BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE SNAKE SHOT: Front pin the ball with the middle man in
the center of the table. Then hold the rod's handle on your inner wrist.
From here rock the ball back and forth. When you decide to shoot, roll
the ball to either your left (push direction) or right (pull direction).
Pull up on your arm, rolling the handle until you catch it in your
fingers-- this will spin the man backwards (counterclockwise over the top of
the rod), striking the ball into the goal. The shot is legally not a spin because
from the last point-of-contact to the contact point of the shot is just under
360 degrees; the follow through is legal as long as it too is under 360
degrees and you don't let go of the handle.
SETTING UP THE FRONT PIN in the center of the table with the center
3-man gives many people trouble; often, from a stationary ball in front
of the center man, the attempt is made to repeatedly nudge the ball
forwards by tiny amounts until it reaches the appropriate distance for a
front-pin. This method is time-consuming and you may lose the ball quite
often, especially if it becomes a habit and you don't concentrate every
time. (Note that on some older tables with a natural forward roll/warp,
this method may work fine.) Here is an alternate, commonly-used method:
Bring the ball to either your near or far 3-man. Pass it towards the
center man. Hold your center man stationary in a back-angled position
(i.e. toes-back, head-forward). The ball will then continue rolling and
strike the front corner of the stationary center-man's toe, causing it
bounce off and roll forward, where it may be quickly pinned with the
center man. Adjust the pin so that it is at the CENTER of the field
(center dot) because this shot's key is that it can go towards the push
or pull directions.
THE SNAKE SHOT GRIP: Now change the grip on your right hand so that your inner
wrist is "holding" the handle by applying pressure to the four to five
o'clock position of the handle, if you were to look at it straight on.
Your palm should not be touching the handle, except perhaps the very
outer part of the flesh near your wrist. If using a Tornado, place your
wrist so that the left edge of your wrist is snug with the narrow part of
the handle; this will allow a faster spin and a faster shot in general. For
a push snake it may help to put more pressure on the left (far) side of
your wrist; for a pull, try pressure your right (near) side.
The snake shot is this: The pinned ball may be rolled laterally to the
left or right, then you will pull your arm up, spinning the rod
counterclockwise so that man will spin over the top and strike the ball
into the goal. Try it!
O.K., you've tried it but it's not that easy, is it? It just
doesn't seem to work at first; don't worry. We'll go through the
motion piece by piece, then put it together into a single stroke. Trying
to do the whole shot at once is usually impossible in the beginning.
1) First from the front-pin position, practice simply shooting the ball
in straight by lifting your arm up fast (i.e. no lateral motion for now).
Remember, it's important to catch the rod hard in your fingers. This
ensures: 1) A FAST spin (essential); and 2) A legal shot (illegal to
let go of the rod). Just practice hitting the ball straight (no angle)
and hard as possible-- later, even when you practice your Snake slowly,
this spin/shot motion is always done as hard as possible.
2) The next problem is lack of lateral (horizontal) motion. Many
people learning the shot try to do the entire Snake "fast", and end up
not moving the ball sideways at all, and hitting it straight or missing
the ball entirely. In the beginning, practice this separately!
Let's practice the lateral motion separately: hold the ball in the
front-pin position using your inner wrist as described earlier. Now,
WITHOUT SHOOTING THE BALL, let's see how fast you can move the ball
laterally to the side wall. Choose push or pull, and keep the ball's
path faithfully lateral, and see how fast you can move the ball. Just let
the ball bounce off of the side wall. Also try the other direction (pull/push).
(If this is difficult, first use your regular palm-grip rather than your
wrist-grip and do the exercise; once you've figured out the concept behind
the rod and handle motion with your normal grip, do it with your wrist.)
Now, remember that this motion is what you need to do with your wrist
when you combine it with the spin-shot to execute your complete snake
shot-- don't ignore this part of your stroke; even a lightning-fast shot
can't cheat on the full motion. You'll probably ignore it anyways, but at
least you'll know what you did wrong...
3) Okay, now you have the "spin" and the "lateral ball-roll". Put the
two together, still in SEPARATE and distinct motions. Choose where you
wish to shoot the ball, and WAIT for the ball to roll laterally there
before you spin/shoot: 1) Roll 2) pause 3) shoot. Don't ignore the
Trust me-- especially if you are missing, do it in two separate
motions even if it seems lame to you, because you will learn the timing
and be able to move on to the single fluid motion required for the
final fast version of the shot. This is important, and that's why I've
just repeated it about five times (sorry). When you get the hang of
it, gradually smooth out the transition from the first motion to the
second while keeping the overall timing the same. Work toward getting
the shot stroke into a single motion (with two components): Roll-then-Shoot.
4) But as soon as you have the shot in a single
motion, always practice it fast, never slowly. Overlearning the slow
version may hinder the time it takes to learn the timing necessary for
the desired fast one.
