English Amateur Billiards Association

EABA : The Billiard Monthly : November, 1911

The Billiard Monthly : November, 1911

Top of Table Play

In this short article an endeavour will be made to initiate
the student into the main essentials of the top of the table
game, by means of a few practical examples. Place the
red ball on the billiard spot and the white ball just behind
it. The cue ball might be a foot or more below the spot on a
diagonal line from well above a middle pocket. Play very
gently for a three-quarter ball cannon and the red ball will
be found lying nicely over the corner pocket with the cue ball
an inch or so below the white. If the cannon had been
taken half-ball the position would at once have been
destroyed, as the white would have been cut towards the
pocket instead of the red, and the red sent too low down.

Now play on to the red and pot it, but first ask yourself
three questions. In order to bring the cue ball round to a
position similar to that which it occupied on the other
side of the table, must the red be (1) taken finer or fuller
than half-ball, and how much? (2) must side be imparted
to the cue ball? and (3) must the strength (as regulated by
the contact) be dead slow, fairly slow, or free?

Many of the strokes in top-of-the-table play are to be
made—and best made—without side, but side need not be
shunned when required, as it is easier to play accurately
with slow side at comparatively short range than it is at
long range or with a fast stroke at any range. A slow ball
laden with side pulls to such an extent that, when running
the length of the table aim has to be taken dead full,
whereas with a fast stroke the normal aim need not be
altered. At short range, on the other hand, the cloth pull
is largely negligible, so far as aim is concerned. To prove
this, place the red ball against the top cushion a foot from
a corner pocket and the cue ball for a simple slow pot by
aiming at the cushion behind the ball. Now execute the
same stroke at the same strength with running side, using
the same aim, and watch the altered direction that the cue
ball will take, the pot having meanwhile been duly made.

The difficulty of top-of-the-table play in billiards, including
cushion cannoning in that latitude, has been both understated
and over-estimated in books that have been written
on the subject. To the indifferent player nothing can be
more difficult, but the player who has thoroughly grasped
the principles of the general game will quickly realize that
the work at the top of the table is really the ordinary game
in miniature.

Players whose only thought is the immediate cannon or
pot will do no good at the top of the table, because the first
essential of that modern development of the game is a close
and accurate diagnosis of where the cue ball will run and
stop after a pot, and where all three balls will be left after
a cannon. And here it is, also, that the exceeding virtue
of gentle play in billiards makes itself manifest.

When the object ball and cannon ball are near to each
other it is comparatively easy to keep them so for a few
strokes, or guide the red towards a pocket whilst also leaving
the other in a likely scoring position. In potting the
red, again, it is often as easy to guide the cue ball into
another scoring position as it is to simply “go for the

The simplest form of top-of-the-table play is that which
retains the white behind the spot, utilizing it for a
cannon alternately with a pot near the pocket. If near to
the spot to begin with, as we have described, it is some time
before the gentle run-through cannon contacts finally land
it against the cushion, and after this the “postman’s
knock” phase commences.

If, when the pot has been made, the cue ball is not
brought satisfactorily round for an easily-controlled cannon,
either direct or off the top cushion, a pot off the spot is the
game, and this may be made, without disturbing the white,
by means of a gentle screw-back if opposite the pocket; of a
gentle stun if opposite the lower shoulder; or of a two cushion
run-through with running side if opposite the upper

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