Player Ratings in Pool and Billiards

... how to rate, compare, handicap, and track progress of pool players in tournaments and leagues.

Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs), mostly from the BD CCB and AZB discussion forums

maintained for the book: The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards, the monthly Billiards Digest "Illustrated Principles" instructional articles, and the instructional video series: Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS), Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP), How to Aim Pool Shots (HAPS), and the Billiard University (BU)

Various drills can also be used to rate and track improvement of players.

Accu-Stats TPA

How does Accu-Stats' player rating system work?

The Tournament Performance Average (TPA) can be used to measure a player's performance in a match or tournament. It is a single number (like a batting average) based on the following formula:

TPA = (# of Balls Made) / (# of Balls Made + # of Errors)

Errors are any of the following:

For example, if you make 100 balls in a match and commit 25 errors, your TPA would be 0.8 or 80% (100/125). A perfect score, with no errors, would be 1.0 or 100%.

Click on the following links for a complete description, a sample scoresheet, and blank score sheets.

A-D rating system

How do you interpret the letter ratings (A-D) sometimes used to refer to player ability?

Interpretations of the A-D ratings can vary in different regions and among different league/tournament systems. Also, sometimes different labels are used (e.g., "AAA, AA, A, B, C" or "Masters, AA, A, B, C, D" or "Open A B C D" or "A+, A, A-, B+, ... , D" instead of "A B C D"). The 9-ball rating drill can be used to assess a player's offensive ability. The drill assigns the letter designation (A-D) based on performance. A better system for determining and monitoring a player's level of ability is the Billiard University (BU) rating system. It assesses a wide range of pool skills and provides a numeric and descriptive rating. The BU rating comparison chart shows how the BU rating correlates to other commonly used rating and handicapping systems, including the A-D system.

Here's a simple interpretation of the A-D scale from the online glossary:

A:  a good player capable of running most racks and/or playing lock-up safeties.

B:  a decent player capable of running racks and playing effective safeties periodically.

C:  an average player who doesn’t run racks very often and doesn’t have much of a safety game.

D:  a novice player who makes many mistakes, can’t run even an easy rack, and never even considers playing safe.

Here's an alternative and more-detailed interpretation of the A-D scale from Capelle's "Play Your Best Pool" (p.386):

D: A beginner or someone who plays so infrequently that their game remains in the beginner category.

C-: A below average player - this denotes a player with some recognizable skills who has definitely risen from the ranks of beginners. This is the first major milestone.

C: An average player - describes a large section of pool enthusiasts with experience whose games perhaps have leveled off, or that only play occasionally.

C+: Above average player - this group plays a very acceptable game of pool. They tend to dominate their level of competition.

B-: This is perhaps the biggest hurdle, as a good number of players peak at the C+ level. A B- is a good player who is quite capable of running a rack of Eight Ball or Nine Ball. However, they usually lack consistency.

B: A solid, advanced player - these players can run out fairly regularly, but lack a little consistency.

B+: Players at this level are often mistaken for lower level A players when they are playing well because they play a very tough, well-rounded game. They can run out from nearly anywhere at anytime.

A-: Another big jump is required to break through to the "A" level. This group of players could be classified as semi-pros or top amateurs. They are very skilled in nearly all facets of the game. They run out easily and very often.

A: A professional quality player who can compete with and occasionally beat all but the best players. Very skilled, solid, and consistent. Runs multiple racks quite often. Tough to beat.

A+: Touring Pro - the best. Skilled in every area of the game. Breaks and runs out multiple racks regularly. Definitely in a class by themselves.


from Tom_In_Cincy:

9-Ball Tournament race to 7
(paraphrased from Dec.1997 "All About Pool" magazine article by Bob Cambell)

Handicap rankings

will not run a rack
average run is about 3 balls
with ball in hand, will get out from the 7, one out of 3 times
rarely plays a successful safe

will probably run one rack, but usually not more than one rack in a typical race to 7
avg. run is 3 to 5 balls
with ball in hand, will get out from the 7, two out of 3 times
mixed results when playing safe
inning ends due to botched position, missed shot or attempting a safe.

