On the off chance you ever find yourself in the billiards room in an air force base officer’s mess hall, you should take a moment to find the one billiards table that appears oddly out of place. The felt on the bumpers at the two ends have torn or worn away, the corner pockets appear to be reinforced with duct tape, and the two side pockets may be stuffed with rolls of toilet paper.
Is this a case of equipment misuse and abuse? Well, sort of… but no. It’s the Crud table.
Back during World War Two, over 200,000 members of the Royal Canadian Air Force trained and embarked on the journey across the ocean to join the fight in Europe. Air force bases on the East Coast swelled with nervous and bored pilots, who probably had little to ease their mind other than drinking and shooting pool at the mess. They needed to create entertainment to pass the time, and your standard game of pool just wouldn’t cut it.
As legend goes, a group of Canadian pilots—whose contribution to the world of barroom sports is likely lost in the annals of history—found an open snooker table and devised a basic set of rules for a fast-paced, addicting game.
That game became known as Crud, and has since spread amongst all the Commonwealth nations – and beyond. As an example, CFB Cold Lake, Alberta, hosts an event called MAPLE FLAG. Held annually, it’s a four-week international gathering of military pilots for the purpose of performing aerial combat exercises. A Crud tournament is as much a part of the MAPLE FLAG experience as the exercises, with the walls of the mess featuring plaques of previous years’ winners dating back to the 1970s.
The game requires a billiards table and two balls (the cue ball, known as the “shooter” ball and a striped ball known as the “object” ball). An official, who makes the final calls on all plays, should preside over each match. The number of players can be as few as four or as many as there are willing participants, and their names are written down in the order in which they play.
The game begins (and play is restarted) with a “serve”: the shooter sets themselves at one end of the table with the shooter ball, while the next player on the list is the receiver and sets the object ball an elbow’s length away from the opposite end’s bumper. The server has three attempts to hit the object ball into motion. Once the object ball is struck play begins and the object is to take turns through the player order hitting the object ball with the shooter ball. The object ball must be kept in constant motion with the ultimate goal of sinking it in one of the four corner pockets. Players are allowed to grab the cue ball as soon as their turn is up, but can only attempt to hit the object ball from either end of the table.
Players remain in rotation until they receive three strikes. There are countless ways to receive a strike—including various country-specific or base-specific rules—but the main ways that one receives a strike are: allowing the object ball to come to a complete stop during their turn; directly sinking the object ball into the closest pockets to their shot attempt; missing the object ball after three attempts on a serve; playing out of rotation; making contact with the object ball with anything other than the shooter ball; or knocking either ball off of the table.
Players also receive a strike for having the ball in hand while the object ball is pocketed by the previous player’s shot, or by setting up the next player for an easy pocket. Judgement on who receives the strike is left up to the discretion of the official.
As stated above, players are only allowed to make a play on the object ball from the two ends of the table. A player must have his or her crotch within the boundaries of two imaginary lines projecting at a 45-degree angle from the corner pockets when making a play or they receive a strike.
The player rotation is set at the beginning of the game, and it is the responsibility of each player to know when it is his or her turn. You are on the clock as soon as the player ahead of you in rotation hits the object ball with the shooter ball, and you must immediately track down the shooter and set up your shot. You are free to take as many shots during your turn, as long as the object ball remains in motion.
This leads to frantic sprinting back and forth and around the pool table to snag the shooter and set up the easiest shot. You are allowed to sprawl out onto the table to get the cue ball but you mustn’t interfere with the object ball in any way, and your feet cannot touch the table. The game continues until a sole winner remains.
The game is very fun, but puts incredible wear and tear on the table and the billiard balls. As such, it is not a recommended game for public pool halls, such as IQ’s on campus.