Crud (game)

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Crud is a fast-paced game loosely based on billiards or pool, and originated in the Royal Canadian Air Force. It is played in units of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian Coast Guard, the United States Air Force, the United States Navy, the United States Marine Corps, and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The game is played on a pool or snooker table (usually the latter, when available) using the cue ball (the shooter ball), and one object ball (most commonly a striped ball since it is easiest to determine if it is in motion). Only the corner pockets are used. Side pockets (if there are any) are blocked off, traditionally by rolls of toilet paper.

Pool cues are not used; the shooter ball is launched across the table surface with the hand. A game of crud involves running frantically around the table and other players, trying to grab the shooter ball and either strike the object ball before it stops moving or sink it. This boisterous game is usually only played in a military mess as the management of most public establishments would not normally condone contact sports and the apparent abuse of their equipment.


Crud is a competitive, team sport. Each member of the two teams has three lives. The exception to this rule in some establishments is for "virgins", those who have never played the game before, who are given an additional life. A team's order of play is established at the beginning of a game and recorded on the scoreboard. A team must play in order. Anyone caught playing out of turn loses a life.

Prior to the lag, the referee does a roll call to verify the presence of all players. Anyone not present at the time of a roll call has his/her name erased and may not play in the game. Once all persons have been verified, a lag is performed.

In the event of an uneven number of players wishing to be involved with a crud match, a ghost may be assigned to a team missing the required number of players. In the event of a ghost player, the first three lives not assigned as the first life to a player, will be awarded to the ghost. Once the ghost is gone, play resumes as normal.

There will be at least one referee, usually known as the Crudmaster or Crudmeister, who is usually positioned centered on one of the long sides and must be holding a beverage in a cup. This beverage (usually alcoholic) ensures the referee’s physical safety: if he/she is bumped/jostled in such a way as to spill the beverage, the offending player loses a life and must replace the beverage. Particularly hostile games or games where the referee's neutrality is questionable may also employ a Linesman to assist the referee and are situated at opposite ends (the short ends) of the table; both are required to have beverages. In addition, a scorekeeper is sometimes used to keep track of lives lost and must also hold a drink at all times.

The referee’s rulings are final and he/she may change or make up additional rules on a whim. Arguing with the referee is authorized; however, intelligence and sportsmanship may become suspect if it continues unabated. Continual quibbling may be penalized by the loss of a life.

The lag[edit]

Much like various games of billiards, the choice of the serve is determined by a lag at the start of each match.

On the signal of the referee, both players will have five seconds to roll their lag shot. The use of both the object and shooter balls is authorized for this event. The lag shot consists of each player starting at a designated short side of the table and rolling one's ball to the opposite bumper of the table. Each ball must rebound and return to the lagging end of the table, but must not touch the near bumper. The nearer ball wins the lag and their team has the option of shooting or receiving. If neither player can keep the lag within the legal limits, the next two players will assume the responsibility of lagging for that match.

The serve[edit]

To begin play, a player from team B is given the object ball and a player from team A is given the shooter ball. Team B are said to be receiving or defending and the player at the table is referred to as the defender while team A are said to be serving or on offense and their player is called the shooter. The defender must set the object ball no less than 6 inches (150 mm) from the end bumper and remove his/her hand from the ball. The object ball is now set and the shooter may roll the shooter ball at the object ball. On the opening serve, the defender must be at the opposite end of the table from the shooter and may not physically obstruct the shooter, but may do anything to harass, visually obscure, or otherwise distract the shooter from hitting the object ball, but the server may request visual confirmation of the location of the object ball, but only once. It is not unheard of for female players to flash male opponents to gain an advantage. The shooter has three attempts to strike the object ball on the serve; if he/she does not manage to hit the object ball or the object ball does not travel six inches (152 mm), the shooter is assessed a life.

Neither the defender nor anything on his/her person (i.e. clothing) may touch the object ball once it is set or in motion nor the shooter ball until it has struck the object ball or play has been declared over. An infraction of this rule ends play and the player is assessed a life.

Once the shooter ball strikes the object ball, the defender becomes the shooter and the next player from team A becomes the defender. The previous shooter must vacate the playing area without affecting play in any way.


The shooter picks up the shooter ball and attempts to strike the object ball and sink it in one of the available pockets. There is no limit to the number of misses a player can make as long as the object ball remains in motion.

He/she may only make contact with the object ball by throwing the shooter ball from one of the short ends of the table, not from the sides with the blocked side pockets. The validity of a shot at the end of the table is determined by the location of the player's crotch with respect to an imaginary 45° line drawn from the corners of the table. Failing to be within the end of the table while making contact with the object ball and the shooter ball is a foul, called Balls (or Lips if female), and the offending player is assessed a life.

