Basic Pool Terminology

Some common terms and phrases that are used around the sport of pool

Unlike other games where any pocket can be used to sink object balls, only two pockets (one for each player) are used in this one. The object of the game is to score points. A point is made when a player pockets any object ball into their designated pocket. The winner is the first to score an agreed-upon number of points (usually 8).

If a player pockets an object ball in a pocket other than those at the foot of the table, they lose their turn, and that object ball is re-spotted. If the player pockets an object ball in the opponent's pocket, their turn also ends but the opponent earns a point.

One-pocket is similar to straight pool being that a player can shoot at any object ball regardless of its color or number. Also, penalties for a foul are the loss of 1 point, re-spotting a previously pocketed ball if possible, and in the case of a "scratch" the incoming player gets ball in hand behind the head string. The shooter does not need to call their shots.


A game of pool played with any three standard pool object balls and cue ball. The goal is to pocket the three object balls in as few shots as possible. Any number of players can participate in rotation.


A pool game that is popular in much of the world. Played on a pool table with six pockets, the game is so universally known in some countries that beginners are often unaware of other pool games and believe the word "pool" itself refers to 8-Ball. Standard 8-Ball is the second most competitive professional pool game, after 9-Ball and for the last several decades ahead of straight pool.

8-Ball is played with cue sticks and 16 balls: a cue ball, and 15 object balls consisting of seven striped balls, seven solid-colored balls and the black 8-ball. After the balls are scattered with a break shot, the players are assigned either the group of solid balls or the stripes once a ball from a particular group is legally pocketed. The ultimate object of the game is to legally pocket the eight ball in a called pocket, which can only be done after all of the balls from a player's assigned group have been cleared from the table


Played on a pool table with six pockets and with ten balls. The cue ball, which is usually a solid shade of white (but may be spotted), is struck to hit the lowest numbered ball on the table (the object ball), each of these balls are distinctly colored and numbered 1 through 9.


A rotation game very similar to 9-ball using ten balls instead of nine, with the 10 ball being the "money ball". The initial shooter cannot instantly win the game by pocketing the 10 on the break, all shots must be called, and performing a string of break-and-runs on successive racks is statistically more difficult to achieve.

“A” game

            The best level of play possible. As in Joe had to bring out his A game to beat that guy.


1.  Gambling or the potential for gambling.

2.  Lively results on a ball, usually the cue ball, from the application of spin.


Used with an amount to signify money added to a tournament prize fund in addition to the amount accumulated from entry fees (e.g. "$500 added").

aiming line

An imaginary line drawn from the desired path an object ball is to be sent.


To freeze a ball to a cushion; such a ball may be said to be anchored or frozen.

angle of incidence

The angle at which a ball approaches a cushion, as measured from the perpendicular to the cushion.

angle of reflection

The angle from which a ball rebounds from a cushion, as measured from the perpendicular to the cushion.


The curve of the cue ball as a result of a massé shot.


The ball placed at the front of a group of racked object balls (i.e., toward the breaker and furthest from the racker), situated over the table's foot spot.

 back cut

cut shot in which if a line were drawn from the cue ball to the rail behind the targeted object ball, perpendicular to that rail, the object ball would lie beyond the line with respect to the pocket being targeted

back spin

Same as draw. See illustration at spin.

bad hit

Failure to make a legal hit.

balance point

The point, usually around 18 in. from the bottom of a cue, at which the cue will balance when resting on one hand.


Same as call-shot.


Ball-in-hand is the term used to describe the advantage granted to your opponent when you scratch or otherwise foul.  Your opponent may choose where to place the cue ball on the table before shooting any of his category of balls.


1.  Same as cushion.

2.  Same as bank shot.

bank shot

A bank shot is when a player drives the object ball to the cushion in the course of making the shot.

bar table

Also bar box, coin-operated table, coin-op table.

A distinctive size of pool table found in bars/restaurants as well as various other venues such as family entertainment centers. These are smaller than the full-size tables found in some pool halls. While typical professional and competition tables are 9 ft × 4 ft or 10 ft × 5 ft, bar boxes are typically 7 ft × 3.5 ft. However, 4×8 and even 3×6 examples can sometimes be found. In bars they are almost always coin-operated.


The flat surface of a table, exclusive of the cushions. The bed is covered with billiard cloth like the cushions. The playing area of the table consists of the bed except where the cushion overhangs the bed, i.e. it is all of the bed between the cushion noses. Quality beds are made of smooth-ground slate, though very cheap tables may use particle board or plywood.


Also big ballsbig ones.

In 8-Ball, to be shooting the striped balls (9 through 15).

big pocket

Is a metaphor for a shot that is very difficult to miss pocketing for any of a number of reasons, most commonly either because the object ball is positioned such that a near miss on one side of it will likely cause the cue ball to rebound into the object ball off the rail and pocket it anyway, or another ball is positioned such that if the target ball does not go straight in, it is still likely to go in off the other ball in a kiss. It is as if the pocket, for this one shot, had become larger. The term can also refer to the angle of shot toward a pocket, especially a side pocket; the pocket is said to be "bigger", for example, on a shot that is only a 5-degree angle away from straight on, than on a 45-degree angle shot which is much more likely to hit one of the cushion points and bounce away.

body english

The useless but common practice of contorting one's body while a shot is in play, usually in the direction one wishes a ball or balls to travel, as if in the vain hope that this will influence the balls' trajectories; the term is considered humorous.

bottom spin

Same as back spindraw. See illustration at spin.


