Murky Pool

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 piece on Australian sporting morals, 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 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 does the winner stay on, or is it names on the board?

I would welcome clarification.

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