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Pool games originally came from two English games imported to the United States during the 19th century, English Billiards and Pyramid Pool. A modern pool set has a distinctive appearance of pool balls with their many colors and a green table with six pockets.

You don’t have to be too athletic to be great at pool! This sport actually requires less athletic skills and ability. What you need is a sharp mind and thoughtful play to be able to control the movement of the cue ball at your will.

In order to be great at pool, you need to make sure that you have countless hours of practice and experience years of competition to sharpen your concentration and skills. We are getting ahead of ourselves, so before anything else, you need the 101 on everything about Pool and Billiards…

Billiard vs. Pool

There’s a blurry line on when you should use the term “billiards” or “pool” when you’re playing pool. Let’s settle it and know once and for all what the difference is between the two by taking a closer look at how it all started.

The original game of Billiards was first developed out of a lawn game similar to croquet in the 15th century in Great Britain. The original version of the game was played in an actual lawn and used a mace with a large tip instead of a stick to drive the balls which were all red at some point in history. The modern pool game makes use of an indoor green table with six pockets, a cue stick and colorful balls.

No wonder this game was named “billiards”, derived from the French words billart meaning “wooden stick” and bille meaning “ball”.

As time passed by and the popularity of billiards grew, the sight of billiards tables became common in gambling parlors for horse racing wagers and other bets and wages were being placed. A collection of wagers is known as a “pool”, since billiards was then played in these parlors, pocket billiards began to be associated with the term.

Some professional pool players and some countries still use and are more familiar with the term “billiards” instead of what’s more commonly and casually known as pool. Thus, billiards refers to any kind of tabletop game played with cue sticks and cue balls, while pool usually means a game with pockets.

Hopefully this answers the confusion. Both terms refer to the same game. “Billiards”, “Pool Billiards, or “Pocket Billiards” are the original and formal names of the game.If you’re in a social and casual setting and you get challenged to a game of billiards, you’re probably going to use the term”pool”.

Types of Pool Games

There are different types of pool games. To become a master of billiards, one has to master all the pool game variations. Here is a list of the most famous and most played pool games in history:

8 Ball Pool

8 Ball Pool is the most famous and widespread pool game in the world. To most people, it’s more commonly known as ‘stripes and solids’. This is because half of the numbered balls are a solid color while the other half of the balls are striped. Beginners usually start playing 8-ball but unknowingly refer to it as ‘pool’.

The 8 Ball Pool makes use of 16 numbered balls to play with. Of these balls, ball numbers 1 to 7 are of solid colors and ball numbers 9 to 15 are striped. Ball number 8 is black, thus, it is called blackball or the shot ball because it should be played at the end of the game. The 16th ball is the cue ball which is typically white. This is the ball that gets in contact with the cue stick and is used to drive the other balls into the pockets.

9 Ball Pool

The 9 Ball Pool is a contemporary adaptation of pool games. This pool game is played with 10 numbered balls. Unlike the 8 Ball Pool Ball number 9 is not the shot ball. During this game, you can pot any ball at any point during the game.

In 9 Ball Pool, the balls are placed in a diamond rack. The colors and the patterns of tha balls don’t matter in this pool game. The balls are numbered from 1 to 9, and the 10th ball is the white cue ball which completes the set.

10 Ball Pool

Most people believe and can attest that 10 Ball Pool is a better test of a player’s skill than 9 Ball Pool. In this game, the 10 balls, numbered from 1 to 10, are racked at the top or head of a standard triangle just like in an 8 Ball Pool game. Ball number 10 is to be placed in the middle of the middle row in the rack.

The object of this pool game is to pocket ball number 10 “legally” (meaning intentionally) to win the game.

Cut Throat Pool

The Cut Throat Pool is customarily a 3-player or team game. This pool game is played by a standard set of 16 billiard balls. There are 15 numbered object balls and a white cue ball, just like in the set played in an 8 Ball Pool.

The game gets its name in reference to having 3 or more players competing against each other, where each player does their best and whatever it takes to pocket the other players’ balls and be the last remaining player with a ball on the table.