The first shot of the game, which is used to separate the object balls which have been racked together.

break and run

In pool games, when a player breaks the racked object ballspockets at least one ball on the break, and commences to run out the remaining object balls without the opponent getting a turn at the table.

break box

In European Pocket Billiard Federation (EPBF) 9-Ball, the break box is a zone in the "kitchen" of the head of the table, from which the break shot must be taken with the cue ball. The break box consists of the middle 50% of the kitchen area, delimited latitudinally by the head rail and head string, and longitudinally by two parallel lines drawn (on the cloth, or more often imaginarily) from the head rail diamonds that are closest to the head corner pockets, out to the head string (see illustration to the right) on either side. This departure from WPA World Standardized Rules defeats the common break-from-the-side-rail technique for pocketing the 9-ball to win the game on the break; while 9-ball breaks are still possible, they are much more difficult under this rule. This EPBF Euro-Tour requirement was added to the Europe vs. US all-star team event, the Mosconi Cup, in 2008 but has not otherwise been seen much by non-Europeans as of 2011.

break down one's cue

To take one's two-piece cue stick apart. When done before a game's conclusion, it is very unsportsmanlike and frowned upon.


1.    Refers to the hand that holds and guides the cue shaft, or the type of hold.

2.    Also refers to a cue-like stick with a specially shaped plate mounted on the end or other such device that serves as a support for the cue when the shooter cannot reach the spot where he would normally place his bridge hand.

bridge hand

The hand used by a player as a bridge during a normal shot that does not involve a mechanical bridge. The bridge hand is usually a player's non-dominant hand.


The bumper is on the bottom of a cue, usually made from rubber, which insulates thbutt cap from contact with the floor and greatly reduces noise. The bumper was first patented in 1880.


1.  To seal the pores of a wooden cue's shaft by rubbing vigorously with some material. Leather is commonly employed for the task, as is paper money.

2.  To similarly vigorously rub the edge of a cue tip (especially a new one) to fortify it against mushrooming and ensure that it is perfectly flush with the ferrule.

3.  To smooth out minor dents in the shaft with a rigid burnisher.


1.  A pad, usually of leather, used to burnish (seal the wood pores of) a cue shaft.

2.  A rigid tip tool used to finish and harden the sides of a new cue tip.

3.  A shaft maintenance tool, most commonly a cylindrical glass rod, used for smoothing minor nicks in the shaft. This is sometimes done after swelling the wood at the nick site with some moist application.


The bottom portion of a pool cue which is gripped by a player's hand.

butt cap

A protective cap mounted on the end of the butt of a cue.


A bye is a missing team on a schedule.  Schedules are always set up to accommodate an even number of teams.  When there is an odd number of teams in a division, there will be a bye.  For example, a 9-team division will be playing a 10-team schedule with one bye.  If your team is scheduled to play a bye, that means you do not have a match on that occasion. 


Carom came into use in the 1860s and is a shortening of carambola. Carom generally refers to the glancing of one ball off another.


A powdered substance placed on a cue's tip to increase its friction and thereby decrease slippage between the tip and cue ball. Cue "chalk" is not actually chalk (calcium carbonate) at all, but a compound of silica and aluminium oxide. Chalk is sold in compressed, dyed (most commonly blue) cubes wrapped on five sides with a paper label, and is applied in a manner similar to lipstick. Chalk is essential to shots involving spin, and failure to use it frequently during a game is likely to lead to miscuing.

cheat the pocket

To aim at an object ball such that it will enter one side or the other, rather than the center, of a pocket. This permits the cue ball to strike the object ball at a different contact point than the most obvious one. Cheating the pocket is employed for position play, to allow a ball to pass another partially obscuring the path to the pocket, and to prevent scratches on dead-straight shots in cases where draw is not desirable.


To commit errors while shooting, especially at the money ball, due to pressure. See also dog.


Describing a shot in bar pool: the pocketing of an object ball in a manner such that the target object ball does not kiss any other object ball, and is not bankedkickedcaromed, or combo'd in, though it may hit the knuckles.

closed bridge

Also loop bridge. A bridge formed by the hand where a finger (normally the index finger) is curved over the cue stick and the other fingers are spread on the cloth providing solid support for the cue stick's direction.


The baize cloth covering the tables playing surface and rails, usually made from wool or a wool-nylon blend. In use since the 15th century, cloth is traditionally green-colored, chosen for its evocation of grass. Sometimes cloth is improperly referred to as "felt." 


The protector of the joint of the cue on the joint end of the butt and shaft (i.e., the butt collar and shaft collar).


Also combination shot, combo. Any shot in which the cue ball contacts an object ball, which in turn hits one or more additional object balls (which in turn may hit yet further object balls) to send the last-hit object ball to an intended place, usually a pocket.

contact point

The point on each of two balls at which they touch at the moment of impact.


When the corner lip of a pocket blocks the path of the cue ball from contacting an intended object ball. Interchangeable with "titty-hooked".

corner pocket

Any of the four pockets in each corner of a pool table. They have a 90 degree aperture and as such are cut deeper than center pockets, which have 180 degree apertures.


A bank shot that rebounds from a cushion into a corner pocket across the table.


A bank shot that rebounds from a cushion and into a side pocket.


1.  Noun: Also cue stick. A stick, usually around 55-60" in length with a tip made of a material such as leather on the end and sometimes with a joint in the middle, which is used to propel billiard balls.

