FAQFAQGames in Pool and Billiards

... different fun and common pool games and variations.

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


For lots of games and variations, see the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP)

See also: pool and billiards drills and Carl's Pool Game Page


American Rotation

What is American Rotation?

Here's a good video explanation of American Rotation rules.

American Rotation is a 15-ball game developed by Joe Tucker similar to 9-ball and 10-ball, but with slightly different rules. Instead of the game being won by pocketing the highest numbered ball, it is a points game where each ball pocketed earns a player points. Balls 1 through 10 are worth 1 point each and balls 11 through 15 are worth 2 points each. The game is played to a pre-set number of points (e.g., 150). The first person to reach the target number of points wins the game. Like all rotation games, the lowest-numbered ball on the table must always be struck first, and you continue shooting after pocketing a ball with a legal shot. Unlike 9-ball, slop doesn't count. All shots must be called (unless they are obvious). If a shot is missed, the opponent has the option to shoot or have the current shooter remain at the table (e.g., if the cue ball is left in a bad place after a missed shot). If you don't want to attempt to pocket a ball, you also have to option to call and play a safety.

The first break is decided by a lag shot. A full rack of 15 balls is used on every break. After the first break, there is an option to shoot, play safe, or push out as in 9-ball. After every subsequent break, the shooter takes ball in hand after the break. Whoever pockets the last ball on the table breaks another full rack of 15 balls with ball-in-hand behind the head string. This continues until a player reaches the target number of total points.

In the event that your opponent fouls on three consecutive shots, you get a free shot (i.e., if you miss, you get an extra turn before your opponent returns to the table). This free shot only applies to the current rack (i.e., it doesn't carry over to the next rack of balls).

Note - A related drill and rating system based on 15-ball can be found here: 15-ball-rotation rating drill.


Bonus Ball

What is Bonus Ball?

Bonus Ball is a pool game developed by Larry Chiborak that is a combination of 8-ball, 9-ball, snooker, one-pocket, and straight pool. It was promoted in 2013 through the World Professional Billiard League (WPBL), a team league of professional pool players. Here's a concise summary of the rules from the WPBL website:

Bonus Ball is played with nine billiard balls: four purple, four orange, and one black Bonus Ball. The objective of the game is to reach 30 points by pocketing balls. Each legally pocketed purple ball is worth one point, orange two points, and the Bonus Ball three points. Pocketing all three in order is called a "sequence". A player will continue their visit at the table until they fail to legally pocket a ball, or commit a foul. If a player fails to pocket the Bonus Ball on their turn, during their next visit to the table they will restart the sequence at purple. After the final orange ball is pocketed leaving only the Bonus Ball, the purple and orange balls are re-racked, and the active player must perform a re-break. The game is played until a player reaches 30 points or the 15 minute game clock expires. Failure to reach 30 points within regulation time will result in a shootout.

The complete rules of the game are also available on the WPBL website.

Here's an example match:

And here's a 60-point run (in a shoot-out final) by Thorston Hohman.


cut throat

How do you play cut throat?

Cut throat is a casual pool game played with three people. Each person is assigned five balls to protect (1 through 5, 6 through 10, or 11 through 15). The objective of the game is to pocket your opponents' balls. The last person with one or more balls remaining on the table wins the game. The ball groups can be assigned before play begins or can be selected by a player after the first inning in which they pocket a ball. Any ball can be pocketed (even one from your group) to continue your inning. If a player scratches, a ball from each opponent's group is spotted and play continues with the next player with ball-in-hand in the "kitchen" (behind the head string).

Cut-throat is not a good game if any of the players are very good because any good player should be able to run most non-rotation racks a high percentage of the time. A good way to handicap a better player is to require that opponent balls be shot in rotation (always hitting the lowest-numbered ball first), starting with the lowest-numbered non-group ball.

