How To Play Foosball

Written By Home Bar & Games

Want to learn how to play Foosball?

Ever watch a really good Foosball player and wonder how they can move and shoot so fast?

Looking for Foosball tips for beginners to advanced foosball techniques?

I’ve got it covered…

These tips and techniques will help you dominate your next Foosball game.

Foosball, sometimes called table football, is an awesome game and is perfect to have for your basement, home bar, or office (if you work somewhere cool that does stuff like that). It doesn’t take up a lot of space, it’s relatively simple in concept (hit the ball in the goal), but can take very high levels of skill to master.

Start With A Good Table

None of the rest of this matters if you are playing on a wobbly plastic table that isn’t level. You won’t be able to control the ball. It will roll around and favor one side or the other.

A good table will also look better and make whatever space it’s in look a little more classy. It is one of those games that you don’t see in every basement or bar (like pool or darts) so it also has a bit of uniqueness to it.

So get yourself a quality Foosball table. I’m a fan of the Tornado Foosball Tables. They are one of the best brands out there. But if you are looking to spend a little less you can try the Best Choice 48″ Table or the Atomic Pro Force. Keep in mind though, that the less expensive tables will be more prone to shaking while you play and more likely to break.

You can also check out the Best Foosball Tables Under $500

The Basics

We will start from the beginning here for anyone that has never played the game.

If you are looking for foosball tips for beginners, this is a good place to start.

Foosball is relatively simple to understand. It is played on a table with a sunken playing area. There are 8 rods going through the walls of the table with various numbers of small plastic men attached to them.

The one in the middle with 5 players on it is called the midfield row or “5 bar.” To the left of that is the “defensive 2 bar” and then the “defensive 3 bar” which is also called the goalie because it is the last bar defending the goal. To the right of the midfield row is the striker row or “offensive 3 bar.”

The players use handles on the ends of those rods to control the small players on the table. A small plastic soccer ball is dropped into the area of play and the players attempt to kick the ball into their opponent’s goal.


Foosball can be player with 2 players or 4 players (2 on each team). If there are 2 players on each team then each player shall be responsible for two of the rods for that team. The player on the right will play the two offense rods and the player on the left will play the two defense rods. The players may switch positions during time outs, after a goal, or between games.


Typically, the winner of a game is the first team to score 5 goals. Some leagues and tournaments require you to win by two goals. It is also common to play best out of 3 or 5 games as a single game can go by pretty quickly. Playing a series like that tends to favor the skilled players as opposed to the lucky player.

Rules of the Game

The official rules of the International Table Soccer Federation (“ITSF”) can be found HERE. It even includes proper dress code. But if would rather start playing than spend your time reading, here are the ones you really need to know.

The Serve

You have probably noticed that ball sized hole in the side of your Foosball table. Ignore it! That was used for the old way of serving the ball. Now it starts more like a real soccer (or futbol) match. There is a coin flip to decide who gets the ball first and the ball is placed next to the middle player of that team on their 5 bar. The rules also say that you have to make sure the other players are ready before beginning play. No sneak attacks!

If you are being real strict about it, the serving player has to touch the ball with 2 players on the 5 bar and then wait 1 second before making a play. If you are playing with some friends at a bar, just tap it to another player on the 5 bar and get the game going. No one is checking that 1 second mark with a stopwatch unless you are in a competitive tournament. If you are, then you should know all this already!

No Spinning

Not only will spinning the rods get you yelled at and a little mocked, its also against the rules. You are not allowed to spin a player more than 360 degrees before or after hitting a ball. You can wind up 360 degrees and then follow through 360 degrees after hitting the ball, but no more on either end. In reality though, there is no way anyone will be able to tell the difference between a 340 degree follow through and a 390 degree follow through. Bottom line, keep your players under control and don’t let them spin freely. Keep your hand on the handle and no you never have to worry about spinning.

No Jarring

Jarring is bumping or moving the table in order to affect the movement of the ball. Don’t do it. What do you do with the ball that you can’t reach with a player? Keep reading…

Dead Ball

If a ball stops moving and cannot be reached by any player then you pick it up. The ball is served from a location based on where it became a dead ball.

If it stops between the two 5 bars in the middle, then it is served by the 5 bar of the team that last served. If it stopped anywhere else, it is served by the 2 bar that is nearest to the spot of the dead ball. The serve rules are the same as above no matter which bar it is served from.

If a player intentionally causes a ball to be dead, than the other team gets the serve.

Out of Play

When the ball leaves the playing surface from a player’s shot, than the other team gets to put the ball back in play by serving from their defensive 2 bar. This is based on which team took the shot, no matter whether it deflected off any other players on its way out.

If a team intentionally shoots the ball up over any of the bars then the other team gets to serve from their 5 bar.


You can’t win if you can’t score. You know you can’t spin so wildly spinning all the bars in the direction you want to score is not the way to go. You will have to learn some skills if you want to win.

Passing Techniques

If you want to get the ball in position to score, you have two choices…wait until it happens to bounce to your offense 3 bar OR learn to pass!

The key to passing is to do it quick but not hard. The actual technique isn’t very different from the basic shooting techniques outlined below. But avoid passing as hard as you shoot. Move the ball quickly but soft enough to let the other player accept the pass without it bouncing all over.

5 bar to 3 bar Pass

This is the most important pass because you know that you’ll get the ball on your 5 bar at least a handful of times every game.

Defense to 5 bar Pass

Another important pass to practice. This one will get you out of trouble and back on offense.

Shooting Techniques

The goal for every shot is to be able to disguise where the shot is coming from or headed to so that your opponent can block it.

Every good Foosball player I’ve met says that it’s better to master one type of shot than to be just good at all of them. Even if you use the same technique over and over again, so long as you are doing it well and have complete control over the ball, it can be almost impossible to defend for all but the best defenders. Being able to execute that shot over and over again without mistakes will put you well ahead of most other players.