2.  Noun: Sometimes "cue" is short for cue ball.

cue ball

Typically white in color that a player strikes with a cue stick.

cue ball control

See position play.

cue holder

 A portable device for holding cues upright and at the ready for immediate use. The most common types are either weighted and placed on a table top, with semicircular cut-outs into which cues may lean, or clamping varieties that firmly affix to a table and which have clips or holes into which cues are placed for added security.

cue tip

A material, usually leather, placed on the end of a cue stick which comes in contact with the cue ball.


The elastic bumpers mounted on all rails of a billiards table, usually made from rubber or synthetic rubber, from which the balls rebound.

cut shot

Technically, any shot that is not a center-to-center hit, but almost always employed when describing a shot that has more than a slight degree of angle.


When two or more object balls are frozen or nearly frozen to each other, such that cue-ball contact with one object ball, without the necessity of great accuracy, will almost certainly pocket an intended object ball in the cluster. The most common form of dead arrangements are the dead combination or dead combo (a combination shot in which contact with the first object ball will pocket another one), and the dead kiss, in which contact with the first object ball will pocket it off of another one.

dead ball

In APA 9-Ball format, a ball that has been sunk and a foul has been committed. It has no point value.

dead rail

cushion that has either lost a degree of elastic resiliency or is not firmly bolted to the frame, in both cases causing balls to rebound with less energy than is normal.

defensive shot

A shot where the shooter deliberately misses so as to pass his turn at the table on to his opponent. It is a shot where there is no intent on the part of the shooter to pocket a ball of his category. INTENT is the key word. (See UNDERSTANDING DEFENSIVE SHOTS in the General Rules section of The Official Team Manual, and also see SAFETY in the Definitions section.)


Displacement of the cue ball's path away from the parallel line formed by the cue stick's direction of travel; occurs every time english is employed. The degree of deflection increases as the amount of english applied increases.

deliberate foul

A shot in which a player intentionally commits a foul with the object in mind of either leaving the opponent with little chance of running out or simply to avoid shooting where no good shot is presented and to do anything else would give the opponent an advantage. This is a defensive shot.


1.   One of a number of identical markings, usually inlaid into the surface above the rail cushions, used as target or reference points. Three equally spaced diamonds are normally between each pocket on a pool table. Diamonds get their name from the shape of the markings traditionally used; though many today are round, square, etc., these rail markings are still referred to as "diamonds".

2.   A particular shape of ball rack, in the form of a parallelogram ("diamond shape"), used for racking games of 9-Ball. (See also triangle.)

diamond system

Any system for banking or kicking balls multiple rails which uses table diamonds as aiming references.


 A widespread term describing missing a relatively easy shot—often in the face of pressure.


A tournament format in which a player must lose two matches in order to be eliminated

double hit

An illegal shot (foul) in which the cue stick's tip contacts the cue ball twice during a single stroke. Double hits often occur when a player shoots the cue ball when it is very close to an object ball or cushion, because it is difficult to move the cue stick away quickly enough after the cue ball rebounds from the cushion or object ball. In general, you can lessen your chances of committing this type of foul by hitting the cue ball into the object ball or rail at an angle, or by elevating the butt of your cue about 30 degrees. This automatically cuts down the length of the follow through which is the principal cause of a double hit.

double kiss

A situation in which a ball strikes another ball which is close to a rail and the struck ball rebounds back into the ball it was hit by; usually but not always unintended.

double shimmed

A pool table where two shims have been placed on the sides of each pocket (in the jaws beneath the cloth), making the pockets "tighter" (smaller).


Also known as back spin, a type of spin applied to the cue ball by hitting it below its equator, causing it to spin backwards even as it slides forward on the cloth. Back spin slows the cue ball down, reduces its travel, and narrows both the carom angle after contact with an object ball, and angle of reflection off a cushion. There are several variant terms for this, including "bottom" and "bottom spin". See illustration at spin.

draw shot

A shot in which the cue ball is struck below its equator with sufficient draw to make it reverse direction at the moment of contact with an object ball because it is still back-spinning. When the object and cue ball are lined up square, the reversal will be directly backwards, while on a cut shot, the effect will alter the carom angle. It can also refer to any shot to which draw is applied, as in "draw it off the foot rail just to the left of the center diamond". See illustration at spin.


 A set practice routine.

drop pockets

Netted or cupped pockets that do not return the balls to the foot end of the table by means of a gutter system or sloped surface beneath (they must instead be retrieved manually).


 (Noun): Derived from "sitting duck", usually referring to an object ball sitting close to a pocket or so positioned that is virtually impossible to miss. 


To intentionally lose a game, e.g. to disguise one's actual playing ability. An extreme form of sandbagging.


Also known as side spin, english (which is usually not capitalized) is spin placed on the cue ball when hit with the cue tip to the left or right of the ball's center. English has a marked effect on cue ball rebound angle off cushions (though not off object balls), and is thus crucial for gaining shape; and can be used to "throw" an object ball slightly off its otherwise expected trajectory, to cheat the pocket, and for other effects. "English" is sometimes used more inclusively, to refer to follow and draw. In combination one could say bottom-right english, or like the face of a clock (4 o'clock English).

established skill level

Once a player has received at least 10 scores in a format.


The horizontal plane directly in the center of the cue ball, which when hit exactly by the cue tip should impart no follow or draw.


1.  Any mechanical aid that serves to extend the length of the player's cue, normally added to the end of the butt either by clipping around the end or screwing into the base.

2.  In a tournament where players get limited time to make their shots (common in televised matches), an extension is extra time granted before making a shot; players have a limited number of extensions.


