Home » Pool » Pool and Billiard Terms You Need to Know

Pool and Billiard Terms You Need to Know

The learning curve is huge for anyone who is just beginning the journey to learn how to play pool or billiards. There are so many pool and billiard terms, it can be hard to learn it all. 

Mastering the correct stance, cue techniques, angles, and strategies all are quite overwhelming at first.

Luckily, the internet has made it much simpler to acquire proper instruction that in the past would require months or years of hanging out at the local pool hall to discover.

But to take full advantage of this rich resource, you need to understand the standard billiard terms and phrases. 

Billiards Terms You Need to Know

Basics Pool and Billiard Terms

  • 8-Ball. A common two-player pool game where players get all their balls into the pocket before hitting the 8-ball into a pocket to win. Learn more about 8-ball here
  • 9-Ball. A common two-player pool game where players must hit all the balls in order into the pockets. The player who hits the last, the 9-ball, in wins. Learn more about 9-ball here
  • Bridge. Your bridge is how you position your supporting hand to hold the pool cue. There are two common techniques: an open or closed bridge. A bridge is also  device that helps to support the cue stick during awkward shots. It is sometimes called a mechanical bridge
  • Chalk. Pool chalk is used to help prevent the tip of a cue from slipping when it hits the cue ball. 
  • Clean the table. This happens when a player sinks one ball after another until the last ball is pocketed, winning the game. This is often referred to as running the table. 
  • Cue stick. This is the stick players use to strike a cue ball.
  • Cue ball. This is the ball a player strikes with a cue. It is solid white in the game of pool, but in carom billiards, one player may play with a spotted or even a yellow cue ball. 
  • Object ball. The ball a player aims at with the cue ball. An object ball is sometimes referred to as a target ball. 
  • Open table. The target balls are not yet determined. Any player may sink any object ball on the table. 
  • Rack. The frame used to help position the object balls before the start of the game. It is often in the shape of a triangle, but you can find other shapes, like diamonds. The term can be used as a verb, “It is your turn to rack.” Learn how to rack correctly here.
  • Scratch. A scratch occurs when a cue ball goes into a pocket. In many pool games, the player who scratched has to return one previously pocketed object ball to the foot spot, and the other player has ball in hand. That means he gets to place the cue anywhere on the table for his next turn. 
  • Solids. Object balls that have a solid color. Solids are numbered one to 8. These are sometimes called lows in 8-ball.
  • Stripes. Object balls which are white and have different bands of color around their middle. Stripes are numbered 9 to 15. In 8-ball, some players refer to stripes as highs
  • To pocket a ball. To strike the cue ball in such a way to make an object ball go into a pocket. 

Anatomy of a Pool Table

  • Cushions. Cushions surround the inside edges of the table. 
  • Diamonds. There are three diamonds or marks evenly spaced between each pocket on rails. Players can use them for lining up a shot. 
  • The Kitchen. This is the area from the head string to the head rail. The player who breaks, can place the cue ball anywhere in the kitchen.
  • Long rails. The long rails are the two wider sides of the table. You may hear players call them side rails
  • Pockets. Pockets are the six holes pool players use to sink, or pocket, balls. Carom billiards tables do not have pockets. The pockets in the four corners of a pool table are known as corner pockets. The pockets in the middle of the long rails are called side pockets
  • Short rails. The short rails are the two narrower sides of the table. The short rail is where you rack the balls at the start of the game. It is also known as the foot rail. The opposite end of the table is often called the head rail
  • Spots. There are two marked spots on a pool table. The head spot lies in the middle of the head string. The foot spot lies in the middle of the foot string and indicates where to rack the balls or where to return a previously sunk object ball to the table. 
  • Strings. Strings are two imaginary lines on the table which pass perpendicular to the head and foot spots, and all called the head string and the foot string
Pool Table Anatomy

Different Types of Shots

  • Bank shot. Any shot which uses a cushion to sink an object ball.
  • Break shot. This is the first shot of the game where one player uses the cue ball to break apart the racked object balls
  • Breakout shot. Making a shot with the intention of breaking up a tight grouping of balls into more favorable positions.
  • Call shot. The player describes what will happen before making the shot. Some games require players to call all their shots, and other games make it a requirement only for the final winning shot. 
  • Cut shot. Any shot where the cue ball must hit the object ball at an angle for it to go in the direction of a pocket. Some people call this an angle shot. 
  • Defensive shot. Making a shot where the primary purpose is to leave your opponent without any decent shots for his next turn. 
  • English. Applying English to the cue ball means striking the cue ball anywhere other than in the direct center. Skilled players can control the motion of the cue both prior and after striking an object ball with proper English. 
  • Jump shot. The player strikes the cue ball in such a way to make it come off the surface of the table. 
  • Trickshot. Is setting up a ball position which seems almost impossible, and then pocketing the object ball. Most trick shots are set up outside of regular gameplay, but sometimes players will attempt trick shots during play. 

Now that you know a bit of the lingo, you now have to get out there and practice

About Bar Games 101

Bar Games 101 is a website devoted to helping you learn about the best games to play with your friends. We review the games, research the rules, and uncover helpful tips and strategies.

Get our free guide to the 50 Best Bar Games.