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Foosball Instruction

The Snake & Pull Shot
Content from FAQ6 v 1.2-1.3
Guide to the Snake and Pull Shots -- (Long Instructions)
(C) 1995 Robert Uyeyama
Permission granted to to publish in modified HTML format.

PART II - The PULL SHOT (alias the Hammer)

A) FOR BEGINNERS: If you've never seen the pull shot, here is the rationale: It can be shot VERY fast, fast enough to race a stationary defense to any hole which is available. In other words, if the defense is blocking the straight shot and any direct angle, simply move the ball around the defenders, and shoot it straight in. When you practice the shot, you are practicing to get the maximum speed at maximum lateral momement. You will even practice the straight shot and a short pull to the middle of the goal.

However at the very first stages of learning the shot, the most common mistake, like with the Snake shot, is to shoot the ball too soon in an attempt at speed without actually completing the full lateral movement. The speed comes from completion of the entire shot stroke as fast as possible, not by short-cuts.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE PULL SHOT: Push your three bar all the way to the far wall, and place the ball on the right side of the center man. This is the starting position, or "pull setup."

    From here, you pull the rod and the ball laterally toward you. As the ball moves laterally across the playfield, the center man lifts, accelerates, moves behind the moving ball, then shoots it straight in. The ball's path from start to finish is roughly "L"- shaped.

    If the defense is covering the straight and angle shots from the setup-position (the left side of the goal), this L-shape must be long enough to go around the defense men to the "far" hole (right corner of the goal).

    NOTES ON BALL SETUP: The rod begins from a maximally-pushed position. Any less than that, and you are handicapping yourself by giving the defender less goal to defend, and a better chance to block your shot; this is often ignored by beginners learning the shot and by intermediates with less tournament experience. To put the ball in this ideal starting position next to the man can be tough. One can repeatedly nudge the ball until eventually it is set-up.

    This is fine, but in regulation play you have only 15 seconds to set-up and shoot the ball, so there is a faster method: push the ball with the near 3-man so that it is lightly passed to the center man. As the ball reaches the (right edge of the) center man, push the rod gently so you slowly decelerate and "cushion" the ball to a stop at or very near to the ideal set-up position. Make any minor adjustments as necessary.

    HOW TO SHOOT: Right now when practicing the shot, simply place the ball in the correct starting position by hand, and don't bother wasting your practice time setting the ball up; concentrate on the shooting part. Place a defending two-man directly in front of the ball (leave the goalie rod lifted up). Always begin the shot stroke with the center 3-man touching the ball; if you start not touching the ball, your shot will be unpredictable (because of the small bounce upon contact), especially later when you practice your fast and long pull shots. Now, do the shot very very slowly in two separate motions:

    1. Pull the rod so that the ball moves past the defender
    2. Lift your man, and quickly move it behind the rolling ball, and shoot it in

    Do "1)... pause... 2)" with a BIG pause for now.

    Now that you get the general idea, try to do it in a single fluid motion, so that you are lifting your man AS you pull the ball; still keep it slow for now. You will in essence be "tracing" the rear outline of the ball-- you begin at the ball's left side, a you pull (never losing contact with the ball), you lift your man to trace the rear curve of the ball, and when you reach the direct rear of the ball, you shoot it in with a wrist flick. Remember that since the man you set the ball in motion with is also the eventual shooter, you must ACCELERATE and go even faster to get behind the moving ball to shoot it! You may find that practicing with a SLOW acceleration period at the beginning of the shot makes it MUCH easier to learn the motion. However once learned, eliminate this slow acceleration and execute the entire stroke quickly.


    1. Lift your man as you pull (described above)
    2. Push the rod as you shoot, so the entire stroke is like a "J", or "hook" shape
    3. At the end of the stroke, always shoot the ball as hard as you can
    4. Once you learn the motion, practice the shot fast or not at all

    Eventually the entire pull shot motion should eventually be done in the space of a quarter-second or even less! Can you even make a "J"-stroke that fast with the rod yet?

