beginning (this whole tutorial idea was a mistake, I know).

far diagonal shot blocked

far diagonal shot blocked

far diagonal shot scored

far diagonal shot scored

People not respecting this shot tend to hold their closer 2 bar dude around the center which leads to a huge coridor open. The good news is that it’s easily preventable, the bad news is that after realizing this shot isn’t gonna fly, your opponent may try something else.

2) Any sort of a pass to the middle man and then kick. In proper terminology – push kicks or pull kick, depending on where does the opponent start the motion.
This is quite a rapid shot when executed properly, so don’t rely on the reflex (don’t ‘race), always be focused and expect it.
The easiest way to block this shot is using the other fella you have on the 2 bar. This is the shortest and the most efficient way, so you should always have it as your go to defense. Note!!! After the pass to middle, there are still 3 ways he can shoot – far corner, close one and center.

pull kick center

pull kick center

pull kick far

pull kick far

pull kick close

pull kick close

Far corner shot is the easiest to catch, since it gives you more time to react.

Close corner: it should be your default block as soon as you realize the pass to the middle man.

The center shot, logically, is somewhere between on the spectrum.

So the drill: yellow dude on your defense 2 bar holds the diagonal spray shot as first priority. Next, as soon as he makes the pass to offense middle dude, you switch your focus to your far 2 bar man and he takes care of the center. This approach isn’t perfect, but that’s what strategy dictates in this situation. In combination with the goalie, you’ll be able to block more shots.
3) In some rare cases your opponent will go for some sort of tic tac move, meaning he’ll basically try to put your mind asleep. That’s the element of ‘dance’ I mentioned above. It’s not a free kick from real soccer and you don’t have to shoot from static position. These shots are like jokers in your hand, the unorthodox move to fake and disguise the position you’re gonna shoot from. Yet, most people tend to end their tic tac shot either around the center, or they try to shoot diagonal spray.

I really hope it was somewhat useful, I already have plans to improve this guide in part 2 that I’ll try to post after seeing the feedback. Thanks for reading all this!

P.S. In no way do I suggest that this is the complete or even right way of playing, this is just a base for players who don’t have any. Foosball is an incredibly deep game with mindgames everywhere, so I tried to give you an idea of how complicated things may get!