Subject: Pool & Billiards Frequently Asked Questions
Expires: Fri, 1 May 2004 00:00:00 GMT
Approved: news-answers-request@MIT.EDU
Keywords: Pool, billiards, snooker, table sports, cue sports
Summary: Billiards, pool and snooker game rules and definitions.  Hints
	on cue buying and care.  Shooting hints and further references.

Archive-name: sports/billiards/faq
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Version: $Revision: 3.141 $
Maintainer: Bob Jewett 

Recent changes:

    (Oct. 2005) Added section about tables, rearranged
    (Jun. 2005) Info about Dave Alciatore's site and book
    (Apr. 2005) squirt summary link, snooker/billiards rules site
    (Apr. 2005) added new Wei table view-only page
    (Dec. 2004) updated contact info, USBA and USSA
    (Dec. 2004) updated info on Amateur Billiard Player

Frequently Asked Questions About Cue Sports


 0. What are Frequently Asked Questions About Cue Sports?
 1. What does XXX mean? 
 2. What are the rules for XXX? 
 3. How do I hit a jump shot? 
 4. How can I put back spin on the ball?
 5. What is a push shot?
 6. What is the "Diamond System"?
 7. How should I choose a cue? 
 8. Ok, I've got a cue. How do I take care of it? 
 9. My shaft has a dent.  What now?
10. What kind of pool table should I buy?
11. How much room do I need for a table?
12. Can I build my own table and cue?
13. How can I heat a billiard table?
14. What is good table maintenance?
15. How can I learn about billiard physics?
16. Where can I go for more information? 
17. What is the record for X?
18. How does the APA handicapping system work?
19. Where's the TV schedule for cue sports?
10. Where can I buy/sell a billiard thingy?
11. What are the different hardnesses of cue tips?
12. Where can I play Virtual Pool on the Internet?
23. Which rooms are in X City?
24. What is a dominant eye?
25. What are some common strategies in the various games?
26. Where can I find tournament brackets (flowcharts)
27. How well do I play?  Am I an A or a D?
28. What are those funny numbers people post to the group?
29. Do billiard balls wear down?

0. ** What are Frequently Asked Questions About Cue Sports?

This is intended as a general guide and introduction to pool and
billiards games; it does not attempt to be comprehensive.  If you want
to know the details of how to put spin on a ball, how to run a table, or
how to shoot trick shots, you will find only limited help here.  Check
out some of the resources listed below.  You really need good diagrams
and pictures to explain these things, and ASCII format just doesn't cut
it.  Comments and suggestions are welcome!

    Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we
    have to keep going back and beginning all over again. 
	--Andre Gide

1. ** What does XXX mean?

Ball in hand 
   The freedom to place the ball anywhere on the table, or sometimes
   in a restricted area

Baulk Cushion 
   The end rail farthest from where you rack (British).  Also called
   the "bottom" cushion.

   At pool, the first shot of a game, often a smash shot which is
   called an "open break".  On an English table, a succession of
   scoring shots that would be called a "run" in the US.

Cut shot
   A shot in which the object ball is driven other than straight
   ahead.  The difference between straight and the angle the object
   ball takes is called the cut angle. 

   Bank shot (British) 

Drag shot
   A draw shot played slowly enough that the back spin has turned
   into follow by the time the cue ball gets to the object ball. 
   The goal is to reduce cue ball movement after contact but to
   avoid "slow rolling" the cue ball, which may roll off if the
   table isn't level. 

   Back spin on the cue ball, and the opposite of follow.  It
   generally makes the cue ball come back towards you after
   contact with an object ball.  See below for how to do it. 

End rail 
   The two shorter cushions at each end of the table. 

    Spin on the cue ball, especially side spin ("side" in the UK)

   That little white thingy just behind the cuetip :-)  In the UK,
   they use brass for ferrules.

   Topspin on the cue ball.  It comes from friction with the
   cloth (natural roll) or from hitting the cue ball above
   center.  It generally carries the the cue ball forward after
   contact with an object ball. 

Foot spot 
   A point marked on the cloth two diamonds from the foot rail (the end
   rail where the balls are racked on a pool table), on the center line
   of the table.

   An infraction of the rules that generally ends a player's inning
   (though it is possible to foul when not shooting).

Head spot 
   A point two diamonds from the head rail on a pool table (the end
   rail that you break from), in the center of the table.  It's the
   center of the head string.

   A turn at the table, usually ending in a miss, foul or win.

In The Kitchen 
   Same as "ball in hand" but requires the cue ball to be behind
   the head string. 

Inside english
   If you play a cut shot, and the object ball goes to your right,
   right english would be inside english.  Similarly for a left cut
   with left english.  Inside/outside pertaining to english has nothing
   to do with the location of the cushion on the shot, only with the cut
   angle and the side of english.  You can remember which is inside by
   the location of the stick relative to the the "body" of the shot.

   At snooker and English billiards, the action you get when the cue
   ball sticks to the object ball for an instant.  The most likely 
   explanation is that it is from dirt, and especially chalk, between
   the balls at the instant of impact.

Kick shot
   At pool, a shot where the cue ball hits a rail first, commonly as
   a return of safety.

   Area behind the head string.

   A way to determine who shoots first.  Each player puts a ball behind
   the head string and banks it off the foot rail.  The player whose
   ball stops closer to the head rail has choice of shooting first or
   second.  ("Stringing" in the U.K.)

   A shot with the stick nearly vertical to make the cue ball
   curve (with side spin) or reverse direction (with back spin)
   or both.  Less elevation is called "half-masse" which grades
   down into "swerve" (see below).  (moss-say or mass-say)

Outside english
   The opposite of inside english (see above).  On a cut to the left,
   it is right english.

   To pocket a ball without a foul (British) 

Reverse english
   Side spin on the ball that tends to make it go slower when
   it contacts a cushion.  (check side in the UK)  Also called
Running english
   Side spin on the ball that tends to make it go faster when it
   contacts a cushion.  (running side in the UK)

   A shot intended to leave nothing for the opponent

   Cue ball into a pocket, off the table, or sometimes any foul

   Back spin in the UK ("draw" in the US)

   Also called cling.  The US term for "kick" -- see above.

   A cue ball hit with side spin does not start out parallel to the axis
   of the cue stick, but instead moves slightly away from that by an
   angle up to four degrees, depending on the stick and the spin.  No one
   understands exactly why this happens, but it seems to go up with the
   amount of mass in the front six inches of the stick.  See Ron Shepard's
   paper at for current
   theory, or see the summary in
   It is also called "deflection", but since there are many
   different deflections in pool and billiards, and because this
   phenomenon is critical to playing well with side spin, it gets
   its own name. 

Stop/Stun Shot
   A stop shot is when the cue ball hits the object ball full and has
   no follow or draw, so it stops completely upon contact.  If there
   is an angle, it is called a stun shot, and the cue ball will travel
   at (close to) a right angle to the path of the object ball.

   A cue ball hit with side spin and an (even slightly) elevated cue
   stick will curve in the direction of the applied English.  Elevate
   more and it's masse.  You elevate on nearly all shots, whether you
   intend to or not.

   The divergence of an object ball from the line through the
   centers of it and the impacting ball.  Throw is induced by the
   friction between the two balls and the relative motion of
   their surfaces.  [Note: in UK usage, "throw" is synonymous
   with "squirt", and has nothing to do with friction between two

On-line pool jargon is available at
and at

2. ** What are the rules for XXX?

The *exact* rules for games of the BCA are copyrighted, and should not
be reproduced in electronic form without permission.  See below for
information on ordering copies and the World Pool-Billiard Association's
site at

In almost every pool game, a shot that does not pocket a ball is
required to have at least one ball contact a rail after the cue ball
contacts a ball.


(or 14.1 continuous pocket billiards) 

Rack all 15 balls on the foot spot, cue ball behind the head string.
The break must send two balls and the cue ball to a rail.  Failure to do
so is -2 points, and the opponent has the choice of accepting the table
or having the breaker break again.

You need only name the ball and the pocket in calling a shot.  How it
gets there is immaterial, and anything else that goes down counts.

