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Articles: Pool


Pool is a well-known game that derives from billiards and involves players using a wooden cue to hit a white ball into other colored balls in order to knock them into one of six pockets on the sides of the table. There are many variations of the game, the most popular being the nine-ball and the eight-ball versions.

Most billiard table games, pool included, are considered to have evolved from outdoor medieval lawn games. Most of the pool variants of billiards where developed around the turn of the twentieth century. The majority of the versions of the game had simple undefined rules until the 1940’s, when most of the games started to become standardized.

Currently, pool is a very popular past time and sport, with many bars and pubs around the world hosting pool tables, as well as a well-developed and televised professional league. It is popular globally, but especially in North America, Europe and Australia.

The game of pool

Pool is played compositely by both men and women at different levels and age groups. There are competitions for juniors and masters, as well as adult professional competitions.

The game is played on a pool table which can measure either 2.7 by 1.4 m or 2.1 by 1.1 m, with the smaller table being more popular at tournaments since more of them can be placed inside any given venue. The table is completely flat with a slate top covered in a coloured felt baize. There are 6 pockets on each table, one in each corner and one in the middle of the longer sides of the table. The sides of the table are made of vulcanised rubber and are also covered in the same baize as the table top.

Historically, pool balls were made of everything from clay to ivory, although today most balls are manufactured from a phenolic resin which is highly resistant to cracking and breaking. The balls are struck with a cue traditionally made of rock maple and covered in an acrylic or resin cover.

Beginning of play

The player to begin play is determined by any of these : a coin toss, being the winner of the previous frame of play, or by lagging, where both players shoot a ball towards the end of the table, where it bounces back towards the back cushion. The player with the ball closest to the back cushion is the winner of the lag and can elect to break or force his opponent to break. The main balls are arranged in a triangular or diamond shaped formation, which depends on the variant of the game. The player breaking the pack places the white cue ball behind the break line at the other end of the table and strikes it with his cue into the pre-arranged balls.

Rules of play

Despite the variations in games, the rules of pool are quite similar: players continue to shoot as long as they pocket a ball in a legal way on each shot, and a player’s turn comes to an end when they fail to pot a ball or they commit a foul.

Depending on the variation, a foul can be potting a ball out of sequence, a “scratch”, whereby the player accidentally pockets the white ball, or a fail to hit any balls on the table. Touching the cue ball twice is also a foul which ends the player’s turn. Some fouls such as pocketing the cue ball as well as the black eight ball lead to the forfeiture of the frame.

Pool matches are officiated by one official, who ensures that the game is conducted in proper order, racks the balls for the next frame and cleans the cue ball. The official is the final arbiter of any points of contention.

Game flow and tactics

Since each player takes a turn at the table, most play is tactically positional, with players using different techniques to execute a shot that leaves the cue ball in a good position to play the next shot. Occasionally, if a player does not think he can make the shot, or is unsure about the success of his next shot potting a ball, he will play a safety shot. These are aimed at placing the cue ball in a position that makes it very difficult for the opponent to successfully pot a ball on their next visit to the table.

Pool competitions

The World Pool Association (WPA) is the world governing body and was founded in 1987. It oversees all the tournaments held around the world. While not an Olympic sport, there is a World Championship for the various formats of pool, as well as many tournaments and competitions globally. Due to its origins, pool has always been associated with gambling and there are many tournaments hosted in casinos and hotels.

One noteworthy tournament is the Mosconi Cup where players from the US compete with players from Europe. It is a 9 ball tournament and traditionally seen as the highlight of the season and usually televised in several countries.

Most tournaments are a knock out singles format, although there are a few high profile team events. There is no codified route to pool professionalism. Most professional players evolve from amateurs who become sufficiently skilled to start winning tournaments before they become a full time professional.

Betting on pool

Betting on pool is quite well developed, with many bookmakers offering bets on the major regular tournaments. Betting tends to take the shape of straight up bets on the winners of individual matches, as well as tournament winners.