1.  Describes a billiard table with tightly woven and broken-in (but clean) cloth (baize), upon which the balls move quicker and farther. See table speed for more information.

2.  Producing lively action; said of cushions or of the balls, in addition to the above, cloth-related definition.


See undercut.


Same as cloth (deprecated; it is factually incorrect, as felt is a completely different kind of cloth from baize).


A sleeve, permanently fitted onto the lathed-down tip end of the cue, made from fiberglassphenolic resin, brassivoryhorn or antlermelamineplastic, or other rigid material, upon which the cue tip is mounted and which protects the shaft wood from splitting due to impact with the cue ball.


The forward rotation of the cue ball that results from a follow shot. Also known as top spin or top. Follow is applied to the cue ball by hitting it above its equator, causing it to spin more rapidly in the direction of travel than it would simply by rolling on the cloth from a center-ball hit. Follow speeds the cue ball up, and widens both the carom angle after contact with an object ball, and angle of reflection off a cushion. See illustration at spin.

follow shot

A shot in which the cue ball is struck above its equator with sufficient top spin to cause the cue ball to travel forward after it contacts an object ball. When a cue ball with follow on it contacts an object ball squarely (a center-to-center hit), the cue ball travels directly forward through the space previously occupied by the object ball (and can sometimes even be used to pocket a second ball).


An important and desirable motion of the cue carrying through the area previously occupied by the cue ball.


The half of the table in which the object balls are racked.

foot of the table:

The end not marked with the maker’s name plate, or on tables with ball returns, the end to which the balls return.         

foot rail

The short rail at the foot of the table. Frequently used to mean foot cushion.

foot spot

The point on the table surface over which the apex ball of a rack is centered. It is the point half the distance between the long rails' second diamonds from the end of the racking end of the table. It is typically marked with a cloth or paper decal.

foot string

An imaginary line running horizontally across a billiards table from the second diamond (from the foot end of the table) on one long rail to the corresponding second diamond on the other long rail. The foot string intersects the long string at the foot spot. It is rarely drawn on the table.

force follow

A powerful follow shot with a high degree of top spin on it.

forward spin.

Same as follow (top spin).


An illegal shot resulting in loss of turn at the table and ball-in-hand for the opponent.  See ‘Fouls’ in The APA Official Team Manual.


A resting ball that is in actual contact with a cushion or with one or more other balls is said to be "frozen” to that cushion or the touching ball(s).


A type of contact between two balls from which no or little angle is created between their paths; the contact required to sink a straight shot. It is commonly used in reference to how much of an object ball a player can see with the cue ball: "Can you hit that full?".


The basic actions necessary to shoot well—stance, grip, strokebridgefollow through and pre-shot routine.

ghost ball

A common aiming method in which a phantom ball is imagined frozen to the object ball at the point where an imaginary line drawn between their centers is aimed at the desired target; the cue ball may then be shot at the center of the "ghost" ball and, ideally, impact the object ball at the proper aiming contact point. The ghost ball method of aiming results in misses where adjustment is not made for collision induced throw.


1.  The way in which a player holds the butt end of the cue stick.

2.  The wrap of the cue stick where the hand is placed, also known as the "grip area."


Said of a ball, to come to rest partially over the edge of a pocket's fall but still resting on the table bed. Because of ball curvature, if the very bottom of the ball is not over the rim of the pocket's fall, the ball will not drop into the pocket. A ball hanging in the pocket – a "hanger" – is nearly unmissable (though fouling by scratching the cue ball into the pocket right after the object ball is a common mistake).


An easily shot object ball that is "hanging" in the pocket.

head of table:

Opposite of the foot

head rail

The short rail at the head of the table. Traditionally this is the rail on which the table manufacturer's logo appears. 

head spot

The intersection of the head string and long string, which is usually not marked on a table with a spot decal or other mark, unlike the foot spot, though some pool halls mark both spots so that racking can be done at either end of the table, and wear on the cloth from racking and breaking is more evenly distributed.

head string

The imaginary line drawn across the pool table between the second diamonds from the head rail


1.  Also high balls, high ones. In 8-Ball , to be shooting the striped balls (9 through 15); "you're high balls”.

2.  With follow, as in "I shot that high left", meaning "I shot that with follow and with left english". Derives from the fact that one must aim above the cue ball's equator, i.e. "high" on the ball, to impart follow.


The point in match play where both players (or teams) need only one more game to win the match or race.

house rules

The rules played in a particular venue not necessarily with official rules.


To play for money and lull a victim into thinking they can win, prompting them to accept higher and higher stakes, until beating them and walking off with more money than they would have been willing to bet had they been beaten soundly in the beginning. The terms hustler, for one who hustles, and hustling, describe the act.


A completed cycle that gives both players a turn at the table.

inside english

Side spin (english) placed on a same side of the cue ball as the direction in which the object ball is being cut (left-hand english when cutting a ball to the left, and vice versa). In addition to affecting cue ball position, inside english can increase throw.

in the money

In a tournament, to place high enough to receive a payout. E.g., in a tournament that pays from 1st down to 5th places, to be at least 5th place is to be in the money.

irish linen

Linen made from flax and produced in Ireland which is often used to wrap the gripping area of the butt of a cue

jack up

To elevate the back of the cue on a shot.


When a player is on the receiving end of a devastating safety where it is very difficult or near impossible to make a legal hit on an object ball


The inside walls of a pockets.


The interlocking connection between the butt and shaft ends of a two-piece cue stick. 

joint protectors

Plugs that screw into the joint when a two-piece cue is broken down to keep foreign objects and moisture from contacting the joint mechanism.


