Miss Your Turn

Seriously, this is a post about pool. The standard pub game of fifteen balls, high numbers (9-15) and low numbers (1-7), big circles and little circles, solids and stripes - however you call them - with the eight ball in to win.

There are local rules and local INTERPRETATIONS of those rules, and like all good legal disputes they are usually amicably sorted out by the police goon-squad in the foyer of the local hospital's Emergency Department, or outside in the mud with lots of people lying face down in pools of blood, their hands plastic-tied occlusively tight behind their backs in the great Thailand tradition....


Photo certainly not stolen from anywhere, please ignore the watermark.


One potentially hot issue arose last weekend as I was playing a complicated set of games across two tables (winner keeps the table, challengers' names go on a white board) with Bruce, two Japanese expats not from my company and two pommy guys called Bill and David. We each had our own OB markers for the rules of pool, borne of our updragging and our misspent youth, etc... Luckily we were all cool about this interpretative divide and did not resort to violence. We just swapped the interpretation as we moved form table to table, player to player. We weren't drunk enough to fight, yet. It was only a game.


When playing with Bruce or David (who usually plays snooker and wasn't too fussed with rules on these tiny tables, he was here to chat up the waitresses), if you fouled in any of the usual ways by hitting the wrong ball, sinking an opponent's ball, if the white ball went in-off, you missed all your balls or even FAILED TO TOUCH THE CUSHION (!) with any ball, you had a two shot penalty awarded against you. If you went in-off, the white ball had to be replaced in the semi-circle (which didn't exist on these tables) and your opponent could only play DOWN the table for his first of two shots. This is how I used to play in Geelong too, all them long years ago.

With the Japanese guys if there was a foul, any foul, you got to pick up the white ball and place it in the best position you could find - but you only got one shot. The advantage thus received was an effective penalty against the other guy. It was weird but effective.

When playing with Bill, a long-term BKK expat of extensive pool experience, after you fouled, you...


For him that meant it was not your shot anymore, it was your opponent's turn. That's how it's played here, says Bill, who should know.

One game, I was playing Bill. Without sinking any of his own balls (experienced but not greatly talented) he dropped one of mine accidentally into the pocket. Thank you, sir!

"OK, there you go."

"Two shots?"

"No, only one. I've missed my turn, that's my penalty."

WTF? This is where the theoretical conflict arose. Because to me, if you didn't foul and didn't sink one of your own balls, it was not your turn anymore *anyway*, it was the other guy's. To my way of thinking, Bill's interpretation - the Bangkok standard! - meant that there was in effect *NO PENALTY* at all for the foul!

Surely, losing you turn meant losing your *NEXT* turn, not merely finishing the current one -- which is over anyway if you didn't sink your own ball.

It should be the following sequence, I explained (without actually resorting to Ordered Lists on the night):

  1. you foul and so you've ended (not missed) your turn,
  2. your opponent has a turn,
  3. you miss a turn (the penalty),
  4. then it's his next turn.

Two shots in a row. The same as if it was a two shot penalty only called something else, but more open to misinterpretation... obviously.


Miss, your turn! (In the old pool bars on the corner of Asoke and Sukhomvit, long since demolished.)

Bill wasn't convinced. "You're not a lawyer are ya?" He shook his head and grinned. "There's no *penalty* as such. You merely forfeit your turn. After I hit my ball cleanly, I can't do anything wrong really can I? Everything after that is merely getting on with the game. I didn't miss my ball, I hit a cushion, it was a proper shot."

"What about going in-off?"

"Your shot; I miss my turn," he said.

"But what if it's NOT your turn anyway? Even if you call it a forfeit not a penalty, there is no incentive to avoid making the mistake or any foul again..."

"Well, you can't keep on sinking your opponent's balls for him, can you? Or going in-off on purpose. Where's the sport in that?"

Well, that was true I had to concur...

We got on with it, finished the game. What does it matter? Play it your way, play it my way, it's just a fucking game.


Actually, the situation reminds me a little of the "stroke and distance" rule in golf. If you loose your ball you're supposed to go back and play a provisional ball from where you just hit the last (lost) one, plus you have a one-stroke penalty. But in reality, on a busy course this is impractical, as there is a flight of grumpy guys back there knocking back tinnies and wishing you would hurry the fuck up so they can enjoy themselves faster. So you hit it from near where you think it disappeared, card a two stroke penalty and who gives a fuck, right? It'll be over soon. What does it matter? It's just a fucking game.


Actually, the situation reminds me a lot of how to live in this cosmopolitan world. The rules, the gods, the laws are essentially the same, but the interpretation man, the interpretation! Rewards and forfeits come in such variety and hue! It's a pity we take everything that is trivial so seriously, while life and death are treated as minor matters, never really discussed. Or maybe that's a good thing. (By the way, my football team won again!)

From the Kafka book Anxious Pleasures: The meaning of life is that it ends.

