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by Willie Mosconi



Contents FOREWORD By Harry Grove












Table Specifications, Cue Racking the Balls, Cues

Cue Selection, Grip, and Stance

Basic, Rail, and Vee Bridges, Mechanical Bridge

Stroke Soft with Follow-through, Stroke and Speed

Stop, Follow, and Draw Shots, Warm-Up Stroking















What is “English”?, Stroke for English, Bank Shots

Hit the Object Ball, and Score, Helpful Experiment

Practice Drills for All Players, Try Long Shots

How to Win at 14.1 Pocket Billiards, Play to Win

Learn to Perform Trick Shots

Glossary of Terms and Expressions

Digest of Regulations, 14.1 Continuous Play Rotation


Tools of the trade Table specifications and racking the balls.


“If you walk into a room and you can’t spot the sucker… it’s you!” — Minnesota Fats


2 3



Pool Cue: 1. Bumper, 2. Butt, 3. Joint, 4. Shaft, 5. Ferrule, 6. Tip


Introduction to the Table and Equipment: As in most other sports, equipment for the playing of pocket billiards has undergone refinements through the years. For the most part, however, equipment specifications and game rules have remained standard since the mid-1800’s. I feel that an outline of these modern specifications may be helpful to you.

To form a basic bridge (top to bottom), make a fist and place it on the table plam down. Open your thumb and forefinger and lay the cue along your thumb. Draw your forefinger down over the top of the cue, then separate and extend the last three fingers into a broad base

table-rail markers as points of reference as you tackle the fascinating geometry of pocket billiards.

Study the accompanying il-

lustration to familiarize yourself with

Table specifications:

table markings. Head and foot strings are not drawn on the table, but are

All versions of pocket billiards are

only imaginary lines joining specific

played on a rectangular table twice as

side-rail dots. Most pocket-billiards

long as it is wide, with 41/2 by 9 feet

games start with a break shot from be-

generally accepted as official tournament size. Finely woven wool cloth is stretched over the rubber cushions and table bed. When this cloth is cleaned, it should be brushed from the 1

head to the foot of the table to keep the nap smooth. The foot end of the table is where the balls are racked.

End rails of the table are marked


with three equally spaced diamonds or 3

dots, and side rails are equipped with six such dots to designate playing boundaries and guide the player in computing bank-shot angles. You will learn to use


hind the head string; this string is also the boundary behind which you must shoot with “cue ball in hand� after a cue-ball scratch or fault. A foot spot is affixed to the table as the center of the imaginary foot string. Balls are racked on this spot to start a game, and during the course of play individual balls that have been pocketed illegally or shot off the table must be returned to the spot or as close behind it as possible if the 5

spot is covered by another ball.

6 7 8

Pool Table: 1. Side Pocket, 2. Foot String, 3. Foot Spot, 4. Foot Rail, 5. Head Rail, 6. Head Spot, 7. Side Pocket, 8. Head String


The Hustler

VS Rudolf Wanderone A.K.A. ”Minnesota Fats”

Wanderone enjoyed promoting a feud

Fats because he felt that [Wanderone] was

with world champion Mosconi over how

always hurting the image of the game in-

to present pool – either as a rough-and-

stead of helping it.” Wanderone would state

tumble gambling game (Wanderone) or

smugly, “I may have ‘given away’ a few

as a genteel pastime and art form (Mosco-

games to deserving competitors, but I have

ni). Mosconi’s widow, Flora, has said of

never lost a real money game since I was

the rivalry, “My husband hated Minnesota

old enough to spell ‘Weeli Mesconi’.” The

The Champ

S Wille Mosconi

two played on Valentine’s Day 1978 in a

York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and was

televised match on ABC’s Wide World of

announced by Howard Cosell. Although

Sports. With almost 11 million viewers,

Wanderone lost the game, he won the

the game was the second-highest rated

audience with his banter, and with his

episode of the show for that year, behind

joking manner. Mosconi on the other

only the Muhammad Ali vs. Leon Spinks

hand was reportedly perceived as cold.

rematch. The game was held at New 17

later chapter on game rules you will be instructed on how to position balls in the rack by number to start various games. In racking balls, it is important

Racking the Balls:

that they be moved to proper position at the foot spot and held in tight forma-

Regulation size is 2 1/4-inch diameter

tion while the rack is lifted. A “loose�

for all object balls and cue ball. Object

rack, one in which balls are separated,

balls are numbered I through 15, and

however slightly, will not break prop-

each ball is of a different solid color or

erly. Photographs in this section will

is banded for quick identification. In a

show you how to rack balls expertly.

STANDARD 8-BALL RACKING: 1-ball goes in the apex of the rack. 8-Ball goes in the middle. Place one striped-ball and one solid ball in the bottoms coners. The remaining balls go in no particular order.





TAKE YOUR CUE Cue selection, grip and stance.


