Pool Terminology - Is that English?

Posted by : Liz Ford

Pool Terminology - Is that English?

When visiting any foreign land, it's always a good idea to carry a phrase book to help you converse with the locals - and the pool room is no exception. Understanding what's being said around you will help you feel more at home - so don't arrive unprepared. Here's your first lesson in pool verbiage.

Cue Ball Nicknames
Commonly called "the rock" or "whitey." Rarer, but funnier, is when someone creepily gives it a woman's name (I've heard "Alice" and "Judy", but I'm sure there are others.)

Assume the Position
Maneuvering the cue ball around the table to get a shot on your next ball is the essence of pool - so there are a lot of ways to talk about it. "Position", "shape" and "leave" are all terms that refer to where the cue ball comes to rest after a shot. Having the cue ball "on a string" is the best compliment you can pay to a player and means that their position play is outstanding.

The Language of Safeties
"Playing safe", or "ducking", means to leave your opponent without a shot. The best way to do it is to play a "snooker" or "hook" him - leaving the cue ball directly behind a ball that blocks your opponent's shot. Feeling merciless? Put 'em "in jail" - a really good safety with little chance to escape.

Matching Up
Race? We're having a race? Do I need my sneakers? In competitive situations, pool is played in a "race" format. For example, in a "race to seven," the winner is the first person to win seven games. Apparently, we're racing up a hill? If one player gets within one game of victory, then he is "on the hill." If both players reach "the hill," then the set is "hill-hill."

Blood in the Water
A "shark" in the pool room isn't what you think: it refers to a deliberate ploy by your opponent to distract you or break your concentration. "Sharking" is deplorable when it's on purpose, but sometimes people really do have to sneeze, so lighten up.

How're Ya Playing?:
Playing well? You could be: "in dead punch", "catching a gear" or "playing lights out". Playing badly? You could be: "out of stroke", "in a coma", "on tilt" or just plain "dogging it."

The Luck Factor in 9-Ball:
"Snapping the nine" means pocketing the 9-ball on the break. "Riding the nine" implies going for a shot with the intent of also making the 9-Ball, whether by skill or by luck. You can "slop" a ball in, meaning to miss a shot and have something go into a pocket anyway. In any game, a "roll" is a bit of luck that occurs. "The rolls" can go your way or they can go against you - all depending on the favor of the "Pool Gods."

The Fine Art of Complaining
Now that you've got the basics down, you too can complain like a real pool player. Your homework assignment is to translate the following passage:

"I started the set playing lights out - I mean I had whitey on a string. Then he sharked me on that seven ball and I went into a coma. After that, he got every roll in the book, slopping balls in, hooking me when he missed and then to top it off, he snapped the nine hill-hill!"

Liz Ford is a professional pool player on the WPBA tour and a teacher in New York City. Liz has been playing pool for 15 years and has represented the United States in tournaments around the world. In addition, Liz has appeared on TV nationally as a billiards expert including an episode of "Time Warp" on The Discovery Channel.