Q & A: Answers

Snooker Cue

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Posted on 14th May 2006 by David Millar of Belle Cote, Nova Scotia, Canada.

I have just read your reply regarding the spots - I too had searched all over the internet without success - and I have a question:-

Since the size of the balls does not vary proportionately to the size of the table (if at all), the black will be closer to, or further from, the reds depending on the size of the table. Is this the intent? It looks more logical (even if wrong!) to set it midway between the reds and the cushion.

The closest I got in my earlier searches was a dealer in Canada who quoted figures in inches - 8 3/8 radius for the "D" and 9 1/2 from the cushion for the black. This brought it much too close to the reds - there was barely room for the cue ball to pass between them.

I thought this would be a fairly easy reply, but decided to check my facts first.

Ball placements The current rules only give the dimensions of the full-sized table, so lets start there. The playing length of the table measures 11ft 8½" or 140½" with an allowed tolerance of plus or minus ½" The baulk-line is 29" from the baulk cushion, which divides into 140½" 4.845 times, so slightly over a fifth. The black spot is 12¾" from the top cushion. Dividing the length by this gives us 11.02, so slightly under an eleventh.

The playing width of the table is 5ft 10" or 70" again with an allowed tolerance of plus or minus ½" The radius of the "D" is 11½" Dividing the width by this gives us 6.087, so slightly under a sixth.

Wondering why these markings didn't divide exactly I decided to investigate more, and found an interesting paragraph in "The Billiards and Snooker Referees' Handbook" by John Street and Peter Rook.

They stated that for a few years until September 1995 there were two distinctly different full-sized tables - one in imperial measurements, and one in metric. But the metric table was abandoned when they found that the measurements of the table markings had been rounded up or down, and this had destroyed the natural half-ball angle of "set-piece" contacts that had been part of the game of English Billiards for decades.

They also stated that the baulk-line was slightly closer to the baulk cushion, at one-fifth of the length of the playing surface, and the black spot also failed to match the imperial measurement.

The Half-Ball Angle So the positions of the baulk-line and the black spot are influenced by the half-ball angle used in English billiards. "The Billiards and Snooker Referees' Handbook" also mentions that "At one time a 6ft standard table with scaled down measurements was also included in the rule books."

A copy from the 1968/9 season gives these, and I found that the measurements of the baulk-line and "D" are exactly half those of the full-sized table, at 14½" and 5¾" respectively. But the black spot, surprisingly, is 7" from the top cushion. Not slightly under 6½" which would be half the 12¾" on a full-sized table.

So this is to retain the integrity of the half-ball angle shown in the diagram below.

These natural half-ball angles of "set-piece" contacts only apply to English Billiards, and make little practical difference (if any) to the game of snooker. So the rounded up or down measurements are good enough for all practical purposes, if you disagree simply create your own more accurate measurents.

On to the balls, you are correct in saying that the balls do not decrease in size to the same proportion as the table. If they did I think they would be unplayable. The 1968/9 rules give the ball size for the 6ft table as having a diameter of 1 7/8" only 3/16 smaller than full size. This obviously creates problems of congestion on smaller tables and is usually resolved in the only practical way possible, by reducing the number of reds. On 6 ft or 7 ft tables, six reds may be enough; on 8 or 9 ft ten reds; and 10 ft tables maybe the whole 15, but the choice is yours, experiment and find what suits you best.

It's interesting to note that the Brazilians adapted the game on their 6 ft tables so just one red was used, the rules of which can be found in the Games section.

Taking the problem of undersized tables a step further you made no comment about the pockets. The cushions and pocket size are defined by the size of the ball. If the cushions were made for a smaller ball and you used the full-sized set, you would find the balls jumped every time they rebounded from the cushion.

And here's a comment from Charles Roberts, author of "Billiards at Home" published in the early 1900's.

"As pockets can be made any size on small tables, thus altering any angle, it might pay the Billiard Association to standardize all tables from 6 to 10 feet, then one would know where we are. You see half an inch makes the difference between half-ball and side to any angle, so that whilst on one maker's table certain angles are played at half-ball on another maker's with fairly difficult pockets side would be required."

His comments refer directly to problems in English Billiards on the smaller tables, and again, for clarification, they make little or no difference to the snooker player.

So with no official guidance on marking out smaller tables we have to make our own decisions, and for snooker at least, these rounded up or down measurements are probably good enough for all practical purposes.

