You might not think we see it, but we do. That slight frustrated lip bite as you lose your sixth air hockey match in a row against your Tinder date — that envious lip curl as one of your friends effortlessly beats you 7-nil, that shadow of a sullen look as you walk back up to the bar to drown your sorrows in a Cinnamon Apple Jamo shot. We feel for you. And because you read this blog, you’re special to us. That’s why we’re going to unveil our secret-weapon air hockey tips — strategies that will teach you how to win air hockey matches no matter whether you’re playing against your date, your friend, or an 80’s movie villain who will demolish the orphanage if you can’t beat them. Next time, they’ll be the ones drowning their sorrows.
How To Win Air Hockey Games Against (Almost) Anybody
1: The Best Offense…
We’ll start with the basics. Since you’re an urbane, calm, and cool person, you’re likely not flailing all over the table when you play air hockey. But in order to win air hockey games, you’re going to need to be even more calm. Most of the time, you’re going to want to be in a defensive position around 2 feet from the center of the goal — this is known as the triangle defense.
1a: The Triangle Defense
While it may seem counterintuitive to winning an air hockey game, having your puck this far out from the goal actually helps you cut off angled shots before they reach the goal. Bubbleairhockey.com puts it this way — think about how a soccer goalie plays in a 1-on-1 scenario. In order to cut off angles, the goalie comes out of the goal to meet the attacking player. And since air hockey is a 1-on-1 game, you’ll always want to be cutting off those angles. The only caveat here is that you will be vulnerable to bank shots, so be ready to move your mallet back if you need to. This means that you should not be leaning over the table while you’re playing — standing up straight makes moving backwards much easier. This will help you win air hockey games through maintaining possession of the puck and setting up offensive opportunities.
1b: Track The Puck
The key to defense, after you’re in position, is tracking the puck. Most experts agree that if you try to chase the puck on defense, you’ll get scored on because your reaction time simply won’t be fast enough. Instead of doing that, try to match the puck’s movement a bit, then move to cut the puck’s path off where it will enter your goal. That will give you more time to react, and therefore, to plan a counter attack and ultimately win air hockey matches.
2: Know Your Shots
There are a few main shot types in the game, but in order to win air hockey games, you’ll really only need two: straight shots and bank shots. Once you master these, you can mix it up with pump fakes, jukes, and “drift” shots, shots where you lightly tap the puck out of the shooting zone then follow up with a real shot.
No matter what shot you choose, be sure to shoot with your wrist, not your arm. Though you might get more power and speed with a big ol’ sweeping arm thrust, these shots are less controlled, can lead to the puck flying off the table, and also make it much harder to get back on defense.
2a: The Straight Shot
This shot is the most simple shot — a straight-down-the-line shot meant to take advantage of an opponent who is out of position. It’s a deceptive shot in a lot of ways, since most air hockey shots are angled due to the motion of the puck, so mastering it can be tough. But when you do, it’s an incredibly effective tool to help you win air hockey games — especially against opponents who have overcommited to a big shot.
2b: The Bank Shot
This shot is much more common, and comes in multiple flavors. The key in all bank shots, however, is to strike the puck from the back, not the side. Hitting the puck from the side actually makes you much more likely to perform a double (or triple) bank, a shot that hits more than one wall before proceeding to the goal. These shots are really easy to block, and should be avoided.
The two bank shots to know are “overs” and “unders”, and they simply refer to the vector of the puck. Don’t worry, we’re not going to get into any advanced trigonometry here, but simply put, an “under” will hit the wall further down the table in order to sneak under your opponent’s mallet and into their goal, and an “over” shot will do the opposite, hitting the wall closer to your side to pass the puck over your opponent and take advantage of a goalie who is playing defense right up against the goal.
3: Learn, Change, and Vary Your Strategies
Now that you’ve mastered your offensive and defensive techniques, the rest is mental. What is your opponent doing? Are they favoring bank shots or trick shots? What does their body language imply about their play style?
The strategies that will help you win air hockey are akin to those in other sports or games in that reading your opponent is key — you’ll have a huge advantage if you can predict what your opponent is going to do next. By the same token, if you make it hard for your opponent to read you, you’ll have an advantage as well. So mix it up — don’t just rely on one type of shot, and feel free to play some mind games.
Feeling like putting your new skills to the test? Of course you are. We host tournaments every week here at Replay Lincoln Park, so come on down and show off a bit. Your Tinder date will be impressed. We promise.