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.

Cue Ball Importance, Part 1

Cue Ball Importance, Part 1

Roger Long

By Roger Long

Advanced Certified Instructor

The cue ball is frequently overlooked as being much of an important factor in playing the game of pool. Other than it being the only all-white ball on the table, and being the one that is used to shoot at its intended targets, many players just assume it is the same as all the other balls.

But the particular cue ball in use can really become an important issue with a lot of players; especially those at the higher skill levels. Please allow me to explain why.

The Official Rules & Records Book specifies that all pool balls are to be 2-1/4 inches in diameter with a tolerance range of plus or minus 5-thousands of an inch, and are to weigh 5-1/2 to 6 ounces.  The reason for the size thing is so that the horizontal center lines all meet at the same point ensuring tighter racks and equal carom reactions.  The weight thing is meant to equalize rebound speeds and other collision-induced reactions.

Now this is where the subject of the cue ball comes into the picture.  Not all cue balls are made to the same specs as the object balls.  This creates unequal reactions between these oddball cue balls and the object balls.  For a player who has fine-tuned his game to the reactions produced by standard cue balls, suddenly introducing an out-of-spec cue ball to the game can throw that player for a loop in no time.

“Oddball” cue balls are most generally found on coin-operated bar tables.  That’s because the size, weight, material, or something, has to be changed in order for the table’s return mechanism to be able to identify the cue ball as such, and return it to the head end of the table instead of sending it to the ball bay that holds the object balls.

Older bar tables used cue balls that were 2-3/8 inches in diameter, and weighed as much as 7 ounces.  Those things were a real adventure in frustration to play with.  Then about 30 years ago, we started seeing bar table cue balls that were 2-1/4 inches, but the weight was still around 7 ounces.  Now if you don’t think one ounce makes any difference, just try drawing or jumping that overweight little sucker.  It’s next to impossible!  And not to mention getting it stopped once you get it rolling.

In more recent years, however, technology has allowed manufacturers to produce coin-operated tables that can be used with properly sized and weighted cue balls.  This has come as a welcome relief to the many advanced players who enjoy playing in bar leagues, but have heretofore had to put up with unruly cue balls.

Next month, we’ll delve a little further into the subject of cue balls.