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A collection of terms and sayings in common use at Chester bagatelle matches.




Every players turn at the table is called a stick. In a match each player has two sticks.   A stick starts with the black ball on the spot and the player has 4 reds and 4 whites to pot as many balls and score as many points as possible.
Spot the black Before any stick can start, the black ball is placed on the spot in front of the 1 cup.

Game on

Term used by referee to indicate a match is about to start.

Break off

To start a new stick, a player plays his first shot, called "breaking off".

First man

The player who plays first in a match is the "first man". A tough place to play, so this position is usually filled by an experienced player.

Last man

No prizes for guessing where the last man plays. Can be a critical position to play in, games often hinge on the performance of the "last man".
Harry Lime The third man...
Mambo Number 5.
Leave the Last Man Open Sometimes a captain will ask the opposing captain if he can "leave the last man open" before naming a last man.  Done for tactical reasons (or, if someone is late arriving!).
Think of the last man Often said ( usually by the last man!) to team-mates when encouraging them to try to make the last mans job easier by scoring as many points as possible!

Ball off

Term used by referee to indicate a foul shot has been made when he removes the cue ball from the table (the "ball off").
Split ball When the cue ball hits the black and another ball virtually simultaneously and the ref cannot tell which was struck first, the decision is a 'split ball'.

Pick 'em up

Phrase used to encourage a team mate to make a scoring shot.

Fill 'em up

To get all nine balls cupped in one stick (quite rare).
Hit the max To score 54 points in one stick. Requires all nine balls to be potted with the black ball in the 9 cup. Very hard and rarely done.  In Chester it is customary to get a drink off the landlord if you do it (yep, it's that hard!).
Ton or Ton up To score 100 points or more in a League match - quite an achievement!

Green field

No Score. The opposite of filling them up - not getting a single ball down in a stick. Every players nightmare. (sometimes accompanied by rendition of Tom Jones "Green, green grass of home".
A Boundary Lane A green field.  Saltney RBL Club used to be in Boundary Lane and a green field there was always greeted with the "green, green grass of home".
Stick of shame... Teams sometimes struggle to get a full team, and the rules now allow one or two players to go again. As it is the lowest scorers who play again, this has been dubbed by some teams the "Stick of Shame".
Morecambe and Wise stick A stick in which a player plays all the right shots, but not necessarily in the right order...
This time... Said at the beginning of a second stick after a player has had a poor or unimpressive first stick.
After the Lord Mayor's Show Said when a player gets a poor stick after a very good one, or possibly after a player plays a very bad shot following a very good one!

Little fish are sweet

It's better to score an easy 2 than miss a difficult 9...
Little apples are sweet Same as little fish....


A score of 33 (other bingo terms are sometimes used to describe players scores in matches).
Nice one There is usually someone present who will say this whenever a ball goes in the 1 cup!
Sixty-nine A good score which generally takes some licking.


When a ball is played deliberately onto another ball, i.e. a plant!

Good pull out

Said when a player has struggled in a stick, but recovers to come out with a good score.
Get 'em honest! Sometimes used (rather unkindly, I think) when an opponent has scored points with a lucky shot.

A scout

When a player aims to hit an object ball but misses (for whatever reason), the ball played is known as a "scout". The "scout" gives the player an idea of how the table runs (or not, as the case may be).
Runs left Most tables run left or right, knowing how much a table rolls gives home players a distinct advantage in league games.  This is a term used to describe a table where the balls run to the left.
Runs right Most tables run left or right, knowing how much a table rolls gives home players a distinct advantage in league games.  This is a term used to describe a table where the balls run to the right.
You've got to allow for it running straight This comment was heard after a table had been inadvertently levelled up by some decorators who had to move it to paint behind it.  The locals were not amused!

Double Whammy

Sinking two balls with one shot.

Triple Whammy

Sinking three balls with one shot.
It's a miracle Sinking four balls with one shot... (I've only ever seen this once, a shot which potted four balls)

A Derek Jones

Sinking five balls with one shot.  Just when you think you've seen everything, on 24/4/2024 Derek Jones potted five balls with the last ball of his second stick in a 5-a-side match, scoring 25 points with it. Amazing!

