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Q. Are the pockets on tables used by professional snooker players in TV tournaments larger or smaller than those used by amateurs in clubs?

A. Our snooker correspondent Clive Everton writes: The pockets on tables used in professional tournaments tend to be more difficult than those seen in clubs but the speed and responsiveness reduces the cue power needed for positional reasons and helps the players make the pockets look easier. The width of the pocket is specified at 31/2 inches, but the key variant is the "undercut" of the cushion rubber at the approach and entrance to the pocket. The less the underside of the rubber is cut away, the tighter the pocket will tend to be. Cushions are set 11/2in from the bed of the table. Balls are 2 1/16in in diameter. Therefore, the more of the cushion is cut away, the greater will be the proportion of the ball tucking under it on impact, thus assisting it into the pocket. As the Billiards and Snooker Control Council no longer exists, templates can no longer be obtained from them. Table companies and their fitters each have their own sets. In about 1990 the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association had its own templates constructed with a reduced undercut to make pockets more difficult, thus helping to keep a balance between attack and defence. Even on WPBSA tables, marginal variations can occur as "undercutting" is done manually with a knife. The pockets of the table on which the semi-finals and final of the Embassy World Championship were played this year were generally thought slightly easier then the tables on which the earlier rounds were played. The sheen of a new cloth tends to help balls into pockets which would stay out on a well used cloth. The edge from which a ball falls into a pocket can also vary. The more rounded the edge, the more likely a slowly hit ball will hover... and fall.

Some pockets of old design actually have the "fall" set further back in the pockets. This gives the ball something to perch on rather than drop. If, after the "fall", the pocket narrows or is even cut straight, many balls which actually go beyond the fall of the pocket will be thrown back out. On some light club tables this makes pots along the cushion impossible except at dead weight. If, however, the pocket opens after the "fall" this will assist the balls to drop in.

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