How to Play Foosball: Rules, Tips, and Winning Moves

Have you found yourself interested in foosball recently? Do you love the spins and goals of foosball but can’t figure out how to play this table version of football? No worries. You are in the right place, as this article is about learning table soccer. 

Foosball is the name of a popular and traditional game played by people worldwide. The foosball game helps people improve their thinking, entertains them, and keeps players active. Anyone can play this thrilling game if they want. But playing it very well and competing with players takes practice and skill. 

That’s why we’ll take you through every pass, shot, and strategy here, ensuring you’re ready for those friendly face-offs with colleagues and pals.

Without making any further delay, let’s get started!

What is foosball?

Foosball is an indoor game, just like dart or ping pong. Popularly known as foosball, this game is also called table football and table soccer since it is played on the table. Many also know it as a soccer-based game because they have a few similarities. However, soccer and table soccer are different. Apart from these, different countries call it by different names. In Germany, they call it “Kicker,” and in France, it is “Baby Foot.” 

Separate tables are made for playing foosball where there are some fixed rods. A fixed number of plastic male dolls are attached to the rods. The ball is driven by the plastic male doll players attached to the rod, and they score goals wherever there is a hole in the opponent’s side.

History of Foosball

History of Foosball

The history of foosball is quite interesting. Can you believe the idea of foosball came from a matchbox?

According to sources, a long time ago, in the 1920s, Harold Searles Thornton, a UK citizen who loved football, had a fun idea from looking at a matchbox. He wanted to invent a mini version of football that could be played indoors on a table. 

According to several opinions, the game was invented between 1923 and 1937. By 1927, this table game reached the U.S. In the 1960s and 1970s, the game became super popular. People in Europe started playing foosball after 1945 to relax and have fun. They even started foosball competitions after some time. 

Throughout the years, foosball gained popularity globally, and on August 16, 2002, the International Table Soccer Federation (ITSF) was founded to promote foosball. ITSF is a  

non-profit organization based in France, the foosball games’ governing body.

Today, foosball or table soccer remains a beloved game, blending tradition with modern competitive play. 

How to Play Foosball

To start with foosball, you need to know the basics of the game, along with the rules—for example, the objective, equipment and variations.

Objective of Foosball

Foosball isn’t just about spinning rods; it’s a battle of wits, strategy, and skill. 

The main purpose of playing foosball is to score goals with the ball in the goal hole towards the opponent. This game has two players on each side of the table. These two players have to handle four foosball rods. A tournament can be played with a total of 9 rounds. The first to reach that winning the first five goals takes the glory home!

Equipment and Setup

Equipment and Setup Foosball

The foosball table is the leading equipment of the game. Or we should say it’s the battlefield where you flaunt your skills. A foosball table isn’t just a piece of furniture; it’s an arena. 

A good quality table is needed to learn the game well. Decide in advance on the foosball table you choose for your family, the kids, and the tournament. 

Before you choose one, make sure you are aware of the foosball table dimensions. Otherwise, you may just waste the money on something you won’t be able to play comfortably. Also, consider your purpose and budget before jumping to any decision. 

There are several tables in the market from reputed brands like Halex, ESPN, Tornado, etc., that you can get according to your requirements. So, you have to be careful in choosing your game table.

Rules of Foosball

Whether you’re a casual player or an aspiring foosball champion, rules govern this fast-paced game. 

In general, The game of foosball consists of two teams and those who play at one table. 

There are eight rods on the foosball table.

This game can have two or four players. There may be more players, depending on the type of table, for example, full-size, compact or tabletop foosball tables. 

Here’s where it gets interesting. If you’ve got four players, you’ll form two teams, each with its rods to control. But if it’s a one-on-one match, you’re the captain and the entire team! Either way, each team gets four rods and thirteen plastic players or footmen to play with.

A total of nine balls have to be played in the tournament. The first team to score five goals gets the sweet taste of victory.

Teams and Players:

  • Foosball is played with two teams at a single table.
  • A game can involve either two or four players. The number might vary based on the table type, such as full-size, compact, or tabletop versions.
  • In a four-player match, each team has two players. In a two-player game, each team consists of a single player.

