View Full Version : To all pool players

08-07-2004, 12:45 PM
This article is for all pool players, especially those interested in Straight Pool. It is about a variation of the game of 14.1 Continuous Straight Pool created by Arthur "Babe" Cranfield (1997 BCA Hall of Fame). He mentioned this idea to me while I was campaigning for his induction into the hall of fame. When I interviewed Babe to get information about his statistics and accomplishments, he said how much he hated to lose, especially against players much less his equal. He credited much of this to the ability of lesser players being able to "run-out", even when he didnít think they ran the balls in the right sequence, because the conditions of the game had changed. Babe said the game of 14.1 was invented when the standard tournament tables were 5 x 10, just as they were when he was competing in his early years. He said the balls were larger and the pockets were smaller in relation to the balls (5/16 of an inch less clearance in the corners). Also the cue balls were ivory and often subject to temperature change, humidity, being out of round, being out of balance, and of dubious weight. The object balls werenít much better. Because of these and other factors, run-outs of 125 or 150 were extremely rare. Babe only had a few runs over 200 on the 5 x 10. But he had over 40 runs of 400+ on a 4.5 x 9. This statistic alone shows how much easier it is to have a 150 ball run on the smaller table with modern balls (i.e. Brunswick Centennials, etc.). Babe felt that maybe the game of 14.1 should have changed with the times and he came up with a brilliant, yet subtle, change to the rules. By merely calling two shots verses one at a time, you virtually eliminate what little luck there is in 14.1. By luck, he meant that when a player didnít follow their game plan (pattern play) because they got out of position for the ball they had envisioned playing next, they would, of course, often have some other ball to pocket to get out of trouble. Whereas calling two balls in a row would force the player to stick to their game plan by playing better position. Many times when I watched Babe play, he would make a good break shot and tell me within a few seconds the sequence in which he would pocket the remaining 14 balls, and then run them just that way. It was absolutely amazing how he could read the layout of the balls on the table that fast, let alone position the cue ball so precisely to run his pattern. I watch every professional match on TV or in person that I can, and I have yet to ever see anyone play position as well as Babe did. All the top players are great shooters, and Efren Reyes might even be better than Babe was at long position, but then I rarely ever saw Babe have to play long position. The following is how this game, I call the Cranfield Variation, might appear in the BCA rule book and a brief explanation about it:

14.1 Continuous Straight Pool

Cranfield Variation

Rules of play:

All rules of 14.1 Continuous apply with the exception:

1. Two object balls must be called in succession (except on a break shot*). Failure to do so is a one point foul.
2. The pocket must be called only on the ball about to be played.
3. Balls must be pocketed in the order the player announces for the player to continue scoring in that inning.
4. If the ball that was announced by the player to be the next shot was pocketed along with the previous shot, both balls are scored and the player continues play by announcing two new balls.
5. A safety may still be called at any time.

* The break shot exception pertains only to a full (15) or partial (14) rack of balls that have not been touched by the cue ball or break ball.

Tournament recommendations:

1. Game to 100 points.
2. 30 second shot clock with one extension per rack.
3. Round-robin format with total points scored to break ties. Play off game if necessary.

TV play recommendations:

All fouls include cue ball in hand anywhere on the table.

The purpose of this game:

To prevent run-outs and to give both players a chance to get to the table and show their skills without drastically changing the nature or length of the game.

Explanation of rules of play:

An example of calling two shots in succession: Letís say, during typical play, you are about to play the 7 ball in the corner pocket and then plan to line yourself up for the 13 in the side. You would call out to the referee, "7 ball - corner pocket, 13 ball next". If youíre successful at pocketing the 7 ball and get position as you planned on the 13 ball, you must plan for the next shot after the 13. Letís say itís the 5 ball in the corner pocket. You would now call out to the referee, "13 ball - side pocket, 5 ball next". If youíre successful at pocketing the 13 ball but get out of line for shooting the 5 ball in the pocket you had planned but are able to shoot it into a different pocket, letís say the side pocket, youíre still all right. You can now say to the referee, "5 ball - side pocket, (and what ever your next shot is)". Remember, only the ball about to be played must have a called pocket. Letís say youíre planning to play a straight in combination shot on the 12 ball off the 8 ball and your second shot is going to be the 8 ball but that rolls right in with the 12 ball. You are credited for both balls. Then you simply name a new first and second shot or a safety, and resume play. The only exception to calling two balls in succession is on a break shot*. This allows the players to break open the rack, just as they would normally. It would be too difficult to predict your next shot on a hard break. General 14.1 rules apply to this exception.

Explanation of tournament recommendations:

Thereís nothing more boring than watching a slow player. The opponent hates it, and the fans hate it even more. A good player knows what he has to do, and 30 seconds is plenty of time to do it. One extension per rack can help with a particularly difficult decision. Because the number of balls per inning would be low, a game to 100 should be enough for the better player to emerge as the winner. In a double elimination format, sometimes the better players can be eliminated after the first two games. With a round-robin format, everyone plays the same amount of games and the better players will win more often.

