Ask The Master - I have started playing in a couple different pool halls where the balls are filthy and table less then true. What advice would you give for playing with less then perfect conditions?

As the balls get dirty and worn, two significant things happen:

1. They can get out of round, and not always roll straight.

2. There is more friction between balls (or inconsistent amounts of friction), resulting in much greater throw effects (or inconsistent, unpredictable throw effects).

Two suggestions for dealing with ball problems:

1. Bring your own cue ball (I suggest everyone carry their own Aramith "measle ball," the cue ball with six red spots). The cue ball is usually the ball in the worst shape, and the one whose condition matters the most. Bringing your own ball set is another way to address the problem.

2. Clean a set of balls at the pool room, and use those.

Poor table conditions:

1. Know the actual conditions as well as you can. Which cushions have bad spots, and where? Which parts of the table roll off and how badly? Which pockets don't behave as they should?

2. Take advantage of the problems or avoid the problems as much as possible.

For most ball problems, and for tables off level, shoot a little harder. For pocket problems, shoot softer. For cushion problems, avoid using them. Offer to clean balls, vacuum tables, clean cloth. As room owners see that their customers care about conditions and appreciate better conditions, perhaps they'll invest a bit more in maintenance. I've been in rooms where a local player does the table vacuuming several times a week in exchange for free table time. Help make the conditions better.