What affect does the condition of a cloth have on play?

Two physical properties describe the condition of a cloth: sliding friction (“slick” vs. “sticky”) and rolling resistance (“slow vs. “fast”). A “slick” cloth has very little sliding friction and allows the CB to retain its spin longer. For example, it is much easier to draw the ball on a “slick” cloth. A “fast” cloth offer very little resistance to rolling, so the balls roll much farther before coming to rest. A pool table stimpmeter (similar to those used the measure putting-green speed in golf) can be used to measure and compare cloth speed.

Cloth friction has an important effect on draw and follow shots at an angle. With a slick cloth, the CB persists along the tangent line longer before curving to the final direction, as demonstrated with speed changes in this video (a faster shot simulates slicker conditions):

In general, a new and clean cloth in a dry climate is usually more “slick” and “faster” than old and dirty cloth in a humid climate. A dirty cloth can also lead to dirtier balls, which can result in more cling. For more info, see the cling resource page. Also see the ball surface treatment resource page, because reducing CB friction has the same effects as having a “slicker” cloth.

Cloth conditions definitely affect how much sidespin “takes” on the cushions. Sidespin has less effect with very slick/clean/dry conditions.

For more information on how the drag effect of cloth friction affects various types of shots, see:

Cloth friction also has an important effect on CB swerve and massé shots. A slick cloth delays the curve, causing larger net cue ball deflection (the combined effects of squirt and swerve) for sidespin shots, and causing the CB to swing out more with massé shots.

Cloth condition also affects kick and bank shots. For more info and demonstrations, see the kick and bank effects resource page.

Cloth condition also affects how difficult pockets play. The pockets play “tighter” as the cloth gets older and dirtier, because rebound is “shorter” (and rail-induced spin “takes” more) off the pocket facings. See also: Table Difficulty Factor (TDF).

For more info on the effects of humidity and temperature, see: humidity and temperature effects.

How can I prevent skid or burn marks or cloth damage when practicing jump, massé, and break shots?

If you use a piece of spare cloth under the CB, you won’t leave any skid or burn marks or damage on the table’s cloth. Here’s an example:

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