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Pool in Ireland

Pool in Ireland is different. The dimensions are smaller - the table's linear measurements about 3/4 of the standard in American or Continental sets. The balls, proportional, are in yellow and red, besides the cue ball and the black.*

The challenger breaks, usually. It's variable by region.

Irish pool table

It's not necessary to call the pocket for a normal shot — only on the black. If one's ball sinks on a normal shot, that's fair play. When shooting at the black, a pocket is claimed once called, so the opponent may not sink the black there unless the first player proceeds to foul in attempting it — usually. It's called "stickpockets," and it's one variation....

To "foul" is the same as to "scratch," but the consequences are different than in a U.S. game. A foul allows the opponent two shots (unless he is shooting for the black; then it's just one. Usually.) This "two shots on a foul" is really the most important difference in play. The strategies that it allows (many of them dirty), create a game that requires a bit of strategy.

A foul on the black does not end the game, but is an ordinary foul, usually.

When the cue ball goes into pocket or onto floor, it is placed in a semicircle behind the break line. From here, backtable shots are either allowable or not for a normal shot, and allowable or not for a shot at the black. And that's the peculiarity of Irish pool — that specific rules of play are variable. They are different from pub to pub, although tenacious within each pub.

Each pub has its "house rules," and the distinctions are essential. Can you pot that black "backtable?" Does "two shots" carry (in other words, if you make your first shot after the opponent fouls, do you still have two shots at your disposal?) These matters are settled only locally.

If in doubt, one must ask. A good player outside of their "local" will do so. Every pub that has a table has its own set of rules, and playing by the house rules is part of shooting a proper game.

Sometimes there will be an obscure matter that nobody around the table will know. Someone will have to go ask the barkeep.

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* The black ball features the digit "8" within a white round — the only numbered ball on an Irish table.

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