Just get on with it while you are living. Life is way too short. You live it your way, let me live it my way: It's ALL just a fucking game.


With Matt and Kym, tsunami survivors, on the good ship Sentosa.



Posted by: expat@large on May 15, 07 | 7:03 pm | Profile


well done, sir...an enjoyable read that moved from the mundane to the sublime...outstanding!

Posted by: savannah on May 15, 07 | 9:43 pm

2 stroke penalty? Fuck that s**t! Out of bounds is the worst rule in golf.

Drop where you can, take one stroke and count your self lucky.

(Sung to music..) " I'm a stroke shaver....I'm a stroke shaver...."

Posted by: Skippy-san on May 15, 07 | 10:03 pm

Where I live, if you fail to sink any balls before your opponent puts all of his/hers in, you do a nudie run. Run around the entire vicinity, in naught but your birthday suit.

Posted by: VirginPornStar on May 15, 07 | 10:55 pm

*off topic...BUT...*

pick up a copy of anthony bourdain's book "the nasty bits" it's out in paperback now...you'll appreciate it! (noticed "kitchen confidential" on your sidebar list)

Posted by: savannah on May 15, 07 | 11:05 pm

Sav: thanks you muchly madame. *bows* (tip: ssshhh! the last part was a last minute addendum!) Have most of Bourdain's stuff, even some of his crime short stories, but not the latest. Spike (Hongkie Town) came to my town with a transcript of Bourdain's Singapore episode so he that could do The Compleat No Reservations Tour! Instead he did The Completely No Class Tour with me!

Skip: that's what my coach said! No wonder my scores are always in the mid-nineties! Everyone else is taking 1 and I'm taking 2! Scorer, mark that PB an 88!

VPS: have several stories about that too! Saving them FTN! (for the novel)... ok maybe I'll do one soon... like tonight?? Sydney trip has been cancelled btw.

Posted by: expat@large on May 15, 07 | 11:33 pm

How come none of you peoples picked me up on typo-ing "two shoots", "two shoots"... all the freaking time? I come across like a freaking iggurant idiot! I've fixed it now, but its in the RSS feeds forever! D'oh!

Apropros of which: I saw a funny Homer Simpson tee [there's a surprise] in the street market last night. Homer is mega-eye-balling down the barrell of a nail-gun as if there a blockage in it, and of course his dumb finger is on the trigger!! Wet myself lauging, almost!

Posted by: expat@large on May 15, 07 | 11:47 pm

"We got on with it, finished the game. What does it matter? Play it your way, play it my way, it's just a fucking game."

Is it?

(In regards to the afterlife I mean)

- joking of course...

(the one who's always trying to convert you)

Posted by: Sister on May 16, 07 | 12:32 am

you are most welcome, but you really shouldan't have given away the "addendum" part...but i forgive you your honesty *i am so kissing up, arent i? it's all because you caught me out on the movie ref on the last post GDI* i love that show..in fact, picked up a boxed set (6 episodes) for 15usd...great viewing!

re the "two shoots" wtf? am i your editor now, too? besides, i thought you were atempting some sort of regional dialect humor *smirking*

Posted by: savannah on May 16, 07 | 12:50 am

No, no, no, I was referring to a game of pool, what made you think otherwise...

It's really only a "why can't we all just get along?" (Rodney King) post.

Not an anti-afterlife post... mostly.

Posted by: expat@large on May 16, 07 | 12:53 am

Sav: trying instead some regional too-drunk-to-type-straight humour...

re: the end part - that's how all my best stuff works - I come up with a unifying conclusion I didn't anticipate. I am not alone. It was only when he'd 99% finished his play "The Real Inspector Hound" did Tom Stoppard realize who the dead guy was he's placed behind the couch since Scene 1. He had this dead body for satirical effect, but couldn't explain it to himself while he was writing the rest... and then, at the end it was obvious, even to him, and the whole crazy story and it's wickedly funny sub-plot that takes over and becomes the main plot fell perfectly into place - like throwing up a jigsaw that meshes into perfect alignment when it lands. True story.

I guess the ones that don't fall into place are the ones we don't (or shouldn't) publish, eh?

Posted by: expat@large on May 16, 07 | 1:03 am

probably...writing is such an awkward proposition..the characters always seem to know what they want and the writer is just the vehicle to get them there.

btw, what did you think of bourdain's attempt at fiction?

Posted by: savannah on May 16, 07 | 2:07 am

Er...those people face down in blood....are you sure that's not the Manchester City team who missed a practice?

Posted by: Dick on May 16, 07 | 10:54 pm

Sav: honestly, I can't recollect. So it won't say it was "memorable"...

Dick: mmm, could be... Bloody Catholics, it's a penance. Is English soccer still divided along religious lines? Maybe MC will have adhere to the state religion of Thailand - Croneyism.

Posted by: expat@large on May 17, 07 | 12:29 am


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