A good variation of cut-throat for better players is to require each person to pocket their groups balls in rotation (always contacting the lowest numbered-ball first) instead of pocketing the opponents balls in any order. The first person with all five group balls pocketed wins the game. With a scratch, the lowest-numbered ball from the player's group (instead of from the opponent groups) gets spotted.



How do you play 8-ball?

Eight-ball (8-ball) is a pool game played with all 15 balls racked in a triangle pattern, where the objective is to pocket the 8-ball after pocketing all seven of your designated balls (stripes or solids). Here's a concise rules summary for 8-ball and 9-ball (based on the WPA World Standardized Rules), and here's an even-shorter 1-page summary for 8-ball (PDF versioneditable Word version), suitable for posting in a bar (created by Nathan Rhoades, Newport RI).

Here are some useful resources related to 8-ball:

"Bar rules" can vary significantly among people, bars, and regions, but the main differences from standard 8-ball rules are:

A good variation on 8-ball for advanced players is rotation 8-ball, where each person must always contact the lowest-numbered ball in thier group first.

When one player is much better than the other, possible ways to handicap the game include:

Any or all of these handicaps can be applied depending on the "weight" required.


8-ball bowling and 10-ball bowlliards

How do you play 8-ball bowling and 10-ball bowlliards?

from WoodMonkey:

(1) Set up rack and break.
(2) After break, choose stripes or solids and shoot until you miss (calling all shots). Then shoot the other group until you miss. (One run on each).
(3) That makes one frame (of ten). Here's how to score:

a. If you don't run out, score just one point per ball made (maximum would be 14, all 7 of each group.)

b. If you do run out, score as follows: If you made a ball on the break, and run out first group, score 30. If you made a ball on the break, and run out second group, score 25. If you don't make a ball on the break, and run out first group, score 20. If you don't make a ball on the break, and run out second group, score 15.

c. If you foul at any time in any way during a run, score 0 for that group. (If you scratch on the first group, take ball in hand for second group.) If you scratch on the break, shoot from kitchen but take 5 off your score for the frame.

d. Safety Play: I also include a safety play rule so I have an excuse to practice safety play. My rule is that if I call a safety, I succeed if the ball lands such that my opponent would have to kick to hit one of his balls. If I do this, I continue whatever run I'm on with ball in hand.

As with bowling, the maximum possible score is 300.

from marek:

I know a game named "bowlliards". It is played with ten balls and its played like this: you break them and you have ball in hand. If you run them all in one inning its a strike, if you make a mistake you have second inning and if you run them in the second inning its a spare. Simple as that.



How do you play 15-ball?

Fifteen-ball (15-ball) is a pool game played with all fifteen balls racked in the standard diamond pattern with the 15-ball in the center. Standard 9-ball rules apply.

A fun variation of 15-ball is American Rotation.

Here's a fun and challenging 15-ball player-rating drill that can be used to evaluate and monitor your playing level and improvement over time.


golf pool

How do you play "golf" on a pool table?

"Golf" is pool game or drill where the goal is to pocket a single OB in each pocket with the fewest number of "strokes." The CB is placed on the head spot to begin, and the OB is placed (or re-spotted) on the center spot before each "hole." Three rounds to each of the six pockets in order (counterclockwise, starting with the right side pocket) comprise a full "18-hole" game. An obstacle ball can be placed on the foot spot as a "hazard" in addition to the pockets. Scratching imposes a 3-stroke penalty, and hitting the ball on the foot spot incurs a 1-stroke penalty.

Another version of golf pool involves breaking a different pattern of balls for each "hole" which different par scores for each run-out. Here's a golf pool score sheet from Bob Jewett showing each ball layout.


How do you play 9-ball?

Nine-ball (9-ball) is a pool game played with nine balls (1-9) racked in a diamond pattern with the 9-ball in the center. The lowest numbered ball must always be hit first. The person who pockets the 9-ball wins the game. Here's a concise rules summary for 8-ball and 9-ball (based on the WPA World Standardized Rules).

