Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Should two shots carry, and other local pool rules - Postern

It is 1992, my brother and I are in a pub in Melbourne. We'd only been in Australia for, maybe, three months. We've got our names down on the pool table, playing doubles against two local lads. One of them breaks and clears, if I remember correctly, five colours. He then snookers himself; both of his colours are tucked behind the black and a cluster of our balls. I'm thinking, he'll need a two-cushion escape.

Instead, he cracks into the black, breaks up the cluster, and opens up his final two colours.

Local rules round our way say you have to make an attempt to play a fair shot. This I explain to the two locals. After a fair bit of effing and jeffing, it is made clear to me by the manager of the pub that we are 12,000 miles away from round our way. We are escorted from the premises.

Now, this is not another piece on sporting morals (see last weeks' Maradona thoughts), rather a call for clarity on local pool rules. I don't think I've been in two places that ever had the same rules - despite many of them having official rules stapled to a board, it has more to do the the player at the table. But I like the fact there are local differences. I just don't like not knowing them.

For me the two-shots-carry debate is the thorniest. I've been brought up to carry the shot, and while I'm happy to play the alternative, I find it inferior. Carrying the shot is a greater penalty and therefore less of an incentive to foul.

But there are many others. From memory, I've played pool in places where the rules have stated:

White can be picked up and placed after every foul.
White can be placed anywhere, but only after pocketing white. Or white placed only in the D.
White ball has to play up the table after a foul (billiards, surely?)
No jump shots.
Nominate a pocket for every shot - no flukes.
Nominate black pocket. This can change every shot, or stick until the frame ends. Opponent may have to pot black opposite pocket.
No intentional fouls. Loss of game. (Worrying amount of room for subjectivity. Add alcohol. Trouble)
Black in off the break loses the game, or wins the game.
Every shot has to touch a cushion.
At least two balls have to hit the bottom cushion off the break.
Black has to go in same pocket as last colour - or the opposite pocket.
Potting an opponent's ball is allowed - if, during the same shot, you also pot one of your own balls. There is some argument as to whether your ball has to pocket first.
Foul on the black and you lose the game.
Three fouls during game and you lose.
Opponent clears all the balls off the break, you have to play the next game with your cock out.
And winner stays on, or names on the board?

I would welcome your clarification. And if the two Aussie blokes from the Saloon bar in Toorak, December 1992, are reading this: re-rack, and I will beat you like a whorehouse rug.


Ebren said...

How can you miss doubles on the black, free ball variations, one shot on the black, and the (almost compulsory) seven balled and you run round the table/room/pub/building with your trousers down?!?!

When I learned to play it was de-facto forbidden to play any safety. In fact, the more stupid the shot you attempted the better. This edifice of flair play came crashing down around my game after watching an Ebdon-McManus game in World Championships, and me and a mate spent an hour plaing a single frame of pool having both just watched it at home then come out for a pint.

Don't get me wrong, I still love my three ball plants (cannons), but I now get play safe when it's the obvious choice.

Some official pool rules here

greengrass said...

I don't go for these Yankee games; bar billiards is much better.
The only ones I've heard advocating the cock-out rule have been Aussies - is that typical of their attitude to sport, or just typical of the Aussies I've met?


postern said...

your drive not reaching the ladies' tee also requires cock out with some foursomes. the old boy goes back in following a successful drive at the next hole

MotM said...

Mate of mine told a story of playing pool up on the High Veldt in the 70s. After a dispute over the usual stuff, he pointed at the rules on the wall. His opponent pointed at his bag on the floor. "Yeah, well?" He found out just what Afrikaaners carried round in bags on the High Veldt.

postern said...

ebren: i do love a bout of safety, particularly if your opponent has raced to pot his first five balls. you can then tuck him up and haul back the difference over the course of the frame.
i view those who smash the balls aimlessly the same as babyfoot players who spin. poorly

Ebren said...

Postern - while I agree about safety, I have always used it to make up for my inferior potting ability. And it is seriously frowned upon (if not illegal) in almost any pub I play in.