Scoring:  1 point for sunk balls, -1 for fouls (i.e.  scratching, not
driving a ball to a rail, etc.), -2 for not driving 2 balls and the
cue ball to a rail on the break, and -15 for 3 fouls in a row (tacked on
the the -1 for the 3rd foul).  After the third foul the offender must
break as in the start of the game.

When one object ball is left, rerack the other fourteen with the front
ball missing, and continue play.


Same rules as straight pool (14.1) except as noted.  (You must be
familiar with those rules, or EO won't make much sense, especially the
break shot with the 15th ball.)  Each player gets ten turns alone at the
table; a turn begins with an open break of a full rack, and ends on a
miss, foul, or run of twenty.  Respot any balls that go in on the open
break, and start with ball in hand in the kitchen.  There is no penalty
for scratching on the break.  A foul does not subtract points, it just
ends the turn, but balls made on a foul do not count.  There is no
head-to-head play, so there are no safeties.

Beginners may want to try the following changes: Stop at 15 balls so
that you don't have to execute a straight pool break shot; take ball in
hand anywhere after the break instead of behind the line; take up to
three misses before starting the next frame.  See some other variations
in the skill definitions under "How well do I play?" below.


Rack the lowest numbered nine balls in a diamond, with the one ball at
the foot spot and the nine in the middle.  Any ball that goes in counts
as long as the lowest numbered ball on the table is hit first.  The
winner is the player who makes the nine on a legal shot.

If a player fails to hit the lowest numbered ball first, the opponent
has ball in hand anywhere on the table.

On the first shot after a legal break, regardless of who the shooter is,
the player can call "push", and merely push the cue ball somewhere,
without restrictions on driving a ball to the rail or hitting the lowest
numbered object ball.  Opponent can either accept the table and shoot,
or force the player to shoot.  From then on, normal ball-in-hand for
failure to hit the lowest-numbered object ball applies.

After a foul, no balls are spotted except the nine (when necessary).
On a coin-op table, substitute the ten-ball for an escaped nine.
Three consecutive fouls by one player, loses the game.


Each player chooses one of the two corner pockets at the foot of the
table.  Whoever makes eight balls in their pocket first wins.  If you
make a ball in your pocket and one in your opponent's, you each get
credit for a ball.  If you make a ball in an unassigned pocket, it gets
spotted either when you miss or when there are no other balls left on
the table.  If you foul, you spot any ball made on the shot plus a
penalty ball.  If you make a ball in your opponent's pocket and scratch,
it does not count for him, but is spotted along with a penalty ball.
You only shoot again if you make a ball in your own pocket.


You know, stripes and solids :-) 

Basically, the answer to any question about American 8-ball is "It's a
house rule."  If you'd like to post a comment on 8-ball rules, please
quote your source - e.g., the BCA, Nippon Billiards Association, this
little bar in Los Angeles, or whatever.  Some common house rules are:
You must take the balls that are sunk on the break, you must call the
exact path the balls will take (e.g.  combinations and banks), and if
you sink the 8-ball on the break you win the game.  This last, and some
others, presumably reflect the fact that most bars are outfitted with
pay tables, in which, once an object ball is sunk, it cannot be
recovered without paying for a whole new game.  None of these are
Billiards Congress of America (BCA) rules.

Here are some of the actual BCA rules: 

 1.  Table is open after break, no matter how many of either stripe or
  solid balls are sunk.

 2.  Call shot- your inning ends when the called ball does not go into 
  the called pocket. Any balls not called remain pocketed. Note- you 
  do not have to call combinations, caroms, or banks-- only the ball 
  and pocket.

 3.  Foul penalty-- No balls are spotted except the eight, and no
   previously sunk balls are pulled), and opponent gets ball in hand,
   anywhere on the table, not just behind headstring.  Jumped balls are
   spotted.  If you call a safety and still sink your own ball, your
   inning ends.  Scratch on break is still cue ball behind headstring.

 4.  Same penalty, ball in hand, applies on foul on 8 ball, when it
   stays on the table.

 5.  Sinking the 8 ball on the break is not a win or loss; breaker has
   choice of spotting the 8 or rebreaking.

It's not clear what happens if the breaker makes all seven stripes on
the break.  It seems that he would be required to take solids, since
groups haven't been decided yet, and he must pocket all the balls of his
group before calling and shooting at the eight.

The rules in Britain are slightly different, emphasizing tactics rather
than shooting skill.  The most significant difference is that after a
foul, the opponent takes two consecutive innings.  Also, on pub tables,
the cue ball is *smaller* than the object balls (on American bar tables
it is larger) and lighter.  See
for comparisons of the various forms of UK 8-ball.


A common three player game, better socially than as a test of skill.
Each player takes five balls, 1-5, 6-10, and 11-15, and the last player
with a ball on the table wins, so the goal is to sink your opponents'
balls.  There are several variations.  The penalty for a foul is to
bring one of each of the other players' balls back onto the table.


A social game for two to "n" players.  Each player seeks to pocket
a rack of three balls in the least number of shots (including the
break).  Scratches count as an extra shot.  Winner gets the pot.  If
there's a tie for low score, the game rolls over to another round and
all players re-ante.


Played on a special table with a two round holes and a number of pin-
ball-like bumpers on the playing surface.  The goal is to shoot all of
your set of balls into your hole, which is opposite to the end your
balls start on.  The full rules are TM by the Valley Company and are in
the BCA rule book.


This game uses 21 object balls and a cue ball.  Fifteen object balls are
red and worth one point.  The other six object balls are Yellow, Green,
Brown, Blue, Pink, and Black.  Highest score wins, and the game ends
when all balls are pocketed (or when a foul is made on the final black).
You alternate hitting reds and colors, and each time a color goes in it
is respotted, until all the reds are off the table.

The balls are placed as in the fig:
(red on spot in American snooker, pink on spot otherwise) 

         -------------------- -------------------
        |         |                              |
        |         |                         r    |     Reds:   1 point each
        |      . (3)                       r     |     Yellow: 2 points
        |    .    |                       r r    |     Green:  3  -"-
        |   .     |                      r r     |     Brown:  4  -"-
        |   .    (4)        (5)      (6)r r r (7)|     Blue:   5  -"-
        |   .     |                      r r     |     Pink:   6  -"-
        |    .    |                       r r    |     Black:  7  -"-
        |      . (2)                       r     |
        |         |                         r    |
        |         |                              |
         -------------------- ------------------

The ball on for the first shot of each inning is a red if any are left.
After all reds are gone, the colors become on in ascending order of
value.  After a cue ball scratch, it becomes in-hand from the D (you may
shoot at any ball on).  The penalty for all fouls is the value of the
ball on (but at least four points).  Penalties are added to opponent's
score.  The striker must attempt to hit the ball on, no deliberate
misses are allowed.

The International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) publishes the
official snooker rules used in amateur competitions worldwide. The rules
were rewritten for clarity late in 1994 and approved by the World
Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) in 1994 and the
IBSF in 1995. The new rule booklet can be ordered from your national
Snooker association, if it is a member of the IBSF, or directly from the
EASB at 

	Freya Broad
	27 Oakfield Road
	Bristol BS8 2AT

for 5 pounds and P&P. The BCA book has the IBSF rules too, but the 1995
book has the old version before the major rewrite with some minor
differences, notably the new foul-and-a-miss rule.  The rules are 
available on-line (as of April 2005) at

There is a Snooker referees' test paper from 1987 at:


Two cue balls and a red ball are used on the same table as for snooker;
each player has his own cue ball.  Point are awarded for a cannon (2
points for making your cue ball contact both other balls), going in-off
(pocketing the cue ball after contacting a ball, 2 for white, 3 for
red), or potting (pocketing) the red (3) or the other white (2).  It is
possible to score 10 points on one stroke.  A pocketed white is not
returned to the table, but the red ball comes back to the black (7 or
billiard) spot, usually.  If the cue ball has gone in-off, it is
returned to the D and must be shot towards the top of the table (end by
the black spot).