If the player is unable to hit the object ball with the shooter before the object ball stops moving (dead ball) he/she loses a life. If the object ball is sunk by team A in one of the pockets (a kill), a life may be assessed on either the previous shooter or the next shooter on team B, depending on who allowed the object ball to be killed; determination is solely within the discretion of the referee, but is usually assessed against the player who last had an opportunity to strike the object ball with the shooter ball. The shooter ball is then passed to the next player (in this case the next shooter on team B) to serve.

If the object ball does not travel at least six inches after being struck by the shooter ball (no six), the shooter loses a life. The exception is a double kiss where the shooter ball strikes the object ball causing it to go into a nearby rail, bounce off, and strike the shooter ball again causing the object ball to stop moving.

With the exception of a double kiss, if the object ball comes to rest, the current shooter loses a life. If the defender touches either ball for any reason, the defender loses a life.

While taunting an opponent is legal, fun, and generally encouraged, players may not physically interfere with each other. Interference calls may result in the referee warning the offender, or assessing the offending blocker a life. Stationary blocking is permitted provided that the player does not hold onto the table. Light body checks by the shooter in order to jockey for position are permitted. If the body check is excessive in the eyes of the referee, the shooter may be warned or assessed a life. The level of physical contact between team members may be waived to any level deemed appropriate by the referee in coordination and agreement of both teams involved in the match. The shooter must be given a reasonable opportunity to acquire the shooter ball.

The feet of players may not touch the felt of the table unless explicitly permitted by local custom. The shooter may leap onto the table to retrieve the shooter ball and both feet may leave the floor. However, the shooter's shoes, boots, or feet may never touch the playing surface. This is known as walking the table.

Between play[edit]

The team that is assessed a life has the choice of defending or shooting on the subsequent serve.

Losing players[edit]

When a player loses all three lives, that player must withdraw from the match. Order of play is adjusted accordingly, with play still alternating between the two teams regardless of how many survivors are playing. IE: the last survivor could alternate between several opponent players. It is customary for the first player out to procure a beverage of choice for the referee as penalty for their lack of finesse in the game. It is also customary for the second player out to procure a beverage for the lineman/scorekeeper (as used in play). The third player should procure a beverage for the scorekeeper if a lineman is employed.

Single-man rules[edit]

Single-man rules apply only when one team has only one player remaining. If both teams are down to one player, then normal rules apply. For the sake of simplicity, the team with the single man is referred to as team A and the opposing team as team B.

  1. Team A has the choice to serve or defend on the serve.
  2. While defending, team B may not make any contact with the player on team A, but may visually obstruct, harass or otherwise distract team A.
  3. While defending, team A is permitted to make contact with team B in accordance with any applicable combat rules (see below).

Other rules[edit]

It is required that any participant, including the referee, point only at another player with an elbow. Pointing with a finger costs the player a life. This rule seems to have begun by fighter pilots stationed in South Korea, where it is impolite to point with one's finger.

Only one member of each team is allowed within three feet of the crud table at a time. Anyone violating a rule is assessed a life.

Should one (or both) balls fly off or otherwise leave the playing surface, the player that caused it is assessed a life for "buffoonery."

Under no circumstances shall anyone make contact with the referee, lineman, or scorekeeper or spill their drinks. Anyone doing so will be assessed a life and/or be required to purchase the offended party a replacement drink at the bar.


When a team loses all of its players the match is over and the other team is declared the victor. The players of the losing team are required to buy their counterpart (i.e. the fourth player of the losing team buys the fourth player of the winning team) a beverage of their choice. If there is a member on the winning team with all three lives intact, said team member is also called a virgin and will receive double rounds due to one's prowess and ability to remain untouched throughout the match; this additional alcohol also assists in preventing the player from future virgin rounds.


There are many variants on these rules, including the degree to which contact is allowed (for example, full contact, no contact, or contact so long as the blocker is stationary). Check the rules posted on the wall at your establishment; however, reading the rules or mouthing the words while reading the rules may cost you a life (local rules vary).

Large 12-by-6-foot snooker tables may or may not have the side pockets blocked, a historical mix-up, but any smaller tables' side pockets must be blocked.

A dominant variation of crud is also played under many names. In this variation, the game is played on regular-sized pool tables, but every man is for himself/herself (no teams) and the object ball must be struck from the opposite end of the table. All six pockets are in play.


Shuck utilizes the same two-ball system and many of the rules of crud, but does not employee a referee – it is geared towards casual home and bar play. Rules not mentioned below are generally acquired from crud.

