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.....When I was learning how to play pool there were no books, no videos, no instructors and no leagues to play in. The best way to learn was to watch. I was privileged to see some of the greatest and some of the not so great. My purpose for publishing my pointers insrtuctional column is not only to inpart pool knowledge to my viewers but to share with the public what these great players from the 1980s and 1990s looked like. Through my trusty Canon, for a moment in time they are immortalized. Some are still here and some are gone and I still remember the joy of watching them play.

Harry Potter's Invisible Cloak, Please

…..REFEREES ARE A MUCH NEEDED commodity in any sport. The referee, some times known as the umpire, did not take his official place in sports until around 1891. The Billiard Congress of America organized the first pool competitions starting in 1966.  They had referees, score keepers, timekeepers, a head referee, and the final decision maker, the tournament director. All of these positions are part of today’s organized pool play. Referees, for the most part, have a thankless occupation. If you do a great job, nobody notices you because being invisible is part of what makes you good. But if you do a poor job, the players, tournament officials and audience all remember you as the most important ingredient of that particular match.

…..My purpose in writing this article is to pay homage to all of the volunteers who stood for long hours to bring professionalism to our sport and create a sense of fairness throughout the competitions in the pool community. It also serves as a teaching tool to all those players who want to venture out into the world of organized competition. The first rule of thumb is that the player is ultimately responsible for knowing and following the rules and regulations. A player should read the rule book at least once a year to find out if any changes have been made.

…..I’ve typically seen referees at major tournament events such as the US Open, World Open and, usually, in the semi-finals and finals of all major tournaments. In many other types of competitions, such as leagues, house tournaments and regional events, there is an “area” referee who oversees a number of matches rather than just one table. Nevertheless, in my day, most of the officials were not “trained” except for an hour lecture conducted in the morning of the first day of competition. To my knowledge, there were no Referee Schools as there are nowadays. In the early years of pool tournaments, essentially, referees were players who volunteered their time. Some of the most well respected officials were Carl “Cue Ball Kelly” Zingale, Preacher Don Feeney, Conrad Burkman and Carswell “Cosmo” Ransome.


…..The most important function of the referee is to know the rules. Personally, I am happy to see that the Billiard Congress of America and the World Pool-Billiard Association have come up with a set of standardized rules. Everyone should know and follow those rules. After all, those rules have been configured based on accounts of circumstances that have occurred throughout the history of organized play. The changes in equipment have also been taken into consideration. And the entire world has had a hand in configuring those rules rather than just in the United States. In my view, all the amateur leagues should fall in line and use the standardized rules. There are too many instances of players arguing over the set of laws. This is particularly true of recreational players on seven foot tables.

…..And it is especially upsetting when you ask the referee or the tournament director of a local type event to make a call and they neglect to pull out the rule book to see what is written therein. Instead, they tend to make the call according to how they would like or think the rule should read. Or even worse, “we won’t go by that rule this time.” In that system, not only do the rules and regulations become arbitrary, that kind of attitude promotes favoritism. According to the WPA, “The management of an event is entitled to enforce regulations for the event. These Regulations do not have the same force as the Rules; the Rules have priority.”


…..”The referee determines all matters relating to the rules, maintains fair playing conditions, calls fouls, and takes other action as required by the rules.”, continues the WPA. “The referee may decide to suspend play when conditions do not permit fair play. Additionally, play is suspended then a call or ruling is being disputed and a higher official such as the tour director is called upon to make a decision." This includes matters of poor sportsmanship.

..... It’s the referee’s job to announce fouls and other specific situations as required by the rules. He answers questions as required by the rules on matters such as foul count. He must not give advice on the application of the rules, or other points of play on which he is not required by the rules to speak.” I remember being at many a straight pool event wherein the referee, who has already been standing for hours, would call a shot before the player approached that particular ball. No doubt to move the game along or due to absent mindedness. Countless times a weaker competitor would wait until the referee made the call because he/she had figured out the ref was calling a better pattern than he/she could. Now a day, since referees are trained to wait for the player’s decision and because (many of them) get paid, that rarely happens.

…..Pictured on the right, CHARLIE URSITTI has two mechanical bridges readably available for UJ PUCKETT in case he needs them for a shot. I recommend that players wait for the referee to give you the bridge and let the ref remove the bridge if it sits on the table after a shot. This avoids the player accidentally touching an object ball when the bridge is removed. If necessary for the shot, the referee may hold the light fixture out of the way. The official also supplies chalk and powder for the players.