Able to run 1 to 3 racks
avg. run is 5-7 balls
with ball in hand will get out form the 5, 2 out of 3 times
most of the time a "B" player will play a "safety" which maybe hit easily 2 out of 3 times
a typical inning will end with a missed shot, a fair safety, or a won game

will string 2 to 3 racks
avg. ball run, 7-9
with ball in hand, will be out from the 3 ball, 2 out of 3 times
typical inning will end with a well executed safety or a win.

average 8+ balls
string racks together more than once in a match
is a threat to run out from every ball, from every position, every inning
typical inning will end in excellent safety or win

Mr. Cambell continues this article with a handicap chart for the 4 levels of each type of player. The chart would look like this;

Lowest handicap is D4, then D3, then D2 and so on until the highest would be OPEN 1


from Chuck Fields (in AZB post):

D players are bangers, they dont stand right, dont shoot right. Making a ball is usually more luck than skill.

C players are figuring out how to stand and the importance of a good stroke. Theyre trying to play and can make a couple of balls here and there. If the balls are laying good they might get lucky and run out once in a blue moon

B players are a little more serious students of the game. Their fundamentals are usually consistent and their pocketing is better. Position play varies from rudimentary to knowing some of the safer routes to use. If the balls lay good they are a threat to run out 50% of those racks. A tough out takes some luck to get out of.

A players are gaining consistency. Their pocketing is good, their position play is good. They are expected to get out of an easy run most of the time, and the hard outs are getting consistently better but they lack the consistency of better players.

Short stops are players capable of pro speed play, but cant hit their gear at will. The short stop is usually the best A player in the area and is the shortstop based on consistency.

Pro level players have the knowledge and the skill set to get out most racks that are runnable, and are smart enough to know when not to push it. They have learned how to hit their top gear pretty much at will and are usually separated by consistency of hitting that gear. The top guys are "on" almost all the time, and when they are off the difference is usually only one or two shots a match. 


from Jude Rosenstock:

D - Will appear as though they are stumbling through the rack. Their occasional run-outs will either consist of very easy layouts (which they will nearly mess-up), a few lucky shots and/or unintentional position.

C - Greater sense of cue control and much more of a deliberate appearance than a D. They will undoubtedly run out with BIH with 3 or 4 left and will make it look routine but are suspect beyond that.

B - Really the beginning of the run out player. If they make a ball on the break and get position on the 1 ball, they should have a reasonable expectation to get out. Any cluster or unusual position play will diminish their chances significantly. Usually, B players possess unusual strength in either pocketing, strategy or position play. Rarely two of three, never all three. Their creativity is usually limited at this level but you may begin to see glimpses of what's to come.

A - Definitely categorized as a run out player. They are supposed to capitalize on most mistakes. Greater attention is paid to more subtle details. Expect a consistent and strong break and strength in multiple attributes (pocketing, defense, position play, creativity). Most noticeable among players at this level and above is an aura of confidence.

Open & Above is very similar to what you see described in A only more refined. You will see advanced to expert break, pocketing, defense, position play and creativity. Low level opens might be advanced in all of these categories while world class professionals might be experts in most or all. All of these players are expected to run out with any routine opportunity. Any run-stopper situation (clusters, blocked position routes) is expected to be handled in such a way to still give the shooter an expectation of winning.

APA handicapping system

How does the APA Equalizer Handicapping system work?

See the following official description from APA that doesn't include much detail:

APA Equalizer Handicap System

Here's an unofficial description that provides more details:

description of APA handicapping system on AZB

Here's a video that provide instructions on how to keep score during APA 8-ball matches:

8-Ball Scorekeeping with the APA 3-Point Scoring System


How do APA ratings differ or compare to the A-D system?