A jump shot is when the cue ball is struck with the cue tip in a downward fashion for the purpose of elevating or jumping the cue ball over an impeding object ball to achieve a legal hit. It is illegal and, therefore, a foul to jump a cue ball over another ball by cuing it up in the air (scooping) on purpose. Although League rules do allow jump shots except in the Masters format, there may individual “House Rules” in many locations limiting or prohibiting jump shots.

jump cue

Also jump stick. A cue dedicated to jumping balls; usually shorter and lighter than a playing cue and having a wider, harder tip. Can be used in the Masters format.

jump draw

A rare and very difficult trick jump shot that turns into a draw shot upon landing. Requires precise application of spin in addition to the precise application of ball pressure to effectuate the jump. Jump draws are fairly often seen in professional trick shot competition.

jump massé

A rare and extremely difficult trick jump shot that turns into a massé upon landing. Requires very precise application of spin in addition to the precise application of ball pressure to effectuate the jump.

key shot

1.  A shot or ball that allows a player to obtain shape on another ball hard to play position to.

2.  A shot or ball that is the "key" to running out.


Short for kick shot. Also used as a verb, "to kick [at]".


kick shot

A kick shot is when a player drives the cue ball to a cushion before contacting the object ball. Often shortened to 'kick'.


An instance of contact between balls, usually used in the context of describing an object ball contacting another object ball (e.g. "the 2 ball kissed off the 12 ball.

kiss shot

A shot in which the object is to pocket an object ball by striking it with the cue ball and then having the object ball ricochet off another object ball into a pocket.


The area on the table behind the head string


One of two jutting curves of the noses of the cushions on either side of each pocket where cushion and pocket meet, forming the jaw of the pocket. The knuckles are protrusive and comparatively sharp on a pool table. The knuckle is also known as a pointhorn or titty.


Method used to start a match.  Players simultaneously shoot a ball from behind the head string, banking it off the foot rail and back to the head of the table. Failure to strike the foot rail, or striking the side rails or any pocket results in loss of the lag. The closest ball to the head rail wins. It is permissible to strike the head rail. If the lagged balls make contact with each other or both players fail to strike the foot rail, re-lag.


The cue ball's position after a shot.


Short for left english (side).


Also little ones, little balls.

In 8-Ball, to be shooting the solid group of balls (1 through 7); "you're little”.

local bylaws

Local Bylaws are additional rules, policies, and procedures unique to an area. They are designed to cover local situations, such as exactly how the scoresheets are picked up and delivered, local League times and the like. Local Bylaws also might cover specific situations, such as, how Tri-Cups or Qualifier Cups affect advancement into Higher Level Tournaments.  Local Bylaws may also contradict portions of this manual, especially in the General Rules Section of the Official Team Manual, but only with the approval of the APA. Local Bylaws are normally written by the League Operator and the Board of Governors.

lock up

The act of playing a safety which leaves the opponent in a situation where it is very difficult or near impossible to make a legal hit on an object ball. See also jail.

long bank

cross-corner bank shot from one end of the table to the other.


1.  Also low balls. In 8-Ball, to be shooting the solid group of balls (1 through 7).

2.  With draw, as in "I shot that low left", meaning "I shot that with draw and with left english". Derives from the fact that one must aim below the cue ball's equator.

 magnetic cue ball

cue ball that, due to embedded iron content, is responsive enough to a strong magnet that a modern coin-operated bar table with a magnetic ball-return mechanism can distinguish and separate the cue ball from the object balls.


A massé shot is when a player attempts to curve the cue ball around a ball in order to strike an intended ball. A massé is accomplished by raising the butt end of the cue and using either right or left english. Even raising the butt end of the cue a little and using right or left english will cause the cue ball to curve a little. The more the cue is raised, the more the cue ball will curve.  Extreme massé shots, improperly executed, can cause damage to pocket billiard equipment. Although League rules do allow massé shots, there may be individual “House Rules” in many locations limiting or prohibiting massé shots.

mechanical bridge

A special stick with a grooved, slotted or otherwise supportive end attachment that helps guide the cue stick – a stand-in for the bridge hand. It is usually used only when the shot cannot be comfortably reached with a hand bridge. Often shortened to bridge the term rake is also common.

middle pocket

Same as center pocket.


A miscue occurs when the cue’s tip does not hit the cue ball squarely enough and glances off without driving the cue ball on its desired course, often caused by not enough chalk on the tip, an improperly shaped tip or an attempt at too much English. Miscuing is not illegal unless the shooter is deliberately miscuing to scoop the cue ball over a ball that is in the shooter’s way.  Sometimes a miscue may result in a foul because the cue ball was struck twice or struck the 8-ball or one of the opponent’s balls first. It wasn’t the miscue that was a foul, however, it was the fact that the cue ball was struck twice or struck the wrong category of balls that became the foul.

modified single elimination

A tournament format in which a player is guaranteed to play twice, not necessarily lose twice. At a certain point, the bracket switches from double elimination to single elimination.

money ball

Name for the ball that when pocketed, wins the game.


Also mushroomed tip. Leather of the cue tip overhanging the ferrule because of compression from repeated impacts against the cue ball without proper maintenance of the tip. It must be trimmed off, or it will cause miscues and inaccuracies, as it is not backed by the solid ferrule and thus will compress much more than the tip should on impact. See also burnish.


