Pool League and Pool Hall Sportsmanship – Shifting Negative Perception…

The tenets of good sportsmanship in pool are communication, integrity and respect for your opponent.

Failure to comply with the basics good sportsmanship can invoke a ball in hand and loss of game from the first offense in some pool-playing formats, in addition as possible removal from a pool league or venue. While there are many places where you can shoot pool that leave players to squabble over what is essentially a simple matter, the best venues won’t allow it. Establishments with transparent and direct signage on the matter, an in-house specialized or instructor or top-notch associations and tours (i.e. BCA, WPBA, etc) should all tip you that the proper etiquette must be observed and followed.


Of utmost importance is open and strong communication between players. Many pool-playing formats rely and on it – for example, call shot formats. Many (if not all) disputes can be avoided by practicing sound, balanced communication skills. Each player is responsible for his or her actions at the table!


Most times where there is a sportsmanship question, someone has allowed his/her best judgment to be compromised. The offending player is not being thoroughly honest. If a player is unhappy with his or her opponent’s unsportsmanlike conduct during a match of any kind, then s/he should suspend play before advancing to the next shot and seek a venue manager, tournament director or pool league representative. This way, it’s obvious to everyone investigating the matter that you did not call this into question because you missed a basic shot or lost a game. In situations where the violation happens prior to a shot, s/he should step up from the shot and suspend play.


Poor sportsmanship is often leveraged as a method to distract and separate a player’s patience and focus. This strand of unsportsmanship conduct is called “sharking” in pool playing. The below is but a starting point of reference per sharking techniques. It is by no method a complete list.

1) Standing in your opponent’s line of sight – or moving across it while s/he shoots.

2) Deliberate disruption of your opponent (talking to them, dropping a cue/chalk, etc).

3) Picking up the rack before the player sinks the final ball.

4) Loosening the joint of your cue while your opponent attempts to sink one of the final balls.

5) Deliberate delay of the game in order to upset the rhythm of your opponent.

FINAL information

While a tournament director or league representative will have the final say in all situations of organized unsportsmanlike conduct, you may find yourself on your own to discuss these matters. Remember that it’s often best to walk away from an opponent who will resort to any measure to gain an advantage. As you perform better, their behavior gets worse and worse. Is that really a good use of your time? Respect your time and your game.

Practice good sportsmanship consistently and you’ll make the game that much more enjoyable for everyone.

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