Have you ever wanted a foosball table of your own? It’s one of those pieces that really bring together any game room, but it can still seem a little intimidating if you’ve never owned your own table. Personally, I’m a huge fan of the game and I’ve made it a mission to help others find ways to become just as enthusiastic themselves. That’s why I’ve put together this guide that can help others not just understand what to look for when they want to buy a foosball table but to understand a little more about this spectacular game.
A little bit of History
As you might imagine, foosball didn’t come into the world fully formed. It is almost certainly the offspring of the many different table-top sports games that were all the rage in Europe during the late 19th century, but we really don’t have a great idea of its precise lineage. We do know when the first foosball table was patented — October 14th, 1921.
Harold Searles Thornton is credited as the inventor of the first foosball table, and his primary inspiration was the game of soccer. The sport was really taking off in post-war Europe at the time, and Thornton thought that it would be a great idea for people to have some way to play the game within the comfort of their own homes. He almost certainly lifted at least part of the idea from other table games that were played in parlors, but he claimed that the main inspiration came from a box of matches. Despite the popularity of soccer in Europe, it would take decades for the game to really take off.
Foosball made a huge splash in the United States during the 1950s after the game was brought from Europe by Lawrence Patterson. Importantly, this iteration of foosball was very much a social game — it was a popular fixture in pool halls and bars. The growing number of game rooms and rumpus rooms in American homes during the 1970s also made it a popular addition in private residences.
The rules of foosball are determined by the United States Table Soccer Association. Professional players take these rules incredibly seriously, but they’re also great for amateurs to brush up on before they play with others. Like any other sport, every aspect of play in foosball is covered in these rules.
To start a game of foosball, you flip a coin. The winner gets to take the first serve — that is, he or she gets the hit the ball first. After that, the serve goes back and forth based on who scored the last point. It’s considered a rule in most foosball games to keep the game fair by allowing the person on whom the goal was scored to take the next serve.
It should be noted that foosball is very much a game of good sportsmanship. As such, the ball can only be served when both players are ready to start playing. Players are not allowed to spin their rod (fully spin around their players without touching the ball) nor are they allowed to jar (slam the rod against the side of the table) in order to try to take possession from the other player.
If a ball goes dead either by getting stuck or going off the playfield, it is reserved for the player who was scored against last. Again, this is largely done in the name of fairness — players shouldn’t be trying to get the ball stuck in any circumstance. Dead balls that happen in the backfield are simply manually moved to a playing position.
By far the most complicated foosball rule is known as the five-bar passing rule. When a serve occurs, you get ten seconds to pass from the five bar (the large central bar) to the three-bar (the next bar) or else you incur a penalty. Making things a bit more complicated is the fact that you can’t even stop the ball on the five-bar — it has to touch at least two men to stay in place. It also cannot touch the wall more than twice unless it touches the ball the third time on a pass.
The degree to which these rules are followed varies. Most casual players, for example, won’t follow the five-bar passing rule. If you’re playing in a tournament, you will want to follow them all to the letter.
Foosball Table (Types & Dimensions)
There are a few different types of foosball tables out there. While most people think of the classic foosball table as being the ‘main’ type of table, the truth is that you will encounter all three types when you’re shopping. Though each has its own very specific uses, you are going to need to know a bit about how they work and the dimensions of each table if you want to make an informed buying choice. While there are some variants, we’re going to stick to looking at three types of tables.
|Classic (full-size) table||This is the table that’s the direct descendant of the same tables that became so popular in the US during the 1970s. Though the materials and presentation have changed quite a bit over the intervening years, these tables really aren’t all that different from what you would have found decades ago. They tend to be bigger, sturdier and better able to deal with punishment than the other types of tables, but the trade-off here is that they take up an awful lot of space.|
|If you’re getting a proper full-size table, you’re looking for something that comes in regulation size. That means that it is about thirty inches wide by fifty-six inches long by thirty-six inches tall. As a note, this is just the physical size of the table — you’re going to need at least three feet or so to each side if you want to play the game without causing your players discomfort. These are tables that are meant to be permanent fixtures in game rooms or in homes, so don’t expect to move these big tables around very often.|
|Tabletop table||These versions might seem a little more modern, but they likely have a lot in common with the late-19th-century tabletop games from which foosball was derived. These games are small enough to be played on tables or even on the ground, and they do tend to vary greatly in quality. Some of these versions are identical to the traditional game, while others shrink the playing field or the number of rods in order to make a more portable experience.|
|The dimensions on these really vary. If you’re looking for a full-sized model, you are going to find something that’s around thirty inches by fifty-six inches, but only around eight to twelve inches high. Other versions vary greatly — they can be less than half that size in many cases, especially when you’re looking at the cheaper versions that are meant for young children. These portable versions don’t tend to survive wear-and-tear as well as their bigger counterparts, but they can be stored away when not in use.|
|Multi-game table||These games come in one of two formats — either a traditional foosball table in which the rods can be removed so other game surfaces can be placed on top or a traditional game table on which a portable foosball table can be placed. For some, these tables tend to be the best of both worlds because they allow for multiple games to be played in the same place. Others, however, note that these tables tend to be far less steady than a traditional table yet not quite as easy to store as a portable table.|
|The dimensions here vary depending on the type of portable table you get. If you get the version that is built off of a traditional foosball table base, you’re going to get the same dimensions as a traditional foosball table. If you get the version that’s based on another game’s table, you’re still going to be looking at something that’s relatively similar. The latter version may tend to be a few inches shorter, with most of the height difference made up by the addition of the portable foosball table topper. Some of these tables also come with removable legs so that all of the included games can be played on the floor.|
Strategy & Game Tips
The first game of foosball that you played was entertaining but still a little tough to follow. Unless you’re playing with someone who purposefully takes things easy on you, you’re almost guaranteed to end up getting trounced the first time that you play. As such, it’s very helpful to slow down and take a look at some basic strategies for playing foosball. As with most games, you’re going to want to start with the absolute basics before you move on to more advanced techniques.
