A Closer Look at Balls

by Tom Simpson © Apr i l 2000 – Al l Right s Reserved – PoolCl inics. Com


Balls vary in quality, and more importantly, they wear over time. How good the balls are, how dirty they are, and how worn out they are makes a surprisingly large amount of difference in your shot-making and position play.

As for quality, the main factors are consistency of weight and roundness. Centennials (those balls with the black line circling the number field) go through more quality control checks than other balls, and so they generally perform more accurately and consistently.

The dirtier and more scuffed up balls are, the more throw you’ll get. To compensate, shoot harder or over cut everything a little. The more worn the balls, the more likely they are to be out of round. Worn out balls may not roll straight – shoot a little harder to avoid being the victim of roll-off.

Look closely at your cueball (CB). Several CB’s are widely used, and there are important differences.

Barbox cueballs aside, the most popular CB, in my experience, is the Red Circle cueball.

You’ll also see a lot of Blue Circles and Red Triangles.

The Blue Circles come with Centennials, and are well matched to the balls, meaning they are exactly the same weight.

Since the physics of the game assumes that cueballs and object balls are the same diameter and mass, this is important.

Unfortunately, most of the time the cueball does not match the object balls.

My opinion as to why the Red Circle CB is the most popular is that it plays as if it weighs a little less than the OB’s and thus seems easier to draw (and everyone feels good when they can draw really well).

The Red Circle CB comes with the highly popular Aramith ball sets.

This CB is actually made from a carom pool resin, and thus has slightly differentperformance characteristics from other balls.

On barboxes, cueballs come in a wide variety of types. Oversized cueballs are the most difficult to deal with.

Since they weigh “too much” they want to follow every shot, and draw is very difficult.

Since they are “too big” they over cut every shot. If this is what you alwaysplay with, it seems normal.

But if you have to switch back and forth between oversize and standard CB’s, you need to be aware of the differences.

Some barbox CB’s are the same size as the OB’s, but are heavier, so they will operate the mechanism that allows the CB to return to play.

These balls cut your shots properly, but will still follow too much.

With heavy CB’s, you’ll have to hit lower. Heavier balls will also affect your speed control.

As a cueball wears, it not only gets smaller and lighter, it gets out of round. And as it gets more scuffed and dirty, throw increases, and spin wears off the CB sooner, due to increased friction with the cloth.

It’s a good idea to wipe chalk and other marks off the CB after scratches and between games.

Here’s how you can quickly check “same-size” CB’s against your OB’s: Freeze the CBagainst the rail, and freeze an OB on each side of it.

Squat down so you can see the tops of the balls at eye level, and lay the butt of your cue across the top of all three balls.

Look carefully to see whether the stick touches all three balls at the same time.

This would mean they are all the same size. Often you will see a little daylight between the cueball and the stick, meaning the cueball is smaller than the object balls.

You can also try rolling the three balls by moving the stick, and see whether they all move together.

Smaller CB’s are lighter, so they draw easily.

Due to the fact that many poolrooms allow their CB’s to get terribly over-worn, someplayers carry their own cueball.

If you do this, consider carrying a standard CB, such as a Red Circle or a Blue Circle, so your opponents don’t suspect you of having some kind of trick ball.

If you have a table at home and play a fair amount, I suggest replacing your cueball once a year.

I always buy a new one around the first of the year, so I can remember. Your ball set will need to be replaced far less often. But, depending on the initial quality, and how much you play (and how much you care), they may need to be replaced as often as every 4 or 5 years.

Good balls play better and last longer. Spend the money.

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