Straight pool

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Straight pool
Straight Pool Rack.jpg
A traditional straight pool rack with the 1 and 5 balls at the bottom corners, and all other balls placed randomly
Highest governing bodyWorld Pool-Billiard Association
First played1910
Team memberssingle competitors or doubles
Mixed genderYes
TypeIndoor, table
EquipmentCue sports equipment
VenueIndoor, table
Glossaryglossary of cue sports terms
Country or regionWorldwide

Straight pool, which is also called 14.1 continuous and 14.1 rack, is a cue sport in which two competing players attempt to pot as many billiard balls as possible without playing a foul. The game, which is played on a billiard table, is the primary version of pool that was played in professional competition until it was superseded by faster-playing games like nine-ball and eight-ball in the 1970s.

In straight pool, the player may attempt to pocket any object ball on the table regardless of its number or color until one object ball and the cue ball remain, at which point the other fourteen balls are replaced. At this point, play resumes with the objective of pocketing the remaining ball in a manner that causes the cue ball to carom into the rack, opening the balls and allowing the player to continue the run. The goal is to reach a set number of points that is determined by agreement before the game begins. One point is scored by pocketing an object ball without a foul. In professional competition, straight pool is usually played to 125 or 150 points, with longer matches becoming more prevalent. In straight pool, every shot requires a nomination for both the ball and pocket being potted.

The game is popular in the United States and is played in the 1961 film The Hustler. A World Straight Pool Championship was held from 1912 until 1990. The World Tournament, which is run by Dragon Promotions, was first held in 2006 and was won by Thorsten Hohmann. The game is also represented at a continental level in events such as the U.S Open and the European Pool Championships.


Jerome Koegh chalking his cue
Jerome Keogh invented the game in 1910

Straight pool is derived from an earlier game called continuous pool,[1] in which points are earned for every ball that is potted. When all of the balls are potted, a new rack begins and the player who potted the final ball plays the break. As players became skilled in scoring dozens of points in a single turn, they would often use defensive shots on the break to avoid their opponent potting the 15 balls on the table.[2]

In 1910, Jerome Keogh, who won numerous continuous pool tournaments, wanted to increase the attacking nature from the break-off shot. This new game became known as "14.1 continuous" and "14.1 rack", and in 1912 it became known as straight pool.[3] The 14.1 refers to the 14 balls that make up the rack when one ball remains. The game quickly overtook continuous pool in popularity and was the most-played version of pool until eight-ball became popular.[3][4]


In straight pool's first frame, fifteen object balls are racked with the center of the apex ball placed over the foot spot. Traditionally the 1-ball is placed at the rack's right corner and the 5-ball is placed at the rack's left corner.[4] Other balls are placed at random and must touch adjacent balls.[4]

Unlike most pool games, the object of straight pool's standard initial break shot is to leave the opponent without the chance to pot a ball. This is known as a safety. All shots—including the break shot—in straight pool require nomination, in which both the ball and pocket are called before the shot is taken.[a][6] Some shots, such as caroms and combinations, do not have to be called. On the break, either a ball must be pocketed in a designated pocket, or the cue ball and at least two additional balls must touch a rail. The failure to accomplish either of these conditions results in a foul. Fouling on the initial break incurs a penalty loss of two points. In addition, the opponent has the choice of either accepting the table in position or of having the balls re-racked and requiring the offending player to repeat the opening break.[4][7]

A rack with an object ball to the left of the rest
An object ball is to the left of the racked balls. A typical layout for the intragame rack.

