Straight pool

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A traditional straight pool rack with the 1 and 5 balls at the bottom corners,[1] and all other balls placed randomly

Straight pool, also called 14.1 continuous or simply 14.1, is a type of pool game. It was the common sport of championship competition until it was overtaken by faster-playing games like nine-ball (and to a lesser extent eight-ball).

In straight pool, the shooter may attempt to shoot at any object ball on the table. The goal is to reach a set number of points determined by agreement before the game. One point is scored for each object ball pocketed where no foul is made. A typical game might require a player to score 100 points to win. In professional competition, straight pool is usually played to 125 points. Straight pool is a call-pocket game, meaning the player must indicate the intended object ball and pocket on every shot.

The game was the popular pool game in the United States, and immortalized in the 1961 film The Hustler. The game remains well known in the United States, Europe, Argentina and Japan, but is more obscure elsewhere. The first WPA-sanctioned World Straight Pool Championship was held in 2006 (the winner was Germany's Thorsten Hohmann). Possibly as a consequence of this renewed professional competitive attention, public interest in the game has undergone a resurgence, as reflected in the amount of coverage 14.1 now receives in the billiards press.[2][clarification needed]


Jerome Keogh

Straight pool is derived from an earlier pool game called continuous pool. Like its successor, in continuous pool a player has to score a certain number of points (usually 100) to win the match, and a point is earned for every object ball legally pocketed. However, a new rack does not start until all the object balls have been pocketed. When the new rack begins, the object balls are racked at the foot spot, and the player has to break from behind the head string. As players become skilled in scoring dozens of points in a single turn, they would often employ defensive shots in breaks to avoid risk of giving their opponents runout opportunities. Because of this, Jerome Keogh, who was a winner of numerous tournaments, came up with the idea in 1910 of reracking the balls while there was still an object ball on the table, therefore encouraging players to be more offensive. This new game became 14.1 continuous and would a few years later be called straight pool. The name 14.1 continuous comes from the fact that 14 balls are shot with one remaining to continue the shot and break the new rack.

The initial rack[edit]

In the initial rack in straight pool, the fifteen object balls are racked in a triangular rack, 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 placed at the rack's left corner,[1] although this is not an official rule. Other balls are placed at random and must touch their neighbors.

Unlike in most pool games, where pocketing a ball and spreading the balls is the aim on the break, the object in straight pool's standard initial break shot is to leave the opponent with a safety. This is because the call-pocket rule includes the break shot.[note 1] 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 one of these two options results in a foul. Fouling on the initial break results in a special penalty of a loss of 2 points. In addition, the opponent has the choice either of accepting the table in position, or alternatively of having the balls re-racked and requiring the offending player to repeat the opening break.

All other fouls during the game result in a one-point deduction, including fouling on an intragame rack. However, a third foul in a row at any time in a straight pool game results in a loss of 15 points (for purposes of this rule, a foul on the initial break, though it is a loss of two points, is not counted as two fouls). The 15-point deduction is in addition to the one-point loss for each foul. Thus, the first two fouls are a loss of one point each, and the third foul in a row is a loss of 16 points; 1 point for the foul, and 15 points for it being the third consecutive foul.

Pocketing the balls[edit]

A player can shoot at and pocket any object ball on the table. However, the player has to call which object ball they will try to sink, and the pocket they will send it in (which is usually done by naming the ball's designation number, and pointing to the intended pocket). Shots like caroms and combinations do not have to be called. If an object ball other than the one called gets pocketed or if the called object ball goes into another pocket, then it returns to the table which therefore ends the player's inning. But if a player manages to pocket an object ball on the same shot with the one they call properly and make, then that other pocketed ball counts as a bonus point.

Intragame racking[edit]

An intragame rack.

Because straight pool is played to a specific number of points normally far in excess of the 15 points available in the initial rack, multiple intragame racks are necessary. Intragame racking employs a separate set of rules from those in place at the game's start.

To reach the point where an intragame rack becomes necessary, the balls are played until only the cue ball and one object ball remain on the table's surface. At that time, if neither the cue ball nor the fifteenth object ball remain in the rack area (or is interfering with racking in the rack area), the fourteen pocketed object balls are racked with no apex ball, and the rack is placed so that if the apex ball were in the rack, its center would rest directly over the table's foot spot. Play then continues with the cue ball shot from where it rested and the fifteenth, non-racked, object ball from where it rested prior to racking.

The "14.1 continuous" appellation derives from this racking practice, i.e., that fourteen racked object balls and one remaining object ball left in position is presented to the players at the conclusion of each intragame rack. The shooter will then normally try to pocket the unracked fifteenth ball, and at the same time have the cue ball carom into the fourteen racked balls, spreading them so that subsequent shots are available, and a run may continue.

A number of rules have developed which detail what must be done when one or both of the cue ball and fifteenth object ball are either in the rack area at the time an intragame rack is necessary, or are in such proximity to the intragame racking area, that the physical rack cannot be used without moving the one or the other. The rules also vary depending on whether the cue ball or fifteenth object ball are resting on the table's head spot. Such rules are detailed on the following chart (note therein that the kitchen refers to the area behind the table's head string).

Straight Pool Intragame Racking Chart
15th ball lies Cue ball lies
In the Rack Not in the Rack and
not on the Head Spot
On the Head Spot
In the Rack 15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in kitchen
15th ball: head spot
Cue Ball: in position
15th ball: center spot
Cue Ball: in position
Pocketed 15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in kitchen
15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in position
15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in position
Behind Head String,
but not on Head Spot
15th ball: in position
Cue Ball: head spot
Not behind Head String,
and not in the Rack
15th ball: in position
Cue Ball: in kitchen
On Head Spot 15th ball: in position
Cue Ball: center spot

Highest runs[edit]

Earl Strickland holds the record for the highest run at the World Straight Pool Tournament.[citation needed]

Willie Mosconi - 526 balls[edit]

Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee Willie Mosconi had a record high run of 526 points.[3] Here is what he said about the high run:

On March 19, [1954] in Springfield, Ohio, I ran 526 balls, a record that still stands. I was playing a two-hundred-point match against an amateur by the name of Earl Bruney in the East High Billiard Club. He made three balls off the break, then I ran two hundred and just kept going. The run took two hours and ten minutes, which means that over the span I averaged four balls a minute. I finally missed a difficult cut shot, but by that time I was weary; it was almost a relief to have it come to an end. There were about three hundred people in the audience, and one of them was an attorney who prepared an affidavit attesting to the validity of my claim to a new record. A few days later, the BCA gave its stamp of approval.[4]

John Schmidt - 626 balls[edit]

Willie Mosconi's record for the highest documented run stood for 65 years, 2 months, and 8 days. It was finally beat on May 27, 2019, when John Schmidt ran 626 balls at Easy Street Billiards in Monterey, California. It was the result of a sustained, months-long effort to break Mosconi's record. The run was captured on video and witnessed by many.[5]

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.


  1. ^ a b Shamos, Michael Ian (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford. p. 195. ISBN 1-55821-219-1.
  2. ^ See for example the last decade's worth of issues of Billiards Digest, Pool & Billiard Magazine and InsidePOOL.
  3. ^ "Willie Mosconi". Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  4. ^ The Break. "The Break August Issue 2001". Issuu. Retrieved 13 December 2015.
  5. ^ "After Much Effort, an 'Unbreakable' Record in Straight Pool Is Topped". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 June 2019.

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