…..Besides making sure the rules are followed, the referee makes sure of the designated pocket for any shot that is “not obvious” like combinations or bank shots. “Call, please” is a common phrase heard at pool events.  “When a game has a three-foul rule, the referee should note to the players any second foul at the time that it occurs and also when the player who is on two fouls returns to the table. The first warning is not required by the rules but is meant to prevent later misunderstandings.” If there is a scoreboard on which the foul count is visible to the players, it satisfies the warning requirement. Be careful if you are playing in a tournament where fouls are posted because it’s your responsibility, not the referee’s, to know you are “on two”. A third foul, which is considered a serious foul, in 9 ball is loss of the rack and in straight pool it’s a loss of 15 points.

.....Racking the balls is another important function of the referee. In order to get a good spread of the balls after a break in 8, 9, 10 or straight pool, the rack has to be straight and tight. It was a common sight in 70s, 80s, and 90s to see players “tapping” the balls being racked to ensure they were tight. It was believed that if there was any space between the balls ( ie not frozen) the player would not get a good spread of the balls after the break. The Rules no longer allow players to tap the balls. It is now up to the referee to decide when the rack is secured.


The SARDO RACK is a revolutionary device invented around 2000 by, Lou Sardo, an avid pool player who knows that a tight rack can make the difference in winning a close pool match. The product is advertised to quickly, easily and consistently rack the balls perfectly and fairly each time. This is of particular interest to the spectators who have to wait for the balls to be racked to the player’s satisfaction. Many a time, the audience had to wait 10 minutes or more for the balls to be properly racked. The Sardo rack comes with an easy to use template for marking placement dots on the cloth. This will ensure the rack is squared and centered each and every time. Simply align the pointers on the rear of the rack with two dots on the cloth surface. Roll the balls in the Sardo Tight Rack as directed, one quick downward motion and you have the tightest rack possible every time. For years it has been the official rack at many a major tournament.


….BOB KERVICK , was a business man and pool fan, not a professional player. He enjoyed playing the game socially.  He made numerous contributions to individual competitors and players organizations. When there was a shortage of referees at the PPPA World Open in Philadelphia, Bob volunteered his time to officiate some matches. Using his common sense, knowledge of his own experience with the game and his respect for players in general, Bob did a fine job. Today’s referees are trained in organized referee schools. One may have to pay for the training, but after moving up in the ranks of referees, the official gets paid for officiating a match.

…..According to JANET YBARRA,  American Cue Sports Alliance Referee Administrator, if chosen for the staff of the ACS Nationals held each year, the pay level is as follows: National--$350, National Senior--$375, National Head Referee--$450. The pay rate changes for regional and other tournaments and is determined by those events directors. As of this printing, I was unable to get information about BCA or APA referee salaries.


…..DON “PREACHER” FEENEY, of Naperville, IL, is a knowledgeable player of all billiard games: pool, billiards and snooker. The Preacher, who filmed his run of 152 balls, was an engineer that became facinated with the natural science of all billiard games. Don knows the principle of physics behind each move of the ball based on force, speed, position and angle. He has written extensive instructional articles for Pool & Billiard Magazine. He has also constructed many teaching videos that can be viewed on YouTube. Because of his immense expertise and respectable reputation, Don was invited to be one of the referees in the 1990 movie, “The Color of Money”.  A player, instructor and tournament official, Don could be seen refereeing many an important match in major pool tournaments. Here, he officiates the finals at Jim Williard’s 1990 Pheasant Run Resorts 9 ball championship for winner BUDDY HALL.


…..CARSWELL “COSMO” RANSOME, always a gentleman, is renowned for his knowledge of the rules and regulations in all pool games. As a matter of respect for players, Cosmo was the ultimate invisible man while making sure players did not commit any fouls. He had many a ‘trick’ for maintaining the match in a constructive, prescribed manner. Read my side note about Cosmo’s refereeing abilities in a previous Pointers article, “The Right Combination”. Besides officiating many a match for PAT FLEMING’s  Accu-stats streaming videos at Comet Billiards, and more recently, “Live From The Simonis Arena” at Breaker’s Billiards in Clifton, NJ, Carswell does commentary on various pool competitions for both men’s and women’s matches. Take time to tune in for some great matches streamed from their website,


…..The referee’s responsibility is to ensure that there is a fair and level playing field for all competitors. The official maintains order, enforces the rules in a fair, unbiased manner and serves the needs of the players. The idea that pool players are a bunch of "hustlers" is still too prevelant in our society even after all the work that's been done to change the public's persona of our beautiful sport. An important aspect of having refereees is that we establish ourselves to the world as a professional sport.


.....Pool Pointer Archives

.....1. Closed Half-Bridge
... .2. Look Before You Leap
.....3. Mechanically Inclined
.....4. Keep a Level Cue
.....5. Double or Nothing
.....6. Chalk It Up
.....7. V-Bridge It To Victory
.....8. The Right Combination
.....9. Referees; unsung heros


.....Tune in for more Pointer articles coming your way each month.