There are several advanced rules to prevent repetitive scoring plays,
such as no more than 75 shots that are simple cannons, and the red
spotting on the center spot after twice being made from the black
spot.  The full rules of English Billiards are in the same official
rule book as snooker, given above.  The rules are available on-line
(as of April 2005) at


Played with two white balls and a red ball, on a table without pockets.
One of the white balls has two dots on it, and the two players each use one
for their cue ball.  If your cue ball hits both object balls, you score
a point.  Variations are three-cushion and one-cushion - in each case,
you must hit the required number of rails before hitting your second
object ball.  Tournaments are now played with a set consisting of a yellow,
red, and white ball, which makes the game easier to follow.

A long list of links to online rules for various games is available

3. ** How do I hit a jump shot?

Is about a 45 degree angle of elevation for the cue correct?

For most practical shots, it will be less than 45 degrees.  It depends
on how much of the ball you need to clear and how soon.

Should I hit the cue ball right in the center or a little above center?

Below center is better, but not so low you miscue, which is a foul on
jump shots, at least at nine ball.  If you hit above center, the cue
stick tends to trap the cue ball on the cloth.

Rule 3.24 says it is illegal to "dig under" the ball to get it to jump.
Hitting the cue ball below center is not "digging under".  By "digging
under" I assume they mean a miscue.  Miscues are illegal by rule 3.25.

Should I stroke through the cue ball, or does that interfere with the
cue ball jumping?

You need to use a somewhat shorter stroke to avoid hitting the cloth.
If you are already slowing the cue down at the instant of contact, it
will act as if it were lighter, which is better.

Does it have to be hit extremely hard?

It depends on the distance from the cue ball to the obstruction, the
weight of the cue stick, and how much of the obstruction you need to
clear.  The cue ball's path while in the air is a parabola, and you can
calculate how fast the ball must be going to just clear the obstruction
at the peak of the trajectory.

The most important factor is the kind of cloth on the table.  If it is
very high quality, thin cloth, jumping will be very difficult.  If it is
thicker or maybe rubber-backed, jumping will be easy.

Start with an easy drill:  Freeze three balls together in a line
parallel to and about a foot from a rail.  Remove the middle one.  Place
the cue ball an inch from the rail, and shoot it through the hole.
Twenty degrees elevation should be plenty for this shot.  Do the same,
but place an object ball to be pocketed after the jump.  Move the two
obstructing balls closer to each other and/or farther from the cue ball.

Can I make an object ball jump over an obstruction?

Yes, this is the "double jump."  If the cue ball is in the air when it
hits the object ball, the object ball will jump some.  Details are left
as an exercise for the reader.

At snooker, it is a foul for the cue ball to jump over a ball, whether
intended or not (unless the cue ball has already struck an object ball)

4. **  How can I put back spin on the ball?

You will probably receive all sorts of contradictory advice on this
one.  The only real requirement is that you hit the ball low.  If the
object ball is far away, you will also need to hit the ball hard to
keep back spin (also known as draw or screw) on the cue ball, as the
cloth rubs the spin off.  Some things to keep in mind: You must chalk
your tip well; most players don't.  A shorter bridge (hand to cue ball
spacing) will let you hit where you want more accurately.  If your
elbow is pumping up and down, hitting the intended spot on the cue ball
is more of a challenge.  Do you jump up at the end of the shot?  Do you
follow through so the tip ends at least a ball diameter or two beyond
the original position of the cue ball, or do you jerk abruptly to a
stop at the instant of contact?

5. **  What is a push shot?

Careful!  There is some variation in usage of this term, so you
need to make it clear which way you are using the word.

First, a "push out" is something very different from a "push shot".  At
nine ball, the first shot after the break can be played as a push out
if declared in advance, and the requirements of ball and rail contact
are waived.  The incoming player can pass the shot back to the pusher.

At pool, a push shot involves a very special kind of stroke and is
played when the cue ball is frozen to the object ball -- this stroke is
a foul.  (At pool it is legal to shoot towards a ball the cue ball is
frozen to, assuming no other foul, and with a normal stroke.)  In a
push shot, the tip is brought slowly, slowly, very slowly up to the cue
ball until it is just touching or about to touch, and then the tip is
accelerated for the shot.  Two examples:

1. A ball is frozen to the rail close to a corner pocket.  The cue ball
is frozen to the object ball and straight out from the rail.  The shot
is straight towards the object ball, with the tip placed on the equator
of the cue ball with lots of side away from the pocket.  Once very
gentle contact of tip-to-ball is made the tip is gradually pushed
forward and the object ball sort of slips out from behind the cue ball
and goes straight into the near pocket.

2. The cue ball is on the foot spot, and an object ball is frozen as if
it had been spotted; both are on the long string.  A desirable object
ball is in the jaws of one of the foot pockets.  A legal way to pocket
the hung ball is to point the cue stick at a point on the foot rail
half way between the center of the rail and the target pocket, and
shoot a normal center ball stroke.  An illegal push shot is to elevate
the butt of the stick to about 45 degrees, address the cue ball for
extreme follow, and shoot a gradual push shot.  In this case the cue
ball will nearly ignore the object ball, and go close to the line of
aim, rather than the double "angle" of the first (legal) method.

At pool, when the cue ball is close to but not frozen to the object
ball, and the cue ball is shot straight at the object ball with a
normal stroke, usually a "double hit" occurs.  This is a foul.

At snooker, you are not permitted to play the cue ball towards a ball
it is frozen to, nor to play double hits.

At carom billiards, "push shot" includes any shot where the cue ball
is close to or touching the object ball and the shot is a foul.

6. ** What is the "Diamond System"?

There are many diamond systems.  In general, they allow you to plan
shots that require the cue ball or object ball to contact one or more
rails.  One of the best treatments for pool is in Eddie Robin's first
one pocket book.  A large part of Byrne's books and articles are about
diamond systems.  Walt Harris has four books out ("Billiard Atlas
[1-4]") that cover mostly carom diamond systems, but he also discusses
their use on pool tables.

If a system is called simply the "Diamond System" the speaker probably
means the "corner five" system.  A shot from that (for pool tables):
Place the cue ball as shown, and shoot it to "a" with running english
(side spin).  The cue ball should hit cushions at a-b-c and go towards
the other corner to pocket "o".  The system tells you how to adjust to
go to any destination on the third rail from any origin for roughly the
same kind of path.  This is done by assigning numbers to the spots
(diamonds) on the rail and doing some simple arithmetic.  See Byrne's
"Standard" book for use of the formula.  Tables, balls, stroke and
sticks vary.  A very simple example:

  ___________  ____________
  q               c  
 |                         |  (Use a fixed-width font to view this.)
 |                         |  ("Courier" might work.)
 |                        b|
 |                         |   "a" is roughly 2 diamonds from the corner
 |                         |   "c" is roughly 3 diamonds from the corner
  o__________  ______a_____    "q" is at the corner which is assigned "5"

 3 = 5 - 2  (Other situations use fractions of a diamond.)

An on-line discussion by Jim Loy of using the diamonds for kick shots is
at along with a lot of other
billiard topics.  A good explanation of the corner-five systems is at:

7. ** How should I choose a cue?

In general, it is difficult to tell if you would like a cue stick just by
reading about it.  Even the terms that different people use to describe
these characteristics (hard, soft, harsh, stiff, forgiving, well-balanced,
etc.) are subjective and difficult to quantify.  Some of the important
things can be quantified (length, weight, balance point, shaft taper,
shaft diameter, squirt), but they're not the whole story.  And if you are
a beginner, or seriously working on your game for the first time, you can
expect your own preferences to change as your game matures.

Robert Byrne says (updated for inflation as of 2005): 

Getting a two-part cue will add about $70 to the price.  You can
get one with good wood, good workmanship, a twine or leather
grip, and some decoration for $100 to $150.  If you pay more than
$200, you'll be paying for ornamentation and brand name.  A good
tip is probably more important than the cue.  Shun a cue that's
more than two parts, has a screw-on tip, is painted in festive
colors, or is made in Taiwan.  Made in Japan is OK, the Adam
line, made there, is one of the best.  Get the best tips you can,
the return on the money you spend is greater there than anywhere

Bob Jewett says: 

    1.  The plainest butt is probably also the most solid.  If you want
    fancy inlay work, consider Baroque antiques, not cues, unless you
    are collecting rather than playing with them.