    [If you don't know how to wrist-flick (shoot hard): You should have a fairly good wrist-flick to do this shot. In other words, you should be able to hit a stationary ball hard with your man. If you can't do this yet, practice this: hold the handle with your right hand, then ignore your hand, but don't let go. Just think about your wrist. Try to "throw" it as hard as you can in the down direction toward the floor past the handle; your wrist doesn't hit the floor because obviously it is attached to your arm and hand. Since your hand is tightly holding the handle, the motion will stop abruptly just as you lock your wrist joint. This is the wrist flick. Practice this motion fast and hard, and you will notice that the men on the rod will hit any ball quite hard. Remember to stand a little to your left, away from the rod, to give your arm and wrist good leverage. Even if it doesn't seem to help, keep practicing, and you will soon get it by practicing.]

    Practicing a LONGER SHOT: Now we'll practice pulling the ball farther laterally (horizontally). In the exercise above, you hit the pull shot by going around a defender sitting directly in front of the ball's set-up. This time bring (pull the 2-rod toward your right) the defender toward you an inch or so. Practice pulling and shooting around this position consistently; your lateral motion must be longer. Once this is easy, move the defender farther out. Eventually, put the defender in the center of the table, and practice pulling around it.

    Advice on this "longer" shot: Although the shot is one fluid motion, it still contains two components; remember not to shoot the ball until it you have pulled it past the defender you have set up. This seems obvious, but it often is a problem when practicing speed on a long shot. Try tracing the shot stroke without the ball at the desired speed. Also try choosing the point on the playing field where you will shoot the ball from-- then keep your eyes on this point and execute your pull, shooting only when the ball reaches this point. In other words, keep your eyes on the playing field, not on the ball nor on the defense (for practice).

    "Final advice": The following advice on the pull is very, very important: At the point when you shoot the ball, the ball should be slightly behind the rod. Why? If the ball is slightly forward, the shot tends to angle outwards and hit the wall to the right of the goal. Having the ball slightly towards the back helps the ball shoot straight in (by keeping the "angle" in the L-shape 90 degrees or less-- this is known as "squaring off" your shot as opposed to "spraying" it).

B) FOR INTERMEDIATES: The intermediate pull shot section will be divided into three parts:
  1. Mechanics of the pull shot
  2. Practicing the pull shot
  3. Options against a live defender

    General Advice: Again, practice everything in a) smoothly and FAST. Remember especially to have the ball slightly in back of the rod when you shoot. Also remember to have a shot that the opponent can't predict when it is coming; hence don't give it away with a slow accleration period at the beginning of your pull, and don't give it away by always shooting it after a consistent amount of time has elapsed after you've setup the ball (i.e. don't do: setup, one, two, shoot... "a 2-second pull"). Always begin the pull motion as fast as possible, and always practice developing a faster pull-shot motion, sometimes by tracing your shot stroke without a ball.

    Other things you can do: Use your third and fourth fingers mainly when you wrist flick to shoot the ball. Also, you can experiment with the starting position (backwards or forwards) of the ball; just remember if you start it forward to "lift" the ball (by lifting your man) backwards as you pull it so that it is in a slightly behind-the-rod position when you shoot it.

    On standing: Your stance can matter: try standing with your weight on either leg, and try facing your body to the right or diagonally between your opponent and your right. Remember to stand to your left slightly so that the 5-bar is near the middle of your body so that your arm has the correct leverage; ask your defenseman to step back and push his rods out of the way if necessary. Vary your shoulder's distance from the table. Your goal is to find the optimum way of standing and holding the rod so that your "recoil" for your long pull is smooth.

    Recoil, the most important thing: What is "recoil", and why is it so important? The idea is to train your arm motion to be the smoothest and fastest "whip"-motion, like the end of the "J". The reason is to improve your accuracy by squaring your shot off when you shoot a very long pull as fast as you can. This is what happens to the foosball table: as you shoot the ball after pulling it, the rod is PUSHED so that your center man ends up near the center dot at the end of your motion.

