Play Your Best Pool: How the Balls You Play With Affect Your Game

Johnny Henson, Professor Pool

Players are always looking for some easy ways to improve their games. Most players think of buying a new cue stick, retipping their cue stick with a quality cue tip, or even buying a special type of chalk when trying to improve their games. I would like you to consider that the quality of the balls you play with also has a lot to do with the quality of your game.

Many playing locations do not keep up the quality of the balls on their tables. With heavy use, a set of balls could need to be replaced every year. As balls wear out from use and abuse, they become scratched, pitted, and out of round, severely affecting the play ability of the balls. Dirty balls also play differently than clean balls. A set of balls that is unpolished will play better and different after they are polished. Clean polished balls roll and draw better than dirty, unpolished balls.

Collision induced throw, or CIT, is greatly reduced with clean polished balls over dirty unpolished balls. I polish the balls in the billiard room that I help manage at my community about every two weeks. We go much longer between refelting the tables, because there is less friction on the felt due to the clean, polished balls.

Let’s also consider the quality of the balls to start with. A very high-quality set of balls could cost $350 to $500. A lot of businesses, when they buy new sets of balls, will pay $200 or less per set of balls. Remember, you get what you pay for when it comes to balls. Cheap balls wear out very fast, whereas high-quality balls, if kept cleaned and polished, will last a lot longer and will play better. I recommend that all serious pool players carry at least their own cue ball with them, that will work on the coin-op table that they play on. If they play on a regular table, then just a high-quality cue ball will work. For real serious pool players, I recommend that they buy a very high-quality set of balls that they will keep clean and polished in a carrying case. Everywhere they go they will put their balls on the table while they are playing. Either way you will improve your playing and enjoyment of the game. Give this a try and let me know if this helped you.

Johnny Henson, Professor Pool, and Steve Farmer are both PBIA and ACS certified instructors. If you have any questions, please email us at [email protected], or call 623-377-0042. Visit our website at