5) Finally, add a recoil as you do your spinning wrist-roll. In other words,
if you are executing a push snake, pull the rod hard as you spin. If you are
doing a pull snake, push the rod hard as you spin. This will eliminate the
problem of your shot going into the wall past the goal.
6) Remember these points:
- Fast lateral motion
- Immediate hard spin afterwards
- A FAST spin catching the handle with your fingers, and
- Recoil as you spin, in the opposite direction of your shot
If you are then having trouble with one side and not the other
(e.g. the pull-snake works, but not the push), think about which side
of your inner wrist you are using: For a pull-snake you are probably
pulling with the RIGHT side of your inner wrist; so, for the
push-snake, be aware of that portion of your wrist, and push with it,
or even switch to the left side of your wrist. Also, be aware of your
shoulder-- the pull snake is easier if your shoulder is further from
the table, and the push snake is easier if your shoulder is close to
above the edge of the table. Also be aware of having the left (far) edge of
your wrist on the narrow part of the handle, and remember your recoil as
7) Now, for practice, put a defender on the two-man (lift the goalie
rod and ignore it) directly in front of your front pin. Make sure you
can snake it both ways (push/pull). This is a 1/2 ball-length snake,
since you had to move the ball laterally about a 1/2 ball-length to
clear the defender. Move the defender a ball-length more to one side.
Can you snake around it? Try the mirror-image shot the other way.
Congratulations, you have a legitimate snake-shot!
1) MECHANICS OF THE SNAKE SHOT
Remember what was described in b):
- The fast lateral motion of the ball
- The essential fast spin
- The grip on the narrow part of the handle
- The pressure at 3 or 4 o'clock
- Choosing the left or right side of your inner wrist
Make sure you do all of these. Without the fast
lateral motion, your shot will easily be raced; without the fast spin,
your shot may not go straight and instead spray out to the wall;
without using the narrow part of the handle, your spin may come too
late, or too slow; without the pressure at 3 or 4 o'clock and choosing
either your left or right side of your inner wrist, your shot will be
erratic and inconsistent. Also, if your lateral motion still isn't
working, remember to to rock the ball slightly in the pinned position
so that you have an idea of how the ball is going to roll when you do
your motion. So, if you have any of these symptoms, work on the
associated points first.
Experiment with where you stand. In a doubles game, make sure the
defender backs up a little (& even pushes the rods away) to make room for
you to stand in front of your five bar so that you have the appropriate
posture to shoot the shot; If you do well in singles but not doubles,
look where you are standing in singles, and take that space in doubles.
Also, experiment with the direction you face, whether it is straight at
your opponent, almost directly to your right, or somewhere in between.
Experiment with your elbow angle; try bending it slightly
(maintaining your 3 o'clock pressure on the handle) and pointing it out
to your right (perpendicular to the rods). Try varying the amount of
pressure you put on the handle. Also, find a good position for the
front-pin of the ball; there is a good range of the distance your ball
can be from your man and still be front-pinned-- find the ideal
distance and always use it. Also experiment with your shoulder's
distance from the table.
Finally, this last point is one of the most important: There
should be a "whip-like" motion to the shot, so that upon execution of
the spin, the center man recoils back to the center dot. This is the
"recoil" and is essential for the execution of a very good (fast & long)
snake. This motion will be explained using the pull-snake as an
example; for the push-snake simply consider the mirror-image.
The best way to imply the idea (for the pull-snake), is to think
of it as a "shoulder pull-then-push". Roughly, the "pull" corresponds
to the lateral-ball-roll, and the "push" to the rollover/spin.
As you begin the shot, your wrist pulls the rod, obviously. Notice
too, that your shoulder is also pulling-- exaggerate this motion of the
shoulder. Now the hard part: As you are pulling with your wrist, begin
to move your shoulder in the push direction. Eventually this whip-like
motion will reach your wrist, which will also begin to move (with the
rod) in the push direction. That's all there is to it! The really
hard part is timing it so that the spin occurs just as you begin to
push the rod with your wrist. This is difficult at first because the
spin must also occur where you want to shoot the ball, which is at or
just after the second dot on a Tornado. This motion helps the ball go
straight (not out to the wall) into the goal even with a very fast,
very long (laterally) snake shot. Work on the timing so that the ball
arrives where you want to shoot it just as the push-whip-motion reaches
your wrist. Set up your body before the shot so that your shoulder can
do the pull-push motion, and remember again to catch the rod in your
fingers. Now practice:
2) PRACTICING THE SNAKE SHOT
For practice, go over everything in 1) as well as the beginner
section. Try to analyze what is going wrong, and then you should be
able to figure out what part of your shot is lacking. Especially
practice the recoil.
Once you have a good motion, all there is to do, is to see how
fast, far, and consistent you can shoot. Here's how:
We will set up longer and longer practice shots for you to make.
Once you can shoot a certain-length's shot fast and consistently, we
will practice its mirror image, then move on to an even longer shot.
