Pool Shark – What Does It Mean in Billiards?

If you have ever played pool you likely have heard the term “pool shark”. When it comes to billiards, what is a pool shark?

A pool shark is somebody who makes money by winning pool games. This person is a hustler and an expert pool player. In contrast, regular pool players are called “pool players” or “billiard players”.

A common understanding in the world of billiards is that a pool shark is someone who cons money out of others by employing a mixture of talent, deception, and even direct coercion when playing billiards.

Read on to learn exactly what a pool shark is, how they play, and how they hustle players.

What Is a Pool Shark?

The short and simple definition of a pool shark is someone who earns money by winning pool or billiard games. This person is also regarded as a hustler. In comparison, most billiard players are just called ‘pool players’ or ‘billiard players’.

An outstanding billiard player might be called a pool shark as a compliment. But a real pool shark is one who cons money out of ordinary billiard players by appearing as if they are also ordinary pool players or even not-so-good billiard players.

Sharks at the pool table use a combination of talent, deception, and sometimes direct coercion while playing billiards so they can take advantage of susceptible and naive players.

They will appear that they are not good at billiards to lure ordinary players to a game involving a large pot of money.

In reality, these sharks play pool very well to rule the pool table for hours on end. The most experienced ones can utilize mad English, use defense effectively, grab the ball when their opponents scratch, and seldom trash talk.

They always shake their opponent’s hands and thank them for a great game – while they are kicking their opponent’s asses.

They pretend they are new to the game. Pool sharks will let their opponents win a few games at the start with less money at stake. This is to lure their opponents into playing games with higher stakes.

Once the naive player catches the bait, the pool shark will unleash the expert pool skills they previously held back and win the table and the money fast and easy.

The naive player will know that they were conned. But the losing players can’t do anything because the game was won fair and square. The sad thing is that they didn’t suspect that they are playing a professional con artist who uses billiard games to make money.

Other Definitions of Pool Shark

It is not only in the game of billiards that there are pool sharks. This word has other meanings too. Maybe you don’t know about the following meanings of a pool shark:

  • A person who is often found swimming at the local swimming pool. They do it to interact with younger members of the opposite sex or even the same sex;
  • A person spreads AIDS (HIV) in many places such as public parks, swimming pools, nightclubs, and similar public places; and
  • Other meanings are bordering on vulgarity which I don’t want to include in this article.

Description of a Pool Shark

1. A Pool Shark Is Someone Who Can Miss Their Shots

The best description of a pool shark is someone who can miss their shots better than they can make their shots. If a pool shark engages an ordinary billiard player in a game of pool and the stakes are already high, it will only take one mistake from the player for the shark to take away the game.

2. A Person Who Plays Pool in Public at below Their Skill Level

A pool shark is also a person who plays pool in public at below their skill level. They wait for someone to challenge them to a game. Usually, they will let their victims believe that they can be easily beaten and not better than the average billiard player.

Sharks employ this tactic at the start to encourage their victims to play for money. It will not be difficult for the victims to bite the bait since they assumed that they could beat the shark easily.

The stakes are low at the start, the games will appear close, and the shark may allow themself to be beaten a few times.

Then the shark or somebody watching (who can be an associate of the shark) will suggest that the stakes be raised higher. Knowing that he is better than the shark, the greedy victim will readily accept the challenge and increase their bet. They have bitten the bait.

Now that the stakes are higher, the shark will win the game but will make it appear that it is only by luck that they did it. The greedy victim, smarting from the loss, will be amenable to increasing the reward money even more.

3. The Shark Will Challenge the Victim to Bet All Their Money

This may go on for a couple of more games. Then the shark will challenge the victim to bet all their money. The victim’s pride takes over their common sense and takes the challenge. They want to show everybody that they are the better player.

what is a pool shark

That will be the end of the victim because this will be their last game. The shark will unleash everything they got, and the victim has no way of stopping the onslaught. The shark will win the game undoubtedly because they are much better at playing billiards than the victim.

Pool Shark or Hustler?

In billiards, the meaning of pool shark and pool hustler can oftentimes be interchanged. There are times when people consider that sharking is when your opponent tries to distract you while aiming for a shot.

1. Sharks Distract Opponents

A shark may cough or whistle or talk loudly to someone to distract the opponent. This behavior is discouraged in organized and professional billiard games.

2. Hustler Allows Opponent to Think That They Operate in Pure Luck

On the other hand, some in the billiards circle say that a hustler tries to deceive their opponent into thinking that they are not as good as the other player. A hustler may try to look like they could put the ball in the pocket just by pure luck.

