Rules for Playing Pool

By Alan Donahue

Pocket billiards is a popular game that requires thinking skills and precision aiming. The game is so popular that it is often featured on ESPN and many pool halls are located all over the world. It may be confusing watching a game of pool though, because there are many different types that people play. Learning the rules for the most popular games will help you the next time you step up to a pocket billiards table.

Set Up

The two most popular pocket billiard games are 8-Ball and 9-Ball. The set-up is very different for both games and one of the key parts of the game. For 8-ball, a 15-ball set is placed together in a triangular rack. The balls are half striped and half solid, with each row in the rack alternating the styles. The ball placement varies by game, but the black 8-ball always remains in the center rack. Slightly differently, 9-Ball is set up using the first 9 nine balls of a 15 ball set. Instead of a triangle rack, the balls are set in a diamond shape with the 9-ball directly in the middle. Numbers 1 through 8 are solid balls, while the 9-ball is the only striped ball in the game, helping it stand out for players.

Function

In 8-Ball, each player or team is assigned a particular set of ball, the stripes or solids. This is determined by whoever makes the first ball in. Each player must then attempt to get all of their own balls in until they reach the final 8-ball. Once a player reaches the 8-ball, they must call the pocket that the ball will be shot into and make it into that pocket in order to win the game. If the 8-ball is knocked in earlier in the game the player is disqualified and the other player is awarded with the victory. The game of 9-ball focuses on the numbers of the balls because players must shoot each ball into the pockets in numerical order. The game can be played as a stand alone game or be using a point system where each ball or game counts as a point. The game ends when all of the balls have been knocked in and the 9 ball is successfully knocked in by a player as the final ball. In 9-ball, shots are often called as well, to incorporate more strategy and skill into the game.

Cue Ball

All pool games rely on the "cue ball" in order to be played. This solid white ball is shot with the cue and hit against other balls in order to make them into the holes. If the cue ball gets knocked into a hole, that is referred to as a "scratch" and there are different rules when a scratch occurs. In 8-ball when a player scratches, the other player can place the cue ball anywhere in the top section of the table. In 9-ball, a player can place the ball anywhere on the table and a scratch is also considered if a player misses the "live" ball completely on their turn.

Alternative Rules

When playing at home or in a relaxing atmosphere like a bar or pool hall, you can implement common rules that may not be used in a regulation pool tournament. For example, if the cue ball ends up pressing against a side rail, you can stick the ball out an inch to give you room to shoot. If another player shoots in one of your balls, it is deemed a scratch and you can place the ball in the top section of the table. Calling pockets can be made optional during either of these games as well to add or take away some of the competition.

Types

Other than 8-ball and 9-ball, there are less common pool games that can be played. Snooker uses 15 red balls and points are scored for each ball instead of declaring a winner with one final ball. Bank pool plays just like 8-ball except players must use the rails of a pool table in order to make shots. Pocket pool assigns each player with specific pocket that all their balls must be scored into; this game can be played using points are without points.