To a person unfamiliar with the activity, entering a pool hall and listening to the conversations during the game may seem as though a foreign language is being spoken. There is a considerable amount of slang attached to the game of pool, and the use and knowledge of appropriate pool terms not only enables a smooth game flow, but speaks volumes as to the experience of the player. Pool is a game in which intent of play needs to be clearly stated, without confusion or misinterpretation, and pool slang is the vehicle of good communication between players.
The game of pool is not only about putting the object ball into the desired pocket, but controlling the cue ball and positioning it well for the next shot taken. This is accomplished with “English” – the ability to make the cue ball take a desired direction after striking the object ball. “Draw” is making the cue ball come back toward the shooter. “Topspin” makes the cue ball “follow” the object ball after striking and travel away from the shooter. A “Masse” shot is the most difficult type of “English” to perform – it can make the cue ball travel in a half-circle or more, around a ball sitting between the cue ball and the object ball. A “Miscue” occurs when a player strikes the cue ball poorly or off center, and the result is the cue ball dribbling away harmlessly.
The various types of pool games have individual names, mostly in accordance with the game objective. “Nine Ball” is a game in which balls numbered one through 9 are placed in a diamond configuration, the game is started and the object is to pocket the balls in numerical order. The player who makes the nine ball is the winner. In “Eight Ball” each player attempts to make their balls, either “Solids” balls numbered 1 to 7 or “Stripes” balls numbered 9 to 15 and then pocket the 8-ball for victory. “Straight Pool” is a game of consecutive 15 ball racks, the object to make as many called shots in succession as possible, until a predetermined winning number (usually 150) of shots are made.
The type of shot must be “called” in most pool games. This means a player needs to state their intent prior to shooting and then execute the shot properly or lose their turn. A “Bank” shot is to make the object ball bounce off a rail and fall into the chosen pocket. A “Cross-Corner” shot is to “Bank” the object ball across the table into a corner pocket. A “Cross-Side” shot is the same as a “Cross-Corner” shot, only the object is a side pocket instead of a corner pocket. A ‘Safety” is a defensive strategy to miss intentionally to leave an opponent a poor chance at making their next shot.
There are many, many other expressions of pool slang, but these should serve as a good start in understanding the game. The best way to learn the language of pool is to play often, and absorb the manner in which experienced players communicate by observation.