Posted on 9th April 2006 by John Wilkinson of Manchester.

During a local snooker league match last week the following happened:

My opponent broke off leaving me a long rest shot to pot a red in one of the 'black' pockets, the cueball being about 6 inches to the right of the pink (still on its spot). I had to stretch over the side of the table whilst using the rest and cue extension.

As I leant over, standing on one leg to reach the shot, the carpet tiles under foot slipped and moved quite severely causing me to over balance. This in turn caused the cue and rest to move and I touched the pink with the cue moving it about 2 inches from its spot. No other balls were disturbed. Apart from being somewhat amusing for everyone else and a bit embarrassing for me, nobody knew what the ruling for this should be. I volunteered the foul (6 points) and that my opponent should take the strike.

Is there any provision in the rules for this kind of situation and what would the ruling be?

An incident like this is covered quite adequately by Rule 18 in Section 3, which states that the equipment normally found at the table is not the responsibilty of the striker.

So if any piece of equipment was faulty and caused the striker to touch a ball then no foul would be called. The floor of course is normally found at the table, and although you would not normally think of it as part of the equipment, it surely is.

So, no foul should have been called, the referee should have replaced the pink, and you should have carried on as though nothing had happened.

Posted on 19th March 2006 by Ken Driver of Hertfordshire.

When I was a teenager, in 1945, I spent most evenings at the Savoy Snooker Hall in Hull, E Yorkshire. There was a game we played that I am trying to find the rules for.

My memory of it is vague but it consisted of a set of snooker balls, 2 or possibly 3 small wooden mushrooms and a bag of numbered balls. Each player took and pocketed a numbered ball without disclosing its value.

A "target" number of points had to be scored, but not exceeded, by potting reds followed by a nominated colour, but each player could deduct the value of the ball in their pocket from the standard "target" so each players "target" was different. There came a time when everyone was, apart from trying to score their "target", trying to guess what their opponents "target" was so they could prevent them from scoring it. Knocking over mushrooms incurred a points loss penalty.

I am still in contact with the old friend I played my snooker with and he cannot remember anymore than I have, except he disputes "mushrooms" as being better described as 3" tall skittles. Like me he thinks it was 2 or 3 and like me he is unsure of their positions but we are both under the impression they were close to the blue, pink and black spots. Neither of us can remember the penalties for knocking them down but we are both under the impression that one of them cost an all points loss.

He is still hoping he can find one of the old Savoy crowd and that they remember more but considering we were 16/17 at the time they are all going to be 80+.

Do you have any knowledge of this game?

This is similar to the game of "Crash" which appears in my Snooker Games book.

Many variations of it must have been played over the years but I've never heard of your version, with the mushrooms. But in every other respect it is the same game.

Although there is no "target" score in "Crash", as in your version each player has a "secret" number, which is allocated using a pack of playing cards, (very few clubs now have those sets of numbered balls). After potting a red, the player must pot the colour which matches his card to win the game.

Your friend is probably correct in thinking the mushrooms were in fact 3" skittles, as several games* needed them, so you probably had these on hand to use.

If anyone can provide further information please get in touch and I'll add your comments here.

*(Five Pin Pool, Italian Skittle Pool, Skittle Pool, The Spanish (or Skittle) game.)

Posted 2nd April 2006 by Mike Joy of East Tamaki, Manukau City, New Zealand.

I know of a similar game using thin skinny skittles about 3" high and about 3/8" diameter at the widest part. The skittles are coloured brown, blue, red and two blacks.

The brown and blue are placed on their ball spots. The red is placed in the middle of the black ones somewhere round about the pin spot, in fact I think the red could be on the pink spot and we had two dots marked above and below the spot where the black ones were placed.

You start with a base of 130 (I think) and then pull a number out of the barrel and deduct the value away from 130. Eg: You pull out seven so your final target would be 123 and only you know that.

We played like billiards with one red and what ever cue balls you like depending on how many players there are. You got points for canons, in offs etc just like billiards and also if you knocked over the brown or blue skittles which were stood up where they landed. The red earned you a massive 50 points.

If you played a foul shot on your break you lost all the points scored for that visit to the table. If you knocked over a black skittle you lost ALL your points.

You have to finish bang on your target. If you go over you lost your points. That's the basics. Hope that it helped and possibly refreshed someone else's memory.

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Snooker Cue