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02-18-2005, 07:28 PM
Snookered about billiards

Pool, billiards, snooker... it`s all green to me

Samyukta Bhowmick / New Delhi February 19, 2005

If you are one of those people who regularly hang around dimly-lit, smoky pool bars and effortlessly pocket four balls in one crazily caroming shot, you will probably heap scorn on an article that tries to explain the difference between pool, snooker and billiards.

What’s not to know? They’re so different that the more interesting academic question would be what on earth they have in common.

But for the rest of us, it can all get very confusing. They all involve long green tables, lounging about with long cues, and generally looking cool, that much we know. But what are the specifics?

Actually, the differences between pool, snooker and billiards are quite glaring. What is played the most in colleges and parlours all over the country is pool.

Pool is played on a table that is 4.5 by 9 ft, and standard (8-ball) pool is played with fifteen balls, divided into solids (1-7), stripes (9-15), and of course the black 8-ball, which can make or break the game.

If you pocket this one, you’ll win the game, but you can’t touch it before you’ve already got rid of your other balls — if you do, it means instant defeat.

There’s a triangular rack to start off with; the 8-ball goes right in the centre and the 1-ball at the top — the others you place in any numerical order, with stripes and solids alternating.

You can flip a coin to decide who breaks, and then the first person to sink a ball is then responsible for sinking all other balls of this type.

Once you’re done, you have to sink the 8-ball, having first called the pocket you’re going to sink it into.

There are variations on the standard game; the most popular is 9-ball. Here, the only balls you use are 1-9; they are racked in the shape of a diamond with the 1-ball in the first row and the 9-ball in the middle; all the balls must be pocketed in numerical order, and the person who gets the 9-ball wins.

British billiards (the Americans play a different game), is completely different, using using three balls and six pockets. Billiards is also used as the generic term for most cue sports, including pool and snooker.

It originated, according to most records, in 15th century France, from a lawn game similar to croquet, played by the aristocracy (the tables are green to replicate the grass on the lawns).

Snooker is far more complicated. It uses a table that is 12 by 6 ft and has six pockets; the 15 red balls (each worth 1 point) are put into a rack similar to that of pool at the start of the game, and the other balls, yellow (2 points), green (3), brown (4), blue (5), pink (6) and black (7), are put on their spots.

The object is to score enough points to win a frame; you do this by building a break, first by sinking a red ball and then a colour. As long as you can sink, or pot in snooker jargon, a red followed by a colour your break continues.

Each time you pot a colour after a red, that colour is put back on its spot. Once all 15 reds are potted, you must pot the coloured balls in numerical order, starting with yellow and finishing with black.

If you’re completely lost, don’t despair— you’re not the only one. Pool is slowly becoming less and less popular among the youth of India, and Ajay Ruia of Inco Mechel blames it all on the government: “In Maharashtra,” he says, “the government has imposed a tax of Rs 5,000 on each pool table per month.

As a result of this, there are now 80 pool parlours in Mumbai, as opposed to the 250 that existed before the tax was imposed.”

Ruia argues that there is no other reason for the interest in pool and billiards to be so lax in India now, considering that we have produced three World Billiard Champions: “With snooker only available in clubs, and pool heavily taxed, there is little chance for interest and talent to be drummed up today.

Which is a real shame, since pool is a game that requires skill and talent, not simply brute strength. And it’s a much better way for kids to spend time than to sit and play video games.”

Thus all three sports (although the government does not count pool as a sport, but entertainment, baffling to anyone who has actually ever played) are declining here in India, both in terms of accessibility and awareness, leading to the need for articles like this one.

What’s the long stick called now?