The following is a glossary of traditional English-language terms used in the three overarching cue sports disciplines: carom billiards referring to the various carom games played on a billiard table without pockets; pool, which denotes a host of games played on a table with six pockets; and snooker, played on a large pocket table, and which has a sport culture unto itself distinct from pool. There are also games such as English billiards that include aspects of multiple disciplines.
The term "billiards" is sometimes used to refer to all of the cue sports, to a specific class of them, or to specific ones such as English billiards; this article uses the term in its most generic sense unless otherwise noted.
The labels "British" and "UK" as applied to entries in this glossary refer to terms originating in the UK and also used in countries that were fairly recently part of the British Empire and/or are part of the Commonwealth of Nations, as opposed to US (and, often, Canadian) terminology. The terms "American" or "US" as applied here refer generally to North American usage. However, due to the predominance of US-originating terminology in most internationally competitive pool (as opposed to snooker), US terms are also common in the pool context in other countries in which English is at least a minority language, and US (and borrowed French) terms predominate in carom billiards. Similarly, British terms predominate in the world of snooker, English billiards, and blackball, regardless of the players' nationalities.
The term "blackball" is used in this glossary to refer to both blackball and eight-ball pool as played in the UK, as a shorthand. Blackball was chosen because it is less ambiguous ("eight-ball pool" is too easily confused with the international standardized "eight-ball"), and blackball is globally standardized by an International Olympic Committee-recognized governing body, the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA); meanwhile, its ancestor, eight-ball pool, is largely a folk game, like North American bar pool, and to the extent that its rules have been codified, they have been done so by competing authorities with different rulesets. (For the same reason, the glossary's information on eight-ball, nine-ball, and ten-ball draws principally on the stable WPA rules, because there are many competing amateur leagues and even professional tours with divergent rules for these games.)
Foreign-language terms are generally not within the scope of this list, unless they have become an integral part of billiards terminology in English (e.g. massé), or they are crucial to meaningful discussion of a game not widely known in the English-speaking world.
The ball placed at the front of a group of racked object balls (i.e., toward the breaker and furthest from the racker), and in most games situated over the table's foot spot.: 32
Same as draw. See illustration at spin.Contrast top spin.
1. An area defined on a billiard table by one or more balklines. In the eponymous game of balkline billiards, there are eight balks defined by perpendicular balklines, in which only a set number of caroms may be scored before at least one ball must leave the area.: 15 In the earlier (and short-lived) "champions' game", there were four triangular balks, one at each corner, defined by single diagonal balklines. Not to be confused with baulk, but see second definition.
1. A line drawn horizontally from a point on a billiard table's rail to the corresponding point on the opposite rail, thus defining a region (a balk). In the eponymous balkline billiards there are four balklines, drawn parallel to and typically 14 or 18 inches from the cushions of the table, dividing it into nine compartments or divisions, of which the outside eight are the balks, in which only a set number of caroms may be scored before at least one ball must leave the area.: 15 Not to be confused with baulk line, though the concepts and etymologies are related. See balk, second definition.
Any legally strikeable ball on the table in snooker and generally British terminology. For example, in blackball, if a player is playing yellows, any yellow ball (or any solid, from 1 to 7, if using a solids-and-stripes ball set) can be the ball-on until they are all potted, in which case the 8 ball is the ball-on. In snooker, at the beginning of a player's turn, unless all are already potted, any red ball can be the ball-on. Compare object ball.
Pool, almost always a variant of eight-ball, that is played by bar players on a bar table. Bar pool has rules that vary from region to region, sometimes even from venue to venue in the same city, especially in the U.S. Wise players thus ensure understanding of and agreement to the rules before engaging in a money game under bar rules. Typical differences between bar pool and tournament eight-ball are the lack of ball-in-hand after a foul, the elimination of a number of fouls, and (with numbered ball sets) the requirement that most aspects of a shot be called (including cushions and other object balls to be contacted) not just the target ball and pocket. Bar pool has evolved into this "nitpicky" version principally to make the games last longer, since bar pool is typically played on coin-operated tables that cost money per-game rather than per-hour. Competitive league pool played on bar tables, however, usually uses international, national or local/regional league rules, and is not what is usually meant by "bar pool". Not to be confused with the game of bar billiards.