1.  Noun: In pool, a natural is an easy shot requiring no side spin (english).

2.  Adjective: In pool, a shot is said to be natural if it does not require adjustments, such as a cut angle, side spin, or unusual force. A natural bank shot, for example, is one in which simply shooting straight into the object ball at medium speed and with no spin will send the object ball directly into the target pocket on the other side of the table.

object ball

The ball you are trying to hit, or any other ball of your category.

on the hill

Describes a player who needs only one more game win their individual match.


1.  In 8-Ball, when all object balls are on the table for either player. See open table.

2.  A description of a break shot in which the rack is spread apart well. 

3.  A description of a layout of balls in a pocket billiards game that, because it is so spread out, makes it easy for a good player to run out and win, due to lack of problematic clustered balls.

open bridge

A bridge formed by the hand where no finger loops over the shaft of the cue. Typically, the cue stick is channeled by a "v"-shaped groove formed by the thumb and the base of the index finger.

open table

In 8-Ball, describes the situation in which neither player has yet claimed a category of balls. Often shortened to simply open: "Is it still an open table?" "Yes, it's open."


Originality in this League system refers to original members. Original members are those members who were on a team when it gained eligibility to the APA National Team Championship or won a division title. (Winning a division title means winning one of the Division Playoffs held at the end of each session.) Original members are said to have originality. An original member can lose originality if he quits a team, but can gain originality back by rejoining that same team in accordance with other rules in the Official Team Manual.

outside english

Side spin on a cue ball on the opposite side of the direction of the cut angle to be played (right-hand english when cutting an object ball to the left, and vice versa). In addition to affecting cue ball position, outside english can be used to decrease throw.


Hitting the object ball with too large of a cut angle; hitting the object ball too thin.


Hard synthetic substance primarily used in the production of break or jump cue tips or cue parts such as collars or ferrules.

play the percentages

Using knowledge of the game and one's own abilities and limitations to choose the manner of shooting and the particular shot from an array presented, that has a degree of likelihood of success. This often requires a player to forego a shot that if made would be very advantageous but does not have a high likelihood of success, in favor of a safety or less advantageous shot that is more realistically achievable.

playing area

Also playing surface. The area of the table on which the balls roll, i.e. the table surface exclusive of the rails and the tops of the cushions. The playing surface is defined by the measurements lengthwise and widthwise between the cushion. The playing surface is what is used, not the entire table, when describing the approximate size of billiard tables of all kinds (e.g. "an 8 × 4 foot pool table").


1.  (noun) An opening in a Billiards table, cut partly into the bed and partly into the rails and their cushions, into which balls are shot (pocketed)

2.  (verb) To send a ball into a pocket, usually intentionally.

pocket speed

1.  Describes the propensity of table pockets to more easily accept an imperfectly aimed ball shot at a relatively soft speed, that might not fall if shot with more velocity ("that ball normally wouldn't fall but he hit it at pocket speed").

2.  Describes the velocity of an object ball shot with just enough speed to reach the intended pocket and drop. "Shoot this with pocket speed only, so you don't send the cue ball too far up-table."

pool glove

A tight, Spandex glove covering usually most or all of the thumb, index finger and middle finger, worn on the bridge hand as a more convenient and less messy alternative to using hand talc, and for the same purpose: a smooth-gliding stroke.


The placement of the balls, especially the cue ball, relative to the next planned shot. Also known as shape. See also position playleave.

position play

Skilled playing in which knowledge of ball speed, angles, post-impact trajectory, and other factors are used to gain position (i.e. a good leave) after the target ball is struck. The goals of position play are generally to ensure that the next shot is easy or at least makeable, and/or to play a safety in the advent of a miss (intentional or otherwise).

push out

A rule in 9-Ball (only after the break shot), allowing a player to "push out" the cue ball to a new position without having to contact any ball, much less pocket one or drive it to a cushion, but not counting any pocketed ball as valid (other foul rules apply, such as double hitsscratching the cue ball, etc.), with the caveat that the opponent may shoot from the new cue ball position or give the shot back to the pusher who must shoot from the new position. Pocketing the 9-ball on a push-out results in that ball being re-spotted (which can be used to strategic advantage in certain circumstances, such as when the break leaves no shot, and failure to hit it would give the incoming player an instant-win combination shot on the 9-ball). Can be used in the Masters format.

push shot

A push shot involves a situation where the cue ball is frozen to the object ball. The problem faced by the shooter is to keep from pushing or keeping the tip of the cue on the cue ball. It looks bad and is generally thought of as illegal. Push shots are controversial. Push shots will not be called in this amateur League. Even the professional players cannot agree about what is and isn’t a push shot. In general, you can lessen your chances of being accused of shooting a push shot by hitting the cue ball into the object ball at an angle, or by elevating the butt of your cue about 30 degrees. This automatically cuts down the length of the follow through which is the principal cause of a push shot. Players who repeatedly guide the cue ball with force through object balls that are frozen to the cue ball, using a level cue and long follow through, may be subject to a sportsmanship penalty.


A predetermined, fixed number of games or balls players must win or sink to win a match.

rack (noun)

1.  A geometric form, usually aluminum, wooden or plastic, used to assist in setting up balls. The rack allows for more consistently tight grouping of balls, which is necessary for a successful break shot.

2.  Used to refer to a racked group of balls before they have been broken.

rack (verb)

The act of setting up the balls for a break shot.

rack and run

When a player racks the object balls, and the breaking opponent does not pocket a ball on the break, and the person who racked the game commences to run out all of the remaining object balls without the breaker getting another visit at the table.


The sides of a table's frame upon which the elastic cushion are mounted and in which the diamonds are inlaid. The term often used interchangeably with cushion.


