Trick Shots, Fancy Shots, and Catch Bets
From "Billiards" by W Cook, published 1891
THERE are many strokes to be made on the table that may be called trick shots, fancy shots, and catch bets, and it is not easy to decide in some cases under which heading the stroke strictly belongs. These strokes are the especial delight of sharp customers, or are still more often indulged in by the way of joke on some greenhorn or novice, who, let us trust, has the good sense and good taste to lose his shilling with a good grace, and laugh at the joke at his own expense.
1. One very old joke, which Mr. Green must be particularly verdant to be taken in by, is the old one of knocking the brass off the table. You place a ball dead over a pocket, and say quickly, "Now, I will bet you a shilling I pocket that ball, and sixpence I will knock the brass off in doing it. Yes, clean off the table." The brass! Mr Green's whole thought is concentrated on the possibility or impossibility of doing this, and sometimes he will say, "All right, done," very often adding, in a quiet knowing way, "It is worth the money to see it done." You then of course quietly pocket the ball, and thus win a shilling, and, as you have failed to knock off the brass, you have lost sixpence, so you ask Mr. Verdant Green to hand over the balance, viz., sixpence.
2. A very common catch shot for indifferent players is to place two balls touching each other and touching the top cushion, about the centre of the cushion, and to bet a player he does not cannon playing from baulk. This stroke to a novice looks almost a certainty, but, owing to the balls touching the cushion, requires very great care, as, unless the two balls be hit exactly in the middle between the two, the ball will kiss off one without hitting the other.
It is a common trick to get Mr. Verdant Green on to bet by letting him try, in which case you place the balls an eighth of an inch away from the cushion. Of course he cannons. Then, when he has made his bet, you place them touching. To be able to bet even that you make the cannon you must be a very fair average player.
3. To play between two balls when there is not enough room. This is a good catch. Place the three balls in a line touching each other, parallel with the cushion, and about a foot or a foot and a half away from it. You call Mr. Green's attention to the fact that the three balls touch. You then carefully remove the centre ball, and place it a few inches away from the cushion, and you say, "What odds will you lay me I don't go between those two balls without touching either of them?" This stroke, which Mr. Green will sometimes argue in his own mind must be an impossibility, is really a certainty. You play hard, and hit your ball down. This causes your ball to jump slightly, and the two former points of contact are raised. Your ball goes between the other two balls, only it is raised about half an inch above the table as it goes through. This cannot be seen, and Mr. Green, who can scarcely believe his own eyes, pays, and considers you a wonderful player.
4. A somewhat similar stroke to the last is to place the one ball against the cushion and another touching this ball on the outside. If you now take away the inside ball carefully you will say to Mr. Green, "You see there is not room to go round that ball, as they were touching. What odds will you lay me I don't go round it without moving it?" The stroke looks very difficult, but is not so in reality. To make the stroke you must strike very hard, and also very accurately. By striking very hard the indiarubber of the cushion will give so much that so long as you aim correctly there is ample room to go round the ball.
5. A curious fancy stroke can be made by placing the red ball over one top pocket, touching the shoulder, and the white ball over the other top pocket. A cannon can be made playing from baulk on to one of these hard put at it, and kiss on to the other, your ball taking a curved line from one top pocket to the other. This is a really fine fancy shot, requiring a lot of power of cue. It is extremely difficult.
A trick shot is to bet you put both balls in in one stroke. You then get two cues, and put the point of one cue touching one ball, and the point of the other cue touching the other ball. You lay the cues down on the table, bringing the two butt ends together near the centre of the table. You then play from baulk at the two butt ends. Of course, both balls are knocked into the pockets in one shot. This is, of course, merely a catch bet.
6. Another curious shot with the two cues can be made as follows. You fit two cues with their butts touching in one of the corner pockets, and balance the red ball on the end of the butts close to the brass of the pocket. The two points of the cue rest on the table, about or four or five inches apart, and a white ball is put inside close to one of the points. You are then told to play from baulk and cannon off the red. The cues are pointing towards you. It is very easy. If you play at the insides of the cues rather hard, and avoid hitting the white ball, the ball will run up the cues-i.e., up the inclined plane between the two cues, then hit the red ball, stop, and run back down the inclined plane between the two cues on to the white ball placed near the point of one of the cues. This is a rather pretty puzzle.