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Forums Home / The Lobby / Instructional Article: Long Live the Pot Shot ( View Older Thread | View Newer Thread)

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stubbs7 - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 582
Long Live the Pot Shot
By Billy Stubbs
Written: February 19, 2013

I love pot shots. Scoring a no-drift forehand cut at 6-6 is about as sweet as it gets! In this article I cover the pros and cons of pot shots, the appropriate frequency of use and discuss specific examples. First a definition of what a pot shot is and is not:

What is a pot shot?
A pot shot is an unexpected shot that is taken earlier in the offensive cadence than normal and is usually executed away from the centerline. Pot shots can be planned or used opportunistically if the defense is out of position. A pot shot does not simply have a shortened release nor is it a desperation chase.

A basic pot shot is illustrated in the following sequence:

Normal shot

1) Still puck in back-right quadrant
2) Two second pause
3) Drift to centerline
4) Time delay
5) Right-wall-under

Pot shot

6) Still puck in back-right quadrant
7) Right-wall-under immediately executed with no pause, no drift and no time-delay

The pros and cons of using pot shots:


- They surprise and catch the defense unprepared
- Taking shots at various times strains the defensive player by forcing him to constantly focus
- Straights executed from further back sometimes have better angles
- Over banks executed from further back have more obtuse angles, which means a wider margin of error for over-the-mallets


- Higher degree of difficulty
- Taking shots from further back on the table gives the defense more time to react
- Under banks executed from further back have less acute angles, which means the defense does need to move as far to block them

Use in small doses
In my previous instructional articles I have advocated taking around 80-90% of shots from the centerline while using a controlled attack. Controlled shots executed at the centerline are normally more effective than pot shots because of a few reasons:

- Improved accuracy and consistency
- More acute angles on under banks
- Less reaction time for defense
- The defense is more likely to flinch

For players who primarily use a controlled attack at the centerline, pot shots can add another layer of deception, but only a handful per game should be used. Offense should consist of around 10-20% pot shots, which is a significant enough frequency of use that pot shots deserve a legitimate strategy, and some love.

Why pot shots work and upper limit frequency
Surprising the defense by breaking an established cadence is the most compelling reason to take a pot shot. Because of this, their use should not exceed 50%. When pots shots exceed 50% almost all of the unexpectedness is lost, which is equal to attempting more difficult shots with little to no benefit.

stubbs7 - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 582
Pot shot opposites: Ehab Shoukry and Wil Upchurch
Master elite players normally shoot between 10-20% pot shots. Wil Upchurch and Ehab Shoukry are both top-5 rated players with great offenses; they are also on different ends of the pot shot spectrum. Wil has one of the quickest paced offenses of all time and routinely uses pot shots as part of his deranged attacks. On the other hand, Ehab has one of the most controlled offenses. He relies on precision, power and gains deception from his releases while he executes almost all of his shots from a planned and controlled drift.

At the 2012 Houston World Championships, these two players met in a clash of styles during the winners' bracket round of 8:


Here is a breakdown of the frequency of pot shots in this match:

Wil - 99 total shots/34 pots shots: 34% pot shots
Ehab - 95 total shots/12 pots shots: 12% pot shots

Wil has the best pot shots in the history of air hockey, yet he only executed them 34% of the time, well below 50%. Wil understands that surprise is crucial to their effectiveness.

What can be learned from Ehab's meager 12% usage? It is clear that even the most controlled attacks benefit from using pot shots. Ehab's pot shots were actually more effective than Wil's based on the success rate of pot shots attempted. This is largely due to Ehab's infrequent use of them, which will increase their success rate when he does shoot pot shots.

stubbs7 - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 582
A deeper look at Wil and Ehab
Below are four short clips of standout pot shots from Ehab and Wil's match along with my analysis:

Ehab executes a normal left-wall-over, then a chase cut and pot shot right-wall-under. The pot shot in this instance can be more specifically defined as a one-two. This sequence works because Ehab generally catches the puck and resets before drifting. It is especially effective because the chase cut produces momentary chaos; Ehab capitalizes on this with an immediate pot shot.

After Ehab attempts a normal off-speed cut, he has multiple options:

- Grab the puck, establish control, drift the puck, then execute a shot
- Drift the puck without establishing control, then execute a shot
- Execute a pot shot

Ehab elects to hit a pot shot after circling around the puck. The circling movement causes Wil to think that Ehab is going to grab the puck and reset. Ehab capitalizes on Wil's lapse of focus by sinking a textbook pot shot left-wall-under.

After a successful charge, Wil grabs the puck at the centerline, which leaves the puck in a still position for a fraction of a second. He then quickly transitions into a right-wall-over. I use the term stop-and-go to define this sequence. The stop-and-go pot shot causes Ehab to overreact to the bank. This happens because Wil normally drifts after grabbing the puck.