    2.  Beyond being solid and the right weight and length, and perhaps
    having the style of grip you prefer, there is little the butt does
    for the cue.

    3.  The tip is important.  Many tips are no good.  Tips can be
    replaced; learn how to do it yourself.  The tip has more effect on
    how the cue plays than the butt.

    4.  The shaft is the most important part of the cue.  Shafts are
    relatively cheap.  Some highly regarded cue makers make unusable

Here's a quick test to see if the cue is worth looking at further.  It
tests the amount of "squirt" or deflection on extreme english shots.
Many expensive sticks fail this test.  This idea can also be used to
compensate for squirt for some sticks, and when it is used for that
it is sometimes called "backhand english" since the back (grip) hand
is moved over to get side spin.  (The definition of squirt is in
the glossary (Answer #1) above.)

    The "aim-and-pivot" method of squirt compensation:

    For each cue stick, there is a particular length of bridge for
    which you can aim straight at a close object ball and then pivot
    about your bridge hand and shoot straight through the new line and
    hit the object ball full.  (You can also use this (very old) method
    for non-full shots too, but a full shot is best for finding the
    right bridge length.)  For a stick you want to measure, just find
    the needed bridge length.  A hint: if you shoot softly at a ball
    far away, the cue ball will curve on its way to the object ball,
    and your measurement will be useless.  Do not give the cue ball the
    time or distance to curve.  Shoot firmly.  Use as much side spin
    as you can without miscuing.  The shorter the bridge, the more
    squirt the stick has.  ("Close object ball" means about a diamond
    away.)  The cue ball should sit in place spinning like a top when
    it hits the object ball full.
    For a long pivot length, the bridge is too long to be a comfortable
    pivot.  Arrange to have the pivot over the rail, and use your back
    hand to hold the stick at the pivot while the bridge hand moves.
    An alternative is to slide the bridge hand forward after the pivot
    to a more comfortable bridge length.  Take care to keep the stick
    aligned in the new direction.

If several cues are available, including house cues, compare them. 

Squirt is the most important characteristic of a cue stick after solid
construction.  Less squirt is usually better, especially if you use
something close to "parallel aiming" on spin shots.  More squirt means
more aiming compensation on any shot with side spin.  The one possible
advantage of squirt is that if the pivot length is the same length as
the bridge, it can compensate for inaccuracies left-to-right in the final

Here is a further description of how to use the aim-and-pivot method
to compensate for squirt when using side spin:

    The squirt pivot point is the point on the cue such that if
    you first aim using a dead center hit, then pivot the cue
    about that point to apply left or right hand english, the
    cueball will still take off in the original aiming direction. 
    The lower the cue's squirt characteristic, the further from
    the tip will be this pivot point. 

    If the pivot point of a very low squirt cue is all the way
    back at the grip hand, you would aim center-ball and then
    move the bridge hand (i.e.  pivot about the grip hand) to
    eliminate the necessity for compensating for the squirt. 

    If the pivot point of a very high squirt cue were located
    where the bridge hand is normally placed, you would aim
    center-ball and then move the grip hand left/right for the
    english (i.e.  pivot about the bridge hand). 

8. ** Ok, I've got a cue. How do I take care of it?

If you don't have one, get a case that will protect your cue from
humidity.  Moisture is one of the main causes of cue warping.  Hard
cases give better protection than soft cases.  Store your case upright,
not lying down.  If it's a soft case, hang it on a nail in your closet.

Remember, wood will warp, especially if its a long, thin piece (like a
cue).  A slight warp is nothing to be too upset about.  Just make sure
you shoot with the cue in the same position _every_ shot (i.e.  turn the
cue so that any warp is on the vertical plane and not the horizontal).
Pick some distinctive mark on the cue that will make it easy to identify
this position, or hold the butt the same way if it's angled.  If it's a
slight warp, you may be able to just bend the cue back into shape.  If
it's more severe, you could consider buying a new shaft for it.

How do you measure the warp?  Rolling it on a table is one way that
seems like a good measure but is, in fact, not.  The best way to look
for straightness is by 'sighting.'  Simply stated, just look down your
cue from the butt-end like a rifle.  Rotate the cue as you do this and
any warp should be immediately apparent.  More often than not,
rolling a cue will show defects in the joint rather than the shaft,
which is not a serious problem, as long as it's a tight fit.

If you have a multi-piece cue, you might consider joint protectors.
They screw onto both the shaft and butt of your cue and help prevent
moisture from entering the wood at these points.  The joint ends of the
cue are very susceptible to moisture since they are cross-cut though the
grain of the wood.

How should I maintain my tip?

The spin/speed ratio on the cue ball depends primarily on the actual
tip-ball contact point.  With a rounded tip there is a smooth relation
between the shaft displacement and the resulting spin/speed ratio.
But with a flat tip, you can displace the shaft up to 1/2 of the tip
diameter before the actual contact point on the cue ball changes.
Then with a little more shaft displacement there is some sidespin
imparted, and then the tip starts to miscue because you are hitting
right on the square edge of the tip.  Here is some ascii art to show
the difference in the spin as a function of shaft displacement for a
rounded tip and for a flat tip.

                |      *            |
                |     .             |
                |    .              |
                |   .               |     *  <-- miscue
Spin            |  .                |    .
                | .                 |   .
         -------|-------     ----.......-----     [view with a
               .|               .   |             fixed-width font]
              . |              .    |
             .  |             *     |
            .   |                   |
           .    |                   |
          *     |                   |

       shaft displacement    shaft displacement
        rounded tip             flat tip

You seldom want to hit the ball right in the middle, you don't want to
miscue, and you want to have precise control of the spin.  Therefore,
a rounded tip is better than a flat tip.  You shape the tip with a tip
scuffer, a file, a piece of sandpaper, and other similar abrasive
tools.  Most players like their tips rounded with the radius of either
a nickel or a dime; a coin can be held next to the tip for reference.

In the case of well-rounded tips, miscues occur when the tip slides on
the surface of the ball.  Along with other reasons, this happens when
the tip doesn't hold chalk.  The tip doesn't hold chalk when it is
packed down from hitting the cue ball and the surface is slick.  If
you tap the tip to give the surface some texture, it will hold the
chalk better.  You can buy special tools to tap the tip, or you can
use a rasp, or a coarse file, or coarse sandpaper glued to a wood
backing can be rolled over the tip surface.  Scuffing with sandpaper
also works, but it wears the tip away too fast.  For maximal tip life,
tap more, scuff less.

Tips can also mushroom, meaning that the leather bulges at the sides
so that the tip is wider than the ferrule.  Most pool players prefer
to remove this bulge.  The best way is to use a lathe, but there are
other methods too.  Fine sandpaper (600 grit or finer) can be used,
but some care should be taken not to scratch the ferrule.  Cutting
tools designed especially for this purpose are available, and pocket
knives and razor blades can also be used, but utmost care should be
taken to avoid ferrule damamge.  A homemade jig can be devised with a
wood block, sandpaper, and slick magazine paper to help avoid ferrule
damage; the process is described below.  After the mushroom bulge has
been removed, the edge of the tip can be polished by wetting the sides
and rubbing the leather edge firmly against the cloth on the top of a
cushion or against a leather pad.

How can I "demushroom" the edge of the tip?

