Thursday, 1 January 2015

How to Adjust to Pocket Size

By: Erik Hjorleifson

Greetings everyone, I hope you all had a good holiday season and best of wishes in the upcoming new year. Today we are going to talk about pocket size and some of the different styles of pockets and different ways to adjust accordingly.

This subject came to mind because in the last week of January 2015 they will be holding the World Championships for Chinese 8 ball. The total prize for the event is $500 000 for men and $350 000 for women. The tournament will be played on 9 foot tables with snooker cloth, regulation pool size balls and snooker cut pockets. The rules of 8 ball are exactly the same and the cloth does not have a huge affect on the game but the cut of the pockets changes everything. This will likely be the richest tournament on the calendar in 2015. Many international names have confirmed but no doubt some will stay away because of their inexperience on this style of pocket. The organizers are doing their best to promote the game outside of China where it is a mainstream game. This year they will be offering free accomodations and meals for all foreign players who wish the make the trip over to play in the qualifying rounds. I am considering going over and taking a shot at this tournament. I am confident with my snooker and 8 ball background, my one concern is adapting to a snooker pocket cut with pool size balls which is something which I have no experience with.

Here is an example of some Chinese 8 ball action between Shane Van Boening and the #1 seed in this years event and winner of the 2014 tournament Gareth Potts: .

There are two major differences in how standard billiard pockets play. One is the overall size of the opening of the pocket, this can range in extreme cases from 3 and 7/8 inches to about 5 inches. The standard size for pockets in a professional level event is 4 and 1/4 inches to 4 and 1/2 inches. The variance here is obvious: the bigger the pocket is the easier it will be to pocket balls.

More imlplicitly though and something that I would like to stress today, is the depth of the pockets. The technical term for deepness of the pockets is called the shelf. In others words how much space is between the front of the horn and the drop of the pocket. Brunswick tables usually have a shorter shelf as well as valley bar tables, this means that generally these pockets will play bigger regardless of the overall size of the pocket. For example a 4 and 1/4 inch pocket with a short shelf will play bigger or at least the same size as a 4 and 1/2 inch pocket with a deep shelf. The reason for this is that when you pocket balls that are near a rail which is the most common shot in most pool games, with a shorter shelf you can hit the inside rail. Once the ball reaches the pocket it has nowhere to hang or rattle out because the shelf is shorter.  Knowing this when you play on tables like Valleys or Gold Crowns, be aware that you can use the inside rail to your advantage. On most other popular tables most notably Diamond tables, the pockets are cut deeper giving more room for the ball to hang when the object ball grazes a rail on the way to the pocket. Therefore be aware that on deeper pockets it can be beneficial to play to the outside of the pocket, staying away from contacting a rail on the way in.

The worst case scenario in the cut of the pockets are if the slate is not attached to the rail at the same point or in other words one side of the pocket is deeper than the other. However barring any shotty work from a table mechanic you shouldn't have to worry about this very much. Remember that the overall size of the pockets should always dictate the degree of difficulty in the shots you attempt. I personally enjoy playing on pockets with shorter shelves because I believe the game should be more about the artistry of position rather than pocketing balls. I hope this helps and good luck to everyone in the 2015 season.

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