Straight pool

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Straight pool
Image of a rack
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
TypeIndoor, table
EquipmentCue sports equipment
VenueIndoor, table
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 The game was the primary version of pool played in professional competition until it was superseded by faster-playing games like nine-ball and eight-ball in the 1980s.

In straight pool, the player may call and attempt to pocket any object ball on the table regardless of its number or color until only one object ball and the cue ball remain, at which point the other fourteen balls are re-racked. 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, spreading out 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; traditionally 100 points is needed for a win, though professional matches may be higher. One point is scored by pocketing an object ball without a foul, while a point is deducted on a foul.

The game was most popular in the United States and is notably played in the 1961 film The Hustler. The World Straight Pool Championship was held from 1912 until 1990. The modern incarnation was held from 2006 until ending in 2010. The game is currently represented at a continental level in events such as the American 14.1 Straight Pool Championship and the European Pool Championship's straight pool event.


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. He introduced the modern rule that the object balls are re-racked not when all have been pocketed but after 14 have been sunk and one remains on the table. This new game became known as "14.1 continuous" and "14.1 rack", and in 1912 it became known as straight pool.[3] The game quickly overtook continuous pool in popularity and was the most-played version of pool until Nine-ball and Eight-ball became popular.[3][4]


In straight pool's first frame, the 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 for visibility, though there is no such rule requirement.[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 the cue ball and two other balls must touch a rail, or a ball must be pocketed. 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] All other fouls made during the game incur a one-point deduction, and a player incurs an additional 15-point penalty for committing three consecutive fouls.[7][8]

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

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 to continue the run. Additional rules apply when either ball is in the position where the balls would usually be racked.[7][8]

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.[9] 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 in the match, but Mosconi ran the next 200 points to win. However, Mosconi continued the run for over two hours to score 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.[10]

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, which was the result of a sustained, months-long effort to break Mosconi's record.[11] 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.[12][13] In similar fashion as Schmidt, on January 18, 2022 as part of the "Legends of Pocket Billiards" high run series, Jayson Shaw completed a 51 rack, record breaking run of 714 balls, which, upon video review, was amended to 669 balls following a touched ball foul when he was bridging over another ball.[14]

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 1912 and ran sporadically until 1990. In 2006, the championship was revived, until again ending in 2010.[15] A straight pool event has been played at the European Pool Championships annually since 1980.[16][17] The U.S. Open Straight Pool Championship was sanctioned by the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) from 1966 to 2000;[18] It was revived by CueSports International (CSI) for one year in 2007 and afterwards was held annually from 2016, until again ending in 2019.[19]

The game has been in decline since the 1980s; players in the United States have often called straight pool "dead".[20] Popularity of the game has been reduced due to the popularity of other pool games such as nine-ball and eight-ball, and a lack of straight pool competitions.[20]

In popular culture[edit]

Straight pool has been featured in popular culture, most notably in the 1959 novel The Hustler and its 1961 film adaptation.[21][22] It also provides the setting and background for John O'Hara's monologue short story, "Straight Pool."[23]

Straight pool, in common with other pool games, has been associated with hustling.[8] The Twilight Zone produced an episode titled "A Game of Pool" in 1961, and remade in 1989 with a straight pool player being revived from the afterlife to compete in one last match.[24][25]


  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". WPA Pool. 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.[permanent dead link]
  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. ^ a b c Fels, George (August 1, 2000). "5 - Straight Pool". Pool Simplified, Somewhat. pp. 61–76. ISBN 9780486413686.
  9. ^ "Willie Mosconi". The Billiards. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  10. ^ The Break. "The Break August Issue 2001". Issuu. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015. Retrieved December 13, 2015.
  11. ^ Mather, Victor (May 28, 2019). "After Much Effort, an 'Unbreakable' Record in Straight Pool Is Topped". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  12. ^ "Billiards Digest - Pool's Top Source for News, Views, Tips & More".
  13. ^ Panazzo, Mike. "For the record..." Billiards Digest. Archived from the original on September 16, 2020. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  14. ^ "JAYSON SHAW ACHIEVES RECORD STRAIGHT POOL HIGH RUN". AZ Billiards. May 20, 2022. Retrieved July 2, 2022.
  15. ^ "The World Straight Pool Championship". AZ Billiards. September 29, 2005. Archived from the original on June 13, 2011. Retrieved August 25, 2008.
  16. ^ "Hall of Fame – Dynamic Billard European Championships". Archived from the original on January 3, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  17. ^ "European Pool Championships". Archived from the original on January 3, 2019. Retrieved January 3, 2019.
  18. ^ Dyer, R.A. (May 1, 2005). Billiards: The Official Rules and Records Book. p. 183. ISBN 1-59228-744-1.
  19. ^ "2016 US Open Straight Pool". CueSports International (CSI). Archived from the original on September 29, 2020. Retrieved December 5, 2020.
  20. ^ a b R. A. Dyer (August 1, 2005). "What Killed Straight Pool?". Billiards Digest. Archived from the original on October 12, 2006. Retrieved February 15, 2007.
  21. ^ Rossen, Robert (1972). Three Screenplays: All the Kings Men, The Hustler, and Lilith. New York, Anchor Doubleday Books. LCCN 70-175418.
  22. ^ "Review: Hustler, The". Archived from the original on December 5, 2020. Retrieved January 7, 2020.
  23. ^ John O'Hara, "Straight Pool," in James Moffett and Kenneth McElheny, eds., Points of View: An Anthology of Stories. Revised Edition. New York: Mentor, 1995, pp. 32-35.
  24. ^ DeVoe, Bill. (2008). Trivia from The Twilight Zone. Albany, GA: Bear Manor Media. ISBN 978-1-59393-136-0
  25. ^ Grams, Martin. (2008). The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. Churchville, MD: OTR Publishing. ISBN 978-0-9703310-9-0

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