Pool Game Setup

“Billiards” or “Pool” is an indoor sport which is played on a pool table. A pool table has six holes placed in equal distances from each other along the sides, these holes are also called “receptacles” or “pockets”.

The main goal of the sport is to drive or strike the balls into the pockets using a cue stick.

In order to play pool, you need to familiarize yourself with the different pool supplies you need how to set the game up.

Pool Supplies

Now we have here the basic equipment and supplies in playing pool. Most of them are really needed during the game but some are just optional. Make sure that you know them all and how to use them before you even start practicing and playing.

Balls

The different types of pool games depend on the number of balls. There are normally three types of cue sports which are pool, snooker, and billiards. These balls are of the same size with different colors for distinguishment during the game.

Rack

A pool rack is normally a triangle-shaped wood/plastic material used to assemble the balls at the start of a pool game. If you are playing a standard eight-ball pool game, you need a triangle rack but if you are playing a nine-ball pool, then the shape of the rack will be diamond. After assembling and when the game starts, the rack is removed from the table.

Cue

The cue is a stick used to hit/strike/drive the ball into the pockets. Every player should be able to master how to use the cue stick in order to control the direction of the ball. The standard length of the cue stick is around 55 inches but it can be as long as 58 inches. The taper down the tip should always be 0.5 inch.

Bridge

The bridge, also called the rake, is used sometimes by the player, upon his discretion, as a supporting device for the cue stick. If during the game, the ball is positioned too far away from the player to take a shot, the player uses the bridge as a support which makes it easier for him to play a shot. It is up to the player if he will use it or not.

Chalk

Just like the bridge, chalk is also an optional pool game equipment. There is no rule as to when he should use chalk for his cue stick. Chalk is rubbed against the tip of the cue stick. The chalk helps to increase the friction between the tip and the ball in order to increase the hitting force as it strikes the ball. Players usually rub the chalk before each shot/turn.

Table

The table used for pool games is a rectangular shaped table with a length of 2.75 meters and width of 1.37 meters. The table is usually covered with green velvet material that replicates the original billiards game played outdoors on a lawn. The table has six pockets evenly distributed along the sides. There is a pocket on each corner and two pockets are in the middle of the two lengths of the table.

How To Rack Pool

Before the game starts, you need to be knowledgeable on the most basic step in playing the game and that is how to rack the balls together. To rack the balls means to assemble them at the start of the pool game in order for it to be ready for the player who breaks the rack.

There are different ways on how to rack according to the different pool games. Here are two of the most popular and basic ways to rack the pool balls:

How To Rack a Standard 8 Ball Pool Game:

  1. Start with the ball with the number 1 at the top or the apex of the rack.
  2. Make sure that the ball with the number 8 is in the center of the rack. The center of the rack is the middle of the triangle. This is at the third row down counting from the top.
  3. The bottom corner balls of the triangle should be a stripe and a solid. It doesn’t matter if it’s interchanged, as long as you have one stripe and one solid.
  4. The other balls are placed in random order. As long as ball 1 is at the apex, ball 8 is in the middle of the rack, you each have a solid and striped ball at each bottom corner, you’re good to go! Some people tend to be very specific when they rack the balls. Some do an alternative way like sequencing the balls in a pattern which is solid, striped, solid, striped, etc. Others make sure that the triangle is divided into two parts, one filled with striped balls and the other with solids. Another way is to order the balls down and from left to right, in order of their designated numbers. Ball 1 is always at the apex, balls 11 and 15 at the bottom corners, and ball 5 taking the place of ball 8’s position.
  5. Make sure to line the apex up with the middle diamond on the side of the pool table. Align the center of the first ball with the middle of the table at one quarter of the length. Most pool tables nowadays have this spot marked with a small dot as marker.
  6. Make sure that the balls are tightly packed together inside the rack. A tight rack will give you a better break to start the game.
  7. Slowly lift the rack from the balls and you’re ready to start your 8-ball game!