Actual levels of ability corresponding to different player ratings can vary significantly among different leagues and different regions. There is no direct correlation between an APA rating and actual level of play. The ratings are relative only to other players in the league. However, in a competitive league with a wide range of abilities, the APA ratings will generally correlate with traditional A-D player ratings along the lines summarized by Koop below.

from Koop:

SL-3 or below: D+ Player or below
SL-4: D+ to C- Player
SL-5: C- to C Player
SL-6: C+ to B- Player
SL-7: B
SL-8: B+ to A-
SL-9: A to Open

Arizona 1-10 rating system

How does the 1-10 rating system developed in Arizona work and compare to other ratings?

See the following resources:

Here's how the Arizona Ratings compare to the "National Scale:"

AZ        Nat.       Description
10-2      A+        Top professional. World class player. Capable of winning major professional tournaments. Almost always finishes in the money in any tournament entered.

10-1      A           Professional, or player possessing professional skills. Capable of winning local open tournaments. Usually finishes in the money in regional tournaments.

10          A-         Semi-pro, or player possessing professional skills. Capable of winning or placing high in the money in local open tournaments.

9            B+         Advanced. Very good position play, strategy and consistency. Top league player. Consistent competitor in local open tournaments.                      

8            B           Advanced. Good position play, strategy and consistency. Good league player. Competitive in local open tournaments.

7            B-          Intermediate. Fair amount of knowledge and experience, but inconsistent in execution. Average league player.

6            C+         Intermediate. Has learned quite a few shots, but has a lot to learn about position play and strategy. Inconsistent.

5            C            Novice. Has a grasp of the fundamentals, but does not know much about the physics of the game. Lower-level league player.

4            C-           Novice. Very basic knowledge of the fundamentals. Knows almost nothing about position play. Lowest-level tournament player.

3             D+         Novice. Knows little about the fundamentals, but might know a couple of shots. Average social player.

2             D           Novice. May not know anything about the fundamentals or making shots. Non-competitive.

1             D-          Novice. Knows nothing about the game except maybe a few rules of play.

A better system for determining and monitoring a player's level of ability is the Billiard University (BU) rating system. It assesses a wide range of pool skills and provides a numeric and descriptive rating. The BU rating comparison chart shows how the BU rating correlates to other commonly used rating and handicapping systems, including the Arizona 1-10 system.

Billiard University (BU) playing-ability rating system

How does the Billiard University (BU) rating system work?

The two Billiard University (BU) playing ability exams ("Exam I - Fundamentals" and "Exam II - Skills") provide an accurate assessment and rating of overall pool-playing ability. The following video provides an overview of the BU assessment and rating process:

The total score of the two exams indicates your player rating according to the BU ratings table, which also compares BU ratings to other traditional rating and handicapping systems.

Here's an overview of both BU Exams:

Much more information can be found on the Billiard University (BU) website.

Elo rating and handicapping system

What is the Elo rating and handicapping system, and how does it work?

The Elo rating and handicapping system is a statistics-based system for tracking player ability and for matching up people in fair matches. It was originally developed for the chess world for ranking players and grouping them accordingly in tournaments of different playing abilities. For more information, see the Wikipedia Elo page.

Fargo rating and handicapping system

How does the Fargo rating and handicapping system work?

The Fargo rating and handicapping system, which is different from the Fargo rating drill, is a statistics-based system for tracking player abilities in an 8-ball league system. Here's a complete description of the system, and here's a video summary. Here's an interpretation of the numbering:

800 - A top world-class 8-ball player such as Corey Deuel, Shane VanBoening, Darren Appleton, or Thorsten Hohmann
700 - A top regional 8-ball player in the US – a threat to cash in the Master’s Division at the BCA/VNEA Championships – a threat to run six in a row if the break is working
600 - Likely to cash in the BCA Open Division but probably won’t make it to the top 32. – may get moved to Master’s Division and then flounder – has run three-in-a-row multiple times and maybe four-in-a row a time or two
500 - A good local league player. Runs out first time at the table in about 10% of the games
400 - Runs out first time at the table in about 1% of the games – once or twice a league season
300 - A beginner league player
200 - absolute beginner- may miscue frequently