Basic concept: Two teams of two players each. Unlike crud, there is no rotation of turns, instead all 4 players are involved in every point and either player on a team can grab the cue ball during the play of a point, but no player can ever reach over the center of the table to grab the cue ball; one team may shoot several times in a row. First team to 11 points wins, losing team takes a shot. The opening serve comes from either player on the serving team. The server gets only two attempts to hit "the object ball" otherwise the opposing team receives a point and control of the serve. The cue ball must be rolled (not thrown) and either it or the object ball must hit a wall or be on pace to hit a wall following the serve for it not to be called a fault. The team that scored a point on the prior play always takes the next serve.

Scoring: Once the object ball is moving it is like a "time-bomb" in the sense that when it stops moving the location of the cue ball on the table will (may) determine the winner of the point, i.e. if the cue ball is on your side of table when the object ball stops moving, you lose the point. The only variation to this is the "Gentleman's Rule" (see below).

Making the ball: You score a point by making the object ball in one of the two corner pockets on your opponent's (i.e., the opposite) side of the table or by banking the ball into a side pocket or back into one of your own pockets. If, upon striking the object ball, it goes either directly into a side pocket or the pockets on your own side of the table then you lose the point (note: toilet paper to block the side pockets is an acceptable variation). If the cue ball goes into ANY pocket on your throw, you lose the point—with one exception, the shuck, explained below.

Gentleman's rule: If the ball is coming to a stop and you throw (roll) the cue ball at it but miss and the ball stops, it does not matter what side of the table the cue ball is on, you still lose the point because you missed it (it's pretty obvious when it happens – no complaining allowed). Also part of the Gentleman's Rule is that you cannot just simply roll/push the cue ball onto your opponent's side when the ball is slowing to a stop. This rule is both as complicated as it is critical to the gameplay, and those attempting to play may not quite understand it at first but it will become obvious soon after playing a couple of rounds (think "I Know It When I See It" from Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart's opinion in the landmark 1964 case involving what should or should not be considered obscene—you'll just know it).

Shuck: A rare and gutsy play for advanced players. If your opponent strikes the object ball and you believe it is going into your pocket (or banking into a side pocket or their own pocket), you can take the cue ball and "shuck" it at your opponent's corner pockets. If you sink the cue ball in their pocket before the object ball falls into a pocket, you have essentially stolen the point away from your opponent. Of course, if you attempt a shuck and sink the cue ball, but the object ball does not fall into a pocket then you lose the point. The Gentleman’s rule is also employed if the object ball stops just short of a pocket as your shuck with the cue ball misses (i.e., you would still lose the point).


A more simple, popular variation is called H-O-R-S-E (or horse pool) or P-I-G (or pig pool), building on the rules of Tim. Like the H-O-R-S-E variation of basketball, each player has five lives (represented by letters of H-O-R-S-E). Like Tim, it is played on a six-pocket pool table, as individuals, and is particularly challenging because all shots must be released from the table end opposite the object ball.

The defender of a served the ball is called the server. The server rolls the object ball horizontally from the shooter, from one side to the other. The server must roll the ball on the opposite end of the table between the first and third dot, from either the left or the right side of the shooter. A mis-serve is any ball rolled by the Server that goes out of the bounds of the first and third dot. Three mis-serves in a row results in a letter for the server.

The shooter has three tries to hit the ball. If the ball is not tapped, the shooter gets a letter. If the ball is released from the near side of the table to the object ball, the shooter gets a letter. If the ball goes in a pocket, the next person in order gets a letter.

Nobody gets a letter if the object ball goes in a pocket on a serve. This is called T-N-A. The Shooter may only T-N-A twice in a row; the third T-N-A results in a letter to the shooter.

There is not a no six rule in H-O-R-S-E; the player is allowed to stop the object ball dead, if it is possible, resulting in a letter for the next player. The double-kiss rule is replaced with a double-tap rule, which reverses the order of play. A shooter who performs a double-tap does not play again; the player who was in order before that player must now play. The new order persists after play stops. (A double-tap does nothing in a two-person game.)

Walking the table is never permitted, and the shooter must have at least one foot on the ground when shooting. There may or may not be a referee. The player who gains the last letter becomes the shooter, and the winner of a game becomes the shooter of the next game and may choose to start play in forward or in reverse order.

Combat crud[edit]

A contact version of crud called combat crud is sometimes played, which allows full body checking and blocking similar to what one finds in ice hockey. This is one of the few situations where junior-grade officers are allowed to knock over generals and not be marched up on charges for it, and is therefore quite popular among the "subbies".

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