- The term has also been applied to other activities, such as archery, shooting sports, basketball, whipcracking, darts, tennis, golf, and bowling, but those usages are outside the scope of this article. See specific articles on those sports for more information.
A trick shot (also trickshot or trick-shot) is a shot played on a billiards table (most often a pool table, though snooker tables are also used), which does something with the balls (and often various props) that would seem unlikely or impossible. As an organized cue sports discipline, trick shot competition it known as artistic pool.
Billiards trick shots are the subject of increasing international competition, both amateur and professional. There are world championships, such as WPA Artistic Pool World Championships
and the World Snooker Trickshot Championship
, and made-for-TV events, such as Trick Shot Magic
and World Cup of Trick Shots
, often televised in both the US
and the UK
and providing enough prize money that some professional players specialize in the discipline.
The televised events, such as Trick Shot Magic, usually only permit two attempts to perform each trick, and the players take turns challenging each other, with the challenger attempting to perform each trick first.
By contrast with the related discipline of artistic billiards, in which competitors have over 70 pre-determined challenges to complete (the ), open trick shot competitions of this nature typically allow the players to make up new tricks. However, there are many de facto standard tricks, and serious players have large notebooks of trick documentation which they bring with them to competitions. Artistic pool (see below) competition is more regulated, featuring a shot program, equipment limitations, and shot requirements that, for example, preclude any off-the-table tricks.
As a part of televised demonstration and competition events (which are also, by their nature, entertainment events), players typically engage the audience by discussing the shots they are about to perform, and sometimes by telling jokes and humorous anecdotes.
trick shot competitions, inspired by artistic billiards, began in 1993 in the US at an amateur level and in 2000 professionally and internationally. They feature a program of 56 tricks to attempt, and include the BCA
North American Championship, EPBF
European Championship, and WPA
World Championship, among others. The tricks are divided into eight "disciplines", including trick/fancy, prop/novelty/special arts, and disciplines for extremes in each of the core cueing techniques
. The world governing body
for this (eventually Olympic
-hopeful) sport is the WPA Artistic Pool Division, while the largest league and player organization is the US-based Artistic Pool & Trick Shot Association
(APTSA). A high-profile proponent of artistic pool is Tom "Dr. Cue" Rossman
, a notable professional player and billiards author.
In APTSA competitions, each competitor has three chances to successfully perform each trick.
As with other pool and billiards games, trick shots usually utilize a , one or more , and a cue stick
. However, many props can be used in trick shots including bottles
, Drinking glasses
, ball racks
, cue tip chalk
, and other billiards- and non-billiards-related equipment. Props are used to change the difficulty of the shot or add aesthetic value. As with artistic billiards pros, trick shot artists often have specialized cue sticks for performing particular types of shots, particularly and massés
Common trick shots
- "Machine gun" (1): A line of object balls are placed in a row about 4 inches away from a , and the cue ball is shot into the space between the balls and the cushion so as to reverberate between them while traveling and hit each one of the object balls in series, issuing a machine gun-like sound.
- "Machine gun" (2): A line of object balls are placed in a row along but not against a cushion, and are then shot directly with the cue, one after another, around the table, each contacting three cushions, and into the same pocket. The trick requires carefully timing the shots, so that newly-shot balls travel between balls already in motion
- "Machine gun" (3): A line of object balls are placed on the table. The cue ball is shot into a poket with deadweight and the object balls are all potted into the same pocket directly one after the other with the cue, while the cue ball is still travelling. Done right, the cue ball is the first ball hit and the last ball falling.
- "The dollar bill shot": This shot uses a banknote, typically a US$100 bill, placed on the short rail near the corner pocket as a target landing zone. The cue ball is banked off of eight or nine cushions and should land with the ball's edge over the banknote. This shot is used as a tiebreaker on Trick Shot Magic with the competitor landing closest to the bill winning the match.
- "Up and in": Originated by World Trick Shot Champion Mike Massey; the cue ball is jumped off the table into a cowboy boot on the floor. Also referred to as "The Boot Shot".
- "The butterfly": Six object balls are grouped in the middle of the table in a butterfly shape; in a single shot, each ball drops into a different pocket in the billiards table.
- "Just showing off": Five object balls are clustered near the left side pocket and a hanging object ball in the lower right corner. The cue ball is sent in to the cluster pocketing all five balls and then travels 3 rails to pocket the hanging object ball. This shot was made famous by Steve Mizerak in a beer commercial in the 1970s.
In popular culture
Various trick shot competitions (sometimes with footage dating back years) remain among the most dominant of ESPN
's (sparse) pool-related programming, and the World Snooker Trickshot Championship has enjoyed notable popularity in the UK. Trick shots appear frequently in films and television (perhaps most outlandishly when in BBC Two
's hit sci-fi
comedy series Red Dwarf
, the character Dave Lister
uses his pool-playing skills to play a trick shot at an astronomical level in order to save the ship, using a thermonuclear device as a "cue" and planetary bodies as "balls", in the episode "White Hole
"). The British TV Game Show Big Break
, which ran from 1991 to 2002, featured a round each week called "Virgo's Trick Shot". John Virgo
would demonstrate a trick shot which the player would them attempt to copy. The show also aired 8 trick shot specials between 1995 and 1999.