Playing pool in Bali
Playing pool in Bali
Playing pool in Bali is a totally different experience than in Australia where I have lived most of my life. The competition is keen and the pool experience rarely has the grundginess of pool places elsewhere.
Firstly, pool is, by and large there is no cost to playing pool in Bali unlike in Australia where you might pay $4 a game, which adds up if you play 20 games a night.
There are some pool halls you can go and rent a table by the hour. See Denpasar pool halls The Ship the Obrigado and also Kuta pool ball Paradiso where there are 12 tables and a good, full size snooker table.
Winner stays on
Most pool tables in Bali operate on the ‘winner stays on’ principle, which is good if you are a good player but not so good if you just want to play with your friend.
At quiet times, however, you can go and play with a friend to your heart’s content without having to beat some stranger first.
Secondly, pool is something akin to a national sport in Indonesia, so pretty much everyone plays, and those who play a lot are far better than the average pub pool player in Australia.
Indonesians and especially the Balinese love to gamble and pool is a popular thing to gamble on. This is partly why in some parts of Indonesia pool tables are scarce as local, Muslim communities discourage gambling.
In Jakarta there are big competitions whereby significant prize money is at stake, while in Bali these are usually one night affairs with the winner maybe taking home up to a million rupiahs, not bad for a night of fun, although the competition is pretty fierce usually at this type of event.
The rules of playing pool in Bali are a bit different to Australia, and are called ‘International Rules’, although I have no idea of the legitimacy of that claim. Australians often get confused by these rules, often complaining ‘This is not like in Australia; to which I reply, ‘No, you are in Bali!’
Foul shots and penalties for Bali pool
The penalty for a foul shot is that you can pick up the white ball, put it anywhere you like, and have one free shot. This is called ‘free ball’ or ‘ball in hand’.
In Australia they play two shots, whereby the ‘fouler’ loses a turn. As the white ball must be placed in the ‘D’ and the player must shoot forward, this can penalise the ‘victim’ which is a bit unfair.
Personally I like the Balinese rule on fouls much better as it rewards good play.
Depending on where you play, the house rules on potting the opponent’s ball varies. Sometimes it is considered a foul although rarely. Usually if I hit my ball first and happen to sink my opponent’s ball it is simply his shot, no free ball.
If I put my ball down as well, it remains my shot. Ie, it is not a foul to sink your opponent’s ball.
The game is not over until the black is gone, so fouls on the black are not fatal unlike in Australia.
Regardless of what ball you pot on the break, the table is still open until someone pots a ball in a shot where there is no foul, in general play.
At some places they pay a foul if the object ball does not hit a cushion. This is designed to prevent crappy snookers and sneaky play. Other, usually competition, rules, say that the white ball must hit the cushion.
It is really only the hard core Balinese players who will insist on that though.
A word of warning to those who think they are good
Don’t be arrogant. And be wary gambling with seemingly meek and mild locals.
There are seriously good pool players in Bali who will hustle unsuspecting tourists. Personally I never play for money. The Balinese will lose a game or two just to up the ante. See Shark Attack in Bali for my own experience of this.
By Mark O’Brien, April 2015
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