How Does A Pool Table Recognize The Cue Ball? Here’s The Secret

How does a pool table recognize the cue ball? Has this question ever suddenly popped up in your head?

Playing pool is the perfect game/sport for people who prefer indoor activities and still want it to be fun, energetic, and competitive at the same time. 

Energetic, and Competitive at The Same Time

You enjoy the times at the pool hall until something trivia puzzles you: How can the table always know exactly which is the white ball to return? Even if you try to trick the table by pocketing both the object and cue balls, only the cue ball comes back out.

Behold, here comes the secret of the pool table system!

How Does a Coin-Operated Pool Table Work?

Before going down the rabbit hole, let’s take a deeper look at how a pool table’s system works.

A pool table is usually made using large pieces of slate with a wooden frame. It has six pockets to catch any balls that enter. Depending on its length and weight, there can be four up to eight legs.

As for a coin-operated table, the nets under the pockets will catch all the object balls that sink in. After that, these are moved and trapped in a chamber right below the table surface, so-called the collection area. The table will then receive a fixed coin from players to release all of it.  

There’s A Whole Balls-handling System Under The Table 

The cue ball, however, goes a different route. When it accidentally falls in the pocket, that is called a scratch, and it will be returned back to the players.

There are plenty of methods invented for the system to recognize it. Depending on the manufacture year of the table, the old or the new method will be applied.

How Does a Pool Table Recognize the Cue Ball?

Using A Bigger or Smaller Ball

By using a ball in a different size, it will not be stuck with other colored balls in the storage. This can be considered the simplest and old-fashioned way to separate cue ball.

In the case of a bigger ball, it will be about 2mm larger than a numbered one in diameter. 

Because of this modest difference in size, it will not be able to pass through the regular chute together with other balls. The system will identify and direct it to the opening on the side. The smaller continue sliding to their usual place. 

A Bigger ball Can Be Used

Using an undersized ball, on the other hand, was more popular in England and Australia. It can rarely be seen in the US. 

The smaller one will be approximately 2 inches in diameter. The size also causes a difference in its weight, so it easily falls through a trap door and is diverted back to the orifice.

The method of using an oversized/undersized seems to be so easy and effective, yet it is not the optimum option. Some advanced players still find fault with this slightly different type. 

Since they are accustomed to the standard ball, they claim that the wider/smaller diameter will mess up their shot and affect the final result.

However, if you just want to have a fun night with friends at a pool hall, this method works just right.

Using A Magnetized Ball

The use of magnets can be considered the most convenient and modern way to separate cue ball.

A magnetized one has the exact same size as a regular ball,  and the weight difference is really small. It is the core of the ball, where a small piece of metal is embedded, that makes it distinctive. 

In that way, the magnetic sensor in the pool will be triggered and pull to a different track. This type of ball is named Cat’s Eye since it will be marked with two visible dots. 

For an updated version, the white ball is coated with a thin metal layer, or the steel particles will be blended with the material before it is molded. 

The drawback of this is its heaviness and lack of elasticity, hence the nickname Mudball. Sometimes it cannot roll as far and adversely affect the game. 

A Magnetic Ball Will Trigger The Sensor System

Using A Weighted Ball

In this method, the cue ball carries a little weight inside that makes it up to a full ounce heavier than a regular one. When it travels down the separating system with other numbered balls, a lever is activated, and the heavier one is returned to the players.

The problem with it is that due to the extra weight, it will budge forward a little bit when hitting lighter balls and then roll back. The law of physics!

With this motion, it is harder, not to say nearly impossible, to shoot a good stop shot.

Using Light Reflection

This method was invented in 1999 by the manufacturer Diamond Billiards.

After sinking in one of the pockets, all the balls will go through an optical sensor. This system is in charge of measuring the optical density of each ball. With fluorescent pigment on its surface, cue ball will be detected and removed from the regular path.

This is the only technique that does not require notable modification. Since this method requires top-grade technology, it is not as common as the three mentioned above.

The Optical System Does Not Require Modification to The Ball

The Bottom Line

Now that the truth has been revealed, we hope that you are satisfied with the answer to: How does a pool table recognize the cue ball?

There are the old and the new ways to do so, and each one has its own perks and drawbacks. 

A pool shark may tell right away if something is off with cue ball, but if you just enjoy a casual night with your friends, all of these should do their jobs decently.