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Pool Basics – What Does Chalk Do in Pool?

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Have you ever wondered why professional pool players rub chalk to the cue stick’s tip? Perhaps you play pool regularly but can’t seem to figure out what chalk does in pool? Well, chalking is an important part of pool, billiards, and snooker (see What is the Difference Between Pool, Billiards, and Snooker). Here’s all there is to know about chalking in a game of pool, whether you’re a professional (see our reviews of the best high end pool tables) or a beginner.

Pool table with a girl playing, seen from aboveWhy Use Chalk?

Billiards chalk mostly comes in blue cubes, but can come in numerous other colors and brands as well. Whatever the type, however, chalk has one main role in pool: adding friction. In simple terms, it is to reduce motion between the cue and the spot where the stick hits the ball.

In a game of pool, ever so often, players apply chalk to the end of their cue sticks. Why? Consider this: The balls are normally round, smooth, and shiny. With use, the cue sticks in turn wear out and become smooth. This poses a challenge, as the two smooth surfaces easily slide over one another, making it hard for a player to hit and deliver the right force when hitting the ball.

As such, it is common for players to hit the ball, and for the cue to slide off the ball prematurely. This is called a miscue, which is basically a ruin of the shot due to reduced resistance. To prevent the scenario described here, chalk is used to add motion resistance.

Chalk reduces slippage between the stick and ball, allowing a player to hit the ball exactly the way they wanted to. This helps players, especially on off-entered shots. Without chalk, the impact of a hit on a cue ball is delivered awkwardly, so the ball does not go to its intended target.

Related: How to Play Cutthroat Pool

How Often Should Chalk be Used?

There is no specific number of times that a player should chalk up their cue tips. It entirely depends on preference and of course the condition of the tip of the cue stick. Smooth worn-out tips call for regular chalking. Needless to say, for better play, most players will chalk up after every other shot.

This particularly goes for shots that require extra spin on the ball. As a rule of thumb, the smaller the amount of surface area used on the cue tip and the ball, the higher the required friction. To provide additional friction for such shots, it’s advisable to chalk up before the shot. Generally, chalking up after every shot will not hurt but will give a player some advantage in their shots!

Close-up of chalk rubbing billiard cue. Balls on background in blurWhat Is the Best Way to Use Chalk?

Before applying chalk to a cue stick, one should first understand the cue stick. Sticks come in all levels of hardness, some softer and some harder. Harder tips will generally last longer than softer tips. Softer tips are however more advantageous when chalking up since they hold more chalk. But remember, on the flip side, they are not as durable.

Related: How to Play 8-Ball

That said, for the best application, consider the chalk as lipstick. Start by tilting the cue at an angle and rub the chalk on it in a brushing motion. From here, slowly turn the cue while holding the chalk to the tip.

The same way lipstick is applied lightly, but evenly and all over the lips, the same goes for chalk. It should be applied evenly, and softly. It should not be ground on the tips as it wears the tips out and shortens the stick’s life.

Grinding the chalk into the tip may seem like the easier route to follow in an attempt to get more chalk onto the cue. In the long run, however, it damages the stick. With that in mind, if one observes a hole in their chalk, they are doing it wrongly. Remember this: chalking up needs consistency and conscious effort.

What Are the Advantages of Using Chalk Properly?

It goes without saying that chalking up gives better shots. It, therefore, gives players a better chance while playing the game. Another one, though less direct, is that it allows players to spend a little extra time focusing and concentrating between shots. Overall, chalking the cue improves gameplay, no matter the type of equipment (see our picks for the best pool tables for under $300) or game.

Are There Any Disadvantages to Chalking Up?

The only real disadvantage, which is more of an inconvenience, is the extra dust. Chalking up frequently adds chalk dust to the balls and tables. Visually, this can be reduced by using chalk that has a similar color to the table. Shaking off any loose chalk after chalking up will also go a long way in minimizing the chalk dust.

Final Words

Chalking up your cue improves gameplay in pool. It helps players strike the cue ball and deliver the perfect shot since it adds friction. Note that when delivering minimal spin, one should forgo chalking or do it minimally. With that, there is all one needs to know about chalking!