Call vs. Slop
A More Intentional Game
BCAPL requires you to call shots and safeties. Slop (or a lucky shot) ends your turn at the table. We play this for 8 Ball, 10 Ball and more. For this discussion, “call shot” and “call pocket” are one and the same (even though we talk the differences in the Definitions topic below).
According to the Billiards Congress of America (BCA), “for games of call-shot, a player may shoot any ball s/he chooses, but before s/he shoots, (s/he) must designate the called ball and called pocket.” By contrast, in slop pool, players don’t have to call their shots. Balls set in motion may find their way to any pocket by most any means and still score for the player. In some circles, there’s a difference between call shot and call pocket games. Call shot can mean that you must also announce what the ball will touch, if anything, on its way to being pocketed. For example, if a ball will touch (or carom off) another ball or if it will contact a rail instead of entering the pocket precisely, then you’ll need to call the details along with the pocket. Again, to keep things simple in this discussion, call shot and call pocket are one and the same.
Legal or Illegal Shot
Whether a slop shot is legal or illegal depends on the game or format you’re playing. For example, 9 Ball is traditionally a slop game. You might shoot at the 9, miss your pocket entirely, happily bank into another pocket and score points or a rack win. APA is a slop league. There’s no requirement to earn your next shot in that format. No matter how or where you pocket a ball, it’s still your turn at the table. Billiards Forum notes that “a slop shot is a billiard shot that was not called, and that results in a ball being pocketed via luck or via fluke. Slop shots are legal when playing a slop version of various billiard games, but are illegal when playing any game in its no-slop version. When a player commits a slop shot, (s/he) may be labeled as less skilled than a player who does not commit a slop shot.”
The Key is to Value Intent
The key to turning the corner from slop to call shot is to value intent. Skilled players don’t invite, practice or celebrate luck. They desire execution and improvement. They want to win the right way. Formats that reward luck develop and cement bad habits. Slop also annoys opponents. No one wants to lose a competition where the result was more fortunate than earned. This plays out often in pro 9 Ball events (even at the professional level of the game). A player who slops in a ball will raise his/her hand to signal an apology to his/her opponent. It’s a courtesy. Of course, cleaning up the game to disallow slop and require calls would eliminate the need for such a gesture. We’ll leave that for another day.