Glossary of words in Billiards


When you are in a pool hall or club you will always hear billiard terms that you may not know what they mean.

These are the words you will hear:

The table:

This is the surface on which the sport is played. It is made up of a rectangular and perfectly flat area. It is made up of the following elements:

The base:

It is a wooden or metal frame supported by four or six turned or rectangular legs. The slate is attached to this base.


It is a slab of marble or polished stone, with a thickness varying from 3.5 centimeters to 8 centimeters depending on the table manufacturer’s design.

Generally a billiard table has 3 of these slates perfectly joined together, however, nowadays tables are built with one to four slates.

The surface formed by the slates is lined with a special cloth, on which the balls roll.

The cloth:

It covers the slate and the table strips. It is an indispensable element for controlling the speed of the balls and also serves as a protector or insulator of the slate, preventing the balls from deteriorating due to direct contact with the marble or stone slabs.

The material with which the cloth is constructed is a combination of wool and nylon, the percentage of which varies according to the brand of cloth and the game modality.

For the cloth to work in optimal conditions, it must be fully tempered on the surface of the table and around the risers.

For its care and maintenance, the cloth should be periodically brushed and vacuumed, as well as combed with a cloth cleaning paddle. This maintenance ensures that the cloth maintains proper performance during practices.

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These are dots marked on the cloth with black ink that determine the locations of the balls for the start of the different sports modalities. It is also used to relocate a ball when it jumps off the table or when the cue ball is in direct contact with another ball.


It is the sturdy wooden frame and smooth surface, with a width of 12.5 centimeters to which the rails are attached.

On the handrails are placed inlays called diamonds or dots.

The width may vary by more or less than two centimeters depending on the design of the table.

The function of the handrails is to prevent the balls from leaving the table surface.

Diamonds or dots:

These are inlays in mother-of-pearl, plastic or wood that are located at equal intervals, equivalent to one-eighth the length of the long rail handrails and one-quarter the length of the short rail handrails.

Some tables also have diamonds at the corners.

The diamonds serve the athletes as reference points for geometric or mathematical analysis of the path of the balls.

The rails:

These are longitudinal rubber structures, triangular in shape and with a smooth surface, which are fixed along the inside of the handrails and are lined by the cloth.

The height that the rail must have, from its free edge to the slate, is 37 millimeters, this height can vary by one millimeter.

The rails allow the ball to bounce in a natural way, avoiding the loss of speed and directing it according to the rotation with which it impacts.

Difference between bank shots and kick shots

A bank shot is when we hit a target ball (1-ball) with the cue ball to make one or more rails and a kick shot is when we first hit the rail or rails with the cue ball and then hit the target ball (8-ball).

The pockets:

These are holes that are present in some billiard tables.

There are 6 in total, 4 of them are located in each of the corners of the table and 2 in the center of the long cushions.

These are used for the practice of some billiard sport modalities and their dimensions vary according to the discipline.


The entire surface of the billiard table must be fully illuminated to avoid the presence of shadows on the cloth; the intensity of light illuminating the table may not be less than 520 lux.

The brightness may not be excessive either, as the light may dazzle the athletes and interfere with their performance.

The distance between the lights and the playing surface may not be less than one meter.

The balls:

Among the indispensable elements for the practice of billiards are the balls.

At first, they were made of wood, but they were fragile, not very homogeneous and permeable to humidity. To correct these problems, they began to be made of ivory extracted from elephant tusks, but these balls, in addition to being a threat to the conservation of nature, are very expensive. At present for the construction of the balls thermoplastic resins derived from phenol are used, this ensures that the ball does not deform even if the temperature and humidity changes are very drastic.

The cue:

It is a cone-shaped stick made of rigid materials such as fiberglass, carbon, graphite, neoprene or wood, the latter being the most commonly used material for its construction. Its length varies between 140 and 155 centimeters long, with a weight ranging between 470 and 600 grams. Its taper ranges from 32 millimeters in diameter in its butt, to its smallest diameter, which varies between 11 millimeters and 13 millimeters, in its tip.

These characteristics and dimensions are currently the most used in competitive sports, with some exceptions or variations according to the athlete. 2 piece detachable cues are currently used to facilitate transportation, storage and maintenance.

Today you can find composite cues ranging from 2 to more than 6 pieces.

Billiard uniform:

All athletes in order to participate in an event of an official nature must be uniformed as follows:

Uniform type a: black shoes and black socks, black pants (no denim or jeans), black belt, long sleeve white shirt and vest and tie in the color of the league, federation or club the athlete represents.

Uniform type b: Black shoes and black socks, black pants (no denim or jeans), black belt and polo shirt in the color of the league, federation or club the athlete represents.

The athlete must not wear during competition any element different from those described in the type a and type b uniforms.