How To Rack a Standard 9 Ball Pool Game

  1. You will need to get a diamond-shaped rack for a 9-ball game. The racking technique is different in 9-ball from 8-ball. You need to follow the pattern of a diamond which is 1-2-3-2-1.
  2. Always keep ball 1 at the apex and ball 9 in the center. Ball 1 is always at the top of the rack, and Ball 9 is always in the center of the diamond.
  3. You can place all other balls in random order in the diamond. Just like in 8-ball, customary rules state that all other balls are placed randomly.

Some players opt to place the balls in sequential order, down and from left to right but ball 9 always stays in the middle. In this variant, ball 1 will be at the apex and ball 8 will be at the bottom.

How To Play Pool

Once you already know how to rack then you’re ready to break it and start the game! Of course, you can’t actually start it if you don’t know the ins and outs of the game. You should familiarize yourself with the rules. After that, try to practice your skills to get really good at it!

Pool Game Rules

The rules of playing Billiards or Pool depends on the type of pool game you decide to play. Here are the specific rules for each type of pool game after you break the pool rack you assembled during the start of the game:

8 Ball Pool Game Rules

  • The balls are placed in a triangular rack, a player is chosen to shoot first.
  • A failure to break the balls correctly will give the opponent a chance to break the balls again. For a break to be proper, it needs to at least have 4 balls hit the rails.
  • If the player who breaks makes a ball into a pocket, he or she claims that type, either solid or striped, for the duration of the game and shoots again during. The other player will automatically have the other type.
  • If the player makes a ball of each type, he or she may choose which one he or she prefers.
  • Both players will try to sink all their pool balls into the pockets.
  • If a player inadvertently drives an opponent’s ball into the pockets, it is a counted point/score in favor of the other player.
  • Your goal is to pocket all of your designated balls, then pot Ball 8 into a pocket.

Aside from the rules, you also need to know when you could get a foul so that you can avoid it. When any of these happens, the opponent takes his or her turn:

  • Player fails to hit the ‘on’ ball.
  • Cue ball is driven into a pocket or is “potted”.
  • Cue ball doesn’t hit any ball after it has been struck by the cue stick during a player’s turn.
  • A ball is knocked off the table by a player.
  • During the break, no ball is pocketed.
  • The player hits the cue ball more than once in a single shot/turn.

9 Ball Pool Game Rules:

  • Unlike the 8-Ball game, you can pocket any ball at any time of the 9-Ball game.
  • Ball 9 is not the call shot ball so it’s not only played at the end of the game. Any player can strike it at any time during his or her turn.
  • At break out, the cue ball should come in contact with the ball with the current lowest number on the table. If this happens, the breaker player is allowed to do a push-out shot. A push-out is a shot that won’t be considered a foul as long as the ball isn’t knocked off the table. Meaning, you can play it any way you want.
  • The opponent gets to call for a push-out shot if the current lowest number on the table does not come in contact with the cue ball.
  • The player who pockets the 9-ball at any point during the game will be declared the winner.

Here are some things that will earn you a foul at a 9-Ball Pool game:

  • The cue ball is potted together with the object ball during a shot.
  • The opponent is declared the winner if a player commits 3 fouls in a row
  • A ball jumps off the table at the fault of the player.

10 Ball Pool Game Rules

  • Balls are played in a certain sequence which is from lowest to highest
  • The lowest numbered ball should be in contact with the cue ball for it to be considered a legal hit.
  • The first player to pocket Ball 10 wins the rack.
  • Only one ball may be called per shot.
  • You can call a safety where you hit the called ball but do not pocket it. A safety shot is a legal shot. If the shooting player plans to play safe by pocketing an obvious object ball, he must declare a “safety” to his opponent before he even makes the shot. If the player fails to declare safety, and one of his object balls is pocketed, he will be required to shoot again.

