Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Don't hate the game, hate the idiot who didn't even try

Nicaraguan bar pool!

The closemindedness of some people is exasperating. On 3 separate occasions, here in León, Nicaragua, fellow travelers have negatively commented, unsolicited, on the local rules without having even tried the game:

"Any game which allows intentional fouls is stupid" --British asshat after watching 45 seconds of two Nicas playing
"That's just not the right way to play pool" --German p.o.s. upon hearing the very first difference in the rules
"In REAL pool you get 2 shots after a foul" --Australian nit who had obviously only ever played Blackball pool.

The few travelers I have met who did try the game more than once have commented very differently:
"I'm going to show people how to play this in California" --American hippie
 "It's my favorite cuesport variation" --Longtime foreign resident of León
 "The tactical implications are very interesting" --French non-player with a keen intellect

  Today I present you Nica rules 8-ball, called "Pool Ocho".

At first glance the game ressembles American 8-ball. The equipment is identical. You are shooting either stripes or solids, and the 8 goes in last. The similarities end there.

Key differences:
  1. The 7 and 15 each have a designated side pocket. If you make your 7 or 15 in the wrong pocket, it gets spotted back up and you lose your turn.
  2. Hitting no balls is a foul. If you hit an opponent's ball first, they have the option to set the shot back up and have you shoot the shot again. If they choose not to have you shoot it again, you must remove one of their balls.
  3. If you foul, you must choose and remove one of your opponent's balls. If they are on the 8, you lose the rack.
  4. There is no "must hit a rail after contact with legal object ball" rule. You can just roll up behind one of your balls and just touch it. No penalty. Common shot.
  5. There is absolutely no stigma against playing defensively (unlike most bar pool across the world). This makes it easier for serious shooters to enjoy the game socially.
  6. Scratching results in loss of turn, but is not penalized by removal of opponent's ball (unless rule 2 also applies to the shot)
  7. Jumping is not allowed. Flamboyant massé shots are not allowed, but you can sneak in small curve shots without reprimand.
  8. If you sink one of your balls and one of your opponent's balls in on the same shot, your ball gets spotted, their's does not, and you lose your turn.
  9. Until the groups are determined, the only way to make a legal shot is by first contacting the 1 ball. Failure to do so is NOT penalized in any way. At first I thought this was strange, but you get used to it.

 The Rack:

Note: I have also seen the 7 and 15 racked where the 12 and 2 are in this diagram

I managed to film one of the hundreds of racks I've played. Here it is, with annotated explanations.

Here is another rack, this one very different.Watch for the numerous intentional fouls. Also, an epic fail of a forfeit at the end.

All age groups enjoy the game here.
People start playing at 8am, and drinking shortly thereafter
At this bar/restaurant, the pool is FREE (although there is a sign up that says it's 20 US cents per DAY, I've only been charged that once), and it's winner stays on. The level of play is generally quite high compared to what you'd find in an American bar. You can count on multiple railbirds enforcing the rules at all times, the game is taken quite seriously. No gambling (but you can find gambling at any actual pool hall in Nicaragua). As I have been "stuck" in León for some time now, this place has become one of my favorite places in the world to play competitive social pool. There are however some major drawbacks to this bar/restaurant so I won't name the place here. You can find it easily if you do come to León; feel free to contact me for those details.

Interruptions, obstacles, and other annoyances are an accepted fact of life here. Just deal with it.

My huge room. Private bath, free wifi, smell of fresh baguettes in the morning, $14/night :)

Experimental billiards photography (30s, iso 100, f/32)

Jack, best cook in Central America according to several sources.
Haven't tried them all yet, but he's excellent.


  1. Hey,
    it's good to see that you play pool again. Awesome videos, too, especially the first one. I have to try this next chance i get, it looks really promising. Thanks for sharing!