Once I had a pool table in my house, it didn’t take me long to realize that my pool game is not what it once was. Lucky for me, I have one huge glaring issue I can blame it on: lighting.
Most people don’t realize when they see pool on tv that a lot of time and care has been put into setting up the lights in just the right way. On a 9-foot tournament table, a standard four-lamp lighting fixture is perfectly centered over the table, at a predetermined height off of the playing surface. The outer lamps of the fixture are installed with higher wattage bulbs than the inner ones, and things are checked and rechecked to make sure that there is just about *no* detectable shadow being thrown onto the cloth. The effort expended on this is quite amazing – and completely justified…
Shadows kill pool games. You just can’t play any kind of a predictable game with shadows lurking about. Shadows can hurt you in two places that I know of (er, that I’ve experienced myself), on the cloth, and on the balls themselves.
On the cloth, a ball that stands in the way of a beam of light can cast a long shadow onto the cloth. The problem with that is that it’s almost impossible to line up and visualize your cue ball or object ball’s path with these shadows on the cloth. When you’re trying to visualize a shot, a shadow is a whole lot like 15,000 screaming fans waving white towels behind the basketball backboard during a free throw. You can still make the shot, but you’re using far more intuition and “feel” than you’d like in order to do so.
When there’s a shadow on the balls, bad things also happen. Especially when the shadow is on the cueball. Relatively dim incandescent light can cause half of the cueball to sort of fade into the background when you line up your shot. If you’re not consciously seeing the whole cue ball, you’re not really measuring how thick or thin your hit is going to be with any accuracy. You have to really spend a lot of time figuring your shot to make sure you’ve accounted for the shadows.
Shadows on object balls are bad for this reason and more. Frozen object balls with shadows on them can appear not to be frozen, or vice versa.
Look – shadows and billiards don’t mix. It doesn’t matter what your favorite game is, shadows will make it your worst game. Shots you’ve made dozens of times with your eyes closed *yesterday* will seem unmakeable today. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I urge everyone never to play for money on a table that lacks proper lighting.