    How to develop recoil: Your entire arm should feel like a whip and the "crack" of the whip (at your elbow and wrist) coincides with the shooting of the ball. This means you begin the reversal of the whip-motion before you shoot, i.e. as you are pulling. You can think of this motion as a shoulder & elbow PUSH which you begin as soon as your wrist begins the PULL motion. This push motion will travel down your arm like a whip and reach your wrist, which will then also begin moving in the push direction. This is when you should shoot the ball; this is also the "cracking of the whip." Learn to time the entire shot motion so that the ball and man are in the correct position to shoot your long shot just as your wrist snaps the recoil. Thinking of violently "throwing" your elbow in the push direction as you simultaneously pull with your wrist may help-- other players think of lifting the elbow outwards so that it has leverage to snap the arm forward, somewhat like a karate punch.

    The other important part of recoil is body positioning. You must be standing so that your arm is free to snap back and forth smoothly. Hold the 3-rod handle and try the recoiling whip-motion back and forth repeatedly, without a ball and not even pretending to shoot. The motion should not be awkward and should be very fluid even if you continue to whip back and forth. Find a good stance so that your arm is free to do this. You can experiment with standing lower, or more to your left, and make sure your right shoulder is not too close to the table.


    A list of exercises: Concentrate on shooting three primary pull options flawlessly. (If you think you're flawless, try shooting as many of that option as you can in 1 minute and see how you do under the strain. Can you get in a groove? Can you do 10 out of 10?) The three options are: long, middle, and straight. Even straight is important, otherwise a smart defender will leave straight slightly open and bait you long, where you may want to shoot since it's may seem more impressive to you. The defender is cheating and you'll be left wondering how they blocked your long and middle. Don't fall for it. Have a kickass straight, and after you hit it a few times, your long or middle will be wide open next time.

      You can learn when the straight shot is just a few millimeters open... some defenders won't even think it's open! You may not, unless you read this: Set up for a perfect pull by pushing your rod all the way to the far wall. Lift the defending goalie. Set the defending two-bar as follows: ignore the far 2-man by your setup for now, and place the near 2-man so that its near edge is flush with the near edge of the white painted goal line which leads into the goal.

      FAR <-------------------------------------------------------> NEAR

      | --------------------------------------------------------------------oo-------------|
      | -------------------------------00----------------@@-----------------------------|
      | --00-------------------00b-------------------00---------------------------------|-#####

      Now pull the 2-rod a little bit nearer so that the near edge of the near 2-man is just past the outside edge of the goal line by 1/8 of an inch. The straight shot is open. Try it, and shoot slowly and very carefully if you need to. Now adjust the 2-man so it is 1/2 inch beyond the outside of the white line. This shot is ****wide**** open. Now you know. Even 1/4 inch is wide open. Practice diligently at 1/8 or 1/4 of an inch past the line. You may need to sweep with a push recoil on your shot to avoid spraying it into the far 2-man. Can you hit 10 out of 10 at 1/4 inch? 1/8 inch? Of course, during a real game, now you must have a perfect pull setup to take advantage of this fraction of an inch!

      Yes, the pull-shot can be done deadman. (or on a non-Tornado, a one-finger pull should be possible). For this set of exercises, lift the goalie rod and ignore it. Begin by positioning the far defending 2-man (i.e. the one on your left) at the center dot, and see how consistently you can shoot your pull around this defender (i.e. your shot should be going between the two men on the 2-rod). Once you begin to hit 4 out of 5 shots fast and into the goal, pull the defending 2-rod toward you by a finger width or so and try again. This will probably be a three finger-widths (3 FW) shot. (This means the distance from the wall to the 2-rod's bumper on your right is about three finger widths). Practice again until you can accurately shoot 4 out of 5 shots. Then continue progressing to smaller and smaller FW. Once you get to 2 FW, progressive by 1/2 FW increments. A fast 2 FW shot is a fairly good shot, and a 1 FW shot is a very good shot, but continue practicing, all the way up to deadbar (i.e. 0 FW; the defending 2-rod is up against the wall; the bumper is touching the wall; the man is "dead" since it can move no farther).

