Just like in any other game or sport exist the foosball strategy. A specific combination of techniques and tactics that once perfected will allow you to get an edge over your opponent. In some general terms, foosball players can be divided into two types. Those who play recreationally from time to time, who don’t care whether they are good or not, whether they win or lose. The other type is those who care about foosball, who like it and enjoy playing it and who want to know how to be good at foosball, who enjoy getting better. Those who practice and hone their foosball techniques.
The game of foosball starts by putting your hands on the handles. And consequently, your strategy starts from the way you are holding them. Generally, there are two types of grips; the wrist, and open palm grip. Neither of them is right or wrong. The main difference that with wrist grip all your fingers are fully wrapped around the handle, while with the open palm, just as the name suggests, your palm is open and fingers are pointing towards the floor. You should choose whichever feels more comfortable for you. More importantly, you should more worry about the tightness of the grip. Many novices make an error and tighten their grip instinctively. You should try to find the sweet spot of having full control of the rod while having a relatively relaxed grip. It is simple biomechanics, to grip a handle you use the same muscles as for flicking the rod. If they are already contracted from gripping, you can’t quickly twist your wrist, which leads to slow and weak shots.
There is only one way to win a foosball game, by scoring more goals than your opponent. And that you can accomplish in two ways, either by playing against someone who has less skill than you or by getting your own skills improved through practice. There isn’t an easy way to learn how to play foosball like a pro, you need to get better than your opponent, by sharpening your skills and gaining confidence in them. For many people how to win at foosball is a question of honing several of your skills.
Every point in foosball starts with a serve. While the first serve of the game should be fair, down the middle of the table without any preference, nothing stops you from trying to serve to yourself after a goal is scored.
There are three ways of serving yourself. By using the serving cup, with sidespin or backspin.
If your table has a serving cup to serve to yourself you should place the ball on the upper-left edge of it and gently release it so it spirals partially up the right side and down the hole toward your 5-men rod.
Sidespin is created by holding the ball with your thumb inside the hole and squeezing the left side of the ball downward. Thus causing it, when launching from the hole to rotate sidewise to the direction it’s pushed in, and to roll toward your men.
True backspin serve is performed by forcefully squeezing the ball through the hole by applying pressure on its side closer to you, and just slightly to left. If performed properly, the ball will seemingly travel through the middle until it reaches the far wall, from which it will rebound toward your men.
Your main scoring threat should be your 3-man bar. But you shouldn’t rely on some errant bounce or lucky pass to get the ball to them. Foosball is a game of possession, but in its self, it is meaningless unless you can do something with it. Like creating a scoring chance. To do so you need to get the ball to your main offensive threat.
There are two types of passes in foosball. Brush pass and so-called Tic-Tac pass.
The brush pass is executed by hitting the ball off-center, thus sending it diagonally, either between your opponent’s men or off the wall. Important thing is that it is executed with your men tilted back while trying to hide which side of the ball your will hit.
Tic-Tac pass is not among foosball techniques for beginners. To perform it, you first need to learn how to rapidly pass the ball between your men on the same rod. The key goal of this technique is to keep the ball moving between your men, rapidly enough that your opponent is not able to follow it. And then suddenly to make a pass when you have an open channel, without noticeably tilting your men back.
Sending the ball from one bar to another one is just a half of a pass. You need to trap it on the other end. Foosball is a game of possession, and it is achieved by controlling the ball. That is why this might be a more important facet of the passing skill. Trapping is done by pining the ball in place with your men, thus gaining control of it.
Wining the foosball game is all about scoring. And you can’t score unless you know how to shoot. In general, there are three types of shots, push shot, pull shot, and pin shot.
Push shot is executed by pushing the ball with the feet of your man away from you. Once you find an opening in front of it, quickly flicking your men behind the ball and hitting it.
Pull shot is very similar, with a difference of pulling the ball toward yourself before quickly flicking the rod when you see an opening.
Both of these shots are excellent for combining with passing the ball between the men on the same rod. Which makes good foosball tactics of confusing your opponent where and when you will take a shot.
Pin shot is an advanced shooting technique. It consists of trapping the ball, either in front or behind your men, and dragging it back and forth until finding an opening. Once you have it, the key is to quickly flick the ball in the goal. If you have pinned it in front of the man, you should quickly twist your rod and position your man behind the ball, with almost no backswing and then kick it. If you have the ball trapped behind your man, all you need is to straight flick the rod.
