The Best Air Hockey Glossary

Watch Closely…

Air hockey is definitely a game of skill, requiring patience, attention, and fast reflexes. The rules of the game are simple enough, meaning that just about anyone can play; but not all will play well. Beginners will have to overcome a learning curve, testing their patience and dedication to reaching a higher level. This air hockey glossary is a great way for a beginner to learn the ropes.

Start at the Very Beginning

Before you try to reach the top of the air hockey food chain, you need to understand some of the basic components of the game. We’ll start by getting familiarized with some terminology.

Air Hockey Table Layout Diagram

Top view of an average air hockey table with colored sections – Own Work (Image under copyright of

Explanation of layout diagram:

  • Yellow Box – The edge of the table
  • Pink Box – The rail wall surrounding the playing field
  • Black Line – The halfway line
  • Orange Circle – The halfway circle
  • Red Dots – The first rail screws on either side of the playing field
  • Blue Boxes – The goal openings

Some tables have more lines on either side to further divide the playing surface. These lines are typically used to designate foul lines. There are different difficulties that arise from both the layout with only 1 line and layouts with 2 or 3 lines.

With only a halfway line, it is harder to be on the defense, as the opponent has a wider range of motion for more intricate moves. With more lines, it is harder to be on the offense, as there is less room to be creative with the different types of shots. A professional will be less daunted with these limitations, as they will have a larger repertoire of moves, but the beginner may feel a little restricted.

Other terminology includes:

  • The Puck – The disc that is passed between the players
  • The Mallet – The thing used to hit the puck
  • The Knob – The elevated vertical column in the middle of the mallet
  • Turnover – The changing of a player’s role between offense and defense; either gaining control or losing control of the puck
  • Possession – Being on the offensive; having control over the puck
  • Shot – The hard striking motion against the puck, meant to force it into the opponent’s goal; also known as “slicing” or “cutting” the puck
  • Banking – Shooting the puck so that it rebounds off of the rail wall, towards the other player’s goal
  • Drifting – Sliding the puck slowly towards the foul line, before performing the hard striking motion
  • Straight Shots – Shooting the puck to send it directly into the defensive player’s goal without any banking
  • Casting – Setting the puck in play with the hands at the start of a round or after a goal is made

Professional Shots

While this air hockey glossary is good for beginners, linking them together can be great for the aspiring expert too. Trick shots are made from combinations of simpler moves that the professionals use to keep their opponents on edge.

Some of these trick shots are called:

  • The “One Two Shot”
  • The “Moving Puck” or “Chase Shot”
  • The “Casting Cut Shot”

As you might expect, these shots are not easily carried out by beginners, so if you find yourself interested in making them, “practice makes perfect!” Keep looking for updates to this air hockey glossary, and take some time to read some of our other great air hockey posts!

Related Content:

  1. Air Hockey Table Troubleshooting Guide
  2. How Air Hockey Tables Work
  3. Choosing the Right Air Hockey Table