Here's how Fargo ratings compare to those of other systems:

NPL - Fargo
135 - 700
105 - 600
75 - 500
45 - 400
15 - 300

APA Fargo
7 - >560
6 - 500-560
5 - 425-500
4 - 350-425
3 - <350

Minnesota - M8 Master/Advanced - Fargo
Master - >125 - >630
AA - 100-125 - 575-630
A - 75-100 - 500-575
B - 50-75 - 425-500
C - <50 - <425

Additional comparisons, including how Fargo ratings correlate with Billiard University (BU) ratings, can be found in the BU rating comparison chart.

15-ball-rotation player-rating drill:

from BeiberLvr (in AZB post):

1. Rack all 15 balls. Any order, but the 1 must be at the top, and the 15 in the middle.
2. Break
3. Player can take as many ball in hands each rack until all balls have been made.
4. Player does NOT have to take ball in hand immediately after the break.
5. Player can use a ball in hand at any point during the rack.
6. Play a total of 10 racks.
7. Player's score is determined by the total # of ball in hands taken after all 10 racks are completed.
8. Slop counts.
9. Player must continue shooting even if the 15 ball drops early.

Summary of what is a foul/BIH penalty:
- CB scratch (1 foul)
- OB off table (1 foul, and ball gets spotted)
- Missed shot (1 foul)
- Missed shot and then scratch (1 foul)
- Lowest ball not hit first (2 fouls)
- Lowest ball not hit first and then scratch (2 fouls)
- Make a ball and scratch (1 foul). If a legal hit is made, but the ball that dropped wasn't the lowest ball, it gets spotted. If the lowest ball was made, it stays down.

from dr_dave (in AZB post):

I suggest the following for score-based player ratings:

0-20 Pro
21-35 A
36-50 B
51-65 C
66-80 D

Here are some example racks with good scores: Dr. Dave practicing 15-ball rotation.


Note - An interesting game based on 15-ball is called American Rotation. A brief description, detailed rules, score sheets, and more information can be found on the American Rotation resource page.

Hopkins Q Skill Challenge Ratings

How does the Hopkins Q Skill Challenge rating system work?

The Hopkins Q Skill Challenge is described in detail here. Here are the original ranking divisions for the different score ranges, along with an estimated correspondence with the traditional A-D lettering system:


# Per Inning

# in 10 Innings

# in 50 Innings

Traditional Designation


0.0 -   3.0

0   – 30.0

0 -   150



3.1 -   6.0

30.1   – 60.0

151 -   300

D (beginner)


6.1 -   9.0

60.1   – 90.0

301 -   450

C (intermediate)

Developing Pro

9.1 - 12.0

90.1  - 120.0

451 -   600

B (advanced)


12.1 - 16.0

121.1 – 160.0

601 -   800

A (expert)


16.1 - 18.0

160.1 – 180.0

801 -   900

AA (master)

Touring Pro

18.1 - 20.0

180.1 – 200.0

901 - 1000

AAA (pro)

A better system for determining and monitoring a player's level of ability is the Billiard University (BU) rating system. It assesses a wide range of pool skills and provides a numeric and descriptive rating. The BU rating comparison chart shows how the BU rating correlates to other commonly used rating and handicapping systems.

National Pool League (NPL) rating system

How does the NPL rating system work?

This basic system was developed by Bob Jewett and is described here:

Playing Ability Test (PAT)

What is PAT?

The Playing Ability Test (PAT) is a multi-level drill-based player rating examination developed in Europe. It is described here:

An alternative system is the Billiard University (BU) rating system. It assesses a wide range of pool skills and provides a numeric and descriptive rating. The BU rating comparison chart shows how the BU rating correlates to other commonly used rating and handicapping systems.

"playing the ghost" rating drills

Is there a drill that can be used to measure my level of play?