Rods and Figures:

  • Each team controls four rods, regardless of the number of players.
  • Attached to these rods are thirteen plastic figures, often referred to as “men” or “dolls.”
  • Players maneuver the game by pulling and turning these rods.


  • A standard foosball match consists of nine balls.
  • Players aim to score by guiding the ball into the opponent’s goal using their plastic figures.
  • A ball must touch a figure before it enters the goal for the score to count.


  • The game has a scoring system to track each team’s goals.
  • Only goals scored after the ball has touched a plastic figure are valid.

Starting the Game:

  • Most matches begin with a coin toss. The winning team gets the privilege to serve first.
  • Subsequent serves are taken by the team that was last scored upon or when the ball goes out of play.

Dead Ball:

  • If the ball leaves the table or stops moving and is out of reach, it’s termed a “dead ball.”
  • In such cases, the ball is served again by the player closest to where the ball stopped or by the last player to touch the ball.

Ball Control:

  • Once the ball is served, players have approximately 10 seconds to pass it.
  • The primary objective is to guide the ball into the opponent’s goal using the plastic figures. Players must skillfully control the rods to achieve this.

How to start the game

The game starts with a coin toss to determine which team will play first. It’s almost like winning a mini-match in the foosball world. It gives you the first serve, setting the tone for the rest of the match. The team that wins by tossing the coin can serve the ball first. The other team will have a chance to serve after scoring a goal for the first time or when the ball goes out of play. 

If the ball goes off the table, it is called a dead ball. If it happens, you tell the nearest player, or whoever runs last will be able to serve again.

The ball hits the field first, and then the player has to hit. You can get about 10 seconds to pass the ball. 

In foosball, your goal will always be how you put the ball into the goal hole. Each twist and turn of the rod is a strategic move. So, When the ball is under your rod, try to push it towards the goal hole by gently pressing the foot of the plastic male doll. Remember, you control the rod while playing.

How to grip the handle

You need to know how to hold the handle of the foosball table rod and how to spin while playing. Because if you can use the handle of the rod properly, then your performance is more likely to be good. 

Hold the handle loose and increase your speed to have a proper grip. Do not hold it too tight. You can use gloves or grip tape to make the handle easier to hold.

The foosball game has two main grips. One is the traditional shot grip, and the other is the open-handed grip.:

Traditional shot grip

Most standard foosball shots fall into the traditional shot group. It’s the closed-hand grips. You must hold the handle with a closed hand, wrap your fingers around it, and place your thumb on top.

Pool shots, push shots, and snake shots are usually taken as standard.

Open-handed grip

If you try to roll over the rod, it is called an open-handed grip. This grip will instruct you that the foosball player with the rod will lean forward. To know more about open-handed grip, you can watch this video. 

How to serve the foosball

Officially, if you want to play foosball, then game rules can’t be broken. So, as a rule, the opponent team gets the chance to serve the ball first.

You will try to control the ball after they serve the ball. When you can serve the ball again, it will spin to the rod with five players attached. Keep the ball in front of the rod you hold in your right hand and keep the goal hole covered by the players on the rod in your left hand.

How to shoot the foosball

To shoot the foosball, hold the handles lightly so you can easily change the pole. Do not wrap your arms around the handle completely. But if you leave a little space between the hand’s index finger, you can get better shooting speed. 

If you can keep your hands on the rod and turn your hand, there is a possibility of taking a perfect shot and scoring a goal through these.

But remember that if you shoot a running ball, your ball may go to your opponent and stop. 

So, before giving a shot, try to stop the ball in front of your player and then give the shot. It is more likely to succeed. 

Giving a perfect shot depends on your hand. Your goal will be to keep the ball in your line, save the ball from the opponent, and shoot towards the goal hole.

Different types of Foosball Shots

You must learn about the different types of foosball shots to win the game with a higher score. Even if it’s not about competing, the game can turn boring if you don’t explore the variety of shots when the game demands. 

We’ve discussed a few famous foosball shots here to keep you hooked on this exciting game. 

Pull Shot: This shot is executed by setting up the ball next to the player figure, then quickly pulling the rod towards yourself. At the same time, you need to keep flicking the ball into the goal.

Push Shot: This is precisely the opposite of the pull shot. The ball is set up next to the player figure, and the rod is quickly pushed away from you to shoot the ball.

