TIL Tuesday: The Mysterious Cue Ball

Pool TableA couple of nights ago, I frequented my town’s one and only pub, and I played a couple games of pool. The pub in question uses a coin-operated pool table, and I’ve always been a bit curious as to how pub pool tables know to return the cue ball when you scratch. After all, the other balls, when hit into the pockets, return to a holding area where they rest until the next 50 cents is inserted into the table. My hypothesis was that the cue ball was in some manner heavier or larger (or both) than the other balls in play. However, once the question formed in the ol’ brain, I refused to let it sit dormant. Therefore, I present you with today’s TIL: The Mysterious Cue Ball

It turns out that I may have been correct about the pool table at my local pub. Coin operated pool tables return the cue ball in one of two ways: with either a slightly larger cue ball, or with a magnetic cue ball. In the case of a larger cue ball, the difference is only about 1/8 inch. Presumably, that’s large enough to notice if a player was to actually take the time to observe the cue ball next to another ball.

When the table uses a magnetic cue ball, the table is designed with a magnetic sensor that moves a track inside the table when the magnetic cue ball falls through a pocket. In this case, the cue ball would appear identical in size to the other balls on the table. Learning of this method also led me to check out this site in order to brush up on my knowledge of magnets.

This post isn’t overly exciting, but I’m glad that I finally answered this question that has been nagging at the back of my head for some while. I may be the annoying patron who asks the bartender what type of pool table is used next time I visit the pub. Any updates will be posted here. Happy learning!

Most of the credit of this post goes to The Straight Dope for being an endless stream of knowledge. 

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