Jim West wrote:
I would classify myself as one of the better local players. Certainly not the best, but I can consistently beat 90% of the foosers around here. I have a very good pull shot and can usually hold my own at goalie. My weakness is at the 5 bar, which is average at best. I own a Tornado table and have spent countless hours attempting unsuccessfully to master the brush pass series.
Recently I have been including 5 bar shots during practice sessions. This has been paying off big time. Currently I am shooting about half the time. it’s nice to be able to pick up a point or two from the 5 man when your shot has gotten cold or the opposing goalie is shutting you down. It also opens up passing lanes after slamming a couple of those puppies home. Another plus is that it seems to pull the opponent out of their game plan as they will often start winging a few of their own or (in singles) keeping the right hand on the 5 man and the left on the goalie. At the very least it gives them something else to think about.
My question is one of ethics. Many players consider 5 man shots to be somewhat less than noble. I have played in a bar where, according to house rules, these shots did not count. Personally, I’m not proud and will take points any way I can get them, although typically I don’t do it against people that I normally would beat. I’ve had opponents get pretty ticked off. I’m there to win and will do whatever it takes to score five goals before the other guy. Do you consider 5 bar shot to be cheesy and are they very effective at higher levels of play?
— J West
Alright, here’s my 5 man shot book, compiled from a couple old posts I made:
5 man shots are not a lucky part of the game, and they’re a very important part. If you never shoot 5 man shots, your opponent (in both doubles or singles) can concentrate completely on defending only passes. If he has to cover shots too, it’s bound to help your passing percentage.
5 man shots, when done right, are not blatent/blind hacks of the ball toward the goal that go in from luck. When I’m really trying, I shoot a lot of 5 man shots in singles (and a significantly lesser amount in doubles, but still some), and know exactly what I’m trying to do and where I’m aiming the ball (I can usually hit any hole on the goal not much bigger than the ball). This is not luck, but rather takes a considerable amount of skill. And 5 man shots aren’t just straights like the left hook or whatever – some of the most effective ones are cuts between the goalie men, and even banks between the goalie men. I’ve had people get completely on goalie with their hands on the goalie and 2 bar leaving the 5 bar completely unattended (and therefore “gift” passes to the 3 bar), just to stop the 5 bar shots/points. Sometimes the player will get mad at having 5 bar shots scored on them and will complain that I’m not using skill to beat them. I always tell them if it’s that easy to score 5 man shots, shoot them against me and see how many you score (without having practiced any good 5 man shots, and having to face a good 5 man shot defense, they usually don’t get any or maybe only 1 – where’s the luck then?).
5 man shots are extremely effective in singles, especially against people who don’t shoot them much and thus apparently never play against them either and so aren’t good at defending them. I’m constantly amazed at the number of times someone will do an angle up pass from the far side and catch the pass, when if they’d just lifted their 3 bar up the ball would’ve gone into the goal. Sometimes in singles, 5 man shots will be working so well there’s no need to do but a few passes – you’ll get the ball on your 3 bar enough from missed 5 man shots.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, 5 man shots, done correctly, take a lot of skill and are an important (and underutilized) part of the game. Other people, including you, have also commented on the various advantages of shooting 5 bar shots. One other thing to keep in mind is that in addition to shooting them, you need to learn to DEFEND them. Most people that think 5 bars shots are cheap ways to score don’t know how to defend against them, and practically anything you can hack on goal at them will score. You need to play people who will shoot 5 bar shots against you, so you’ll learn to defend them.
One way to defend against them is to spread your goalie and 2 bar men out on whichever side of the goal you want (usually the side your opponent typically passes on). You DON”T want to just jam both of your goalie/2 bar men to one side of the goal or the other. Put the goalie just SLIGHTLY over a balls width from the edge of the goal hole, and leave just SLIGHTLY over a balls width hole between the goalie man and the 2 bar man. That way, your goalie and 2 bar are covering a little over 1/2 of the goal, and will only let in shots that go in the essentially ball’s width holes you’ve left as described above (which should be a rare occurrence, since not many people can deliberately hit a hole not much bigger than the ball with a 5 man shot, and not many should luck in them either (you’re playing the percentages)). Therefore, you can basically not cover with your 5 bar any shots at that 1/2 of the goal if you don’t want/need to.
Then when you’re opponent has the ball on the side of the table where your goalie area defensive men are, you can assume they’ll block any 5 man shot he might do to that area, and you can put all your 5 man concentration on defending his passes. Of course, you’ll also have to keep an eye out for a long 5 man shot (such as a left or right hook) that’s aimed at the big hole past your goalie/2 bar defensive setup.
When your opponent has the ball on the side of the table away from your goalie/2 bar defensive set up, or in the middle of the table, the only shots he can do that are likely to score are ones that wind up aimed at the larger hole past your goalie/2 bar setup. No matter where the ball is or is moved to, there are only a limited number of ways he can hit it to get it to go to that hole. Wherever the ball is, be aware of what possible areas along the 5 bar he could hit it from there to get it to go to the big hole, and cover those with your 5 bar. Don’t “camp” in those holes though, or he’ll see that and just do a pass to where you’re not covering – move your men out of those holes (and cover any passing angles) when you read/sense he’s not in a position to execute a shot, so he won’t know what you’re doing and also to give you an opportunity to cover passes too. You also need to leave the shot open once in a while and cover the pass if you think he’s passing and not shooting. If in doubt, or he’s not a good passer, cover the shot and not the pass since it’s better to have the ball on his 3 bar than in your goal. Of course all this goes out the window if your opponent doesn’t shoot 5 bar shots much, or isn’t good at them.
The above methods have the advantage of having your right hand on the 3 bar to catch any blocked shots/passes etc. However, if you’re still getting scored on after using the above, you may need to put your left hand on the goalie bar and right hand on the 5 bar, using the goalie to cover shots and the 5 to cover passes. Its a little more complicated than that, but I don’t want to try to type it out.
I’ve also seen people who could put their left hand on both the goalie and 2 bar at the same time and move them in tandem. However, this definitely takes some practice to get the hang of it.