Fine against mates, but in any pub pool comp/when playing someone you don't know for the table it draws serious criticism.

But I like it like I (like watching Chelsea's/Bolton defence - there is a certain element of skill and cunning involved with killing a game).

A mate and I counted our games against each other. He was 5% or so more accurate, but had less power and flair than me. Put simply that meant he would beat me in a potting fight. So I got better at safety.

That said, it also meant he got damn good at escaping from safety.

Last count he was leading 153-87

hannibalbrooks said...

Always, always, always, always hang on I've said 'always' so many times; I forgotten what it was I wanted to say ... ah yes ... always ... go over the house rules with your opponent, if you are playing in an unfamiliar location, before starting any game of pool.

The most important rule for all pool players to remember, in my opinion, is that the game is most definitely called 'Pool' and that the game isn't called anything that even remotely sounds like 'Snooker'.

And this is for a good reason, because in my opinion, anybody who even contemplates playing a snooker in a game of pool deserves to be kicked soundly and squarely in the scrotum with as much force and power as is humanly possible.

My local pub, which is actually a members club, owned and run for over 100 years by the members themselves, keeps it's pool table in immaculate condition and charges just 10p for a game.

It is an unwriten rule that deliberate snookers are forbidden, but I have been lobbying for some years to have it officially writen into the club rules.

On more than one occasion I have forfeited a game when a small minded opponent has cynically rolled the cue ball up behind his own ball rather than attempt a shot. I have done so by tossing a 10p coin in their direction accompanied by words along the lines of 'If winning a game means that much to you; have the next game on me, you can play against yourself, so you will be guarateed a win'. The phrase actually contained a far greater number of Anglo-Saxon nouns and adjectives than that, but you can follow the sentiments of my feelings.

Our house rules are 'old rules'; no two shot carry, white ball goes in the D, name your pocket on the black.

We have a genuine WWI British Army helmet behind the bar for anybody who is given a 'tin hat', and the recipient must not only wear the tin hat for the remainer of their visit to the club that day but must pose for the obligatory photograph, which is then pinned to the main noticeboard until someone else has the honour bestowed upon them.

Pool rules and snooker is only for people who can't play pool.

kokomo said...

hannibal - and they said we were a clique!

I like a good snooker, but there has to be a limit, and iot should be done only when to attain the snooker is afeat in itself (ie. not just rolling up behind a colour, but a two cushion job.

my rules...

Two shots carry
In the D - play anywhere
double on the black

The snookers thing depended on the number of shandies consumed.

Not really have a 100 year old members pub/bunch of yocals to play with these days, i play a variety of the rules people have mentioned.

hannibalbrooks said...


If you are good enough to lay snookers of at least two cushions then you are good enough to have a pot at any ball or any positive shot on the table. Snookers are the epitome of negativity and I play the game for the joy of playing the game. I go for the 8 ball (7 colours and the black) first with every frame, the holy grail of pool, I done 47 in my whole life (yes I keep a count, the last one was two weeks ago), then if that's not going to happen then I try and win the game itself, but I would rather break my beloved cue than lay a snooker on somebody. I value my good name in the community far higher than the consequence of a mere single frame of pool.

The 10p a game in my club means that it doesn't cost a fortune to become a decent player in a relatively short space of time (months) and the club has between 30 and 40 regulars that are all very good at the game. It's 'winner stays on', so at the weekends there are always a dozen or so very good players with their names down for a game and the standard is usually much higher than in the average local league game. The manners and courtesy on show are good too, feathering the white or touching a ball with your arm or clothes is never penalised, it's all done in a very convivial spirit.

I find that watching a really good player play pool is as entertaining as playing a game yourself. So even if you get knocked off, there is still much enjoyment to be had, watching fast potting fests or chess match type games.

If my club decided ever to get a team together, they would be The Galacticos of the Liverpool pool scene. Although we have more than enough excellent players for four or five very strong pool teams, but nobody is that keen to play league pool because people tend to take it all to seriously in that situation, which takes all of the fun and enjoyment out of the game.