Many "playing the ghost" player rating drills have been developed and used over the years. The phrase "playing the ghost" implies that you are playing by yourself against a fictitious opponent (the "ghost") who never misses. A ghost drill consists of racking a certain number of balls (e.g., 7, 9, 10, 15), breaking, taking ball in hand after the break, and attempting to run out. Alternatively, you can just randomly spread the balls on the table before taking ball in hand. If you run out, you have beaten the "ghost." You can keep score by keeping track of your rack winning percentage or by totaling the total number of balls pocketed before missing in a given number of racks (e.g., 10).

"Playing the ghost" drills are useful to rate your level of play and track improvement over time. They also provide practice with offensive skills (shot making, position play, handling of clusters and problem balls, and breaking). Safety play, a very important part of the game, is not addressed in "playing the ghost" drills. Example "playing the ghost" drills and rating systems are the 9-ball rating drill (which provides a 1-10 and A-D rating) and the 10-ball version described below. The 15-ball-rotation rating drill provides a similar way to rate performance. The 10-ball-ghost version is the most recommended and seems to provide fairly accurate player ratings.

The "playing the ghost" drills do not test a complete range of pool skills, but they do a decent job at rating a person's primary offensive skills. However, the scores can vary a lot from one session to the next, and there can be a fair amount of luck (both good and bad) involved concerning ball clustering and weird run-out patterns; but if you do a bunch of sessions and throw out the low and high scores, the median (middle) score provides a fairly accurate measure of one's offensive ability.

A better system for determining and monitoring a player's level of ability is the Billiard University (BU) rating system. It assesses a wide range of pool skills and provides a numeric and descriptive rating. The BU rating comparison chart shows how the BU rating correlates to other commonly used rating and handicapping systems.

As with all rating systems and drills, results can vary with table size. Generally, the rating systems are developed assuming the drills are done on a typical-difficulty-level, standard 9' table. The Table Difficulty Factor (TDF) offers a way to compare difficulty levels of different tables to help put scores and ratings into proper perspective.

More rating drills can be found under drills here.


10-ball ghost player-rating drill:

The following drill offers a simple and fast way to obtain an approximate player rating (based on offensive skills). However, 10 racks of 10-ball is not enough to get a representative score. There is too much variability from one rack to the next, and there is a luck factor involved. A better approach is to do 30 racks and drop the 10 highest and 10 lowest scores. This would give a more representative score and rating.

The Billiard University (BU) rating system probably provide a better measure of overall playing ability because it tests all important pool skills, and in a more methodical, thorough, and consistent way.

from Eric.:

Joe Tucker has a thing he uses that proves to be pretty accurate. It goes like this:

Rack up some 10 ball. Break from anywhere. After the break, take ball in hand and run out, in rotation (1, 2, 3, etc...) All balls made on the break count. Any balls made on a scratch are spotted. [Added by dr_dave: A scratch incurs a 2-point penalty.] Once you miss, the rack is over. You should shoot 10 racks and count the total balls made for each rack. After 10 racks, take your total and compare it to this chart:

[added by dr_dave: <30 D]
30-35 D+
36-40 C
41-45 C+
46-50 B
51-55 B+
56-60 A
61-65 A+
66-70 A++
71-up Pro

I'm not sure if it matters what size table. I like this rating system because it takes a lot into account as far as player ability i.e. shotmaking, position play, cluster breaking, break skill. It makes no difference if you play 10 ball or not, the results are very close to reality.

Pool Quotient (PQ) progressive-drill ability test

Is there a set of drills I can use to get a good measure of my overall ability?

The Pool Quotient (PQ) ability test, based on progressive practice drills is a good tool to measure ability and track improvement over time. Here it is: PQ Ability Test. Other self-assessment info can be found here.

A more-complete system for determining and monitoring a player's level of ability is the Billiard University (BU) rating system. It assesses a wide range of pool skills and provides a numeric and descriptive rating. The BU rating comparison chart shows how the BU rating correlates to other commonly used rating and handicapping systems.

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