Explanation of TV recommendations:

Straight pool can seem slow because of intentional fouls and therefore may make it less exciting on TV for the fans who like to see a lot of action. Cue ball in hand (anywhere on the table), on all fouls, would speed up play and you would see fewer fouls occur. It would also allow clusters to be broken up more easily.

Babes' suggestion for TV play might just make the game fast enough and viable for TV coverage. I realize that the round-robin format would probably not work for TV. Obviously this variation of the game is geared more for the professional, but the average player will find this to be a great game to hone their skills of position, strategy, and pattern play. I was hoping that before I wrote this article, I could get Babe to physically test this variation of the game and see what the average ball run would be, but because of his poor eyesight, he hasnít been able to play. The U.S. Open record of balls run per inning over the course of 10 games is around 12, and there have been high runs of 150 and out. He told me that he thought a very high run would be around 50 and a playersí average balls per inning would be cut in half. I tested this game with the best straight pool player in the area and indeed it cut his average almost in half and his best run was 31 (he has had countless runs of over 100 in regular 14.1). Babe has already reached the pinnacle of any pool playersí career; that is of becoming a BCA Hall of Famer. What I would love to see is Babesí variation of 14.1 maybe become the standard for the game or at least be listed in the BCA rule book under "Other pocket billiard games". Many billiard games have evolved over the years from their first inception, including in 1910 when Jerome Keogh came up with the beautiful game of 14.1 as a variation from "continuous pool". Maybe Babesí variation is the next progression of this game to meld with todayís equipment and players. You see 9-ball constantly changing to be better (alternating breaks, the push-out, ball in hand, etc.); so this is not an unreasonable change or variation to 14.1. Iíve tried this game myself and find it extremely difficult. Itís definitely geared for the professional player. But I do find it helps hone my position play, and if I play against someone who is a better shooter, but not great at position, I have a much better chance of winning. What do you think would be the chances of this game becoming the standard game for the Olympics, when pocket billiards becomes an Olympic sport? I think 9-ball would be a poor choice because too much luck is involved. This variation of 14.1 takes all the luck out of the game, plus anyone in the audience unfamiliar with 14.1 would know what ball the player is shooting next, just as in 9-ball or rotation ("no-brainer" games). I think, because of the physical and mental attributes required to play 14.1 at a professional level, Straight Pool (especially the Cranfield Variation) would indeed be the ideal choice of a pocket billiard game to represent the high standards expected of an Olympic event.

14.1 is by far a greater test of a pool players' ability. For example:

Safety play: In 9-ball, you have to keep your opponent from hitting, or pocketing, one particular ball. In Straight Pool you have to stop your opponent from pocketing any ball.

Position play: Although you often have to play long distance position in 9-ball, you generally have a much larger landing zone for the cue ball (up to a foot or more) and still have an angle for your next shot. In Straight Pool, you strive for the least amount of cue ball movement, often requiring you to have pinpoint position within a fraction of an inch. A delicate touch with the cue is as important as letting your stroke out.

Knowledge: Please donít take offense to this, but compared to Straight Pool, 9-ball is a "no-brainer" game. 9-ball players generally only think 2 or 3 balls ahead, unless thereís a cluster to deal with. In Straight Pool you have different variations and styles of pattern play, often involving 5 balls or more. You have a break ball to deal with. You have a key ball to position yourself for the break ball to deal with. If you donít have a break ball or key ball already in position, you often have to manufacture them by bumping balls into position. You have more traffic on the table (15 versus 9 balls). You have more combination shots. You have clusters coming out the wazzoo. The list goes on and on.

I feel Babe has come up with a great way to bring 14.1 back to the prominence it once had as the "championship game". I hope his idea can be given a chance to work. I think Babe wants to give something back to the game that gave so much to him.

I hope all you pool players out there will try this game and give me your comments and/or suggestions. Any questions are welcomed. My e-mail address is nail3@verizon.net. Thanks!!!

08-07-2004, 03:10 PM
Should be no problem getting the game played, just put up some money and tell the players the rules and I can assure you they will come. You can play tournaments by what ever rules you want if your putting up the money. Do it and see what people and players think. This form of play by the way is far from new, I played that game almost exactly as you describe it 30 or more years ago. I have also played 9 ball by similar rules requiring you to call pockets 2 balls ahead.

The problem is, I don't see your objective with the rules. No one stopped watching straight pool because of high runs, in fact that is one of the biggest attractions. One of the great parts of straight pool is the comeback, you are never out of the game. With your rules if player was to get well ahead for some reason, the other player can't catch up, it would be pretty much over and not much interest to watch. I remember seeing Jersey Red miss needing two and seeing Jim Mataya run 112 and out, you could hear a pin drop in the place and as he was running out the room began to fill with spectators as word spread. When he made the last ball the place went crazy. Same with Danny DiLiberto, he missed a break shot he should not have shot needing just a few and Rempy ran 129 and out. This is thrilling and what makes straight pool what it is and you want to remove it.

Another problem I have with your post is how you choose to try bolster your argument by insulting and comparing the different games. The fact that there are so many different games that can be played on the pool table, including your game, is another thing that makes it great. There is something for every one and they should be able to play what ever game they choose with out being looked down no by self important players of other games. These discussions always seem to be reduced to them and us, attempting to divide the player community based on the size table someone plays on or their choice of game. It adds nothing to your discussion. Like I said in the beginning, just put up some money and players will play and may even like it.

