Joe Waldron
Revised 3/08

Want to play Olympic Nine Ball? It can be played for money, for sport, in a league, or as a practice game. It can be played in halls or on coin operated tables. You can play alone, with two, three or any number of players

As a sport it is similar to golf: There is no defense. You simply play your best game. As in golf, you can en­courage your opponent and even appreciate the excellent shots he or she makes. Olympic Nine Ball removes the element of defense. It is pure aggressive pool. The focus is on your ability to cut a ball and play position for the next shot.

Vicki Paski described the rudiments of Olympic Nine Ball in the June 1992 issue of Pool & Billiard Magazine. She should be contacted for information about the original source. After playing Olympic Nine Ball for a few weeks I would like to suggest some modifications to her presentation that could increase the appeal of this new style of pool.

The game is played by any number of people. Four players would probably need about two hours to complete the game.  Determine the order of play by the expertise of each player: Better players shoot first.

balls image

Rack the balls in the Nine Ball format. Place the One Ball on the foot spot and rack the remainder  clockwise as seen from the foot spot. Place the Nine Ball in the center of the rack as shown in the figure. The game consists of ten innings of Nine Ball in which each player attempts to run all nine balls in each inning. Balls must be made in rotation. Strike the  current object ball first and any balls legally pocketed are counted as part of the player’s score.

The incoming player breaks the balls and  has cue ball in hand. The player is not required to make a ball on the break. However, any balls that are pocketed are counted. A scratch on the break ends the player’s turn at the table with zero points scored.

After placing the ball on the table, the player shoots the object balls in rotation until he clears the table; makes the Nine Ball on a combination; misses; scratches; or fouls. When the player’s turn at the table is completed, the score is the number of balls legally pocketed. Scores and innings can be kept on the table counters and the player racks the balls for the next player. An inning is completed when all players have had a turn at the table.

Scoring rules are shown below.

  • Nine on the break is ten points.
  • Clearing the table is ten points.
  • Nine on a combination is nine points.
  • All balls legally pocketed after hitting current object ball count one point each.
  • Any balls made during a scratch or foul are not counted and player loses turn.
  • Scratch, or foul on the break counts zero and player loses turn.
  • If player fails to legally pocket a ball, player loses turn at the table.

When opponents of unequal skill play, a handicapping system can be used. The player’s handicap can be calculated as shown below:

Hcap = 10 – (sum of mid three of last five games / 3)

Theoretically the player should score 10 every time the game is played. To determine a handicap consider the last five games played. Discard the highest and the lowest score. The three remaining scores are the player’s usual scores. Add these three scores and divide the sum by three. The result is the average score. Subtracting the average score from 10 yields the player’s handicap or the number of balls that are usually needed to score 10.

Last five scores = 9,8,7,4,8

8+7+8 = 23/3 = 7.3

Handicap = 10 – 7.3 = 2.7 or 3

Player can remove three balls from the table after the break, excluding the 9-Ball.

While there are other methods for calculating handi­caps, this system reflects a player’s most recent average score. Keeping scores for yourself and for people with whom you play, allows comparative assessments. One of the things I have learned after playing this game for a while is that it is a humbling experience. I suspect that we all think that we play better than we actually do play.  On the surface it would appear that a reasonable player should be able to run a rack of nine balls from the break when  given ball in hand. Try to do it ten times! One fellow who  has a 6 handicap in the APA league scored a 46. The game is not easy.

Why should anyone want to take up this game? There are several reasons. Olympic Nine Ball is based solely on the player’s ability. The opponent’s ability to play safe does not affect your game. Thus, the game is a contest of ability, not ability to play what your opponent leaves. Olympic Nine ball is similar to Golf or Bowling. Regular Nine Ball is similar to tennis: It is partially based on your ability to capitalize on your opponent’s weaknesses.

Perhaps one of the reasons that pool has historically had a bad name is based on the idea that people attempt, in most pool games, to take advantage of their opponent. This leads to hustling and the concept of “sharks” who prey on unwitting “fish.” Olympic Nine ball is a “play your best” kind of game. Certainly, one can wager on the outcome. However, it takes at least 40 minutes to play a game.  When the bet is $10.00, the shark is not going to make much money.

When playing on a coin operated table, people who play for table time will find that skilled shooters pay less often. There is no particular reason why balls one through nine have to be used. Fifteen balls are released when money is placed in the machine. After the initial balls have been obtained, each player should pay for balls as they are needed. When the less skillful player leaves a sufficient number of balls on the table, the incoming player does not have to pay to release more balls.

The best of players gets ten shots at the table before his turn is over and the other players get to try their skill. No one sits on the side for an extended period of time

Perhaps two of the best reasons to play Olympic Nine Ball involve player development. The game is inherently interesting. You can play for hours by your­self. Those who practice regularly know that practice sessions can become boring unless you are learning something new or are being challenged. Olympic Nine Ball is challenging. It holds your attention and it keeps you at the table.

Playing the game well creates more tension. Imagine that you have just run two racks and scored a nine on the third rack. Your score sits at 29 going into the fourth Inning. There is a real possibility that you could play your best game and every shot counts. If you miss on the two ball, you have just lost nine points. Entering the fifth inning you score seven and know the game is not a lost cause. As your scores gets better, the tension increases because every missed shot is a loss of several points.

This type of tension can lead to a form of competitive anxiety. There is no one at the table but you and the competition is your best previous game. This is a wonderful place to learn to handle the stress of competition. If the game goes bad, you can finish off the rest of the innings as a practice session with no stress.  Incidentally, when you can consistently score in the 80s (20 handicap) you are probably ready for state and national competition.

In the past I had wondered why pool rooms are not as successful as golf clubs. Olympic Nine Ball implies that what is needed is to remove the hustle and make the game a heads up competition.

A room operator could structure a club in which members pay an initiation fee. A portion of this fee would be used for the annual tournament. The room owner would designate times during the week for sanctioned play.

New members play the club house professional to establish a handicap. The house pro would match and schedule interested players at mutually convenient times and offer lessons. Having the house pro manage the club would encourage players of all ability levels to join.

Members would pay a table fee with some portion used for session and annual tournament prize money.  A session could be played over 10 weeks to three months. At the end of a session, members could pay a reduced fee (based on games played) and play in a club tournament that had a payoff to handicapped winners.

Olympic Nine Ball could be a major sport. We only need to take a few tips from the sports that have been highly successful.

Olympic 9-Ball score sheet. 

Name of Player Hcap12345678910TotalDateSignature for league play