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To most people learning how to play pool can seem like a very difficult task. From the different rules to different variations of the game. One would swear it was a task from the Harry Potter movies. I am going to make learning how to play pool as easy as A.B.C.

The basics you need to know on How to play pool

Just like any game, pool has basics you need to know. These pocket billiards basics will help you understand the game. And above all help, you win. Let us get right to it.

Equipment Used

The pieces of equipment used to play pool are not hard to find. They are found in almost all game shops. Let’s go through a list of the essentials and their uses.


A pool table is to pool what Odin is to Greek mythology. It is rectangular and has 6 pockets. One on each corner. And one in the middle of the longer sides. Pool tables come in different sizes. Mainly 6FT to 9FT. The WPA (WORLD POOL ASSOCIATION) only uses 8foot and 9foot slate tables for tournaments.

These tables come as indoor and outdoor furnishings. A pool table has a felt cloth that provides the perfect speed for any game of pool. They can also be adjusted to any height size. Perfect right? I know.

Most traditional pool tables havemarkings. A black line, that isdrawn across the width of the table. This line is called the baulk line or the head line. A black spot is put on the foot spot. These markings are used to help with the ball placement.

Finding the foot spot on the pool table for racking

Cue Sticks

Used to hit the balls into pockets of the pool table. Pool cues are made of wood and come in different sizes. The trick to being a great pool player knows how to hold your cue stick. Using what many know as the open bridge and bridge hand.

The standard size stick used in mainstream pool games is 57 inches. Customized cues for kids and smaller people like myself are available.

Tips differ from soft to hard. Armature players should use a medium to medium-soft tip.

Cue Balls

Also known as a billiard ball or object ball. These balls are used in the scoring of all the points. All the balls on the pool table are numbered and have different colors. Cue balls are differentiated by either having stripes or solid colors. Only the white cue ball is not given to any team.


The triangle or rack on any pool table is used to set the object balls into a triangular shape before the break. These racks come in different sizes based on the type of game being played. It is more of a stencil for the balls to be set in. Traditional racks are made of triangular frames, usually made from wood, plastic, or metal.

There is also a more modern version. It is called a template rack. It is made from a thin material that has precision cut-outs that keep balls in place.

Standard Rules of The Game

This popular game may have many different variations. The rules have a standard setup that applies to all pool games. The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPBA) makes up the rules. They make up rules for both amateur and professional sport. Below are the 10 rules of the game.


  1. Before the game begins players must toss a coin to pick who breaks first
  2. The billiard balls must be placed in the rack randomly. Except for the 8-ball. 
  3. The black/ 8-ball must be placed in the middle of the third row. 
  4. The white ball should be placed anywhere behind the headline on the table
  5. 4 balls must hit the cushions at the first break.
  6. The cue ball must not go down a pocket.
  7. The black ball can only be pocketed after a player has pocketed his chosen balls.
  8. Players must sink the called ball. If not the turn goes to the opponent.

How to Play

This is the part that you need to pay attention to. Do not let your mind wander because this is the part you came for.


The main objective of pocket billiards is to sink all the object balls that belong to you before the opposing player. And this is how you do it like a Pro.


Because different games of pool are racked differently. I shall split each racking technique for each pool game.


15 object balls are used

  • The 8-ball should always be in the middle of the rack (the 2nd ball in the three-balls wide row).
  • The first ball must be placed at the top position which is in front of the rack.
  • The two balls in the corner must be a strip and a solid.
  • All the balls other than the 8-ball are placed randomly. But corner balls remain solid and stripped.


  • In nine-ball, the rules are the same as detailed in the eight-ball rules above. The only difference is 9 object balls are used.
  • The numbered 1 ball is always placed at the top of the rack. This is because every legal shot, including the break, must strike the lowest numbered ball first.
  • Most amateurs players place the balls in numeric order except for the 9-ball. It is in the middle.


Breaking is when object balls are hit by the cue ball to separate them and begin the game. It is the first shot. Breaking is the same for all variations of pool.

If the breaking player pockets, at least four balls need to hit the cushion walls. If the breaker does not pocket a ball and fails to push 4 balls to one or more rails. This is called an illegal break or a Foul.

After Breaking

After the rack has been broken. The color of the object ball that you sink becomes the color that represents you. Sometimes a scratch happens. This is when the white ball jumps off the table or is hit into a pocket.

Make the scratch rules before you start any game. Lest you start World War 3.

Who Plays First

This may seem like an easy question. But if two people with competitive streeks meet this could easily go south. The standard rule is to flip a coin to determine who plays first. However, if maturity is the order of the day then players can take turns.


  • Not being able to hit your object balls.
  • Hitting the cue ball straight off the table.
  • Potting any one of the opposition player’s other balls.
  • Hitting the cue ball 2 times
  • Pushing the cue ball instead of striking it.
  • A player taking a shot when it is not their turn.


Holing looks and sounds like a made-up word huh? It’s just another way of saying pocketing or sinking the ball. The term is also used in gold to refer to sinking the ball.

The position of your hand when you take your aim is very important. Where your front foot stands will also add to the factors of whether you pocket or not.

You should try putting your index finger on the top of the stick while you curve it. Then put your thumb at the bottom of the stick. This is called the open bridge. You have total control of the stick when you do this. Make sure to hold it tight as well.

Open bridge and closed bridge are ways to position your fingers to grasp the pool cues better.

Try to experiment to see what brings you the best results and comfort when playing. Some people like to rest the stick on the index finger. And others rest the pool cue in between their fingers in a more flat style. (Closed Bridge)

Be sure to only move the back of your arm when shooting.