      If you don't believe a deadbar pull can be done: Try this exercise, which is done slowly: Set the pull setup with the ball slightly forward. Lift the man against the ball as you pull SLOWLY, causing the ball to roll laterally at a slight backwards angle; eventually the ball will roll to be slightly in back of the rod. As the ball is rolling, lift the man and pull the rod (almost) completely to the wall. Wait for the ball to reach you. As the ball reaches you (or on a Tornado reaches the point between the 1st and 2nd dots), shoot the ball hard as you PUSH the rod-- hence you're brushing the ball in the push direction with the front surface of your toe as you shoot. Remember the the ball must be FAR back when you shoot, almost so far you can back-pin it. Doing this fast is much harder, but this should help give you a clue how to do it; to shooting it fast, hitting the ball at the extreme point, and the push-recoil and the backwards ball position are essential, as is shooting the ball accurately between the first and second dots.

      If you are up to practicing your 1 fingerwidth to deadbar shot, and working on speed try this method, which is a modified version of an exercise described by Todd Loffredo. You can setup a 1 FW defense with the 2-bar if you want. Then place the ball between the first and second near dots on your 3-rod. You will practice shooting the ball in without actually pulling the ball. Set the rod up for a normal pull except tilt the men back up so that your near 3-man doesn't disturb the ball you just placed by the first two dots. Have a very loose grip concentrating on your fourth and fifth fingers. Now pull the rod as fast as you can and snap the ball in as hard as you can, again concentrating on the fourth and fifth fingers only. Don't worry about recoil, and just hit it as hard as you can straight in. See how many you can hit in in 30 seconds. Can you shoot 10 out of 10? Now try the same motion with a regular setup where you start with the ball on your far 3-man, and use the same loose grip, extra-fast pull, and hard snap between the 1st and 2nd dots.

      Try the same motion from the last paragraph from "practicing your long shot." Think of your arm and fist, and pull in and push out like a punch in one motion as fast as you can. In other words, as soon as you've started to think of moving the ball, you should already begin your hit/push-recoil. This shot should be absolutely unraceable. Practice going around the 2-man but threading the shot so that it doesn't spray into the nearby goalie man; set up a tight shot corridor that you can hit a straight through, and practice it diligently with your middle pull. Remember that your push-recoil is the most important here... concentrate on the push-ending rather than the pull-beginning. Continue until you are 10 out of 10, or can do a decent number in a 60-second "shoot as many as you can" groove test.

      You must be proficient at all three options. If you can hit any hole reliably, you will keep the defense guessing. If you burn a long, the straight may be open the next time around, or vice-versa, as they try to protect the shot you just hit. Conversely, if your previous shot looks good again (wait a full 10 seconds to be sure) and the defense just isn't learning, shoot the same shot over and over, even if it's the straight. Be careful about giving away your shot by tensing your arm or your shoulder, or dropping your elbow. Also be careful about shooting after a predictable amount of time has elapsed, for example 3 seconds: setup wait 3 shoot; setup wait 3 shoot; setup wait 3 shoot. If this happens the defense can open a hole wait almost 3, and close it, and your fastest shot is blocked by the defense's brains. Be smart, and vary the time between your setup and shot execution. Use your full 10-15 seconds often to get a good look at the moving defense; otherwise you may be falling into for a defensive timing bait. Sometimes shoot just after or during your setup.


    In general you should be able to race a moving defense, and especially a set-defense, to the far post. If the defender begins on the far post, the split (center) or straight shot should be open. If you can't race them to these holes, you should practice your shot speed, rather than relying on tricking your opponent with too many "shot options".

    Your main options will be the hairline-accurate straight shot or the very-long shot, so continue practicing your long-pull until you can reliably hit the dead-man pull, or more realistically for non-pros, a one-finger pull. Practicing the straight shot so that you are confident in shooting it every time the hole opens by even 1/8 of an inch of the near 2 man past the outside of the white goal line (see above, PRACTICING THE STRAIGHT SHOT).

    These other options are for those times you have a "slow" day, or encounter a defense which can usually stop you for some reason, or for variety on non-tournament nights, or a tricky option to show off. The options described will be: brush-split, the dead-man "straight," and various fakes. Remember these are mostly tricks and not the essentials needed for tournament wins.

