A Fond Farewell to Pasadena: Pasadena-Rules Foosball

For a big chunk of my Pasadena career, I’ve worked in R&D organizations. First in Idealab’s short-lived research group, then in Overture Research which became Yahoo Research Labs and then Yahoo Research. It’s my job to think of new and exciting things — to innovate. I take this particular charge very seriously, and I think I’ve had great success over the years. I played a part in an innovation that I am very proud of, and I would like to share it with you.

This innovation is the fine and noble sport known as Pasadena-Rules Foosball. While its roots lie in traditional foosball, it has been forged for years by the fires of rigorous study, peer review, carefully crafted experimentation and beer. Pasadena-Rules is the most advanced form of foosball known to man. This is the game that we will all play in the future when we’re wearing silver jumpsuits.

The original game of foosball is a relatively simplistic game with a small set of easy to understand yet limiting rules. It seeks to emulate football (known in the states as “soccer” and not to be confused with American “football”) with little plastic men attached to metal rods. The rules, in short, are as follows:

  • Score one point each time you legally get the ball in your opponent’s goal.
  • First side to ten points wins.
  • No spinning.

These are the rules played by most of the world, and that’s a shame because they quickly become unsatisfying. Foosball provides a marvelous arena for innovation, and over the years we’ve explored every corner of it. At Idealab in late 2000 we discovered the master key to all foosball innovation.

  • Spinning is legal.

Because it allows for the ball to easily leave the table, this rule opens up the game to more exciting variation than you could possibly imagine. The first and most popular at idealab added the following rules:

  • If the ball leaves the table and strikes your opponent, you score one point.
  • If the ball leaves the table and your opponent catches it, they score one point.

More subtle variations on this theme include scoring two points if you hit your opponent in the head or after the ball bounces off the wall, etc. We played with these rules for years. They dominated the Pasadena-Rules foosball scene until a crack team of foosball researchers at Yahoo Research Labs (formerly Overture Research) took to the study of foosball.

Our first change involved dead ball situations (the ball can not be reached by any man or leaves the table). These rules are:

  • In a dead ball situation, the ball is served again by the team that did not serve last.
  • If there are three consecutive dead-ball situations without a score, the next score is worth two points.

Two additional multi-point opportunities were also developed.

  • If the ball passes over the goalie’s bar directly before it goes in the goal, double points are scored.
  • If the ball leaves the table, bounces off the wall and returns to the table, double points are scored. This modifier is only good until the next goal or dead-ball.

So if you have three dead ball situations, hit the ball off the wall and then score over the goalie bar, you can get eight points in one goal. To date this has not been accomplished.

Not satisfied with a game that emulated only one sport, we added a new scoring system called “baseball.” The concept is rather simple: Each team has a set of bases which may be populated by runners. Bases can be earned by hitting the ball off the wall. For each wall the ball hits, you get a runner to advance one base. Runners already on base must be forced to the next base by new runners. For each runner to cross home plate, you score one point.

If the ball is hit off the table and caught by the other team, they score an out on your team. If three outs are scored your bases are cleared.

If you hit the ball in to some sort of container — a trash can or a bowl of candy or similar — you earn a ground-rule double for your team. If the container is “way over there” — a subject term — a basket is scored rather than a ground-rule double and you score two points rather than bases.

If there are non-players in the room, you may declare a certain base value for hitting them. If they catch the ball, the other team earns those bases.

Several multi-purpose rules that we developed:

  • If you hit something made of glass, you score one base.
  • If you break something made of glass, you score one point.
  • If you draw blood from you opponent, you score one point.
  • If your opponent is forced to go to the emergency room, you win the game.
  • If you knock the phone off the hook with the ball, you score one point.
  • If you activate speed-dial with the ball and call the boss, you win the game.

We have found these rules to be vastly superior to the rules of classic foosball and are confidant that they will be adopted for tournament play in the near future. You should give them a try the next time you enjoy a fine game of foosball.

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3 responses to “A Fond Farewell to Pasadena: Pasadena-Rules Foosball”

  1. SLS
    November 4, 2005 at 12:30 pm |

    Weren’t there names for specific shots, too? I seem to remember the line-drive goal off the serve being a “Marcia”. Pravda?

  2. cp
    November 4, 2005 at 6:15 pm |

    Yeah, there are a bunch of different named shots, all the variants of “the curse,” and about 1,000,000 other rules (I didn’t want to just come out and say “we play Calvin-ball at the office), but it was getting late and I was getting tired, so some important things got left out. Clearly I’ll need a followup post on Foosball.

  3. Tony
    December 19, 2005 at 5:03 pm |

    I see your branch of foosball evolved in the opposite direction of the PETsMART.com scene. We played a more “civilized” game, which just meant those ingrained cheaters among us had to come up with more creative ways to bend the rules. That previously mentioned score-off-the serve became known as the “KMart” or “blue light special” because it was “cheap.” When it was banned, yours truly practiced hours and hours perfecting a spin-serve that got the ball directly to the 3-man. A direct score off that serve (perfectly legal) was known as the JMart (after the J shaped path the ball took).

    Other “civilized” rules included: no rolling the ball while it was trapped between the 5-man and the floor (all 5-man to 5-man passes had to be bumps).

    After a while, though, the game is just too slow, so we invented 2, 3, 5 and 7 ball variants. For 2-ball, both players serve simultaneously and you only get a point if you score both balls. If one ball leaves the table, play continues until a dead ball or a score, at which point 1 or both balls are reintroduced. For 3+ ball variants, N-2 balls are placed on the centerline and 2 balls are served simultaneously. Whoever scores the most balls in a round gets the difference in # balls scored (i.e. in 5-ball, if I score 4 and you score 1, I get 3 points)

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