The actual game of foosball shouldn’t be that difficult to grasp. Just like soccer, your goal is to get the ball into the goal on the other side of the field while stopping your opponent from doing the same. As such, you need to place a premium on learning how to move the ball from one side of the table to the other. For most, this means starting with some light practice on a table by yourself — learn how to score a goal from any position unopposed before you even think about shooting on another player. This will give you a solid idea of how to set up your shots when you start to play for real.
- A really useful pro tip for new players is to start out shooting the right way. Due to the design of the foosball table, it makes sense that most new players would grip the handles fairly tightly. This, unfortunately, really reduces the speed at which you can shoot the ball. Given that speed is a huge element of denying your opponent the ability to block your shots, you want to do anything that you can speed up the movement of your rod. Simply holding the rod with an open hand and twisting it a little bit faster will help you to rocket shots off at the opposing goal.
- Once you can get your shot moving quickly, you’ll want to focus on making one perfect shot. There are many types of shots in foosball, but newer players really tend to master two — the pull and the push. The pull is a fairly simple shot that requires that you pull the ball towards yourself while shooting forward, while the push involves going the other way. Both are easy techniques that aren’t going to do much against professional players, but they’ll teach you quite a bit about handling the ball and shooting at the same time.
- Now that you have speed and a little accuracy on your side, it’s time to start thinking about how you can make your opponent’s life a little more difficult. The best way to do this is to master moving the ball. Good ball control is really a matter of learning how to keep the ball moving exactly where you want it to go at all times without letting it stop. You’ll need to practice passing the ball to yourself forwards, backward, and laterally if you really want to take on more skilled players. The better you can position your ball, the stronger shots you’ll be able to take.
- Now that you’ve got your offense squared away, you can start thinking about defensive techniques. The most important defensive technique by far is paying attention to where the ball is at all times. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing doubles games or alone — you need to be constantly moving your men around in order to block the ball. You’d be amazed by the tremendous number of goals that you will be able to deny if you are willing to keep an eye on the ball even when it doesn’t look like a shot’s being threatened.
- Good defense also means good positioning. A great pro tip is to keep your defensive bars angled towards one another. You don’t want to go with an extreme angle that allows the ball to slide under your defense, but you do want to go with one that will allow you to block all kinds of angled shots. This is a passive defensive technique that will not win games for you on its own, but it will help you to defend against some of those insanely lucky shots that tend to break down the defense of newer players.
- You’ll also want to pay very close attention to those back lines whenever you can. New players look at them as two separates lines, but experienced players look at them as one massive defensive curtain. This isn’t to say that you’re never going to move the two bars separately, but rather to remind you that you can use proper positioning and timing to create a blockade that most opponents are not going to be able to get past. While the offense is ultimately what wins a foosball game, the defense is what you used to keep yourself from losing.
10 Foosball Tips for Beginners from the German Champion.
Important Nuances when Choosing a Table
Now that you’re a little more engaged with the ‘how’ of football, you might want to think about finding a table that suits you. This honestly isn’t an easy choice for any player, but it’s one that you’re going to have to work out if you’re looking to get a table on your own.
The best place to start is by thinking about how often you’re going to play foosball. If you think that you’re going to play against other people all the time and you’re going to make it a permanent hobby, you need to invest in a table that’s going to stand up to repeated use. This almost always means getting a full-sized table and it also means that you’re going to want to get something sturdy enough to stand up to repeated play.
You also need to think about where this table is going to go. If you have a full-sized game room in your home or you are thinking about getting a table for recreational space, the most important thing you’re going to need to worry about is how sturdy the table will be when people are playing. If you are looking at limited space, your main issue is going to be the overall play area — not just how much you have available for the table, but what you’re going to have to do to get enough room for people to play.
Finally, try to keep your audience in mind. If you’re looking to host tournaments, get a table that fits tournament regulations and that won’t shake or chip. If you are getting something for kids, find something that’s easy to move and that won’t break quickly. The table that’s best for you is the one that’s going to allow you to have the most fun.
Foosball is a fantastic game. If you’re willing to get a good table and spend some time learning how to play, you’ll get years of enjoyment out of the game. Hopefully, this tutorial was useful for you, especially if you’re considering getting into the game yourself. Did you enjoy this tutorial? Did you learn something new? Let us know by leaving a comment and sharing this article with others who might find it useful.