    BRUSH-SPLIT (SLICE): This shot is an angle shot used especially when the defender uses his far 2-man (the one farthest from the ball's setup) to guard "long" and the goalie to guard "short". The angle shot between the two men are open. Instead of chipping a sharp angle shot, which tends to be inaccurate at high speeds, you will brush-down (pull-brush) the back of the ball with the front of your man's toe. The resulting spin will angle the ball correctly, your control of the shot will be great with practice, and to the opponent the brush movement looks misleadingly like a genuine attempt at a pull. You can vary the aim of your angle, but in general you can aim somewhere near the far post by aiming at the receding edge of the moving two-man who is guarding long. This is also called a "slice".

    If you don't know what a "brush-down" is: The idea is that you put spin on the ball which causes it to roll at an angle. The spin is created by scraping the back of the ball gently but _as fast as you can_ with the front of your man's toe. An _extremely_ subtle wrist flick will help improve velocity as well as the severity of the angle.

    FAKES AND VARIATIONS: If your pull isn't fast enough to beat the defense try fakes now, and practice a faster shot later. A "lift" fake is when you suddenly lift the man, not touching the ball, hoping for the defense to flinch, opening the straight shot. A "roll" fake is when you lift the man and brush the ball slightly backwards (but not very far laterally), hoping for the defense to flinch from the straight shot; the "roll" fake is often effective if the defense has seen too man lift-fakes and is simply waiting for the ball to move :). A far-man fake is like a lift fake except you lift the man and pull the rod all the way, not touching the ball, and shooting the straight shot in with the far man. Also, you can do a lift fake then immediately do your real far-post pull shot as the defender is recovering from flinching; this is often very effective when the defender is successfully racing you to the far post. The next fake-variation is most satisfying at the end of this series: First do a fast far-post pull and "burn" the defense (i.e. race them successfully). Now, since the defense is expecting a fast, long pull, for your next shot do the far-man fake, and shoot the straight shot in with the far man as they flinch. Now, they will be on guard for this far-man fake, so do this: lift your center man and pull the rod as if attempting another far-man fake; the defense will not flinch from the straight shot. But as the far-man approaches the ball, instead of shooting the straight shot, kick-pass it laterally to the center man, who is waiting to shoot it into the far post.

    DEADMAN STRAIGHT SHOT: This is for when the defense is using the near 2-man (from your perspective; on your right) to guard the short pull instead of the other 2-man. For practice, simply have the defense pull its 2-rod to the wall (push to your left from your point of view). You will find that hitting the straight shot is barely impossible from the pull setup. If only you could move the ball a little to the left! Here's how to do it: Very gently but quickly PUSH-brush the back edge of the ball, then immediately PULL-brush as you shoot. This will cause the ball to move slightly to the left, clearing the dead man, then angle in toward the near post of the goal.

    Other pull setup variations include: 1) pull the ball, but don't shoot it. Instead pass it from the near three-man back to the center man, who shoots it straight in from the original starting position. 2) pull the ball, go around to its right side and execute a push shot. 3) shoot a bank shot from the pull set-up position. 4) shoot an unexpected pull to the far post while apparently cushioning your ball to the pull setup.

    PULL SHOT PSYCHOLOGY: Just consider what the defense is thinking, and shoot appropriately. If they are insistent on an ineffective race-defense, stick with your long shot. If you have just hit a split shot to the middle, they may be more cautious next time about the middle, leaving the long or straight open again. And above all don't underestimate the straight shot, for it will be there more often than you think, especially if you have practiced the 1/8 inch straight.

    Also, don't let the defense out-think you. If you are suddenly being blocked consistently, examine yourself. Are you ignoring the straight? Are you shooting a pull 3-seconds after your setup every time? Are you giving away your shot motion by your shoulder dropping? Remember to use your full 15 seconds...

    SUMMARY: To begin getting a good competitive "tournament" shot, simply master the FAST far post pull and the straight shot, and later, the split shot.. The brush-split (slice) is also moderately important. The roll fake may also come in handy for a point at the most. The other variations and fakes are only if your pull shot isn't performing, or you just wish to show off.

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