What to do when confronted by a Foosball Hustler


Gladiators preparing for combat.

GateHouse – I think I ran into a foosball hustler last weekend at the bar.

I can’t be sure, because I’ve never seen a foosball hustler, never considered the possibility that a foosball hustler might exist, never remotely believed that someone could take seriously an activity wherein you rocket a marble across a table populated by red plastic molds with a curtain rod through their torsos, that there would be someone who would look at average Joe Punchclocks in an average bar playing some average foosball and sniff, “These guys are A VULGAR EMBARRASSMENT TO THE GAME.”




In case you’re not familiar, or in case it goes by different names in other parts of the country, such as “table football” or “niblet jousting” or “Martin,” the sport of foosball, it is important to first note, is not a sport. It is a drinking activity, something people do in their basements while the game is on, or maybe when the pool table is broken. It is not a sport that is, for instance, in the Olympics. I think. Hang on, let me Google that. Nope, not in the Olympics. Thought so.

Here is how I play it — and here is how I assume most people play it, unless there’s some sort of mysterious foosball underground I’m unaware of, and if there is, somebody e-mail me about it, because I have to see what you people dress like: Someone puts a ball on the table, and I immediately spin whichever stick thing happens to nearest my hand until one of three things happens:

  1. My hand gets tired.
  2. I need to use my hand to pick up my beer.
  3. Something of passing interest occurs elsewhere, and I abandon the table mid-game. (I do not have the stick-to-it-iveness required of our country’s more legendary foosball gladiators.)

Sure, there are variations on this strategy. For instance, sometimes I will have a teammate, so there will be two of us spinning our stick things in pointless entropy instead of one. This is called “strategy.” Other strategies include ordering another drink, occasionally referring to the other team as “Sheilas” and attempting to psych the other player(s) out by cleverly warning them about something that I invent entirely, such as that they are currently standing in a growing puddle of dog urine (these tactics are not explicitly banned by any official foosball organization that I can find; I Googled that, too).

So anyway, there we are, me and a buddy Adam, engaged with a couple friends in a spirited and nonsensical round of shish kebab-spinning when up ambles an older gent in a loose, partly translucent white linen shirt, slick Vince McMahon hair and a gold necklace that spells “FOOS CHAMP” and looks like it should be located somewhere on Kanye West (Editor’s Note: This detail is entirely made up, but makes for a better story, and let’s be honest, we’re not solving the immigraton problem here).

After a few moments of coolly regarding our game, during which time he is snickering to a neighbor and making offhanded cracks about how good we are at foosball, he calls next and absolutely decimates us in stunningly efficient fashion. This guy took 30 seconds to set up each move, lining up with cold, mathematical precision his every shot, each of which would rocket into the goal and leave a trail of smoke behind. It was impressive to watch the first time. Then we all abandoned the table, because if you ever find yourself in the company of a foosball hustler, there is only one course of action: Get out of there immediately. Unless, of course, you can convince him to step in dog urine.


About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

19 responses to “What to do when confronted by a Foosball Hustler

  • Anonymous

    Cool article Jeff. Just so you and your readers are aware, there is such underground. Foosball is considered a sport by many of us who play profesionally. Check out these websites:


    This video features two of the best players in the world

    And this one features me:



    ps Spinning is definitely banned! See rule 15



  • The Pinalyzer

    Don’t listen to him Jeff, he is a foosball hustler and you know how those types are. They take your house, car, and dignity.
    Those videos are actually of his cats and he photoshoped them in.
    No one actually plays foosball, they just drink beer and spin the rods like you said,
    The Pinalzyer


  • Rob

    Moron do some research before you write such CRAP.

    according to the IOC foosball is in FACT a sport.
    and i would bet my house this hustler never took you for More than 1 beer and would have been willing to buy you 3 to stay on the table and learn a little about the history, and maybe some beginners basics.


  • Foosball Store

    There’s foos hustlers everywhere you go. I remember playing foos at a bar a few years ago and this kid who looked like the biggest geek was actually a pro. We took over the table and cleaned up. It was amazing!


  • Samurai

    You would actually be amazed at the power, speed and control todays foosball players have with the game. You should watch some video or find your local foosball hang out (if you haven’t already) and watch some foos being played at its highest level. You’ll be astonished!


  • Jason Crane | jasoncrane.org

    Um, are the comments above for real? If so, this just became your greatest column ever.


  • Corey

    Wow, I, like you, Jeff, are surprised that people take this game so seriously. My strategy is to spin as fast as possible and hope something good happens. It usually results in me scoring on myself. But I do like playing with a partner so I can keep a drink in one hand and play with the other.

    Great column.


  • mindymilburn

    So basically he was the Rain Man of foosball?


  • Meredith

    I tend to “play” the same way you do. It’s simply a way to look busy (otherwise a not so subtle “playing half-ass shish-ke-ball is far more interesting than you.”) and pass time in between flights of micro brew or waiting for a pool table to open. Now, if you get me around a Golden Tee game at the bar, then all bets are off. I suppose there has to be professionals for just about everything…even Golden Tee.


  • Dave Bonta

    I used to enjoy playing volleyball at family reunions until three family members with a strong competitive streak — i.e. big egos — took over and made it no fun for everybody, including (I think) themselves. Competitiveness and good times just don’t mix, despite what the television sports culture would have you believe.


  • Jason Crane | jasoncrane.org

    I’d just to point out that well-known poet Dave Bonta just commented on a foosball post on Jeff Vrabel’s blog. My work here is done.


  • Thomas Stazyk

    I thought Asteroids and Pac Man made foosball obsolete. Further evidence I wasn’t properly atuned to reality in the 1980s!


  • Cheryl

    I’m going to be honest. I’m like this. Haha!

    I love to come across unsuspecting victims (especially large, over-confident men spinning the heck out of the foosball table), walk up to them and sweetly ask to play winner. (this is especially effective if I’ve done my hair and am wearing a dress that day).

    And then I smash their faces in.
    With my “cold, calculating” approaches, I rock the board. Though it doesn’t take 30 seconds to set up a shot. Once you get good, it just comes naturally.

    And then they don’t wanna play me anymore, which is sad. 😦
    Though, sometimes I find a really cocky guy who hates losing to a girl, claims fluke, and asks for game after game. I like it when their faces get red. 🙂

    This is my favorite past-time. ❤

    (p.s. I HATE it when people spin. It wears the table out faster, and you lose accuracy. :p )


    • Jeff Vrabel

      This is the most serious and terrifying foosball-related comment I’ve ever seen. You’re really not supposed to spin? That’s all I know how to do! Spin! And more spinning! And then have some beer, then keep spinning! Well now I’m rethinking my entire approach here. Thanks so much for reading – J.


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