After you can pull off one shot consistently, learn another. But knowing that you always have that go to shot will allow you to compete against a lot of other players.

1. Pull Shot

This is the basic Foosball shot. But its simplicity does not make it less effective. Some of the best players in the world shoot the pull shot almost exclusively. They just do it better than anyone else.

The technique is to move the ball parallel to the goal towards you (hence the pull part) and as you are moving the ball, bring the player around behind the ball and hit it forward. Everything happens with one player which makes it a little easier to execute than a pass shot.

The benefit of this shot over shooting the ball while standing still is that you can vary at what point you are going to release the shot. If you move fast enough you can get the shot off before your opponent has time to move his defensive players into position to block it.

2. Push Shot

The push shot just the opposite of the pull shot. Instead of drawing the ball towards you, you are pushing the ball away from you.

You would use this over the pull shot based on your and your opponent’s positioning at the time as well as your skill in executing the shot. Many players feel as though the pull shot is a more natural motion and can be executed faster than a push shot.

3. Pull/Push and Pass Shot

This is similar to the pull and push shots above except instead of taking the shot with the player that is initiating the play, you let the ball cross the field to another player on the same bar.

This requires a little more timing than the basic pull or push shot but it can be extremely effective. Many players use the tic tac shot method by bouncing the ball quickly back and forth between two players on the same bar so that the defensive player never knows where the shot is coming from.

4. Pin Shot

The pin shot begins by pinning the ball in front of the player. From there you move it side to side and then bring the player around behind it for a shot.

It is the same concept as a pull or push shot except that the starting position is pinned in front of the player.

5. Snake Shot

The key to the snake shot is starting the ball in the right spot and being able to change your grip on the handle quickly and efficiently without losing control.

First, you want to control the ball under the player but out ahead of it a little. Then you adjust your grip so that the bar is being controlled with your wrist rather than your hand. At this point you can move the ball back and forth to try and disguise what direction you are going to move to take the shot.

When you want to release the shot, move to one side or the other and pull your arm up quickly catching the handle in your fingers. If executed properly, this should result in the player rotating almost 360 degrees and striking the ball with a lot of force very quickly. If you effectively moved to one side then your opponent won’t have enough time to block the shot.

7.Bank Shot

The bank shot can use any of the methods above but taken by hitting on one side of the ball so that it comes off at a sharp angle and (hopefully) hits off the side board and into the goal.

8. Aerial Shot

To start off, this shot is illegal according to the rules. So if you are playing in anything more serious than a friendly game, you should either decide ahead of time if it will be allowed or just avoid it altogether.

If you want to try and pull this one off, you have to be able to pass the ball back and forth between the goalie and your defensive 3 bar with a lot of control. As you pass the ball from the goalie to the defense 3 bar very hard, you have to angle the 3 bar player towards the pass. That will cause the ball to bounce up a little. If you time it just right you can tilt both players so that their feet get closer. When done right, you can keep the ball off the ground between both players. Now you just have to practice getting the ball over the the 3 bar player so you can flick it forward over the other players.

It’s not easy to describe and even more difficult to execute. Check out this video that explains the aerial Foosball shot.


The key to playing defense in Foosball is covering as much of the gaps as possible and then attempting to react to your opponent’s movement.

The goal is about as wide as 5 balls. So there are essentially 5 places or slots that an offensive player can get the ball into the goal. You can only defend the goal with two players at a time. So use them wisely!

Never keep your defensive players in front of one another. This means you are only covering one hole with two players and giving the offensive player 4 spots to try and shoot the ball in.

Move your defensive players together as a unit. This will help you ensure that you are always covering at least 2 gaps. Always track the position of the ball with this defensive unit, whether your opponent or your teammate has the ball.

If a shot is obviously going wide of the goal, tilt your defensive players up so that one of the side goalies (if your table has them) does not accidentally deflect the ball into the goal.

Move the ball up the sides once you get it back. Trying to pass up the middle is just asking for it to be stuffed right back into your goal if you miss the gap.

Foosball Tips For Beginners

  • Learn one shot. Being really good at one kind of shot is way more useful than being kinda good at a bunch. Some pros have one shot that they use exclusively in competition.
  • Play with players that are better than you. You will learn to play the right way and you may just rise to the level of your competition.
  • Stay under control. Learning to keep possession and move the ball around will open up a lot of passing and shooting opportunities.

Advanced Foosball Techniques

  • Remain calm.
  • If the defense style you are using isn’t working, have another one ready. Don’t get reactive and start playing erratically. Sometimes the style of defense you are using doesn’t match up well against one particular shooter. That’s ok, just have another style ready.
  • If you play a lot with the same partner, work out signals for passing. That way, the offensive player knows where you are attempting to pass the ball and will be ready for it. Signals can be anything you do before the pass such as tapping the ball a certain amount of times, faking the pass first, or holding the ball in a specific spot for a second or two. The point is to pick things that look like normal moves you would do before a pass to distract the other player while in fact, you are signaling your partner.
  • Know the rules! In tournament play, knowing the rules can make the difference between a win and a loss. Keep up with changes and make sure you confirm what the rules are for the specific tournament you are playing in.

How To Practice Foosball By Yourself

Practicing offense is both important and easy to do on your own. Start by getting really comfortable with a pull or push shot. Work on controlling the ball so that you can go from one bar to the other without ever needing to adjust the bars of the opponent that isn’t there. Focus on passing from the 5 bar to the offensive 3 bar. That is the most used pass in the game.

1 thought on “How To Play Foosball”

  1. Very informative post, it takes practice to learn the techniques, and I agree if you play against players better than yourself you can improve a lot.

Comments are closed.