A distinctive size of pool table found in bars, pubs, or taverns as well as venues such as family entertainment centers, arcades and bowling alleys. These are smaller than the full-size tables found in pool halls. While typical professional and competition tables are 9 ft × 4+1⁄2 ft (2.7 m × 1.4 m), bar tables are typically 7 ft × 3+1⁄2 ft (2.1 m × 1.1 m). In bars they are almost always coin-operated. Another distinguishing factor is the cue ball; these tables capture pocketed object balls to remove them from play, but selectively return a scratched cue ball. The cue balls historically were differently sized or of different density so they could be mechanically separated. Because this changes the mechanics of the cue ball, these cue balls do not play as competition cue balls, and they are therefore deprecated by aficionados. However, modern bar tables typically make use of a magnetic layer inside a regulation size and weight cue ball paired with a magnet mechanism within the table's ball return system that separates out the cue ball without requiring cue ball characteristics that affect play. Systems that use optical sensors to distinguish the cue ball have also been introduced. Pool hall players complain also that the cloth used on bar tables is often greatly inferior (in particular that it is "slow" and that english does not "take" enough), and often find that the cushions are not as responsive as they are used to.
The Spot, usually unmarked because of its obviousness at the intersection of the baulk line and long string. As such, it is also the middle of the flat side of the "D". In snooker, same as brown spot.: 23–24, 38 : 10 Compare head spot.
In eight-ball, to be shooting the striped suit (group) of balls (9 through 15); "you're big, remember", "you're big balls" or "I've got the big ones". Compare stripes, yellows, high, overs; contrast little. Not to be confused with the carom billiards concept of a big ball.
1. Any shot in which the cue ball is caromed off an object ball to strike another object ball (with or without contacting cushions in the interim).
1. In snooker, the highest-value colour ball on the table, being worth seven points. It is placed on the black spot.: 9 In some snooker ball sets, it is numbered "7" on its surface.
1. In snooker, the colour ball worth five points, placed on the blue spot in the centre of the table.: 9 In some ball sets, it is numbered "5" on its surface.
The bottle used in various games to hold numbered peas, it is employed to assign random spots to players in a roster (such as in a tournament), or to assign random balls to players of a game (such as in kelly pool and bottle pool).
Same as back spin, i.e. screw (UK), draw (US). Contrast top spin. See illustration at spin.
Applies specifically to games that enforce "call-pocket/call-safe" rules, which require the player to either call the ball and pocket, or call a safety on every shot. After a legal shot, where a called ball is not pocketed as designated, the incoming player has the option to pass the shot back to the player who missed the called shot. If a player calls "safe", then after a legal shot, the incoming player must accept the next shot, and may not pass the shot back to the player who called "safe". A call-shot/call-safe nine-ball example: Player A calls the ball-on, the 3 ball in this case, in the corner pocket but misses the shot. The cue ball rolls down table and comes to rest behind the 5 ball leaving no clear path to the 3 ball for the incoming player B. Since player A did not call "safe", incoming player B may elect to pass the shot back to player A (who must shoot).
Describes any game in which during normal play a player must call the ball to be hit and the intended pocket; "eight-ball is a call-shot game." Sometimes referred to as "call[ed]-pocket", "ball-and-pocket rules", etc., to distinguish it from the common North American bar pool practice of requiring every aspect of shots to be called, such as caroms, kicks, and cushions to be contacted (this is sometimes also ambiguously referred to as "call-shot", but more accurately termed "call-everything" or "call-it-all"). Commonly in bar rules terminology, call-shot indicates how the shot will be made as compared to call-pocket which means simply that the ball must go into that pocket, details unnecessary. Though games with called shots technically require all shots to be called, obvious shots are seldom actually called, though such implied called shots must still be made. See also gentlemen's call.
1. The red object ball in carom billiards games. The term is thought to be derived from an orange-coloured, tropical Asian fruit, called a carambola in English, Spanish, and several other languages, in turn from karambal in the Marathi language of India.
1. Carom came into use in the 1860s and is a shortening of carambola, which was earlier used to describe the red object ball used in many billiards games. In modern usage, the most general meaning of the word refers to any type of strike and rebound, (a carambole) off a cushion or especially a ball.
