Cue Ball Importance, Part 2

Roger Long

Last month, I talked about the standard specs that cue balls are supposed to be made to, and how those on coin-operated pool tables (“bar boxes”) have historically been manufactured outside of those standards in order to have them return to the head end of the table whenever they wander into pockets.

In that article, I also explained how difficult it can be to control one of those huge and/or overweight suckers.  In fact, one particular type is so ridiculously unresponsive that pool players like to call it the “mud ball.”

This month I’m going to talk about the cue balls that are used on free drop tables (8-ft. and 9-ft. tables that are rented by the hour).

As I said in last month’s article, standard cue balls are supposed to be 2-1/4 inches in diameter, and weigh 5-1/2 to 6 ounces, i.e. identical to the object balls.  Cue balls made to these specs will contact object balls at an equal horizontal line, which is 1-1/8 inch above the surface of the table.  What this does is ensure that the cue ball does not skid the object ball – as it would if the cue ball’s equator is above that of the object ball – or over speed the object ball as can happen with a lower cue ball equator.

And as far as the weight is concerned − equal weights mean equal mass − which means equal reactions between cue ball and object ball.  (That’s a good thing, pilgrim.)

Now here’s an interesting thing to ponder: There are at least 8 or 10 different “standard” cue balls on the market.  Now there’s an oxymoron for you!  How can something be different if it is standard?  Well, most of the differences are in appearance, only.  Some are milky white, while others are opaque yellow.  One has red dots all over it, while another has absolutely no markings at all.  Most, however, will have some sort of logo or other identifying mark of its manufacturer.

And here’s another interesting thing: Even though these “standard” cue balls are all made of the same type of material (phenol resins), and all are made to the same specs; they do not all play exactly the same.  And of these “different” standard cue balls, one stands out as the clear favorite among the advanced and professional players.  That one is: the Red Circle.  It is so called because of the small red circle its manufacturer places on it to distinguish it from other brands.

Now to my knowledge, no one has ever been able to pinpoint the reason the Red Circle cue ball plays better than all the rest; but most players will definitely agree that it does.

And now here’s some good news for you bar table players: A few years back, Diamond Billiard Mfg. developed a coin-operated table that can use a standard cue ball – a Red Circle, even!

I’ll bet you’re going to go check the cue balls in your favorite pool room now. Aren’t you.