Cut Throat Pool Game Rules

  • There are 15 object balls which are divided into 3 categories: Balls 1-5 are the low balls, Balls 6-10 are the mid-balls, and Balls 11-15 are the high balls.
  • Each player is assigned to one set.
  • The ultimate goal of this game is to pocket all the balls of the other players. The winner is the last player with at least one ball of their set remaining.
  • A player can choose to pocket their own ball just so they can continue with an extra turn in exchange for their currently weaker position. This is the very reason why the game is called “Cut Throat Pool”. Players sometimes need to sacrifice and cut their own throats.

When any of these happen, a player earns a foul:

  • The cue ball is pocketed or is knocked off the table. This foul will allow the fouling player’s opponents to redeem one of their pocketed balls back to the table (Given that the opponents were still “in” the game or has remaining balls in the table).
  • Player hits the cue ball twice in one shot.
  • Player inadvertently hits an object ball instead of the cue ball.

How To Get Better at Pool

Once you have known all the rules by heart, then it’s time to work on your skills and abilities. No one becomes a pro without practice and hard work. You need to always step up your game and be open to learning more each time you play. Here are some tips on how to master playing pool:

Master the stroke. Each player prefers a different hand position. You need to know for yourself what is yours. The basics are that if you are right-handed, you can opt to hold the base of the stick with your right hand and rest the narrow end on your left. If you are left-handed, do the exact opposite.

In order to have a good hand position, put your index finger on the top of the stick, curve your finger, and put your thumb at the bottom of the stick. This is the basic way to hold the cue stick and one of the most effective hand positions because it will give you total control of the stick. Make sure to hold it tight.

Other players prefer to rest the stick on their index finger. Others opt to rest the cue in between fingers in a flatter style. Take note that you can experiment with a few to discover which hand position will work best for you.

Remember that the hand in which you rested the stick should never move. You should only move your back arm while shooting. Your feet should be in a wider stance than normal and must be wider than shoulder-width apart and positioned at a 45-degree angle.

When you’re practicing your strokes, make sure to switch your eyes from the contact point on the cue ball to the point in which you’re aiming for on the object ball.

Make the shots. Make sure to align the cue stick’s tip up with the cue ball, aim precisely, and hit away with just enough force needed to pocket your object ball! Beginners should focus on hitting the cue ball straight and with power.

While aiming, pretend as if you are trying to directly hit your object ball. Look at the spot you want to hit. Train your hands to drive the cue ball using the cue stick to that spot on your object ball.

Explore your abilities and experiment with slow, easy shots. You need to be able to estimate the needed force that will give you a winning shot. Sometimes a softer touch helps your ball to avoid being knocked off the table or to pocket the nearby object ball.

Switch it up. There are lots of variations of the different pool games. If you master one then you should not stop there! Learn the rules of the rest of the other games. Master the strategies and techniques. Open up to more challenges and games.

This will prevent you from being bored and will surely add to your skill set. Once you master all types of pool games, you can start playing with the pros.

Focus. A winner is determined, hardworking and focused. In order to be a winner at any sport, you need to keep your eye on the goal, or in this case, on the ball! Stay away from any distractions that will prevent you from training really well.

There will come a time in a game when you feel like you already got it but try not to get too confident or frustrated. Focus on improving your shot and developing your skills, not winning.

Online Pool

In the modern world, almost every game already has an online or mobile app version, including Billiards and Pool! Check out the best free pool games you can find online and start mastering your strategy and skills at playing pool in no time.

Free Pool Games Online

You will literally be confused on which of these top free pool games online is your favorite! Call your friends and challenge them to some online pool game. Try them out and see for yourselves:

Best Pool Apps for iOS

Here are the best Pool Gaming Apps for iOS users. These games have received glowing reviews for their graphics and features from players all across the globe in the world of Apple.

Best Pool Apps for Android

Here are the two top pool apps for Android users. These games have the highest number of players all over the world of Android users.

What are you waiting for? You are now all set to become the next Pool Pro. All you need is patience, practice and faith!

Be a Pool Game Master online or in real life! Join the likes of Efren Reyes, Earl Strickland, Willie Mosconi and the other Pool and Billiards Stars in the world.

Keep your head in the game and your eye on the ball. Never give up until the last ball falls!

✍️  February 10, 2021

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