Be a pool shark...
The first time I picked up a pool cue I was fifteen and had no idea what I was doing. It was a miracle of miracles when I actually hit a ball, and a phenomenon of sorts when something actually went into a pocket. My good friend at the time tried to teach me, and it took a lot of patience out of her, until she gave up altogether. But I liked the game, and continued to play on my own. Fast forward some odd years later, and I'm still no pool shark, but once in a while something will sink.
Become a pool shark and impress all your friends!
When I frequent pool halls, the majority of the time it's the boys who are playing, while the girls sit there and watch. While that's as exciting as watching grass grow, it would probably be more worthwhile if everyone played. Sometimes it's confusing - do the girls not want to play, or do they come along as furniture warmers? Pool is not a man's game, so listen up and get ready to hustle.
First things first, familiarize yourself with the equipment. Like a man, it has to be handled with care for optimized performance. Also like a man, it can get temperamental for no apparent reason. Ha! That last part was a joke. The equipment rarely gets temperamental.
balls: There are 15 balls, half of which are striped, the other half solid. Numbers 1 through 7 are solid, and 9 through 15 are striped. The number 8 ball (although solid) doesn't count as either.
cue ball: The cue ball is the white ball. It's used to hit the other balls into the pockets.
cue stick: Sticks are usually 58 inches long, and vary in weight. The heavier the stick, the more powerful it is. That doesn't necessarily mean that you should use a heavy stick. Choose one that feels comfortable. For instance, I prefer the 17-ounce cues. Anything heavier tends to feel too uncomfortable. Sticks have three parts: the tip, the shaft, and the butt (insert your own joke here).
table: Standard tables are 4½ x 9 feet. The lining is made of a polyester and wool blend (be careful not to spill anything on it, as it ruins the felt). There are six pockets, two on the side and one in each corner. The borders around the edge of the pool table are called rails. Use them to balance your hand for rail bridges. There should be two white dots on either end of the table, called spots. The head spot is for the cue ball. The foot spot is for the racked balls (the head ball rests on this spot).
rack: This is the triangular holder where the 15 balls are placed. Be sure to push the balls together from the bottom end so that they are touching. This is important for a good break.
mechanical bridge: This is what I fondly refer to as the "granny stick." Usually found at the side of a pool table, it is used to reach a shot that is too far to reach manually. Substitute your "bridge hand" with this - it helps to steady your shots.
chalk: The chalk is rubbed on the tip of the stick (again, insert your joke here). It helps to keep the stick from slipping when you hit the cue ball. It is generally recommended to chalk your stick every other shot (okay, at this point I feel like I'm writing soft-core here).
Talk Like a Pro
When you walk the walk you gotta talk the talk.
billiards: refers to all pool games (including pool, snooker, carom)
break: the first hit of the game; the act of hitting the cue ball to the racked balls
frozen: this is when the object ball is touching another ball or the wall of the table
hustler: a person who pretends to suck, then miraculously remembers how to play and takes all your money (rent The Color of Money to see how it's done)
object ball: the first ball that the cue ball hits
pocketing a ball (a.k.a. sinking a ball): the act of sending a ball into a pocket
position play: thinking ahead and setting up your next shot (I rarely do this)
scratch: occurs when you pocket your own ball, the cue ball, or miss the balls altogether; there's usually a penalty for a scratch
bank: hitting the cue ball to the object ball so that the object ball bounces off the wall of the table (and hopefully into a pocket)
combination: hitting the cue ball to an object ball, which hits another object ball (and hopefully lands into a pocket)
cut: hitting the cue ball so that it hits the object ball on its side, not head on
draw: hitting the cue ball towards the bottom, creating a spin (the ball will roll back towards you)
English: hitting the cue ball on the right or left side, creating a spin
top spin: hitting the cue ball towards the top, causing it to spin forward at a greater rate of speed
[ Learn the game, play some pool. ]