08-07-2004, 09:58 PM
I will agree that the level of competition in straight pool has dropped over the last 20 years as it should, since it is rare to see anybody play 14.1 nowadays. There is virtually no money in championship nine ball nowadays let alone straight pool. No incentive to master the game. I've heard of only two modern day players cracking 400 ball personal high runs; Strickland and Hohlman. Not very close to Mosconi's 526, let alone Euphemia's reputed 625. The big difference is that Mosconi did it at a public exhibition, not during one of thousands of practice sessions.

08-10-2004, 02:18 PM
Wow, you've put a lot of thought into this! Reminds me of an 8-ball game we used to play a few years ago. Regular 8-ball rules except we called 2 balls and had to shoot the 2nd ball regardless of position; if you couldn't get a good hit it on the called ball it is a foul. It really makes you think out your position and strategy much more, especially if you're on a bar box. Great idea, but I don't see ESPN going for it, they're too much into short-attention-span pool. I'd love to see a tournament hosted this way, but I'd also love just to see a pro straight pool tournament in itself. It appears I've come along a little too late for that game. I'm not a huge fan of 9ball.

08-15-2004, 11:32 AM

Thanks so much for responding to my article. I appreciate the input, whether negative or positive. That's what forums are all about. I will try to respond, in order, to all three of your paragraphs.
First paragraph: I agree. People will play any kind of game you can dream up if enough money is involved. I wish I had enough money to bring all the best players in the world to play this format in a tournament. I would do this in a heartbeat, if only to see the pros response to these rules. The only reason I wrote about the Cranfield variation is because of his reputation as a true master of 14.1. If Babe considered this format a good idea, then I think it was worth mentioning to all pool players for their consideration. Other players also said they played games similar to this years ago (including Bob Jewett), so I can't say who originally came up with this idea, but Babe helped me put it into a formal, written format, in a way that you might see it in the BCA Rule Book. That's why I call it the Cranfield Variation (deserving or not).
Second paragraph: You wonder what the objective is to these rules. It's simply to make sure that both players get to the table, at least a few times. I love to see a player make a long run, just like you do. It's thrilling to watch some one run 150 and out and a great achievement by the player. That's the way I feel as a player. But as a fan, I came to watch both players play. And who's to say the other player wouldn't have done the same, had he or she gotten to the table. I think one of the best formats for 9-ball is the alternating break. At least you know both players are going to get a chance. For example: You have Reyes and Strickland play a race to seven. Strickland wins the lag and runs 7 games and out. Who's the better player? Strickland, just because he won the lag? You and I both know better. Both players are capable of 7 in a row at any time. Babe ran 17 consecutive racks; that's thrilling, but I would still like to see the other player play. This is why, as a fan, I think the rules or equipment should change at the professional level. Ever go to a boxing match and pay $100 for a front row seat and watch someone get knocked out in the first few seconds. What a thrill! But most fans would want their money back, even some of the ones that were on the winners' side. They came to watch a fight! These rules don't take away the thrill of a long run, it just changes what a long run is (say 50 vs. 150). Also, you can still come back even if you're way behind 99 to 0. The rules are relative to both players. Granted it would be more difficult with this variation because of the lower balls per inning in general. You see players come back from 6-0 with the alternating break even though its more difficult.
Third paragraph: Please don't think I'm "bolstering my argument by insulting and comparing the other games". I respect all the games, especially when they're played well. I just personally think, as quoted by the BCA, that "Straight pool is generally considered to be the game that provides the greatest all-around test of complete pocket-billiards playing skill, requiring great concentration, accuracy, shot-making, defense, patience, and knowledge". I compared position play, safety play and knowledge between 9-ball and Straight pool because 9-ball is currently the most popular game (especially on TV). If pocket pool is to become an Olympic event then you should probably compare all the games and come up with a worthy format (least amount of luck). I would pick Straight Pool (especially the Cranfield variation), because of the reasons I mentioned before. But of course, what I think doesn't matter. It should be decided by a panel of experts, professional pool players, not sponsors.
Babe would never want to change the rules or 14.1 for the 99.9% of us that could never run more than 50 balls. I think he loves Straight pool because it's a thinking mans' game that he always found to be challenging. His variation is just one way to stop the run-out at the professional level. It favors the position player verses the shot maker. All the top players are great shot-makers. They have to be at that level to compete. I rate the best players as those who can play the best position, whether they win or not. I'm neither a good shot-maker nor position player at this stage of my life, but I find position the more difficult of the two, and therefore look up to those that can make it look easy.
I posted this article on other forums and got lots of responses both good and bad. There are so many ways to stop the run-out. Simple ones like tighter pockets, back to the 5x10 table, etc., etc. This is just Babes' idea for a solution and because of who he is, I thought it worth mentioning. Thanks again for your response. I hope I've explained myself better to you. My posted article was somewhat generic. I had to try to keep it as short as possible.

Best Regards,