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Beginner Foosball Terminology: Basic Foosball Rules and Definitions

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

When it comes to having a great time with friends and family in the game room, foosball is in a league of its own. Watching the back-and-forth action of the ball, turning the right rods at the right time and scoring a satisfying goal on your opponent is enough to quicken one's heartbeat and bring a trickle of sweat to the brow. Foosball is an exciting way to spend some quality time with people you care about — or settle an old score!

For the first-time player, foosball may seem a bit tricky. We've put together this guide to help you get familiar with foosball terminology and rules so you can jump right into the action on a foosball table of your own.

Foosball Rules

Below are the essential foosball rules you need to know before playing your first match:

  • The object of foosball: You want to score more points than your opponent by getting the ball into their goal. Games are usually played to 11, but you can play shorter games if you want. To win a match, you need to be the first player or team to win three out of five games. The player or team who wins the match is the victor. You can switch sides of the table with your opponent between games.

  • The number of players: Most games are 1v1, meaning there is one player on each side of the table. Playing 2v2 games is also common, although it takes teamwork to be successful. Each player will control two rods, and players can switch rods between scores. For a wild time — and to get more friends involved — you can try a 4v4 game with four players on each side of the table. Each player commands one rod and switches between scores.

  • How to start: The winner of a coin toss gets to choose if they want to serve first or choose their favorite side of the table. Once they make that determination, the serving team should tap the ball on their side of the table to get everyone's attention. Then, they'll place the ball into the hole on their side of the table to begin playing. Upon serving, your midfield row must make a pass before shooting at the opponent's goal.

  • Foosball scoring rules: Use the rods to control your men and send the ball flying into your opponent's goal. A goal is only considered eligible if it was touched by a player on either team before entering a goal. In other words, if the ball rolls into a goal without being touched, it doesn't count.

  • Serving the ball: After a goal is scored, the team that was scored upon serves the ball.

  • Time limits: You should hold the ball with one of your men for no more than fifteen seconds at a time.

  • Fouls: If the ball flies off the table, the last team to serve will re-serve to resume play. If a player reaches into the table without permission, different rules apply, such as giving the other team a free-kick. Spinning your rods and jarring the table are also fouls (see above).

Remember, you have the right to impose house rules in your own game room. Make sure your guidelines keep everyone involved and happy. At the end of the day, everyone's there for the same reason. Let loose, have fun and enjoy your time getting competitive with friends and family.

Basic Foosball Terms and Definitions

Every sport has its own set of key terms that put everything else into context. Here are some of the most important foosball terms and definitions you should know to start learning this great game:

  • Foosball: You may be wondering what the definition of foosball itself is. Outside the United States, people refer to this game as "table football." It takes some familiar elements of soccer, or international football, and shrinks it down into a tabletop game with new mechanics. Two, four or even eight players can participate using the attached handles and a ball.

  • Ball: Like most popular sports, foosball uses a ball in its back-and-forth pacing. Players must use their men to get the ball into the opposing goal to score, but you'll find out more on the actual rules later on.

  • Men: The men, or foosmen, are the little figures connected to the rods that you control with handles on the table's sides. You use these figures to move the ball around and score. Think of them as miniature soccer players that can only move in a horizontal line, kicking the ball around.

  • Pass: With great skill and practice, you can move the ball between your own men by passing from one to the other to set up the perfect shot.

  • Defense: Use your defensive men to try to stop the opponent from scoring at your goal. Any man on the table can make a defensive play, but the ones nearest your goal are the defensive stars.

  • Offense: These are the men located closest to your opponent's goal. You'll try to score points with these.

  • Goalie: As in regular soccer, each team has one goalie that defends the goal from opposing shots.

  • Dead ball: A dead ball occurs when the ball stops rolling within the bounds of the table and no player can reach it with their men.

  • Drop fake: This is a trick play where a player makes it look like they're going to give the ball a nice whack with one of their men, but they avoid the hit at the last second.

  • Tic-Tac shot: This type of foosball game shot occurs when the ball ricochets rapidly between two men that are on the same rod. Eventually, one of the men suddenly passes it to men on another bar.

  • Match: There are up to five foosball games in a match. The first player or team to win three games wins the match.

