Although practical coaching can help you improve your own game more than the written word, that doesn’t mean we can’t help anyone looking to know a bit more from a spectator’s perspective! Although the regulations cover most of the basic terms you’ll encounter, a few hours watching tournaments live and you’ll notice the commentators using a fair bit of jargon. As a result, here’s a list of commonly used phrases and their meanings to get you clued up fully:
Backspin – Keeping control of the cue ball is one of the fundamental parts of succeeding at any cue sport, and backspin is one of the most commonly used methods. By angling the cue in such a way as to hit the cue ball lower, players are able to bring the cue ball back the way it came after making contact with the object ball.
Baulk colour – Any of the three colour balls on the Baulk-line (Green, Yellow and Brown).
Bridge – This both references the piece of ancillary equipment known as the ‘mechanical bridge’ and the hand used by a player to rest the cue on. You’ll notice professionals also raise up their ‘resting hand’ to get over certain obstacles when attempting shots.
Cannon – Refers to a stroke where the cue ball hits more than one object ball in the process.
Century – Any break which totals 100 points or more.
Check side – Refers to a type of spin (either left or right) imparted on the ball which is apparent after the ball hits a cushion, coming off at a more acute angle and at a slower pace.
Clearance – When a player pots all the balls on the table.
Double-kiss – Can be either fortunate or unfortunate, the double-kiss is when the cue ball hits the same object ball twice.
Follow-through – Any good snooker stroke should hit the cue ball cleanly with the cue following through the line the ball travels, hence the term.
Full ball – A shot where the player strikes the cue ball in such a way that it hits the object ball totally straight, with no angle.
Half ball – A shot where the player strikes the cue ball in such a way that it hits the outside edge of the object ball and creates a sharp angle.
In-off – Pocketing the cue ball after making contact with an object ball.
Kick – One of the great phenomena of snooker. The kick is where either the cue ball or the object ball literally jumps in the air slightly after receiving contact from the cue or the cue ball respectively. The effect is nearly always negative for the striker, as the angle on either ball is disturbed and contact is rarely clean. Many attempts have been made to explain why kicks occur, the most frequent explanations being friction from the table surface and, more commonly, a bit of dust or chalk on either ball when there is contact.
Maximum – A break of 147 points, requiring all 15 reds with blacks potted at every stage, followed by all the colours.
Quarter ball – A shot where the player strikes the ball in such a way that it just catches the edge of the object ball, creating an even more pronounced angle.
Rest – A cue-like piece of ancillary equipment with an X-shaped area at the end for the cue to ‘rest’ on. This enables cueing in tricky positions, although at the expense of some control over the cue-ball and the cue itself.
Safety shot – A stroke which attempts to put the balls (in particular, the cue ball) in a difficult position for the opponent to pot anything. This is an attritional tactic which is hugely important at professional level.
Shot to nothing – Refers to a stroke where a pot is attempted, but the safety shot is of far greater importance and the angle takes the cue ball into the Baulk area. As a result, if the pot goes in, position on a colour is rarely guaranteed but, if it stays out, the opponent will have nothing to aim for.
Sidespin – Spin imparted on the cue ball by striking it left or right of centre. The effect is only really felt after hitting a cushion at an angle, and usually causes the cue ball to speed up dramatically (in contrast to ‘check side’).
Spider – An elevated rest used by players to reach over obstructions and play a shot. The ‘spider’ name is in reference to its long legs.
Swerve – By striking the cue ball down and to the left or the right of centre, the natural path of the ball will be somewhat curved. This is used by players when attempt to get around balls that are only slightly obstructing the line to the ball on.
Trick shots – An exhibition shot which is pre-defined and extraordinary in its nature. The first true trick shot maestro was the billiards player Francois Mingaud, who toured Europe in the early 19th century, and the fad is still very much alive today.