Same as mechanical bridge; so-called because of its typical shape.

regular shooting cue

Any standard pool cue designed to shoot the majority of shots in a game of pool.

reverse english

Side spin on the cue ball that causes it to unnaturally roll off a cushion (contacted at an angle) against rather than with the ball's momentum and direction of travel. If angling into a cushion that is on the right, then reverse english would be right english, and vice versa. The angle of deflection will be steeper (narrower) than if no english were applied. The opposite of running english, which has effects other than simply the opposites of those of reverse english.


Short for right english (side), i.e. side spin imparted to the cue ball by stroking it to the right-hand side of its vertical axis. 


Describes lucky or unlucky "rolls" of the cue ball; "I had good rolls all night; "that was a bad roll.”

rubber match

The deciding match between two tied opponents. Compare hill-hill.


The number of balls pocketed in an inning in pool 

run out

1.  (verb) Make all of the required shots in a game without the opponent ever getting to the table or getting back to the table

2.  (noun) An instance of running out in a game.

run the table

Similar to run out, but more specific to making all required shots from the start of a rack. 

running english

Side spin on the cue ball that causes it to roll off a cushion (contacted at an angle) with rather than against the ball's natural momentum and direction of travel. If angling into a rail that is on the right, then running english would be left english, and vice versa. The angle of deflection will be wider than if no english were applied to the cue ball. But more importantly, because the ball is rolling instead of sliding against the rail, the angle will be more consistent. For this reason, running English is routinely used.


1.  Describing a ball that is in a position that makes it very difficult to pocket.

2.  Describing a situation a player has been left in by the opponent, intentionally or otherwise, that makes it difficult to pocket any balls


A defensive action taken when a player either has no “makeable” or “high percentage” shot or chooses to leave his opponent in a difficult situation. It is a legal shot and is not considered to be dirty pool. A safety must still conform with the rule concerning hitting the correct ball first and striking a rail afterwards. If a correct ball is accidentally pocketed while playing safe, the shooter must continue to shoot. Players with integrity call their safeties. (See UNDERSTANDING DEFENSIVE SHOTS in the General Rules section of the Official Team manual.)


Sandbagging, in any handicapped sport, is the unethical practice of deliberately playing below your ability in order to alter your handicap so it does not reflect your true ability.  There are a number of anti-sandbagging measures in this League system. You can help by properly marking Defensive Shots during regular weekly play. (See UNDERSTANDING DEFENSIVE SHOTS in the General Rules section of the Official Team Manual.)

scotch doubles

A form of doubles play in which the two team members take turns, playing alternating shots during an inning.


Pocketing of the cue ball or driving the cue ball off the playing surface and onto the floor.


An abrasive tip tool used as a grinder to roughen the cue tip to better hold chalk after it has become hardened and smooth from repeated impacts with the cue ballTappers serve the same purpose, but are used differently. Similar to a shaper, but shallower and less rough.


To be able to clearly see a path to a pocket or object ball without any other obstacle interfering, usually as a straight shot: "The 3-Ball is hanging in the pocket, but I can't see it because the 9 ball is in my way."


In the APA League, session refers to the season in which League play took place.  There are three sessions in each League Year–Summer Session, Fall Session and Spring Session.


The upper portion of a cue which slides on a player's bridge hand and upon which the tip of the cue is mounted.


Same as position. "She got good shape for the next shot". See also position playleave.


A highly abrasive tip tool used to shape cue tip into a more usable, consistently curved profile. Similar to a scuffer, but deeper and rougher.


1.  Verb: To perform some act or make some utterance with the intent to distract, irritate or intimidate the opponent so that they do not perform well, miss a shot, etc. Most league and tournament rules forbid blatant sharking, as a form of unsportsmanlike conduct.

2.  Noun: Another term for hustler.

3.  Noun: A very good player. This usage is common among non-players who often intend it as a compliment and are not aware of its derogatory senses.


Verb form: to shoot. The use of the cue to perform or attempt to perform a particular motion of balls on the table, such as to pocket an object ball, to achieve a successful carom, or to play a safety.

side pocket

One of the two pockets one either side of a pool table halfway up the long rails. They are cut shallower than corner pockets because they have a 180 degree aperture, instead of 90 degrees.

side rail

Either of the two longer rails of a pool table, bisected by a center pocket and bounded at both ends by a corner pocket. Also called a long rail.

side spin

Spin placed on the cue ball when hit with the cue tip to the left or right of the ball's center; usually called english. See illustration at spin.


 A tournament format in which a player is out of the tournament after a single match loss.


Same as pocket.


During a set if the opponent does not win a single game, they are said to have been skunked. Or a 20-0 score in APA 9-Ball.


The heavy, finely milled rock (slate) that forms the bed of the table, beneath the cloth. Major slate suppliers for the billiards industry are Italy, Brazil and China.


1.  Describes a billiard table with loosely woven, dirty, too-new or worn-out cloth (baize), upon which the balls move slower and shorter distances.

2.  Producing dull, sluggish action; said of cushions or of the balls, in addition to the above, cloth-related definition.


Same as break.

sneaky pete

A two-piece cue constructed to resemble a house cue, with a near-invisible wood-to-wood joint.


1.  (noun) The game of snooker.