One of the main classes of cue sports, possibly the oldest, and certainly the dominant competitive form until well into the 20th century. It is played on a table without pockets, and scoring is generally done by driving a cue ball into contact with one object ball, then having the cue ball contact one or more cushions before contacting another object ball; however, there are numerous variations, some of which involve additional objects, such as upright pins as targets or hazards. Carom balls are usually larger than pool balls, and most often supplied in sets of three, though some games such as yotsudama require four. Historically the most popular carom games in the modern era were straight rail and cushion caroms, followed by balkline billiards, in turn supplanted by three-cushion billiards which remains a major competitive world sport and is the dominant cue sport in many countries. Some games, such as English billiards, are hybrids between carom and pocket billiards.
Carrom is a table-top game of India, sometimes played with a small cue stick though more often with the fingers, in which small disks are slid on a game board to knock other disks into pockets cut into the corners of the board. It is ancestral to several other games, including novuss, pichenotte, pitchnut, crokinole, and Chapayev. Its historical relationship to billiards games is unclear.
Also century break.In snooker, English billiards and other British usage, a break of 100 points or more, which requires potting at least 25 balls consecutively, in snooker, but can be earned via a combination of scoring techniques in English billiards, etc. A century also means scoring 100+ points in a single turn in straight pool. A century of centuries is the achievement of 100 or more century breaks in a career, a feat few players have performed to date. See also double century.
1. In snooker, any of the object balls that are not reds. A colour ball must be potted after each red in the continuation of a break, and are re-spotted until the reds run out, after which the colours must be potted in their order:
Same as scoring rack.
The physics of the squirt or deflection phenomenon has been analyzed in other contexts, such as with ice-hockey pucks.
1. A widespread term in US parlance describing missing a relatively easy shot—often in the face of pressure. Can be used in many forms: "I dogged the shot"; "I hope he dogs it"; "I'm such a dog." See also choke, one-stroke.
Also double elimination.A tournament format in which a player must lose two matches in order to be eliminated. Contrast single-elimination.
A violation of a particular game's rules for which a set penalty is imposed. In many pool games the penalty for a foul is ball-in-hand anywhere on the table for the opponent. In some games such as straight pool, a foul results in a loss of one or more points. In one-pocket, in which a set number of balls must be made in a specific pocket, upon a foul the player must return a ball to the table. In some games, three successive fouls in a row is a loss of game. In straight pool, a third successive foul results in a loss of 16 points (15 plus one for the foul).
Possible foul situations (non-exhaustive):
A situation where a player has fouled, leaving the opponent snookered. In UK eight-ball this would normally give the opponent the option of one of two plays: (1) ball-in-hand with two shots; (2) being allowed to contact, or even pot, a ball other than one from their set from the snookered position (although the black may not be potted), with the loss of the first shot. In addition, some variations of the game allow the player to pot one of the opposition's balls, on the first visit only, without the loss of a "free shot".In snooker it allows a player to call any ball as the ball she/he would have wanted to play, potting it for the same number of points, or the opponent can be put back in without the same privilege, having to play the ball snookered on. The definition of snooker on this occasion means the opponent cannot strike both extreme edges of the object ball (or a cluster of touching balls).
A series of successful shots (a run) that is lengthy for the player's skill level. The exact implication is dependent upon context, e.g. "my high run at three-cushion is 15", "Jones had the highest run of the tournament", "that was a pretty high run you just did", etc. Used congratulatorily, it may be phrased "good run", "great run", "nice run", etc. See also high break.
In eight-ball, to be shooting the solid suit (group) of balls (1 through 7); "you're little, remember", "you're the little balls" or "I've got the littles". Compare small, solids, reds, low, spots, dots, unders; contrast big.
massé shot. A steep curve or complete reversal of cue ball direction without the necessity of any rail or object ball being struck, due to extreme spin imparted to the cue ball by a steeply elevated cue. Its invention is credited to François Mingaud. Compare semi-massé.
1. Chiefly British: Competitive play in matches with standings consequences, such as local snooker league competition or the World Snooker Championship, as opposed to practice, playing with friends at the pub, or hustling pool for money.
Also simply maximum.In snooker, the highest break attainable with the balls that are racked; usually 147 points starting by potting fifteen reds, in combination with blacks, and clearing the colours. Also called a 147 (one-four-seven). In six-red snooker, the maximum break is only 75 points, due to fewer red balls and thus fewer black-scoring opportunities. See also total clearance.
