A Beginner’s Guide to Billiards: Understanding the Terms and Jargon


Billiards, also known as pool, is a popular cue sport that has been enjoyed by people around the world for centuries. Like any other sport or game, billiards has its own set of terms and jargon that may be unfamiliar to newcomers. Understanding these player-specific language is essential for anyone looking to improve their game and communicate effectively with other players. In this article, we will explore some of the most common terms and jargon used in the game of billiards.

1. Cue

The cue is the main playing tool in billiards. It is a long, tapered stick used to strike the cue ball and make shots. The cue has various parts, including the tip, ferrule, shaft, and butt. Players often refer to the cue when discussing their technique, such as grip, stance, and stroke.

2. Cue Ball

The cue ball is the white ball that is struck by the cue. It is the ball that players aim to hit with their shots. The cue ball’s position and movement on the table are crucial in determining the outcome of a shot. Players often use terms like “English” or “spin” to describe the manipulation of the cue ball’s path.

3. Rack

A rack is a triangular frame used to arrange the balls at the beginning of a game. The balls are placed in a specific pattern within the rack, with the apex ball positioned at the front. The rack is then removed, and the game begins with the break shot. Players may refer to the rack when discussing the placement of the balls or the effectiveness of a break shot.

4. Pocket

The pockets are the holes on the billiards table where the balls are intended to be sunk. There are typically six pockets on a standard billiards table, one at each corner and one in the middle of each long side. Players often use terms like “corner pocket” or “side pocket” when referring to specific pockets during gameplay.

5. Break Shot

The break shot is the first shot of a game, where the player attempts to scatter the racked balls by striking the cue ball with full force. The goal of the break shot is to pocket one or more balls and establish a favorable position for subsequent shots. Players may discuss their break technique or the outcome of a break shot when strategizing during a game.

6. Safety Shot

A safety shot is a shot played with the intention of leaving the opponent in a difficult position. Instead of attempting to pocket a ball, the player focuses on positioning the cue ball in a way that makes it challenging for the opponent to make a successful shot. Safety shots are often employed as defensive strategies in competitive play.

7. Scratch

A scratch, also known as a foul, occurs when the cue ball is pocketed during a player’s shot. When a scratch happens, the opposing player gets ball-in-hand, meaning they can place the cue ball anywhere on the table for their next shot. Scratches are typically penalized in most billiards games and can have a significant impact on the outcome of a match.

8. Combination Shot

A combination shot is a shot where a player strikes one ball to make it hit another ball, with the intention of pocketing the second ball. Combination shots require precise aim and control, as the player needs to consider the angles and positions of both balls involved. Players may discuss combination shots when analyzing a challenging shot during a game.


Understanding the terms and jargon used in the game of billiards is essential for any player looking to improve their skills and communicate effectively with other players. By familiarizing yourself with these player-specific language, you can enhance your gameplay, strategize more effectively, and fully immerse yourself in the world of billiards. So, grab your cue, practice your shots, and enjoy the thrill of this timeless cue sport.

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