This sequence is sick! Only Wil can pot shot a forehand left-wall-over and follow it with a one-two left-wall-under smash at the rail.

stubbs7 - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 582
Additional frequencies
Pot shot percentages by other Masters:

Danny Hynes vs. Billy Stubbs: 2013 Houston City Open: finals, second set
Danny - 192 total shots/35 pots shots: 18% pot shots
Billy - 173 total shots/21 pots shots: 12% pot shots

Danny Hynes vs. Billy Stubbs: 2012 Houston Worlds: losers' bracket, loser to 5/6
Danny - 75 total shots/8 pots shots: 11% pot shots
Billy - 63 total shots/5 pots shots: 8% pot shots

Davis Lee vs. Tim Weissman: 2012 Houston Worlds: winners' bracket round of 4
Davis - 174 total shots/14 pots shots: 8% pot shots
Tim - 183 total shots/19 pots shots: 10% pot shots

Brian Accrocco vs. Keith Fletcher: 2012 Houston Worlds: 9/12 spin-off finals
Brian - 124 total shots/15 pots shots: 12% pot shots
Keith - 110 total shots/11 pots shots: 10% pot shots

How to develop pot shots
Players of all skill levels should execute between 10-20% pot shots. Straying from this range is usually symptom of an overly conservative or reckless offense. Mimicking and studying top players' pot shots, like the ones in the above videos, is a good starting point for amateurs. Pros and above should be spontaneous and develop novel pot shots through experimentation. The exact frequency of use does not need to be known during a match while in the heat of battle. Once a player is aware of the appropriate frequency, a feel for what is correct will develop over time.
stubbs7 - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 582
If anyone has any questions or comments, I'd love to discuss.
carolina phil - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 1084
This post is an example of the intelligent analysis of our sport. It takes the subject, breaks it down into parts, relates the parts to one another, and then to the whole. It then reassembles the whole by making general application to the sport.

Billy has used specific examples backed up with key statistics from which he acquires understanding and then makes important judgments leading to profound Insight.

It provides an important chapter in the construction of an AH Dissertation.

This is the Model that will create standards for the playing of the sport of AH for its future. Using it, other analysts can contribute their insights.

Thank you Mr. Stubbs for this advancement.

Phil Arnold

goran - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 428
Good stuff
jtweissm - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 87
Great post and an excellent break-down Billy! My dad has always stressed a healthy dose of pot shots, and it's awesome to see it all so clearly laid out! Defense wise, what's your tactic for stopping pot shots; especially against someone like Wil who favors the "pot shot"?
ajflanagan - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 509
Holy crap. Awesome analysis.
Davisl - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 168
pretty amazing stuff......when Ehab is hitting more pot shots than me, I need to reassess. I think Pots Shots are also a function of how well you are getting possessions, defending and confidence. When I feel like I'm playing great defense and nothing can score on me, I completely freewheel it and turn into Dave Parmley on steroids. If I'm turning the puck over a lot or it's really hard for me to defend, then I'm going Owen Giraldo and making sure every possession counts. This of course leads to being too conservative on offense and can hurt. It's a fine line of being a knucklehead and hitting the right amount of crazy shots.
Juggernaut - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 121
Davisl said:
It's a fine line of being a knucklehead and hitting the right amount of crazy shots.

Line?! What line?!
TWeissman - 19 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 210

More please.

That is all.

Danny Hynes - 21 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 44
I love this thread!!! I would like to bring up one point... From a defensive perspective, if you are expecting the pot shot (love the name), it is an easier shot to block versus a well set up "regular shot" off a normal attack. A smart defense can give the appearance that they are not ready and will be caught off guard by a pot shot; when they are indeed ready for it to gain an easier possession... This just a little added pawn to the huge chess board known as airhockey!!! Happy pucking...

Maybe this could be playing possum defense... Lol
Danny Hynes - 21 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 44
What are everyone's thoughts on pot shots during doubles? That is a whole different animal!

I would think that the percentage of pot shots should go up in doubles and would naturally have a higher success rate... Any thoughts?
jtweissm - 21 Feb 2013
Total Posts: 87

Line?! What line?!

Ha! That's usually what I say when someone calls me over...

stubbs7 - 29 Aug 2013
Total Posts: 582
jtweissm said:
Great post and an excellent break-down Billy! My dad has always stressed a healthy dose of pot shots, and it's awesome to see it all so clearly laid out! Defense wise, what's your tactic for stopping pot shots; especially against someone like Wil who favors the "pot shot"?

Yeah, I know, this answer is late. This thread got buried.

My approach to blocking pot shots is to play my defense further back than normal (maybe 8 inches from the goal, instead of 14) and make smaller movements on defense - a kind of mini triangle defense. I do this b/c pot shots are more difficult for the offense to execute and result in more inaccurate shots.


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