In carom billiards games, when all the balls are kept near each other and a cushion so that with very soft shots the balls can be "nursed" down a rail, allowing multiple successful shots that effectively replicate the same ball setup so that the nurse shots can be continued almost indefinitely, unless a limit is imposed by the rules.Excessive use of nurse shots in straight rail by players skilled enough to set them up and pull them off repeatedly at will is what led to the development of the balkline and one-cushion game variations, and repetitive shot limitation rules in English billiards.
1. pool: See Having the cue ball on a string.
1. Competition between an individual player and an individual opponent, as opposed to team play, scotch doubles, and other multi-player variants.
1. Describes the propensity of table pockets to more easily accept an imperfectly aimed ball shot at a relatively soft speed, that might not fall if shot with more velocity ("that ball normally wouldn't fall but he hit it at pocket speed"). The less sensitive to shot-speed that a pocket is, the "faster" it is said to be.
The long-rail side of a corner pocket. To "aim for the profession side of the pocket" is to slightly overcut a difficult corner-pocket cut shot, to cheat the pocket, rather than undercutting, especially in nine-ball. Erring too much in this direction is "missing on the professional side of the pocket." It is so called because experienced players understand that on a thin cut, overcutting the object ball to a corner pocket will far more often leave the object ball in an unfavorable position, i.e. along the short rail for the incoming opponent than will an undercut, which often leaves the object ball sitting in front of or nearby the pocket it had been intended for on a miss.By contrast, in eight-ball, except when both players are shooting at the 8 ball, the incoming player after a miss is shooting for different object balls, so this maxim does not apply, and the opposite may be good strategy as, if the object ball stays near the pocket through an undercut, it is advantageously positioned for a subsequent turn and may block the opponent's use of the pocket.
1. In snooker, any of the 15 balls worth one point each that can be potted in any order. During the course of a break a player must first pot a red followed by a colour, and then a red and colour, etc., until the reds run out and then the re-spotted six colours must be cleared in their order. Potting more than one red in a single shot is not a foul – the player simply gets a point for each red potted. Red balls are never numbered "1" on their surface, even in (primarily American) sets in which the colours are numbered with their values.
1. In snooker, the abandonment of a frame upon agreement between the players, so that the balls can be set up again and the frame restarted with no change to the score since the last completed frame. This is the result of situations, such as trading of containing safeties, where there is no foreseeable change to the pattern of shots being played, so the frame could go on indefinitely.
1. Same as re-spotted black.
Also semi-massé shot. A moderate curve imparted to the path of the cue ball by an elevated hit with use of english (side); or a shot using this technique. Also known as a curve (US) or swerve (UK) shot. Compare massé.
1. (Of a player or referee) to place the balls (and other items, if applicable, such as skittles) properly for the beginning of a game: "In eight-ball, properly setting up requires that the rear corners of the rack not have two stripes or two solids but one of each." For most games this is in a racked pattern, but the term is applicable more broadly than "rack", e.g. in carom billiards and in games like bottle pool. Contrast layout.
1. Verb: To perform some act or make some utterance with the intent to distract, irritate or intimidate the opponent so that they do not perform well, miss a shot, etc. Most league and tournament rules forbid blatant sharking, as a form of unsportsmanlike conduct, but it is very common in bar pool.
The amount of this deflection of an object ball from its expected path is increased by several things, including by dirty or pitted balls that briefly grip each other more, by a thick cut-shot angle that provides for extended friction between the balls (cut-induced throw), by slow ball-contact speed (speed-induced throw) for the same reason, by stun shots for the same reason, and by the object ball being impacted by a ball that is rapidly side-spinning (spin- or english-induced throw), which causes the object ball to roll in a curve more toward that throw direction. Throw is reduced by higher-speed impact, by draw or follow (bottom or top spin), and by side-spin counter to the direction of the natural throw. Skilled players thus often shoot cut shots with a small amount of outside english – gearing outside english – to neutralize the cut-induced throw that widens the shot away from the tangent line, though other techniques may be required instead or in combination with that, depending on the desired cue-ball position at the end of the shot.
Same as follow. Contrast bottom spin, back spin. See illustration at spin.
See double century.