  • Reaching in: Reaching into the table with your hands is against the rules unless your opponent gives express permission.

  • Foul: If a player breaks certain rules, that's a foul. Hitting the ball off the table or reaching in with your hands are both types of fouls with different repercussions.

  • Jarring: One of the most common fouls, jarring is when a player slams one or more rods against the table in an attempt to distract their opponent or move the ball without using their men. The first penalty for jarring is to put the ball back where it was when the jarring occurred. The team that was fouled upon can alternatively choose to gain possession of the ball on their 5-man rod. Any subsequent offense gives the other team a penalty shot from their 3-man rod.

  • Spinning: Spinning is the other most common foul and refers to spinning the rods in a 360-degree rotation without touching the ball. Players must maintain complete control of their rods at all times. Breaking this rule gives the opposing team possession of the ball on their 5-man rod.

  • Goalie War: The goalie war is a foosball term that many people aren't familiar with. A specific type of game, the goalie war involves taking away the 3-man and 5-man rods. Only the goalie rods and 2-man rods remain on the table. This encourages fast, frenetic play that can be extremely exciting as a 1v1 player battle.

Foosball Goalie Rules

Like every other aspect of foosball rules, goalies have rules of their own. You'll want to make sure you understand these goalie rules as part of your overall knowledge of basic foosball game rules. That way, you can ensure every game you play remains fairly and consistently played and judged.

Some of the foosball scoring and other rules dealing with everything from goalie shots to movements include:

  • Goalies sometimes have a responsibility of sending a ball back into play if it has been declared dead. However, goalies are required to make sure that both sides are ready to resume before re-initiating play.

  • In the event of a ball going past the goalie and into the goal due to spinning, which is not legal in foosball, the goalie and the rest of the team treats the ball as a dead ball. This means the ball will be sent back into play according to regular dead ball rules.

  • During a goalie war foosball game, the goalie plays an increasingly active role along with the men on the two-man rods. A ball must touch at least two of the men, as well as stop for one or more full seconds before any man can take a shot.

Parts of a Foosball Table

To understand the game, you'll need to know a little more about the foosball table itself. You may recognize a foosball table at first glance, but it has a lot of intricate parts that make the game possible. Here are some terms to help you identify parts of a foosball table and how they relate to the game, plus a foosball setup diagram for better visualization:

  • Rods: The foosball table's rods might be its most distinguishing feature. These silver — and most often hollow — rods extend horizontally through holes on both sides of the table. Moving the rod back and forth through these holes allows you to control the position of the attached men on the playing field. Players can also turn the rod to make the men "kick." There are eight rods in total, giving four to each team.

  • Grips: These are the comfortable grips on one end of each rod to help make controlling them easier. You can tell which rods are for controlling your men and which are for your opponents by noting which side of the table the grips are on.

  • Men: There are at least 22 men on every foosball table. Some tables have 26 men by including extra figures on the goalie rods to reach the corners if the ball gets stuck there.

  • Goalie rod: This rod controls your goalie and is located in front of your goal.

  • Defensive rod: This rod is in front of the goalie rod and controls two men.

  • Midfield rod: This rod runs on either side of the midfield line and controls five men.

  • Storm rod: This is your last rod, located deep in your opponent's territory. It controls three offensive men.

  • Goals: You'll find these openings behind each goalie. You want to send the ball into your opponent's goal to score.

  • Scoreboard: Many foosball tables include a scoreboard on either side of the table. These scoreboards include sliding, numbered tiles that go up to 11.

  • Hole: You'll notice a hole on either side of the table with a small, open compartment on the outside. This is where players will place the ball when it's their turn to serve.

Get Into the Action With a Foosball Table From HB Home

HB Home believes one of the best ways to connect to the people around us is to "disconnect" from distractions. When we put down our phones and enjoy some quality time with one another, we can share memories that will last a lifetime. Tabletop games like foosball can bring great times with friends to the next level. That's why we're passionate about providing high-quality game room furniture. Let us help you foster an environment for fun, meaningful interactions within your home.

Check out our online inventory of pool tables and accessories and our other fun tabletop games to see how we can upgrade your game room. Contact us today for more information.

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