Again, we'll use the pull-snake example, but remember to practice
the push-snakes just as much! Lift the defending goalie, since we
won't be using it for these exercises. Set up the front-pin, and put
the FAR 2-man (from your perspective) directly in front of the ball.
To pull-snake around this man requires a lateral motion of 1/2 a ball
length. Now for the other extreme, pull the defending rod towards you
all the way to the wall. Now, to do a pull-snake around the same far
2-man (i.e. the man not on the wall) requires a lateral motion of about
2 1/2 ball lengths! To do this shot fast and consistently is your
eventual goal. This shot is known as the dead-man shot, since the far
2-man is "dead" and cannot move any further since the near 2-man is
also "dead" against the wall.
Note than on a non-Tornado, the goals are slightly smaller, so this
deadman shot may be impossible-- in this case, put your finger between
the wall and the bumper next to the near 2-man-- this one-finger shot
should probably be your goal, i.e. going around the far 2-man in this
Let's begin with a "three-finger pull-snake". Put three of your
fingers between the wall and the bumper next to the NEAR 2-man.
(again, near to your perspective). Pull snaking around the far 2-man
is called the "three-finger" shot for obvious reasons. This is
practically identical to the first example with the defender directly
in front of the front-pin-- you must move the ball laterally about 1
ball length. If you can shoot this fast and consistently, move on to a
"two-finger" shot. Make sure that out of 5 shots, you are shooting 3
or 4 fast and on-goal. The shot should not be cutting back; it should
be shot straight; the cut-back shot may look great, but it's
notoriously inconsistent to do fast, and practicing it may sabotage
your "real" snake shot. If you can do a two-finger shot, move to a 1
1/2 finger, a 1 finger, a 1/2 finger, and eventually to deadman (0
Of course, make sure you can do all of this in the push direction
too, or your shot will be basically useless. Remember to do your
shoulder pull-push (i.e. "recoil); your center man should recoil and
come to rest at about the center dot. To shoot a deadman shot you
should strike the ball at just just past the second dot from the end;
this is very important, and aiming for this second dot is often MORE
accurate than "eyeballing" the deadman defense and aiming to shoot
around it. That's it! Just practice longer and longer shots in both
pull and push directions, and always practice it fast, never slowly.
3) PHILOSOPHY OF THE SNAKE SHOT
Trying the shot against a live defense is intimidating at
first. Many people will try to race you, especially at first. The
most common mistake is to concentrate on racing the defense, which
results in shooting the spin too soon, while moving the ball a useless
1/4 or 1/2 a ball length laterally. Remember that your shot is fast,
even though it seems slow when you are shooting on a live defense. If
you are at least medium-fast at shooting the snake, lateral distance is
much more important than sheer speed. Trust me. Also, remember to
vary your pull- and push-snakes, otherwise the defender will learn to
guard only your preferred side. And in practice, practice shooting the
straight snake (i.e. no lateral motion), so that you know an open split
when you see it; sometimes it looks closed but isn't, so practice by
setting up a smaller and smaller split and seeing if you can hit it.
If you hit a straight split on a live defense, you'll find that the
pull- and push- holes will be more open the next time you shoot.
Once you can race any set defense, people will begin using a moving
defense on you. Decide if it is upredictable or predictable. If the
motion is predictable, time it and shoot it in (straight if
available, or push/pull if not). Have a friend move the defense back
and forth as fast as possible, just to see if you can time it and shoot
it straight in. Many defenses, may be predictable as to when one side
(push or pull) will open up. Get set up to shoot that hole, and just
wait for it to open.
However, a good moving defense will fool you this way; you will
expect a hole to open and shoot it, but the defense will already be
there, and stay stationary as the ball is shot straight into the
waiting man. A good moving defense may set up your expectations,
predict your reaction time, then offer a hole then close it-- i.e. the
hole will be closed as or before you begin to shoot, differing from a
race defense where the race you to the hole after they see you begin to
shoot-- sometimes you wil be fooled into shooting at a hole that never
opened fully at all! With this kind of a defense, simply sit on the
ball; under regulation play, you have 15 seconds per rod, and if you
took 2 or three seconds setting up the shot, you still have more than
10 seconds before you shoot. This way, the defense will find it very
hard to bait you and to predict your reaction time, since he will not
know which hole you are looking at. Hence, if you just wait out a
couple of "obvious" holes, your shooting percentage will be higher.
Sometimes a moving defense will be very fast, and very
unpredictable. Here, try to study an patterns in openings-- is the
straight shot frequently open? Or is the pull more open than the push?
Figure it out then try your best. If you get very good at the snake
shot, you will begin to see all of the holes as they open, but most
average shooters pick a hole then simply wait for it to open. Shooting
against a moving defense is very intellectual, and is sometime a
psychological game with the defender. Try to develop these analytic
skills, and try to play a variety of people with a variety of snake
defenses-- go to new playing locations and new tournaments, and as you
encounter more defenses, your shot will become better. Along the way,
you will naturally develop a good snake defense too! Happy shooting!