Get a piece of sandpaper, #120 to #600 depending on the state of the tip,
a block of wood or a large sharpening stone, a piece of paper, perhaps
thicker than notebook paper, and a magazine.  Place the components like
this as seen from the side on a very flat surface:

BBBBBBBBBBBBB                                             MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
BBBBBBBBBBBBB    ppppppppppppppppppppppppppp              MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
sssssssssssssSSSSssssssssssssssssss                       MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

Tape the near and far sides of the paper down.  Now place the stick so
the tip is butted against the block BBB, while the joint end is on the
magazine MMM.  Adjust the separation between the paper pppp and the
block so that it is just the thickness of the tip.  Only the side of
the tip will touch the exposed sandpaper at SSSS.  The ferrule will be
resting on the paper.  Now holding the shaft near the ferrule, rub the
stick back and forth on the narrow exposed strip of sandpaper.  If the
paper is taped to the table, but the sandpaper is not, the latter can
be easily slid to expose a new strip as necessary.  The magazine may or
may not be necessary to give the tip a little bevel -- you may want to
make the first cuts without the magazine if the tip has a lot of
mushrooming.  The main trick here is to keep turning the shaft as you
slide it back and forth on the sandpaper.  To finish the tip, wet it
and rub it in the same way but on the paper rather than the sandpaper.

9. ** My shaft has a dent.  What now?

Small dents can be caused by anything from hitting an overhead light
fixture to simply leaning your cue against a table or chair.

If your shaft is made of metal, graphite, or wood covered in graphite,
fiber glass, or some other material, then you may need to return the
shaft to the manufacturer for repair or replacement.  If you have a
wood shaft, and especially if the wood fibers are not cut or damaged,
then there are several things that you can do yourself to repair the
damage, safely, and with minimal risk of making things worse.

If the dent is small, then place a drop of water directly on the dent,
let it soak in, and dry overnight; the water softens the wood, and it
may return to its natural shape by itself.  If this doesn't work, then
fold a few layers of paper towel or tissue paper to a size slightly
larger than the dent, place the paper against the shaft, and hold it in
place with a rubber band.  Wet the paper, and leave it in place
overnight.  The wet paper allows the water to soak in deeper before
evaporating, allowing the wood to return to its natural shape slower
than the first method.

If this doesn't work, then more drastic measures are required.  Soak
the dented area with water.  While the water is soaking into the
shaft, boil some water in a steam kettle or tea pot with a thin spout.
Heat the dented area with the steam from the spout.  The steam heats
the water that has soaked into the wood, causing pressure to push out
the dent from the inside.  Do not allow the steam to heat the ferrule
or joint; it may weaken the glue joints.  Do not allow the shaft to
come close to the stove top, flame, or other heat source.  If the spout
from your steam kettle is too wide, then try wrapping aluminum foil
around the spout, and punch a small hole in the foil with a needle or
toothpick.  If you don't have a steam kettle, you can use a regular pot
covered tightly with aluminum foil with a small hole in the middle.
You can also use the steam from a clothing iron, or from a hand-held
suit steamer, but take particular care to not allow the shaft to touch
the hot metal.  With all of these methods, the water will cause the
wood grain to raise and after drying it will feel slightly rough to the
touch.  You should polish the shaft before using it with a couple of
strokes with a leather pad, a clean cloth, or whatever you usually use
for routine periodic cleaning and maintenance.  When successful, these
approaches restore the shaft perfectly to its original form, without
the need to use sandpaper.

Some other common suggestions for removing dents are riskier and
should probably be avoided.  Some examples include placing a wet piece
of cloth on the dent and using a hot soldering iron to steam the dent,
or using the open flame from a cigarette lighter to expand the dent.
Although these methods may work successfully, the same thing can be
accomplished without the associated risk of permanent damage to the
shaft.  In general, try to keep the heat source as far away from the
wood as possible.

Another commonly suggested way to remove dents is to rub a glass rod
(or a beer bottleneck, or a shot glass, or a glass ashtray, or some
other piece of smooth glass) over the dent.  This doesn't exactly
remove the dent, but rather it spreads it out over a larger area so
that it isn't as noticeable.  Some believe that the glass rod generates
heat from the rubbing friction, and this heat removes the dent, but the
simpler explanation seems more plausible.  Since this approach seems
to change the shaft shape slightly, it is not recommended except
possibly, as a last resort.

What if the wood fibers are cut or otherwise damaged to the point that
the above methods do not work?  If you are skilled in woodworking, then
perhaps you can sand away the dent; this probably means that the shaft
will no longer be exactly round.  Another option is to take the shaft
to a skilled cue repairman.  He will probably use a lathe to remove
wood from the shaft; the resulting shaft will be round, but with a
different diameter and/or taper than the original.  In both of these
cases, the shape of the shaft is changed, and the feel and playing
characteristics may change with it.  Another possibility is to use a
drop of firearms-specification two-part epoxy (eg., _AcraGlass_ from
Brownell's, Inc.).  It gives good working time, will become thin and
penetrate under a 100W bulb, set up quickly when the heat is removed,
can be tinted any color, and will sand out with 600 followed by 1200
wet-or-dry silicon carbide paper (local body supply shop) to feel like
the original wood.

And finally, in case everything else fails, a new shaft may be
purchased for your cue.  In some cases, replacement shafts may be
purchased simply by specifying your cue make and model; otherwise the
old shaft is needed to match threads, joint designs, and taper.
New/replacement shafts cost between $50 and $200.

10. ** What kind of pool table should I buy?

The first thing to remember is that some of the people who sell
pool tables are idiots, and some are dishonest.  There are good,
knowledgeable people out there too, but take everything you hear
from a salesman (or in a newsgroup FAQ) with a grain of salt. 
Also, note that most (all?) pool tables have considerable margin
of profit for the dealer built into the MSRP (perhaps as much as
250%), particularly on higher end tables, so there is
considerable room to bargain. 

You have to make a base choice between a furniture table and a
commercial table.  Good commercial tables are built to withstand
the demands of a bar or pool hall, where they are subject to
constant play and frequent abuse.  The base-frame is made of
heavier- duty wood, the rails (and sometime the cabinet) are
protected by a laminate in order to resist dings and cigarette
burns.  If looks aren't important to you and you are looking for
a table that will provide years of top quality playing
conditions, then get a commercial table. 

The "industry standard" commercial table was, for many years, the
Brunswick Gold Crown.  The most recent version of that table is
Gold Crown IV.  They are not cheap, although they do pop up quite
regularly used (at least earlier models, like the Gold Crown
III).  Brunswick's Website is
If you go for a used GC (or any other used table), bring a
table mechanic with you to ensure it is in decent shape (just as
if you were buying a used car). 

A newer table that some say has replaced the Gold Crown as the
top commercial table is the Diamond table - see . These tables look very nice, and
play very nice too, but are pricey, and are harder to find used
than the Gold Crown.  Be sure to consider carefully how tight the
pockets will be if you order their tighter pocket size.  Diamond
doesn't have dealers everywhere, but they will sell one and ship
it directly to you.  The price may still be negotiable when
buying directly from them. 

An even newer top quality entry into the North American table
market is Gabriels (see
), an established European three cushion billiard table
manufacturer.  The Gabriels Signature Pro table uses 1 and 1/4 "
slate, Artemis cushions and steel U beam construction.  It also
uses rails made with wood impregnated with phenolic resin for
increased resitance to dings and burns.  Like Diamond, however, a
used Gabriels may be difficult to locate. 

There are many other commercial table manufacturers, such as SAM
Kim Steele, Pinnacle and Lemacher.  A google search of may provide further information on their

If you don't like the looks or the cost of a commercial table,
then you are in the world of furniture tables.  These tables, at
their best, are made of solid hardwood and look beautiful.  At
their worst, there are furniture tables that are little more than
toys.  For example, some mass marketers sell "pool tables" which
do not have a slate playing surface, using instead plywood or
artifical material (sometimes with names like "Slatron"). 
Although some great players got their start on toy tables like
this, they are not well suited to either long life or good play. 

Their is no consensus on the best furniture table manufacturer. 
There are a number of furniture table manufacturers that have
their supporters, including Brunswick, A.E.  Schmidt, Olhausen,
American Heirloom and AMF.  American Heirloom has an excellent
web page, filled with information about pool table construction
(although of course they are still trying to sell you a product -
their product). 