Here are some useful resources related to 9-ball:

Here's a fun and challenging 9-ball "playing the ghost" rating drill that can be used to evaluate and monitor your playing level and improvement over time.


How do you play one-pocket?

One-pocket is a pool game where each player has a designated corner pocket in which he or she must pocket more than half of the 15 balls to win. Detailed official rules and game strategy can be found here:


Here are some classic one-pocket challenge shots:

Here is a collection of great one-pocket shots from an AZB thread by SE7EN using via Imgflip GIF Maker:

from https://vimeo.com/user7769808:

one pocket bank off point

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIxePj2lZA:

one pocket straight back beat the kiss

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiQDUqJB2YY:

one pocket up-table bank with kick to corner

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiQDUqJB2YY:

one pocket combo bank cross corner

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIxePj2lZA:

one pocket spot shot kiss ball extraction

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIxePj2lZA:

kick safety into corner

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIxePj2lZA:

combo into pack with wired ball

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIxePj2lZA:

long cross-corner bank over ball

from https://vimeo.com/user7769808:

reverse carom out of pack

from https://vimeo.com/user7769808:

bank into pack for deep wired combo

from https://povpool.vhx.tv:

straight-back bank with CB control

from https://povpool.vhx.tv:

long back cut with position into opposite corner

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XK3JZm-WgMc:

wired combo with pack break

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LrIxePj2lZA:

thin cut with favorable ball motion and shape

Rafael Martinez shot:

extracting balls to corner with safety

Rafael Martinez shot:

combo to extract balls to corner with safety

Alex Pagulayan shot:

cross corner move with multiple-rail safe

SVB shot:

thin cue kiss-kiss with shape



What is the game "Saratoga," and how do you play it?

Saratoga is a hybrid of 8-ball and 9-ball played with 13 balls (6 stripes, 6 solids, and the winning ball), where the stripes or solids are run in rotation (in numerical order, always contacting the lowest-numbered ball first). If using a standard set of balls, use balls 1-6 for the solids, balls 9-14 for the stripes, and the 8 as the winning ball. If using a special-purpose set of Saratoga balls, with non-standard colors, the black 13 is used as the winning ball. Here are the detailed rules (from AZB post):



Six Pocket

How do you play the drill game "Six Pocket?"

See Six Pocket.


straight pool

How do you play straight pool?

Straight pool (AKA "14.1" or "14.1 continuous") is a pool game played with all 15 balls in which any object ball can be pocketed at any time.  All balls must be called. A point is scored for each pocketed ball. When the 14th ball is pocketed, the CB and remaining OB remain in place and the other 14 balls are re-racked in the standard diamond pattern with the lead ball missing. Then the player continues shooting. The game can begin with a standard 15-ball-rack break shot with the CB in the "kitchen" (behind the head string), or with a 14-ball rack with a ball-in-hand shot at the 1-ball placed in the center of the table. Detailed official rules can be found on the WPA site.



How do you play 10-ball?

Ten-ball (10-ball) is a pool game played with ten balls (1-10) racked in a triangle pattern with the 10-ball in the center.  The lowest numbered ball must always be hit first, and all shots must be called (i.e., slop doesn't count).  The person who pockets the 10-ball wins the game. Detailed official rules can be found on the WPA site.

Here's a fun and challenging 10-ball "playing the ghost" rating drill that can be used to evaluate and monitor your playing level and improvement over time.

Advice, strategy and options concerning the break are covered on the 10-ball break resource page.


How do you play 3-ball and what is the best break strategy?

3-ball is described in detail on the Wikipedia Three-Ball page.

The following video demonstrates strategies and tips for breaking and getting low scores:

For more info, see "How to Break in 3-Ball" (BD, October, 2018).

Texas Bumps

How do you play the drill game "Texas Bumps?"

See Texas Bumps.


top of page      |     main FAQ index     |     website home page