Racking the Balls
This blog is inspired by a YouTube item posted by an English coach who normally has my general respect but who makes a statement in that piece about spotting the Pink that is incorrect and misleading.
In Section 1 of the rule book there are precise instructions of how to set the balls on the table and on their designated spots, which are previously marked or fixed in position once the cloth has been correctly stretched and fitted. There is a mark or spot for each of the 6 so called coloured balls. The one for the lowest value of these colours is the Yellow spot, placed at the junction of the ‘D’ and the Baulk line on the right-hand side of the table as it is viewed standing at and facing the Baulk cushion. The next highest value ball which is the Green has its spot at the opposite side of the ‘D’ and again where the Baulk line and ‘D’ converge. The exact centre of the Baulk line is the place for the next highest ball which is the Brown. The Blue ball is next which has its spot at the exact centre of the table, midway between the Baulk and Top cushions and on the centre longitudinal line. Spotting any of these balls, although they must be precise in their positioning, is simple enough to accomplish.
The difficulties in racking the balls to complete the set up now arise even though there are two more spots marked on or fixed to the table for the Pink and Black balls. Neither of these balls can be spotted until the reds are fixed in position with no spots or any other indicators to show where to put those reds. It is here where the skill of the referee or the use of a professional triangle comes into play.
To be correctly positioned the reds must form a tight equilateral triangle with the red at the apex as close as possible to the Pink without touching it and the base of the triangle of reds parallel to the top cushion. To achieve this the reds can be gathered together into that triangular shape with the use the Top cushion and the forearms, elbows apart and hands together. The triangle or professional triangle is then placed over the top of the pack of reds which are then moved into position. Without a professional triangle the one being used must be lifted slightly as the reds are moved to prevent the nap of the cloth being raised. This will not be a concern otherwise as the professional triangle has rollers.
Those with an eagle eye will be able to see that the professional triangle shown has a pointer to align with the Pink Spot. This pointer will also indicate that the Black Spot is exactly and correctly placed if the base of the triangle is in contact with the Top cushion and the precise middle of it is on the centre longitudinal line of the table.
If not using a professional triangle the three Red balls indicated must be aligned with the Blue and Black (also indicated), with the Black being precisely spotted after the Reds have been moved into position and before removing the triangle.
Once this is accomplished and with the reds tightly packed and with all adjacent balls touching within it, the triangle can be removed and the Pink ball spotted. It is essential for the sake of consistency and in exactly following the rules that the apex Red and the Pink should be as close as possible without actually touching.
There is a common belief, held by many who are not referees and including the person referred to at the beginning of this blog, as well as other coaches who are not also referees, which states that as long as the Pink does not have a straight-line path to either of the top pockets then the position of the triangle of Reds is acceptable. This is incorrect and must be ignored, as the apex Red could be quite some distance from the spotted Pink while still not allowing a straight-line path for it to either of those pockets. Nowhere in the rules does the statement appear that the Pink must not be able to be potted in either of the top pockets as a means of describing how or where it must be spotted or how the reds must be positioned.