Note, also, that different tables by the same manufacturer can
play differently.  Some manufacturers, including some top-selling
ones, make a low-end tables that is significantly inferior to
their top of the line products.  Well-made pool tables will
usually have slate that is at least 1" thick (not 3/4") and will
use all hardwood construction.  Pay particular attentiont to the
essential elements of the construction - the base frame, the
slate support, the slate itself, and the cushions and the rails
The use of particle board or other inferior material covered by a
thin veneer is not uncommon on cheaper tables.  On the other
hand, some manufactures also offer tables that are very ornate
and expensive, but play no better than their mid-range tables -
at a certain point you are paying for ornamentation or fancy

Finally, whatever table you get, you will usually be offered some
package of cloth, balls and "house cues".  Most dealers offer
cheap cloth, balls and sticks with their tables.  If you are (or
think you may become) someone who plays a lot, a premium
"worsted" cloth (such as Simonis or Granito) is a good
investment, as a $100 upgrade now will save a $400 recovering
later.  Good cloth lasts longer, and plays better.  Also, get
good balls - two excellent sets are the Aramith Super Pro balls
or Brunswick Centennials. 

As a final note, here is a list of things to look for (problems)
that has been observed on tables over the years.  This list may
assist you in knowing what to look for as you evaluate your

How about service?  Is the retailer willing to fix any defect in
the first year?  Will they replace the cushions if they go dead
in the first ten?  Here are some things to avoid.  Unfortunately,
some of the problems won't show up for years.  Some of these are
due to bad installation. 

    flimsy construction
    flimsy trim
    pocket liner turns gummy and comes off on cue stick
    pocket liner fits badly, catching and rejecting balls
    pocket liner fastening falls apart
    pocket liner tacks are exposed and chip balls
    badly designed rack-hanger
    badly designed bridge-hanger
    pockets stick up too high
    pockets have sharp parts that can tear clothes or cut hands
    pockets reject balls that are shot straight in
    pocket facings cupped and reject balls
    "drop pockets" allow the balls to rattle for several seconds
    flimsy score wheels
    thin slate
    aluminum parts leave black marks on clothes
    awkward ball storage slots
    ball return system loses balls
    rail rubber badly installed or loose
    cloth put on wrong
    rails misaligned (side noses not in line)
    loose rails (either hard to bolt on or just neglected)
    cracked slate
    diamond markings are hard to see
    ball return hopper skins knuckles
    ball return hopper decomposes"

Good luck with the hunt! If you do your homework, you should find a
table you will treasure. [Thanks to Gideon Forrest, the primary editor
for the above section.]

11. ** How much room do I need for a table?

The minimum space for a table is the playing area plus the length of a
cue (58") plus about 6 inches for the back swing, more for comfort, on
each side. This gives the table:

	table		playing area	room size	in meters
	8'		44" x 88"	14'4" x 18'	4.37m x 5.49m
	8+'		46" x 92"	14'6" x 18'4"	4.42m x 5.59m
	9'		50" x 100"	14'10" x19'	4.5m x 5.8m
	12' (snooker)	70" x 140.5"	16'6" x	22'5"	5.0m x 6.8m

"Seven foot" tables vary in size.  Work down from the 8' dimensions.
"8+" is an "oversized" 8-foot table.

If your room does not meet these minimum size requirements, many
billiard retailers will suggest that you can still put a table in, and
use short cues (52", or 48").  Many people have found they are unhappy
having to resort to shorter cues, and should have either gotten a
smaller table, or no table at all.  Others, of course, take the
opposite view -- they are delighted to have any table.

In the end, only you will know whether you are happy with the room
dimensions and need for short cues.  Before you spend $2000 for a table
that will cause you to smash the walls in frustration, try this:
(1) Find an indulgent pool hall when it's not busy.  (2) Measure your
space (at home) carefully, including the distance from the table to all
walls that require a special cue (3) Go to the pool hall with a piece
or pieces of plywood or some such, and a short cue, and set up the
"walls" to replicate where the walls would be in your house. Play for
several hours, using the short cue when needed.

Between two tables you can do with about the length of a cue, the limit
is caused not by the cue, but by the player being able to go into his
stance between the tables. Deluxe rooms really need more room on all
sides to let possible passers-by move without bumping into the players.

12. ** Can I build my own table and cue?

John Kirchel has documented his table project on-line complete
with pictures and drawings at
His email address is there in case you have questions.

Bob Stantley's long article on how he built a table is at

You can request a free reprint of the article he used
for plans and materials from Fine Woodworking (March/April 1989) at:


or from the land-mail address given in Bob Stantley's article.  Or see:

Complete plans and instructions in a 70-page booklet for building a
9-foot table are available from the site
for $70.

In the July/August 1986 issue, Fine Woodworking covered how to make a
cue stick.  (But this article was described by a cue maker in RSB as
"immensely inaccurate and misleading.")  Also, many of the pool
magazines carry ads for videos on how to make sticks, in case you want
to get into the business.  See also for a
book (some of it on-line) about making cues.

13. ** What is good table maintenance? 

1. Keep the table clean - cover it when not in use; don't let food or
   drink near it; keep junk off the rails. Let everyone know that the
   table is to be treated with respect and care, then be sure and follow
   your own advice.
2. Avoid using talc.  Also, do not chalk your cue over the table, or
   place the chalk upside-down [open-side down?] on the rails.
3. Brush your table regularly (after each session is not too often),
   and clean the rails with a damp cloth.
4. Vacuum the table at least every few weeks with a dust buster type.
   Avoid using a vacuum cleaner with rotating brushes unless you have
   worsted wool cloth, like Simonis or Granito. Also, if you have a
   non-worsted or directional cloth, always brush or vacuum the cloth in
   the same direction, usually head to foot. Vacuum the table brush itself
   to remove the chalk dust.
5. At least once a month, use a damp lint free towel to wipe down the
   cloth.  Some prefer instead to mist the cloth with a water and then
   brush it.
6. Wash the balls regularly, at least with water, or maybe mild soap
   and water.
7. If you want to practice jump or masse shots, get a little extra
   square of cloth to put under the cueball, or you may leave little white
   marks all over the table.
8. Don't let people sit on the rails - it will cause the cushions to
   come loose.

14. ** How can I heat a billiard table?

Some have suggested that a home solution like installing roof
de-icing cable, may lead to concerns about fire.  In addition,
concerns have been raised that if the slate is not heated
uniformly, then the heating element is really not doing the job
properly, and then the table is probably going to have a
different roll in different sections of the table.

Commercial table heating systems have peak powers of over 500
watts, and well insulated and solidly constructed.  Be careful. 
A typical commercial heating system has sections of plywood
mounted a few inches under the slates forming closed chambers. 
Heating wire (special resistance wire) is mounted on insulators
in these spaces.  A thermostat controls the power to keep the
slate only a few degrees above room temperature. 

15. ** How can I learn about billiard physics?

There are several books available that discuss the physics of balls on
cloth struck by pointed sticks.  A fairly non-technical treatment is in
Jack Koehler's "The Science of Pocket Billiards".  It has many good
observations and plausible explanations but no real theory or
equations.  For the latter, Wayland Marlow's "The Physics of Pocket
Billiards" has great steaming piles of equations.  Copies are available
from Bob Jewett.  Marlow died in September, 2002.

Dave Alciatore, a professor at Colorado State, has an extensive
web site and a book and DVD about billiard physics.  See

A 100-page online discussion is in Ron Shepard's "Amateur Physics
for the Amateur Pool Player" available at the download section of at and at Also available at and at
is Shepard's 19-page analysis of the causes of squirt.  These
include theory and equations and diagrams, along with useful
worked examples. 

If you have access to a college physics library, many "mechanics" texts
from around 1900 have entire chapters devoted to billiards physics
(Williamson or Routh).  The granddaddy in this field is a 176-page book
by Coriolis (1835) in French.  It has recently been republished by
Jacques GABAY in Paris, ISBN 2-87647-081-0.  A recent book in
French is "Billard - Theorie du Jeu", ISBN 2-7027-0999-0, 2nd
edition by Regis PETIT, published by Editions CHIRON/CASTEILLA,
price about 15 Euros plus shipping.  In Canada, available from
PROLOG (Bois-Briand QUEBEC).  It contains material for the player
as well as the theoretician. 