“Rack em’ St. Peter… I beat everyone on Earth” — Minnesota Fats

The Fundamentals This is the first of several preliminary chapters in which I discuss the fundamentals of pocket-billiard play. Forgive the repetition, but I feel compelled to reemphasize the importance of this section to beginner and advanced player alike. I have observed too many otherwise promising students of the game stall and even backslide from a level of ability because of their neglect of fundamentals. A bad habit, formed and not corrected early in a player’s development, is likely to hinder his progress forever. Application of proper techniques in the following basic elements will enable you to progress to the maximum of your ability:

1 Cue selection, grip, and stance

2 Basic shotmaking

3 Basic bridge and variations

4 Hitting the cue ball

5 Stroke and follow-through


Pocket-billiard cues are nearly six feet long to permit your reaching the maximum number of shots in a comfortable position. A good cue is one whose weight distribution permits the

Cue Selection:

player to position his right-hand grip and left-hand bridge properly and

As a beginner, select a cue of average

without arm strain. This and other ref-

length and weight: let’s say 57 inches

erences to hand and arm are designed

and 19 or 20 ounces. Later, as you

to instruct the right-handed player.

practice, experiment to determine the

You left-handed players, of whom

weight best suited to you. If you find

there are a growing number, will re-

this game as challenging and fascinat-

verse such designations.

ing as I’m sure you will, your next step

may be purchase of a personal cue or

use sandpaper to taper the cue tip into

rental at your billiard center of one

a half-moon shape. The cue tip should

custom-fitted to you.

be rounded, not flat.

If you purchase your own cue,

“You tell Mosconi, if it ain’t for me, he’d be looking for work. I’m the one that put him on televison. He was the best tournament player. I’m the greatest money player.” — Minnesota Fats

“I’m not a pool hall guy.” — Willie Mosconi




5 4

Pool Cue: 1. Crown, 2. Shoulder, 3. Base, 4. Ferrule, 5. Shaft


Comfortable Stance: I’ve seen all kinds of stances, and I can safely say there are as many unorthodox stances by billiard players as by subway straphangers. Not all unusual

Here are two points of reference. A

stances are necessarily bad, but many

good billiard stance puts the player

are, and the only way to avoid the risk

into a balanced and comfortable posi-

of an unbalanced stance is to learn the

tion, and centers his head over the cue

correct position for body and feet-then

in the line of aim.

stick with it.

How do you achieve a good

stance? Eventually, you won’t be following this ritual before every shot, but for now, begin by standing erect, facing the direction of your shot. The position of the cue ball will determine how far back from the table you stand. For this exercise in proper form, however, stand about one foot back from

This photo sequence, from left to right, illustrates complete stroke action from aim to followthrough. Observe that my head is steady and that the cue remains level.

the table, with your weight evenly dis-

permits your right arm to swing freely

tributed on both feet.

and your left arm to be extended as

Now, turn both feet slightly to

straight as possible into the left-hand

the right and bend forward at the waist.

bridge. Your left knee will be bent a bit

Your feet should be six to eight inches

more than your right, and your body

apart and your weight still equally dis-

will be free to move slightly forward

tributed. This accepted billiard stance

with the stroke.

“You are what you are because it was in the cards. Every livin’ creature has a destiny. Understand? But some never know what it is. That’s the sad part. — Minnesota Fats 27

1 2



Comfortable Stance:


1. Head directly above cue, 2. Light grip on the butt of the cue, 3. Slightly Bent at the waist, 4. Feet are six to eight inces apart, 5. Proper grasp on cue

The Deacon

Irving Crane (1913 – 2001)

Nicknamed “the Deacon because of his

dozen majors, including six world billiards

gentlemanly ways, his very cautious ap-

titles. At the 1966 World Crown he ran

proach to the game and his impeccable

150 and out in the finals, never letting his

dress, never approaching a pool table ex-

opponent back to the table; an accomplish-

cept in a conservative suit. Hon almost two

ment that has never been equaled.

The First

Cisero Murphy (1937 – 1996)

Murphy was the first African-American

the baseball color line) in sports. Murphy

professional pocket billiards player to ever

was inducted into the Billiard Congress

win world and U.S. national titles. Some

of America Hall of Fame 1995. Cisero

people have compared Cisero Murphy to

Murphy is the only player in the history of

Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson,

pocket billiards competition to win a world

breaking the racial barriers (including

title on his first attempt. 31

The Talent

Harold Worst (1929 – 1966)


was an American champion

ducted into the Billiard Congress of Amer-

three-cushion billiards champion. He won

ica Hall of Fame. Worst died in Blodgett

the three cushion billiard championship in

Memorial Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich-

Argentina in 1954, the youngest player to

igan of cancer. He was 37 years old.

compete at his level. In 1970 he was in-

The Meatman

Joe Balsis (1921 – 1995)

Nicknamed “the Meatman” because of

players including Andrew Ponzi and Er-

his family’s meat business. He was induct-

win Rudolph. In 1964 Balsis began com-

ed into the Billiard Congress of America’s

peting professionally, winning the US

Hall of Fame in 1982. The young Balsis

Open in 1965 and the 1966 World All-

was skilled enough by age 11 to play

Around Championship.

exhibition matches against professional 33

In this timeless classic, Willie Mosconi shares his expert advice on every facet of the game, from the essential fundamentals to more complex trick shots. Detailed diagrams and step-by-step illustrations guide beginners and advanced players alike through such basics as the selection of the cue; the proper grip and stance; cueing the ball; and hitting the object ball. Players of any level can improve their game by following Mosconi's invaluable instruction on the finer points of combination and kiss shots, the proper application of English, and the speed of stroke.

Winning Pocket Billiards  

Winning Pocket Billiards by Willie Mosconi; redesigned to capture the colorful world of pool playing in the 1960's.

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