2.  (verb) To leave the opponent (accidentally or by means of a safety) so that a certain shot on a preferred object ball cannot be played directly in a straight line by normal cueing. It most commonly means that the object ball cannot be hit, because it is hidden by another ball or, more rarely, the knuckle of a pocket (see corner-hooked). It can also refer to the pocketing angle or another significant point of contact on the object ball, blocking an otherwise more straightforward shot, even if an edge can be seen.

soft break

break shot in which the rack is disturbed as little as possible within the bounds of a legal shot, in order to force the opponent to have to break it up further. This is unsportsmanlike.


Also solid, solid ones, solid balls. The non-striped ball group of a fifteen ball set that are numbered 1 through 7 and have a solid color scheme (i.e., not including the 8 ball). As in, "I'm solid", or "you've got the solids". 

specialty cues

Cues specially tailored to perform specific shots. These include, but are not limited to, jump cues, break cues, and jump-break cues (combination of jump cues and break cues).


1.  A player's skill level (subjectively) or numerical handicap (objectively).

2.  Rapidity with which a ball, especially the cue ball is rolling on the table. 

3.  Same as pocket speed.

4.  Same as table speed (cloth speed).

speed control

The use of the correct amount of cue ball speed in position play to achieve proper shape for a subsequent shot.


Rotational motion applied to a ball, especially to the cue ball by the tip of the cue, although if the cue ball is itself rotating it will impart (opposite) spin (in a lesser amount) to a contacted object ball. Types of spin include top spin, bottom or back spin (also known as draw), and left and right side spin, all with widely differing and vital effects. Collectively they are often referred to as "english". Its invention is credited to François Mingaud. See also massé.


Also split shot and split hit. In pool, a type of shot in which two object balls are initially contacted by the cue ball simultaneously as for the difference is indistinguishable to the eye.

spot (noun)

1.  spot: In pool games such as 9-Ball, a specific handicap given (e.g., "what spot will you give me?").

2.  spot: An (often unmarked) point on the table, at the intersection of two strings. See foot spothead spot, center spot for examples.

spot (verb)

 To return an illegally pocketed object ball to the table by placement on the foot spot or as near to it as possible without moving other balls.


A shooter's body position and posture during a shot


The lamentable practice of not following through with the cue straight, but veering off in the direction of the shot's travel or the side english is applied, away from the proper aiming line; a common source of missed shots.


Same as cue.

stop shot

Any shot where the cue ball stops immediately after hitting an object ball.


Also striped onesstriped balls. The ball group of a fifteen ball set that are numbered 9 through 15 and have a wide colored bar around the middle. 


1.  The motion of the cue stick and the player's arm on a shot.

2.  The strength, fluidity and finesse of a player's shooting technique; "she has a good stroke."

3.  See In stroke: A combination of finesse, good judgment, accuracy and confidence.

table speed

Subjective assessment of the rapidity with which balls most on the billiard table's cloth (baize). Balls roll faster and farther on "fast" tables with tightly-woven, broken-in, clean cloth as they experience less friction than with "slow" cloth that is dirty or is fuzzy because of a loose weave and cheap material or because it is wearing out.


Also hand talc. White talcum powder placed on a player's bridge hand to reduce moisture so that a cue's shaft can slide more easily. Many establishments do not provide it as too many recreational players will use far more than is necessary and transfer it all over the table's surface, the floor, furniture, etc. Venues that do provide it usually do so in the form of compressed cones about 6–inches tall.

tangent line

The imaginary line drawn perpendicular to the impact line between the cue ball and an object ball. The cue ball will travel along this line after impact with an object ball if it has no vertical spin on it (is sliding) at the moment of impact on a non-center-to-center collision. 


The profile of the shaft of the cue as it increases in diameter from the tip to the joint. A "fast" or "slow" taper refers to how quickly the diameter increases. A "pro" taper describes a shaft that tapers rapidly from the joint size to the tip size so as to provide a long, untapered stroking area.


tip tool with fine, sharp points used to roughen the cue tip to better hold chalk after it has become hardened and smooth from repeated impacts with the cue ball. Tappers are firmly tapped on or pressed against the tip. Scuffers serve the same purpose, but are used differently.


The normal phenomenon where the object ball is pushed in a direction very slightly off the pure contact angle between the two balls. Caused by the friction imparted by the first ball sliding past or rotating against the other ball.

tied up

Describing a ball that is safe because it is in close proximity to one or more other balls, and would need to be developed before it becomes pocketable.


1.  Describing a situation where a pot is made more difficult, either by a pocket being partially blocked by another ball so that not all of it is available, or the cue ball path to the object ball's potting angle involves going past another ball very closely.

2.  Describing pockets that are themselves narrower than average, making for a more challenging table.


The ease with which a player is generating cue power, due to well-timed acceleration of the cue at the appropriate point in a shot.


Same as cue tip.


Same as knuckle.


Short for top spin, i.e. same as follow.


 A rack in the form of an equilateral triangle.

trick shot

An exhibition shot designed to impress either by a player's skill or knowledge of how to set the balls up and take advantage of the angles of the table; usually a combination of both. A trick shot may involve items otherwise never seen during the course of a game, such as bottles, baskets, etc., and even members of the audience being placed on or around the table.

two-way shot

1.  A shot in which if the target is missed, the opponent is safe or will not have a desirable shot.

2.  A shot in which there are two ways to score.

3.  A shot in which a second ball is targeted to be pocketed, broken out of a cluster, repositioned or some other secondary goal is also intended.


To hit the object ball with not enough of a cut angle; hitting the object ball too full or "fat”.

wing ball

Either of the balls on the lateral extremities of a racked set of balls in position for a break shot; the two balls at the outside of a 15-ball rack in the back row, or the balls to the left and right of the 9-ball in a 9-Ball rack.