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Whether you’re just starting or a seasoned pool player, it can feel overwhelming with how much there is to learn about billiards - from the tables and cues to the games and strategies themselves.
With our glossary of billiard terms and phrases, we can help you learn all you need to know to get you up to speed in the billiards world and master your game. After you learn these words and what they mean, you’ll understand the nuances of each shot, the complexities of the game and become a pro in no time.
Expand your pool vocabulary with our Buffalo Billiards guide to basic billiards terms and phrases.
Any shot that requires the cue ball to drive the object ball other than straight ahead (not a straight shot).
A shot in which the object ball is purposely driven to one or more cushions before it is pocketed. In most games, this shot must be called first.
The first shot of the game which usually sends the clustered balls in all directions and sets the tone for the rest of the game.
Like a break shot, a breakout shot is when you want to separate a cluster of object balls. This can happen at any time in the game to make future shots easier.
A game rule which requires the player to describe what is going to happen before they take their shots. The shooter may need to indicate the ball to be pocketed, the pocket it will be made in, and all cushions in between. When playing 8-ball, many people only call the 8-ball shot; however, this rule should be agreed upon before the game begins.
A shot in which the cue ball is made to curve as a result of being struck downward and to one side.
A shot where the primary purpose is to leave your opponent without any decent shots.
A shot in which the cue ball barely touches the object ball.
When a cue ball is struck above center resulting in a forward spin, this follow shot causes the cue ball to roll forward after contact with the object ball.
When the cue ball is struck at a downward angle, the momentum launches the cue ball into the air, leaving the table surface. Jump shots are used to hop over your opponent's object ball and strike one of yours.
A shot where more than one contact is made with object balls - such as a cue ball kissing an object ball knocking another into a pocket.
While usually done outside gameplay, trick shots are done when the ball position makes it seem that pocketing an object ball is near impossible, but the shot is still made.
The support for the cue shaft during aim and execution. This could be either one of your hands or a separate device to guide the cue stick towards the cue ball.
When you’re at a bar with pool tables or at a pool hall, you’ll typically see small cubes of blue chalk. Chalk is applied to the tip of the cue stick to keep the cue stick from slipping off the cue ball during your shot.
The cue ball is a white or off-white ball, slightly larger and heavier than the other balls on the table. This ball is struck with the cue stick to hit the colored, numbered balls.
The long wooden stick used to hit the cue ball.
At the shaft end of a cue stick, there is a piece of leather or other fibrous material that contacts the cue ball when a shot is executed. This is the cue tip.
A piece of protective material fitted onto the tip end of the cue which protects the shaft wood from splitting during impact with the cue ball.
On two-piece cues, there is a joint about midway in the cue that allows it to be broken down into two separate pieces.
These are the 15 non-cue balls on the table. They are either completely colored or have one stripe down the center.
To help position the balls for the opening shot, a triangle-shaped device is used to align the object balls. It can also be used as a verb such as “Do you want to rack them first?”
Solids, also known as Low Balls, are numbered one through eight. They have a solid color.
Also known as High Balls, these are the object balls that are striped with numbers nine through 15.
Bed of Table:
The playing surface inside the cushions.
The triangular strips of rubber attached to the rail covered in cloth that outline the table's perimeter - commonly used interchangeably with rail.
On the rails, there are diamond or circular-shaped inlays that serve as reference points. They divide the end rails into four equal parts and side rails into eight equal parts. This visual tool is also known as Sights.
The area from the head string to the headrail - this is where the player who is breaking can place the cue ball.
If the person who breaks does not make any balls on the break, the table is “open” for the opponent to shoot at his ball of choice. No group of balls is designated when there is an open table.
The holes found within the rails of the pool table are called pockets. There are six holes, four corner pockets, and two side pockets in the middle of the long rails. This is where you’ll try to sink object balls to win the game.
On the top surface of the table, not covered by cloth, there are Short Rails which include Foot Rails where the object balls are racked, and Head Rails found on the opposite side of the table.
Long Rails are also called Side Rails and are the two longer sides of a pool table.
Strings are imaginary lines running down the pool table. The Long String is in the middle of the table, running parallel with the long rails. The Head String runs parallel to the headrail, and the Foot String runs parallel to the foot rail. The last string, the Center String is the line that connects the two middle pickets.
There are two marked spots on a pool table, the Head Spot at the intersection of the long string and the head string and the Foot Spot at the intersection of the long string and the foot string. The Foot Spot is used as a reference when racking the balls.
Also called a Call Shot game where players must call their spots before they take their shots.
A shot in which the object ball is played does not touch any other object balls.
Clean The Table:
Pocket all the balls that remain on the table.
A cue ball is struck in a manner where all the speed or spin is transferred to the object ball, leaving the cue ball with very little or no speed and spin after contact.
An illegal shot in which the cue stick tip contacts the cue ball trick in a single shot.
Side spin applied to the cue ball by striking it off-center.
A ball that is touching another ball or cushion.
Modifications in the scoring and rules to enable players of different abilities to compete more evenly.
Hanging In The Pocket:
A ball right in front of the pocket.
Many pool halls/bars have their own twists on standard rules to the game. Learn what the rules are before you start to play.
When two players break even, the only money to change hands is given to pay for table time.
Hug The Rail:
A ball rolled along the edge of the rail.
A ball that fails to drop because it bounces back against the jaws of a pocket.
A term used to describe the difficulty of the shot left for the opponent. “Good Leave” means the cue ball was left in a difficult position for the opponent.
A stroke which results in the cue tip contact with the cue ball being faulty such as the tip sliding off the ball.
Pocket A Ball:
When you strike the cue ball into an object ball, the object ball goes into the pocket, allowing you to take more shots.
This occurs when the cue ball accidentally goes into a pocket.
A game played with 21 object balls.
The most common version of pool where one player is stripes, and the other is solids. Each tries to get all balls into the pocket before sinking the 8 ball to win the game.
In 9-ball, players attempt to hit the balls into numerical order. The player who hits the 9-ball into a hole first wins.