Snake Shot: In this shot, the footman’s toe is placed on top of the ball, and the rod is then rapidly rolled over to shoot the ball with force. Snake shot is also known as the rollover shot.

Bank Shots: Bank shots are taken to bounce the ball off the side walls of the table before it hits the goal. You can try it on both offense and defense.

Aerial Shot: In an aerial shot, the defensive man kicks the ball into the air and then strikes it before it touches the table, aiming to score a goal. However, tournaments don’t allow this shot, but it’s a decent shot to play casually.

Tic-Tac Shot: This is about quickly passing the ball between two or three player figures before taking a shot, confusing the opponent’s defense. It’s a fake pass to twist the defense team’s game plan.

Spray Shot: The spray shot is where the ball is angled off a player’s figure, causing it to “spray” in an unexpected direction. Thus, this shot makes defending harder for the opponent. It’s pretty similar to a Snake shot.

Dead Man Shots: This type of shot is taken from the defensive 2-bar. These are called “dead man” shots because they’re unexpected from a defensive position.

Foos Shot: It’s a shot where the ball is pinned against the wall by the player figure and then shot towards the goal. This shot is about timing; you need to place it when the opponent can achieve a goal. 

Trick Shots: These are unexpected shots that surprise the opponent, similar to tic-tac shots. But placing such shots requires much experience and skill, as these can change the game.  

Basic Offense

Your first goal will be to take the ball to the rod where you have 3 players through the opponent’s rod with five players. So, you first put the ball to your player, then slowly hit the player’s leg and move forward to score.

Basic Defense

Your purpose here will be to defend the ball from being shot by your opponent. Then try to bring the ball under your control. Keep your players in front of the ball when your opponent is playing, and keep an eye on where the ball is coming from. You never intentionally throw the ball off the table. Keep the ball in the middle of your player to control your game.

Scoring in Foosball

Scoring in Foosball

In the game of foosball, there is a scoring system, which helps each team to know who scored how many goals. Be aware that scores will only be caught on the table with a player’s touch (plastic male doll). So, in the end, the team that gets the goal after touching the player will get the points. 

Keeping the Scores

Most foosball tables come with built-in scoring beads or sliders. Players manually move these beads or sliders to keep track of the score. Each bead or slider usually represents one point.

Many high-end and modern foosball tables might feature electronic or digital score counters. These automatically update the score when a goal is detected. Besides, you can use markers and score sheets to record scores, mainly to keep track of multiple games or matches.

Foosball Game Variations

Foosball game is so universal, yet so diverse. It comes in a variety of styles influenced by countries and players around the world. Players often develop their own house rules, and different table designs create variety in the playing style. Here, you can learn about a few.

Table Styles 

  • American Style: Recognized for its smooth table surface, it typically features a single goalie to guard the net. American-style tables encourage fast-paced gameplay.
  • European Style: These tables, influenced by countries like Czechia, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain, often have a textured playfield. This rougher surface provides more ball control. Also, instead of one, there are usually multiple goalies. 

Gameplay Variations:

  • Penalty Shots: Just like in real soccer, players can score from a set position, usually after a foul.
  • Multiball: This version has more than one ball in play. This doubles the fun, demanding players to be extra alert.
  • Goalie Wars: In this variation, only the goalkeepers are in action. Players use their goalie rods to score against their opponents, flaunting their defensive skills.
  • One-Handed Games: Players can only use one hand to control all the rods, making strategy and precision crucial. It’s a very thrilling and competitive version of foosball. 


The game of foosball not only entertains but also keeps your hands, eyes, and body active by verifying the skills of a good player. You won’t get bored for a second playing foosball, only if you know the rules and terms well. 

Our comprehensive guide on how to play foosball can make learning easier for you. As you’ve seen, it covers everything you need to know to start and spin. You must follow the guide correctly, practice a lot, and be patient. 

You’ll surely make head turns with your foosball skills!

Written by Zach Barnes

Zach Barnes is a sport enthusiast and a sports column writer. He is dedicated to continuously expanding his knowledge and sharing his expertise with others who have a passion for indoor games like foosball, badminton, air hockey etc. Zach Barnes aims to use his expertise to educate new players in improving skills and heighten excitement for these exciting games.

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