Some results of recent measurements:

The tip is on the ball for about one thousandth of a second.  During
this time the ball moves no more than a few millimeters on a typical
shot.  It is unlikely that the grip hand can have much effect on the
shot during this brief time.  The tip has only one contact with the ball.

The fastest cue ball reported (shot by a martial arts student)
was about 35MPH (15.6 meters/second).  More typical break speeds
are around 20MPH.  The energy in the ball goes up with the
square of the speed, so the first is about three times as
energetic as the typical break.

16. ** Where can I go for more information?

Several years of articles from are available to Web
browsers at Google/Usenet:
You can search by key words, title, author, etc. Full URL:

In the United States, the Billiards Congress of America.  You can join
the BCA as an individual.  The annual membership is $25 and includes
the rule book and a quarterly newsletter.

    Billiard Congress of America
    4345 Beverly Street, Suite D
    Colorado Springs, CO  80918
    Tel. 719-264-8300 / Fax. 719-264-0900
    Web page:
    BCA email: see: then "Who's Who"
	and then "Office Staff" for the person you want to contact

For US snooker:

    The United States Snooker Association (USSA)

For US carom:

    Brian Morgan
    801 Diane Court
    Springfield, Illinois 62702-3503
    1.877.CAROM22 (227.6622)

    $25/year membership

In Japan, the Nippon Billiard Association. 

    Maruhuzi building 5F, 1-10, 3-chome,
    Sinbasi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105 Japan;
    Tel: +81 3 3593-2543; Fax: +81 3 3593-2545

For lists of associations see:


A good web search site for both new and used books is the
meta-site which searches a lot of book
stores and other sites.  See also which has
some reviews and for Barnes&Noble's on-line

Billiards -- The Official Rules and Records Book.  ISSN 1047-244
Published annually by the Billiard Congress of America.  Rules for 32
games -- carom, pocket billiards and snooker.  Lists world's
championships and records.  Instructional section.  Specs on official
playing equipment.  Approx. 170 pp/5-1/2x8-1/2.  Available from
mail-order suppliers, some bookstores, and the BCA.  About $7 list.

"The 99 critical shots in Pool", written by Ray Martin.  ISBN
0-8129-2241-7, suggested retail price is US$ 14.00 (Canada: $19.50) (It
starts out assuming you know nothing about pool, and by the end of the
book (if you work through all the shots presented, you will become a
VERY good player.))

"Standard Book of Pool and Billiards," by Robert Byrne.  $16.95.  ISBN
0-15-614972-9 (This is a detailed description of some of the more
complex aspects of the game, including English, spin, and throw.
Includes rules and strategy for several games, including at least a
hundred diagrams of three-cushion billiard shots).  This has been superceded
by "Byrne's New Standard Book."

"Mastering Pool," by George Fels.  $12.95.  ISBN 0-8092-7895-2 (Warmly
recommended to straight pool players)

"Advanced Technique in Pool and Billiards," by Robert Byrne, Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich publishers, ISBN 0-15-614971-0.  $16.95 (A collection
of Byrne's articles from Billiards Digest, revised and updated.  It
includes sections on pool, billiards, and sidelights of the various cue

"Byrne's Treasury of Trick Shots in Pool and Billiards," by Robert Byrne
(Trick and fancy shots from the last 200 years, documented and

"The Science of Pocket Billiards," by Jack H.  Koehler.  $22.95
paperback, $26.95 hardcover.  (Has a good double-elimination tournament
format description)

"Winning One-pocket," edited by Eddie Robin.  (Lots of shots, breaks,
moves, an entire chapter devoted to banking systems and methods.) 
This is now only available as a used book and appears on eBay from
time to time.

"Upscale One Pocket," by Jack Koehler, the author of "The Science
of Pocket Billiards."  Order from: Sportology Publications, 25832
Evergreen Road, Laguna Hills, Ca  92653.  Cost is $14.95 plus $3
shipping.  Recommended by Bob Campbell.

"New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards" by Mike Shamos.  Almost
certainly the most thoroughly researched book on the terminology and
history of cue sports ever written.  Over 2000 words and terms
defined, with over two hundred illustrations.  ISBN 1558217975

"The Physics of Pocket Billiards" by Wayland C. Marlow, Marlow
Advanced Systems Technologies, January 1996, 0-9645370-0-1, 291 pages,
illustrated, paper, 6x9, $36.00 Trade.  This book begins with a
chapter on fundamentals, which covers, on an introductory level,
topics that are treated in detail later on in the book. These subjects
include break shots, friction, the masse shot, banks, combinations,
and more. An appendix on equipment specifications collects the many
values of various material properties for the relevant equipment. 
Bob Jewett at has copies.

"Play Your Best Pool" by Phil Capelle, 1995, self published,  Billiards
Press, P.O. Box 400, Midway City, CA, 92655, 714-894-1157.  Includes a
section on just about every shot you're ever going to see on the pool
table.  442 pp., over 400 illustrations.

General mail-order suppliers

     Mueller's Sporting Goods
     Lincoln, Nebraska
     1-402-423-8888 (Can't use the 800 number in Europe)
     1-402-423-5964 FAX

     The Billiard Library
     1570 Seabright Ave.
     Long Beach, CA   90813
     1-800-245-5542 or 310-437-5413
     1-310-436-8817 FAX

     Saunier-Wilhem Company
     3216 5th Avenue            1605 Center Point Road   2707 S. Elm-Eugene
     Pittsburgh, PA  15213      Birmingham, AL  35215    Greensboro, NC
     (412) 621-4350             (919) 272-3412           (919) 272-3412

     Billiard Fanatic, 1-800-910-4437, free catalog.  Their web page is
     at  Prices generally quite low.

     Video tapes of matches in nine ball, straight pool, three cushion,
     "fluke" shots, some instructional tapes:


    There is an extensive list of International, National and Regional
    publications on the BCA's Home Page (see below).  A few recommended
    by the readers of are:

US Publications

    Billiards Digest
    Luby Publishing
    Suite 1430
    200 S. Michigan Ave.
    Chicago, IL  60604
    Monthly as of Feb. 1998
    US: $30/year, Foreign: $46/year
    phone: 312-341-1110

    Pool & Billiard Magazine
    810 Travelers Blvd. D-1
    Summerville, SC 29485
    12 issues per year for $34.95
    Tel: (843) 875-5115
    Toll Free Subscribers: 1-888-POOLMAG
    FAX: (843) 875-5171

    National Billiard News
    P.O. Box 807
    Northville, MI  48167
    12 issues per year
    phone: 313-348-0053

UK Publications

    Snooker Scene
    Cavalier House
    202 Hagley Road,
    Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 9PQ, U.K.
    Tel: +44 (0) 121 454 2931,
    Fax: +44 (0) 121 452 1822
    They have a web page, but it's pitifully broken.

    The "Amateur Billiard Player" was a quarterly magazine
    devoted to coverage of English Billiards, and it is now
    available on-line at the English Amateur Billiards Association
    web site:  Other
    information is regularly added to that site.


The BCA home page

the Snooker Home page

An excellent site for coverage of tournaments and players as well as
other billiard-related news is:
Tournament and room info at

17. ** What is the record for X?

Some of these are listed on the net.  The BCA rule book has a large
section on records.  A few that come up often in r.s.b:

Is the highest break at snooker 147?
No.  A 147 includes 15 reds, 15 blacks, and all the colors, so it would
appear to be the maximum.  If your opponent fouls with a snooker, you
may get a color for a "free ball" for your first red, and thereby get a
"16 red" clearance.  About six such clearances have been recorded.  The
highest snooker break is not, as previously reported, Tony Drago's and
Eddie Manning's 149s. It's Wally West's 151.  He made the break in the
final of a club handicap at Hounslow Lucania in 1976 against Butch
Rogers.  155 is possible.  See the snooker home page, listed above.

What is the high run at straight pool?

