Various Articles

Crud - a game played on a Billiards or Snooker table

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By Bjorn Claes

Crud is a team game played on a Billiards or Snooker table using just two billiard balls: the cue ball and (usually) a striped ball, since it's easier to see if a striped ball is spinning. No other equipment, except a marker pen and paper and maybe two rolls of toilet paper, is required. No cue sticks are used, and that's a good thing, given the nature of the game, as someone would probably get seriously hurt.

When combat rules are played, someone usually gets hurt anyway, even without sticks.

Crud was invented by snow-crazed Canadian fighter pilots. No one knows when. It wasn't a game I played at Luke in '74, or Holloman in '77, or Kunsan in '79, or Nellis in '80, or Hahn from '80 to '84. In those places we played Poker or Four-Five-Six. Four-Five-Six mostly, if we wanted a riotous time at the bar, which was usually.

Sometime in the mid-eighties, in the USAF, the game progressed beyond phenomenon and fad to entrenched, almost mandatory play every Friday night.

The teams can be male or female or mixed, and almost any size: from one vs. one to twenty vs. twenty or more. Females are taken to have several distracting and unfair advantages, but their play is strongly encouraged, since it's fun to run into them repeatedly--at least for the males.

The objective of Crud is to win a beer from your opposite number on the opposing team, so it helps to play the game in some kind of beer hall or bar. A team wins its beers by killing all the members of the other team three times each. In a ten vs. ten match, which is typical, that's 30 lives that must be lost before the winner is decided. This carnage can take a big slice of a night at the table.

If the Billiards table is small, the two side pockets are usually blocked. That's what the toilet paper rolls are for. Ideally Crud is played on a huge, Snooker-sized table with very small pockets, in which case all pockets are un-blocked and in play. At Torrejon we all chipped in and bought a gigantic Snooker table and installed it in the Officer's Club just for Crud. It was at least 15 feet long by about 8 feet wide.

Each team has a leader, who has few responsibilities, but among them are setting the order of play for each of the team members, and lagging for serve at the beginning of a game. The leader will usually try to keep track of who's next in sequence, shouting this out in case the next guy is distracted drinking or necking with some waitress or waiter or whatever. One way to lose a life is to simply not be there playing when it's your turn to do so. Another way to lose a life is to be in there shooting when it isn't your turn. Gotta pay attention.

There is also at least one referee, whose person is sacrosanct; whose drink is more so, since spilling it constitutes alcohol abuse; whose decisions are final, though always loudly, profanely protested by the victimized team; and whose bribery is encouraged, though usually with little or no effect on his or her decisions.

The leader of each team appoints a scorekeeper, whose main job is to make sure the other team's scorekeeper properly marks its deaths.

Play is started, and re-started, when a member of one team "serves" from one end of the table, while one from the other team "receives" standing opposite the server on the other end. Serving consists of taking the cue ball in hand and rolling it from one end of the table so that it strikes the striped ball, which is spotted on the regular spot.

The server gets three attempts to achieve this feat. He or she may roll the ball in any direction, off any cushion as many times as the force of the roll allows, as long as sooner or later the cue ball strikes the striped ball and moves it at least six inches. If the server cannot hit the striped ball in three attempts, or, hitting it, doesn't move it at least six inches, one of his or her lives is lost. If the server sinks the striped ball in an un-blocked pocket, one of the receiver's lives is lost.

If the striped ball is struck, but not sunk, then the receiver becomes the "shooter," grabs the cue ball, and attempts to either sink the striped ball in a pocket or play safe by simply moving it at least six inches, and leaving it far away from a pocket. The cue ball must be released from the hand, rolling, before it strikes the striped ball.

The next opposing player in the leader-defined order becomes the "blocker." He or she may verbally abuse the shooter, or wave hands in front of the striped ball or in the shooter's face, as he or she sees fit, in an attempt to distract the shooter--as long as the shooter or ball isn't actually touched. When combat rules are played, the blocker may push and shove and literally block the shooter. Females have been known to be especially inventive here.

Play continues in this manner until either the striped ball is sunk, or some violation of the rules is committed.

There are many rules.

For example, when shooting, the shooter must roll the cue ball from one end of the table or the other. No shooting from the sides of the table. When people in the crowd notice that a shooter has shot with his or her body even slightly around the corner of one end of the table, they shout "Balls!," or, in the case of a female shooter, "Bush!." This shout means that the shooter has not kept his or her equipment properly and propitiously in position away from a side of the table, and results in loss of a life. Unless the referee overrules the crowd, since they might have simply shouted out the epithet trying to make a winner out of a loser on their particular team.

There is no three-try maximum during continuous play; the shooter can roll the cue ball at the striped ball and miss as many times as it takes--as long as the striped ball is moving. Moving is taken to mean any amount of rolling motion, including spinning in place. If the striped ball stops moving before the shooter can hit it with the cue ball, then the shooter loses a life.

However, if the shot is valid and the striped ball sinks, then the referee rules either "previous" or "no hustle." These mean, respectively, that the shooter on the opposing side who previously struck the striped ball, and didn't sink it and left it set-up for the one who did sink it, has lost a life, or that the current blocker has failed to exhibit a proper sense of urgency, that he or she should have been able to reach the cue ball and strike the striped ball before it went in the pocket, and therefore deserves to die.

Usually the deservedly dead player is pointed at by an elbow of the referee, and also elbow-pointed by the members of the opposing team, as they ridicule his or her lack of prowess. Where this elbow-pointing gesture came from, I have no idea, but it does serve to distinctively humiliate the deservedly dead one.

After a life is taken, and properly marked, and the usual loud argument over who really deserves to die dies down a bit, play is resumed by another server and receiver taking the table.

Simply stated: The shooter, cue ball in hand, is trying to sink the striped ball in a pocket, except when it's smarter to play safe and simply leave the striped ball in an unsinkable position. The blocker is trying to prevent him or her from doing either of these things by any and all means he or she can get away with. If the ball is un-sunk after the shooter shoots, the blocker becomes the shooter, grabs the cue ball, and tries to roll it into the striped ball. Meanwhile the next player in order on the opposing team jumps in to be the blocker. Play continues until everybody's dead three times on one team or the other.

Then everybody still standing gets a beer.

There are many more rules than I've mentioned here. These arcane and numerous rules allow the spectators or opposing team to loudly mock the complete lack of competence of the unfortunate infractor, which mocking is one of the chief appeals of the game for fighter pilots.

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