How to Play 3-Ball in Pool

By Contributor

You've probably heard of 8-Ball and 9-Ball if you've ever played a game of pool, but you may not have heard of 3-Ball. Like the name implies, you only play with three balls. The fun part of this game is that it's quick and you can play with a group of people. Plus, it helps you practice making the most of each shoot since you get so few chances to sink all the balls. The overall object of the game is to have the lowest score by sinking the most balls in the fewest shots.

Sign up everyone who will be playing 3-Ball pool. During the first round, the order in which you shoot is determined by the order you sign up. Most groups will play three rounds total to make the game more interesting, although you can play just one round at a time.

Rack the balls for the first shooter. The person who is last on the list will rack for the person who is first. After the first person is finished shooting, they in turn rack for the next person in line and this continues throughout the list with the previous person racking for the next person in line. There are two ways to rack the balls. You can either rack them in a straight line or rack them in a triangle.

Take your cue stick and break the balls as hard as you can and hope that something drops. The break helps you earn a lower score if you can sink at least one ball on the break without scratching. Each shot counts as one point and if you scratch or knock any ball off the table, then you get a penalty point. For example, if you sink one ball, but scratch on the break, instead of having one point for the break, you receive two points.

Continue shooting the remaining pool balls, counting each shot as one point. To make the game quicker, most groups will only allow a maximum of five shots. So, if you've taken your fourth shot and still have balls on the table, you automatically have a five and your turn is over. You can, however, play the version where each person has an unlimited number of shots to clear the table, but you usually play single rounds in this case instead of three rounds.

Rack the balls for the next person in line. The next person will take their five shots and tally their score and this will continue until each person on the list has shot one round.

Tally everyone's score. The person with the lowest score now becomes the first person to shoot, because this is the score everyone else will want to beat. The person on the list following the new first shooter then shoots and you follow the list from there. In cases of a tie on the first round, whoever was first on the list will be the new first shooter.

Shoot three rounds total. The only time someone would not shoot the final round of a game is if there is no way they can win, even if they get an ace. This could occur if one person gets low scores on all three of their rounds and someone else gets high scores on their two rounds. For example, if one person got threes during all three rounds (giving them a total of nine) and another person got a five on two rounds (giving them a total of 10), the person with the 10 has already lost and skips their final turn.

Once everyone has taken their turn for all three rounds, tally everyone's total score and the person with the lowest score wins. If there is tie, then those who have tied would shoot one more round as a tie breaker.

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