sharking in pool

Sharking in Pool. What it is and How To Deal With It


  1. Verb: To perform some act or make some utterance with the intent to distract, irritate or intimidate the opponent so that they do not perform well, miss a shot, etc.  Most league and tournament rules forbid blatant sharking, as a form of unsportsmanlike conduct, but it is very common in bar pool.
  2. Noun: Another term for hustler.
  3. Noun: A very good player. This usage is common among non-players who often intend it as a compliment and are not aware of its derogatory senses (above).

Through the years I have had several experiences with players who attempted to shark me.  In almost all cases, the sharking incidences took place in a local bar, not a pool hall.  I’m not exactly sure why this is the case, but in my experience, players who frequent pool halls tend to be more highly skilled and respectful of the game than players who shoot pool in local bars.  What follows is a short list of sharking incidences that I’ve personally experienced. 

  • The Hot Head – I was recently playing a guy in a large tournament who had a bit of a temper problem and a somewhat overinflated opinion of his skills.  After I tied the match at 2-2, my opponent blew his top and yelled in my direction, “I can’t believe you are hanging with me.  I’m a much better player than you.”  Wow.  Really?   
  • The Talker – I was watching a match once, and every time one player left the table, he would sit in his chair and strike up a conversation with folks standing nearby.  It was very disrespectful and distracting for the other player, and quite frankly, to many of the other observers. 
  • The Bag of Nerves – I once played a guy who was super twitchy.  Every time he sat down between innings, he would fiddle with his fingers, pop his knuckles, clear his throat, and pick at his fingernails.  Was he sharking?  Who knows?  I actually don’t think he was; I think he was just a very nervous guy, but geeze, he was distracting!
  • The Classless Coach – A dozen years ago I was playing a guy in a bar league, and several times when my opponent missed a shot, the opposing team’s coach would attempt to console my opponent by telling him loudly, “Don’t worry, he’s not very good.  You’ll get another chance to shoot.”  Talk about no class!

How should you deal with sharks?  Here are some common techniques that can be used effectively, depending on your personality and how you like to handle adversity:

  • Ignore it:  If your opponent is trying to shark you, they must feel it necessary to shark you, and that’s a compliment.
  • Take the high road:  If your opponent is intentionally sharking you, that means they are exhibiting bad behavior and trying to gain an unfair advantage.  Make him/her pay by slowing down, focusing and concentrating more than you were before, and make the shot.
  • Openly discuss the sharking:  Stop your play and calmly and nicely explain to the offender that their behavior is bothering you.  Ask them to stop and/or move away from your line of sight.  If someone is doing something that really bothers you and is distracting, it could be an innocent error.  Just explain the situation to your opponent.
  • Quit:  When I’m practicing with friends, we jokingly shark each other just for fun.  However, if I am playing a serious match and someone starts sharking me and refuses to stop, I may just stop shooting and walk away.  In my opinion, life is too short to deal with this type of juvenile behavior.   Just move on.
  • No matter what you do, don’t lose your cool.  If you get upset, the shark has won the battle, you will not play well, and most likely you will not have a good time.

Well, that about summarizes my experiences with sharking.  

Related Articles