Pool is a working class/poor man's version of golf in many respects.

postern said...

HB: a pool lover. I would love to spend an evening in your company, your rules. now, while i agree that local rules should be established before you break, is it not difficult to relay the spirit in which the locals play the game?
as i've said, i like a bout of safety, but i draw the line at players who cover pockets.
and I don't warm to people who keep their own two-piece cues behind the bar

Ebren said...

Oh dear, I fear you all would hate me.

If you're not trying to win, why are you bothering to play?

Covering pockets, intentional snookers, distracting oponants too weak to handle the distraction.

All of these are legitimate pool tactics in my book.

That said - I grew up playing the flair play, pot or get out rules Hanibal aludes to. except moving the white is for wimps.

But then playing to local rules is part of the joy of the game.

Anyone up for a night of football, pool, and beers down my local? Don't wory, I know the gaffa (he plays in goal in my footy team) he'll let us stick bar towels down the pockets so we don't have to pay...

offside said...

French billiards, anyone? 3 balls, no pockets, your ball has to hit the other two. Great game, but not suited to the pub/café.

bluedaddy said...

Other important Pool questions:
The beers/quality conundrum. Pool excellence appears to be heightened by the intake of several pints, and then perception of one's own excellence heightened by several more. Discuss.

Is it always time to go home when you are too pissed to even vaguely play pool properly, or just time to go dancing?

Drinking shorts and playing pool? Madness, or just super cool in a Minnesota Fats kind of way?

Killer Pool. Sacrilege, or a good way of socialising/taking money off chumps?

For the record. Two shots dont carry. Name pocket for black. White ball in D. Safety is for punks (but covering a pocket is a bit of a grey area as it is often more skilful to cover than to pot, but releasing your next ball is preferable).

Ebren said...

Too drunk to play - does such a time exist?

One of my friends (in fact the one who I have the long-running series with) was drunk one day. Very drunk. I mean as drunk as you get. Conservative estimates show he had at least 14 pints of cider that session, it might have been much higher. He hadn't eaten.

The man couldn't stand up without something to lean on. And even then it was 50-50 whether he would still be vertical in 30 seconds time.

Then he challenged someone for the pool table in the fifth pub of the day.

This guy had been beating all comers since we turned up in the pub - our other mates laughed, thinking there was an embarrassment coming.

I knew better.

I have stated in previous posts that I have played this man more than 200 times. That is low, we played far more before we started counting.

I have seen him wield a cue better drunk than sober. I bet people pints he would win.

Now as the game progressed it was clear that he was leaning over the table as much to stop falling down as to play shots, a steady cue was not on the agenda.

Needless to say his potting was flawless, he won easily. Then he fell on the floor. Then he giggled for about five minutes.

There is no such time as too drunk to play.

Oh, and moving the white is for people too rubbish to escape a safety. You have a free ball FFS, why would you need to move the white?

postern said...

now, what's your table preference? i've played on some of those new, super-size American pool tables and while they've been okay, i'm not keen on tables where you can hit the side rail and ball still drops in the pocket.
the ideal, for me, is a 6 foot English table, with smaller balls (yellow & red). plenty of cueing room is the ideal, though i'll happily adjust to local conditions and use the special midget cue when needed.
the Hand in Hand on Brixton Hill has (had) a fine table.
and does winner break?

hannibalbrooks said...


I play to win too, but with a certain philosophical outlook, and I usually do win anyway.


You can never be too drunk to play, I totally agree, too tired maybe but not too drunk. I touched on this before somewhere but some fellow DJs and I used to play 'Cosmic Pool' to wind down after gigs.

Cosmic Pool involves being extremely drunk and extremely stoned. The balls take on the metaphysical qualities of small planets and the long term quality of your game is improved dramatically if you can keep your head together.

Cosmic Pool is to Pool what resistance training is to sprinters.

tonyellis said...

Cock out rule? Sounds like something you'd play in 'Church'. Here in Barcelona, English tourists are always complaining that we don't allow the carrying rule. Carrying is for girls.

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