3. Shark Displays Unsportsmanlike Behavior

Sharks also do the same that is why the shark is oftentimes confused with the hustler. But there is one difference: a shark often displays unsportsmanlike conduct to irritate or distract their opponents into playing badly, while a hustler uses deceit and guile to knock off their opponents.

Those who are not part of the billiard community use the word pool shark to describe both shark and hustler. But those who belong to the inner sanctum of billiards consider that shark is very different from being an excellent billiard player.

It will devastate those who are veterans in this game if they are called pool sharks. To them, a pool shark is someone who practices sharking. They consider sharking as using tactics to get to the head of the opponent. These people consider pool sharks as cheaters.

Again, what is a pool shark? A pool shark wins money by playing pool games. Aside from being an excellent pool player, they’re also good at acting and hustling.

How a Pool Shark Fools Their Prey?

In billiards common lingo, a pool shark is a person who suckers another person into playing them for money.

They do this knowing full well that they are considered a better billiard player possessing excellent pocketing and defensive skills. Sharks know before the game starts that it is not a fair match.

Imitate Billiard Players with Lesser Skills

They imitate billiard players with lesser skills to lure a greedy victim into playing for money. If the victim knew how skillful at pocketing billiard balls their opponent was, they would never agree to the gamble. In this context, sharking is the same as hustling.

First off, a pool shark or hustler is very good at acting. They would easily win Oscar awards for the way they can make their victims believe that they are not good at playing billiards. They can be very young or can look very old or something in between.

These hustlers’ acting performances are superb and effective because they can really make their victims believe that they can be easily beaten. That’s their best tactic to lure their victims into gambling their money.

Once they win the high-stakes game, their victims may or may not realize that they were had. Some sharks are so good at their actions that they will make it appear that they just won the game by sheer luck.

Playing Level of a Pool Shark

The playing levels of pool sharks and hustlers are a bit different. A hustler can read their opponent and knows how to beat them. Then they lure their victims into games with high stakes. After they win, they make it appear that they just got lucky.

A shark is a person who will try to distract their opponent. They may clear their throat, talk loudly, jump around, whistle, and even engage in trash talk. Obviously, these behaviors are wrong and low level. So at what a playing level is a person considered a hustler?

Being a hustler is not just about skills. They should be able to play so well that they can play safely and make it appear. It is just dumb luck. A hustler also needs to correctly read his opponent because they could also be hustling the hustler.

One of the big give away of a non-hustler is when they can’t shoot under pressure. Therefore, if a billiard player is skillful at camouflaging their shots, knows how to read their opponents, and can shoot under pressure, they have reached a hustler level.

What Is the Motivation of a Pool Shark?

There are varied reasons why a good billiard player becomes a pool shark. Every hustler has their own story to tell. Some of those reasons are:

Inspired by a Real Hustler

Real-life hustlers inspired some hustlers and pool sharks. Perhaps they read a book or saw a movie about a particular hustler, and they were inspired to follow in their footsteps.

In the past, a movie about Minnesota Fats starring Paul Newman has inspired young billiard players to imitate their idol. The most recent one is the movie “Color of Money” that starred Tom Cruise and Paul Neman again.

They also wanted this glamorous way of making a living and wanted to become as popular as their idols.

But once they experienced living that kind of life and after attaining a certain degree of status and comfort, after several years, and because of lack of self-discipline, they realize that it was nothing like what they have imagined before.

They found out that touring was very tiresome, practice and playing hours are terribly long, and playing in smoke-filled billiard halls was too damning to their physical and mental health.

The only way they can bake their cakes and eat them is to play in regulated and sanctioned professional tournaments.

But the problem is: they will have to up their level of expertise even more, to get to that professional tournament level. Only a much-disciplined hustler with a clear goal could really make that jump.

Encouraged by Others

Some billiard players become hustlers and sharks because they were encouraged by others. Perhaps they have colleagues that commended them for being such good players. Then they were encouraged to make a living out of it.

If a person needed the money, then their buddies’ encouragement will really motivate them to give it a try. Hopefully, they will enjoy early successes to enable them to sustain themselves in this kind of work.

Conclusion: Pool Shark Defined

A person who makes money by winning at pool games is called a pool shark. This person is an expert pool player and a hustler. In comparison, most people who know how to play billiards are just called ‘billiard players’ or ‘pool players.’

The main difference between a common billiard player and a pool shark is that the former is often the latter’s prey. Pool sharks often set traps to earn money from the naivety of ordinary (and greedy) billiard players.