In foosball saying “jack of all trades, but master of none” determines the winner. Trying to master all and every technique is a certain way to not improve your skills as much as you could. Being good at foosball means being consistently successful in doing one thing. Over and over again. You should focus on becoming an expert on one shot, as the high skill level will give you an upper hand over any opponent. Being an expert means having a high level of skill, not just executing it, but also setting up the shot. And successfully setting up a shot is in essence ¾ of the shot.
Choose your shots
Let’s get a bit mathematical here. The foosball goal is 5.8 times wider than the ball. Your opponent can try to cover that space with two men at any moment, one on the 2-men rod and one goalie. Though the feet of men are slightly narrower than the ball, with effective positioning they can theoretically cover three widths of the ball, just slightly over half of the goal. In other words, at any moment you have almost half of the goal uncovered. Your objective should be trying to get the ball in a position to aim at this space. Instead of counting on luck, you should look and watch your opponent’s men, and identify this unguarded space before taking the shot. One could say that this is a crucial part of foosball; thinking, and planning mindset. And could probably say that it is a skill, if you could call it that, which is the easiest to acquire but hardest to fully master, and which allows you to always continue growing as a foosball player.
Often defending is neglected as a less important side of foosball skills. Most people see defending as a simple attempt to stop the opponent from scoring. But it is not. It cannot be said too many times that foosball is a game of possession. And one important part of possession is solving the problem of how to gain it.
Use 5-men rod
In football matches are won by a team that wins the midfield battle. And this strategy can be applied to foosball too. Just as your foremost scoring threat is your 3-men rod, the same applies to your opponent. Thus your first line of defense is cutting the ball supply to your opponent’s 3-men rod. Occasionally you might find yourself in a situation that they are holding possession between their goalie and defense when you can attempt to regain possession with your 3-men bar. But more often the battle between 5-men rods will occur. Because it has the most men, the channels between them are the tightest, and thus easiest to close. This is what should be your intent, which is a proper mindset when defending.
Sync your defense and goalie
If your opponent has moved the ball to his 3-men rod you shouldn’t defend only with your defenders. But also with your goalie. If you divide the goal into 5 parts, one man can partially block two adjoining parts effectively blocking shots to any of them. When defending you should aim to position your defenders in relation to the goalie to block as many of them at the same time. Your goalie should serve you to in essence cover the deflected shots, and not as a primary defender.
Because your opponent will not play statically, you shouldn’t either. You have to follow him. Keep in mind that you can’t cover the whole width of the goal, and your aim should be to cover only the parts at which your opponent can take shots.
Shoot with defenders
While this is not a strictly defending tip, it is about the effective use of your defenders. When you have possession on your defenders’ rod, your opponent might slip with concentration and by accident open a clear path to his goal. Then you should take a shot. These types of goals are effective and impossible to predict.
Conversely, you should beware of your opponent looking for a similar slip on your side. So, if you are playing defense in a game of pairs, you should not let your guard down when the opponent has the ball in their defense.
Probably the most important piece of advice I can give is that to become a better foosball player you must keep improving. You have to always try to become better, to improve your skill and technique.
You should be honest you yourself about your own skills. Unless your name is Tony Spredeman, you are not the best foosball player in the world. You should think about your skills and determine what you can improve. Even things which might seem trivial, such as how hard you are gripping the handles. Which in reality can really impede your skills as the tight grip is the enemy of the fine control of the rod, without which there is no proper control of the ball.
Practice makes perfect in everything, so does in foosball. To become better you must play as much as you can, and your improvement will follow. And you shouldn’t shy away from playing against people who are better than you. You shouldn’t be afraid to lose from them. Such skill disparity will challenge you and actually will put your skills to the test, forcing you to become better as you will be constantly refining your skills by trying to execute them perfectly. While playing against weaker opponents only, will make your game suffer, as it may be the case that even a sloppy execution is good enough.
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Foosball is both game of skills and wits. And just as any similar game or sport it requires developing a sound foosball strategy that will allow you to beat your opponent. Hopefully, I was able to give you advice that will set you on the path to becoming a better foosball player. If you implement the above-mentioned strategies you should have a clear blueprint for increasing your skills, and one of the joys of foosball is being good at it. Before you know it, you will become better, and you should use it as a motivation to become even better.