All other fouls made during the game incur a one-point deduction and third-consecutive foul at any time results in the loss of 15 points; this deduction is in addition to the one-point loss for each foul.[7] The unique feature of straight pool is the racking that is played when one ball remains. These intra-game racks have a specific set of rules; when the rack is supposed to be replaced, if neither the cue ball nor the object ball remain in the rack area, the balls are replaced with no ball at the apex. At this point, the aim is to pot the remaining ball and carom into the pack of balls, allowing a shot on the next ball and allowing the run to continue. Additional rules apply when either ball is in the position where the balls would usually be racked.[7]

Highest runs[edit]

In straight pool, skilled players can pot all of the balls in a single rack and continue to do so for large runs. On March 19, 1954, Willie Mosconi set a record-high run of 526 points over 36 racks.[8] Mosconi had been playing a race-to-200-points match against an amateur player called Earl Bruney in Springfield, Ohio. Bruney scored the first three points before Mosconi ran the next 200 points but continued for over two hours to 526 before missing a fine cut shot. The run was witnessed by 300 people, including a lawyer who produced an affidavit to confirm it took place, and it was later confirmed by the Billiard Congress of America.[9]

Mosconi's record for the highest documented run stood for over 65 years. It was finally beaten on May 27, 2019, when John Schmidt ran 626 balls in Monterey, California. It was the result of a sustained, months-long effort to break Mosconi's record. The run was captured on video which was never released.[10] Critics have argued that Mosconi's record was made in competition while Schmidt simply set up break shots for himself, and that his video was never released.[11]

Tournaments and governance[edit]

Straight pool is governed by regional councils such as the European Pocket Billiard Federation, and at a worldwide level by the World Pool Association. The World Straight Pool Championship was created in 1913 and ran sporadically until 1990. In 2006, Dragon Promotions recreated the championship as the World Tournament.[12] A straight pool event has been played at the European Pool Championships annually since 1980.[13][14] The U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship was played annually from 1966 to 1993;[15] it was revived for one year in 2000 and has been held annually since 2016.[16]

The game has been in decline since the 1980s; players in the United States often call straight pool "dead".[17] Many factors have lea to the game's decline, including the popularity of games such as nine-ball and eight-ball, and a lack of competitions.[17]

Popular culture[edit]

Straight pool has been has featured in popular culture, most notably in the 1956 novel The Hustler and its 1961 film adaptation.[18][19] Straight pool, in common with other pool games, has been associated with hustling.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The break shot in straight pool is similar in manner to the break shot in snooker as the player also tries to leave a safety even though the game of snooker does not have a call-pocket rule.[5]


  1. ^ "Feb: Continuous". Billiards Digest. February 2014. Archived from the original on September 30, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  2. ^ "Rules of Play". Archived from the original on September 21, 2018. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "History". Pool History. Archived from the original on November 1, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d Shamos, Michael Ian (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford. p. 195. ISBN 1-55821-219-1.
  5. ^ "the greatest break in snooker history was even better than anyone realised". deadspin.
  6. ^ "Rules of pool - 4. straight pool". pool Archived from the original on December 5, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "Official rules". Archived from the original on June 10, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  8. ^ "Willie Mosconi". Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  9. ^ The Break. "The Break August Issue 2001". Issuu. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  10. ^ "After Much Effort, an 'Unbreakable' Record in Straight Pool Is Topped". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 5, 2019. Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  11. ^ Panazzo, Mike. "For the record..." Billiards Digest. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  12. ^ "The World Straight Pool Championship". AZ Billiards. September 29, 2005. Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  13. ^ "Hall of Fame – Dynamic Billard European Championships". Archived from the original on January 3, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  14. ^ "European Pool Championships". Archived from the original on January 3, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  15. ^ Dyer, R.A. (May 1, 2005). Billiards: The Official Rules and Records Book. p. 183. ISBN 1-59228-744-1.
  16. ^ "2016 US Open Straight Pool". CueSports International (CSI). Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  17. ^ a b R. A. Dyer (August 1, 2005). "What Killed Straight Pool?". Billiards Digest. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  18. ^ Rossen, Robert (1972). Three Screenplays: All the Kings Men, The Hustler, and Lilith. New York, Anchor Doubleday Books. LCCN 70-175418.
  19. ^ "Review: Hustler, The". Archived from the original on December 5, 2020. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  20. ^ Evan V. Symon. "The Strange Realities Of Hustling Pool For A Living". Archived from the original on August 14, 2019. Retrieved December 5, 2020.

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