On March 19, 1954 at the East High Billiard Club in Springfield, Ohio,
Willie Mosconi played an announced exhibition against Earl J. Bruney, a
local Springfield player.  Mosconi pocketed 526 consecutive balls and
then missed.  The table was a Brunswick 4x8.  The highest run in world
championship competition was 182 by Joe Procita against Mosconi in
1951.  Irving Crane made 309 on a 5x10 in an exhibition in 1939.

The most consecutive pocketed balls was on a snooker (billiard) table
in England in 1890.  William Peall made 721 consecutive red balls at
English billiards.  That particular strategy is now outlawed.

18. ** How does the APA handicapping system work?

There is a little info at:
Other leagues use different handicapping systems.  Contact the BCA,
VNEA, ...  for details.  A simple, fair, free system is available
on-line at -- look for NPL.

19. ** Where's the TV schedule for cue sports?

Pool and Billiards Magazine: "TV Listings"

Current ESPN and ESPN2 TV schedules at Billiards Digest --

General ESPN info:

TV Guide allows you to search plot descriptions
by keyword. offers a subscription reminder service

You can also watch streaming video of pool matches for free at the site if you have RealPlayer software.


20. ** Where can I buy/sell a billiard thingy?

Sticks, balls, books, cards, programs, tables -- they all may have
collectible value.  Specializing in old billiard/pool items for auction
is Brad Morris at New Deco, in Boca Raton, FL, 1-800-543-3326.  He
offers a quarterly newsletter by subscription.  An on-line auction that
has some billiard items is  Go to the search
area, and search for a pattern like: (billiard,billiards,snooker)
or (pool*,snooker,billiard,cue) -(barbie,dress,refle*,Poole,swim*)
For the value of old cues, try the Blue Book of Pool Cues at

21. ** What are the different hardnesses of cue tips?

This scale for tip hardness can be found in Mueller's catalog.
These tips are rated on a scale of 1 (softest) to 4 (hardest).
Individual tips vary.

Elk Master: 1
Blue Knight: 1
Royal Oak: 2
Triumph: 2.5
Chandivert Match: 2.5
Triangle: 3.5
Chandivert Crown: 3.5
Chandivert Champion: 3.5
Le Pro: 3
Chandivert Rocky: 4

22. ** Where can I play Virtual Pool on the Internet?

For information on playing Virtual Pool on the Internet visit:

The following is from the info page at Virtual Pool Ladder site.

The Virtual International Pool (VIP) Ladder is a perpetual tournament
for Virtual Pool players around the world. Players compete in matches to
earn points from other VIP Ladder players. As players earn points, they
move up the ladder. Matches are scheduled and played online using Kali.
The VIP Ladder does not schedule the matches. To play a match, a VIP
Ladder player merely "advertises" on Kali that they would like to play a
VIP Ladder match. Once an opponent is selected, players negotiate
connection (who will transmit, who will receive) and begin playing the
match. The winner of the match earns points from the loser of the match.
Match results are reported by the loser to the VIP Ladder using an
online form at the VIP Ladder web site.

See also

23. ** Which rooms are in X City?

Several sites offer lists of pool halls.  These lists can be
searched in various ways:  search by distance or other items, w/maps  by phone area code, city, name  map-based

A more general service is which allows you
to search for any category of business by distance from a particular
address, and will also give you a map to get to each listing.  If you
are looking for pool halls, enter "Billiard Parlor" as the business
category.  See also which also offers a
"reverse lookup" if you have a telephone number but no name or

24. ** What is a dominant eye?

For most people, one eye is much more dominant in seeing alignments
than the other. Typically, right-handers are right-eyed, and vice
versa. About 5% are "cross-dominant" (e.g., right-handed and
left-eyed) and some are "ambi-ocular" (no dominant eye).

To aim and sight well, it helps to locate your dominant eye directly over
your cue. For cross-dominants, this may call for some adjustments in
stance or neck/head angles. For ambi's, the stick will be under some
spot between the eyes.

Here's how to test yourself:

Hold your thumb up at arm's length, visually blocking some distant
object (for example, a clock or a lamp).

Don't focus on your thumb; focus on the distant object.  You'll see a
ghost of your thumb, since your dominant eye will be in line with both
your thumb and the distant object, while your non-dominant eye will be
seeing past your thumb, directly toward the distant object. With one
eye seeing the thumb and the other not, you get a ghost.  The ghost is
centered on the distant object because your dominant eye is the one
that tells you what's lined up with what.

So, when you close your non-dominant eye, the thumb becomes solid
instead of ghostly, since the dominant eye is looking directly at the
thumb. When you close your dominant eye, the thumb appears to jump to
the side because the dominant eye (that was making the thumb line up
with the distant object) is not in use.

Stroke into a mirror to see where your dominance spot is, relative to
your shaft. It "should" be directly over the shaft. If it's not, but
you're not having difficulty aiming or sinking balls, don't worry about it.

25. ** What are some common strategies in the various games?

A common opening break in snooker is, to place the cue ball on either
side of the brown ball, and aim to thin the second to last row of reds,
with outside side spin, travel four cushions for a possible snooker
behind either green or yellow.

After the break, the nine ball is in front of a pocket and there is no
way to hit the one ball.  The shooter calls "push out," and pockets the
nine directly while leaving a hard shot on the one ball.  The nine
spots, but is relatively safe.

Your opponent needs one ball to win, and it is sitting in the jaws of
his pocket.  You pocket that ball and either scratch in the same pocket
or jump the cue ball off the table on the shot for a foul.  That ball
comes back up, preventing your opponent from winning immediately, and
one of your balls spots as a penalty.  Your opponent gets ball in hand
behind the line, perhaps with nothing to shoot at but the two spotted

26. ** Where can I find tournament brackets (flowcharts)

You can order charts from the Billiard Congress of America Website at:

Ed Mercier provides tournament charts (8 to 256 players, single and
double elimination), scoresheets, and tournament planners at as PDF files.

Anyone know of any others?

27. ** How well do I play?  Am I an A or a D?

The A-B-C-D ratings vary from room to room.  In general, an A would give a B
a substantial spot, like two games in a race to six, and so on.  An A plays
well enough that he wouldn't be embarassed to play in a state-level

Various leagues have their own rating systems and evaluation methods.

If you try Equal Offense, you can compare yourself to other players with the
table at

A skill test based on the game "Fargo" (which is used for on-line
tournaments) is available at:

28. ** What are those funny numbers people post to the group?

Those are input to a program which will draw a table with balls in
the (cryptically) given positions, if you have a web browser.  You
can move the balls around and set up other shots and get the series
of numbers and letters that specifies the shot and send it to others.
For more info, see the description at:

Unfortunately, unless you have Macromedia Shockwave/Flash, you cannot
even display the positions with that page.  If that's your problem,
you can use the view-only page at:

29. ** Do billiard balls wear down?

Yes, and not slowly.  Within a year of daily play, all the balls
in a set will be smaller than the allowed minimum in the
equipment specs.  The cue ball wears fastest, as it is struck by
the tip and skids on the cloth on every shot.  It is sent off the
table more often, as well. 

Object ball wear comes from friction on the cloth, and is worse
if the cloth is allowed to become dirty.  Since billiard chalk is
made of ground up sand, dirty cloth works like fine sand paper. 
See item #26 for cloth cleaning suggestions.

As the cue ball becomes smaller than the object balls, it will be
much easier to draw, but harder to follow.  Parts of the object
ball design will likely wear faster, so on some balls you can
tell the numbers by feel as the numbers wear faster or slower
than the rest of the ball.  Often the "eyes" of old balls will be
found to bulge out. 


Contributors to this FAQ list include:

    Maria Bualat, Tomohito Sumita, Stephen Tu, Dave Dunbrack, Graham
    Toal, Robert E. Landsparger, Bill Angell, Korey Kruse, Paul
    Moyland, Spencer Lee, Bob Jewett, Jari Kokko, Jim Buss, Ron
    Shepard, Ivan Lee, Robert B. Trimble, Jim Barr, Tom Simpson,
    Pat Greenwald, Gideon Forrest, Dave Siltz

And sorry if your name was left out!