Go round

To play a shot utilizing the curved cushion at the top of the table.

Who's round is it?

Common term used at most bagatelle matches.


usual reply to "who's round is it?"

Very adjacent

A near miss.
Hard to bear / Suffering Said when a player has narrowly missed an attempted shot.

No legs

Term used to describe a shot which has been played too softly (also known as a "Douglas Bader").
No dolly pegs Cockney rhyming slang version of no legs.
A good player would have got that Sometimes used when an opponent misses a shot...
Touch like a midwife Term used when a perfectly weighted shot is played.
Touch like a German midwife Term used when a heavy handed shot has been played. The bagatelle equivalent of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
Give it some welly If a player gets into difficulty, sometimes using a bit of extra weight is the only option.
Good shot, apart from the weight and the direction... Tongue in cheek description of a missed shot.
Jewelers Window When a player hasn't got many balls down and uses his last ball to smash into the balls in play in the hope that at least a couple will go in.  Also known as a 'smash & grab' ?
We started badly and then fell away Not exactly a bagatelle term, but I've heard it said on occasion!
Snatch defeat from the jaws of victory I've heard  "we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory" a couple of times too!
We got off to a bad finish... Goes hand in hand with the previous two.

Higher down

Discerning advice designed to confuse an opponent.  Usually follows a missed cushion shot as in "You should have played that higher down".

Lower up

Another cushion shot (see higher down).

Put top on the bottom

Advice designed to confuse an opponent.


The name of the game, usually said when a player has made a good tactical shot.
Bagatelle - a simple game played by simple people Description of the game as given by one or two players...

Good arrow

Used after a good shot has been made.

Shot and a half

Similar to good arrow.
Spot on When a shot has been made with perfect weight and precision.
Just like shelling peas When a player is on a good run and basically potting everything he goes for.
Cooking on Gas Another positive term of encouragement.
Good hit I'm sure you've got the picture by now...

Put a knock on

Advising other players you would like to play a game (by knocking on the table).
Penalty Shootout In Singles where games are (usually) played up to 101, if the game ends in a draw, sometimes it is resolved by use of the Bagatelle 'Penalty Shootout'.  For this, three balls plus the black are used. One ball is placed on each spot and the player plays each ball from where it lies, starting with the ball on the centre spot. Usual rules apply, highest score with the three balls is the winner.

Railway five

When a player plays the cue ball into the five cup via the side and back cushions.

Play down the tramlines

A shot played straight down the table between the 6,7 and 2 cups for the 8 cup, or between the 4,8 and 3 for the 7.

Behind the 2

A shot played from the left hand end spot behind the 2 cup.

Behind the 3

Similar, but from the right hand end spot and behind the 3.
Go and have a look Advice given if, for example, a player would benefit by checking whether a ball is on round or not.

Off the cush

Or 'off the cushion'.  A shot where the cue ball strikes the cushion before hitting the object ball.
In off the cush When a player has all the balls potted and still has one last ball to play (ie. there is no object ball to play off),  he is allowed to go into any free cup after first hitting the cushion.
Straight in When a ball is close behind a cup, sometimes it is best to play the cue ball 'off the cush' for a better angle, but other times it is best to go "straight in" ie. play the cue ball directly at the object ball.
Straight up When a ball is played straight up the table, usually just inside the line of the 6 and 2, or the 4 and 3 cups.

Up and back

Playing an object ball onto the curved cushion with the intention (usually) of putting it into the 9 cup.

Straight up and back

Similar to up and back but, er, straight up.

Round the back

Roll us your cap, grandad !
Deckchair A player who folds under pressure.
Shania Someone that don't impress you much.
Jigsaw Someone who goes to pieces.
Limo Someone who carries the rest of the team.
Feta Someone who crumbles under pressure.
  Let me know if there are any others and I will add them.
  Last updated: Thursday, 25 April 2024

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