The scoring system is easy to catch. The number on the pool ball you pocket is the number of points you get.

For example, if you sink the 5 you get 5 points.

Types of Shots

Types of shots

When shooting, there are specific names given to the shots made. Here is a quick run-down of the more popular shots and how they are played.

Jump shot

Any shot where the cue ball is deliberately hit into the air in the right manner is a jump shot.

You are allowed to play this shot in some games like pyramid and snooker. It is not allowed in some venues and games because it can damage the table felt cloth.

A legal jump shot has to be hit at the head string.

Hitting the ball from under (scooping it) is not allowed.

Because a player’s cue is slightly lifted in most shots. Whenever the ball is hit with an elevated cue with a lot of force it will jump.


This type of shot is often called the English shot in the UK.

Shots like the Reverse English, Running English and Side English shots are all variations of this shot.

This shot is achieved by hitting the cue ball in a way that leaves it spinning. The pool cue must hit the ball on the left or right or the center.

The use of English shots can cause the cue ball to swerve off from its aiming line.

This is called a deflection or squirt effect.


This is sometimes called a back-spin or bottom.

It is done by striking the ball below the middle of its upside.

If the ball is struck with enough force and it hits other balls with the same force. The ball will reverse direction and draw backward.

In the UK draw shots are called screw or back-spin.

This is because of increased friction between the cloth and the ball. It also reduces the risk of having the ball roll-off course if the table is not level.

This is also called a drag shot or a drag draw.


This refers to a cue ball that is sliding across the felt cloth with no follow or draw-spin.

If the ball is hit right in the middle it creates a sliding shot.

The more speed the ball is hit with. The longer it slides before picking up a natural forward roll from cloth friction.

Masse shots

This is a word that means giving a high level of spin along the vertical and horizontal axis.

The aim is to reverse the direction on the cue ball. The ball must curve a few moments after being hit without the need of ever reaching another ball or cushion rail.

massé is achieved by hitting the ball with the butt of the cue stick raised. Usually by 60 degrees or more.

Deflection shot /Squirt

When the cue ball is displaced from the intended direction to go in the opposite direction. Just like the swerve effect, deflection is an unplanned shot. It happens whenever English shots are used.

So the physics of this shot has been looked into. The simple explanation is; Whenever English is used, the ball will always start to move in a direction not exactly planned. It will “squirt” off of the line parallel with the cue sticks’ direction.

 Popular game variations in billiards

There are as many variations to pool as fishes in the sea. These games usually come with their own rules. But over time people have found ways to modify and spin the game around. These twists are different for every continent and maybe even country. Not too different from the original standard pool rules of course. Let’s touch on some of the more popular games

Eight Ball

  • This is a call shot game. This means you call which number you want to pocket beforehand.
  • After breaking the triangular rack, one player must pocket the group numbered 1 through to 7 of solid colors. The opponent takes numbers 9 to 15 with stripes.
  • After all the pocketing. A player knocks the 8 into the pocket. That’s how you win

Nine Ball

  • Players must aim to pocket/ sink the balls in order until the 9 ball drops into the pocket.
  • Whoever pockets the nine-ball has won the game.
  • No matter how many balls the other was responsible for pocketing.
  • If you miss a shot and no balls go down, your turn is up.
  • The opponent comes to the table to play from where you left the balls.

Ten Ball

  • The objective is to win by legally pocketing the 10-ball into the “Called Pocket.”
  • Yes Legally.Lol. This means a player must call the number of the ball he wants to shoot and pocket.
  • The cue ball must hit the lowest number first for a hit to be viewed as legal.
  • . After the lowest is struck first, either the cue ball or any other number may hit the 10 into any pocket for the win.
  • Be sure to call the shot. We don’t want to start any wars. Pun intended
  • If the shooting player pockets the lowest number, the shooting player continues his/her turn.

Straight Ball

  •  Before the game of straight pool, players agree to reach a certain number of points to be called the winner.
  • Players score points by holing.
  • A typical game is usually one hundred points. A professional game is usually one hundred fifty points.
  •  Players can pocket anything on the table, and each successfully pocket awards the player one point.
  • Straight pool is a call pocket game, meaning players must say which ball they want to go in which pocket before shooting.


  • Uses 15 pool balls. Whether each shot must be called is determined before the game.
  • The 1 ball is placed on the foot spot and the 6 and 11 are placed on the other two corners of the triangle.
  • In cut-throat, there are usually three sets of balls
  • Balls 1–5 are known as the low balls, 6–10 are mid balls, and the high balls are 11–15.
  • To win one has to be the last player with at least one object ball left on the pool table.
  • When a player has no balls on the table, he is “out” (eliminated).

3 ball

  • It is also called the three-cushion carom. The most popular game of caroms.
  • The object of the game is to bounce the cue ball off the red object ball and reach the rail cushions at least three times before reaching the last object ball.
  • A point is scored for each successful bounce orcarom.
  • NB *Carom means Bounce or Rebound

Blackball Pool

  • It is played with 15 colored object balls and a cue ball on all pool tables.
  • The object balls are grouped into 2 groups of seven. Plus the black.
  • The first break in this game is alternated between players.
  • The player or team pocketing their group of object balls and the black wins the game.
  • Shots in this pool game are not called.


Head string-A line that is sometimes imaginary (especially in most games in the USA). Drawn on the cloth, that runs horizontally across the table from the second diamond from the headrail. Equal to the second diamond on the other long rail.

Foot spot-The foot spot is the spot that is marked on the foot of the table. Usually where the balls are racked.

Pool hall- A place where pool and other billiard games are played.

Break shot- The first shot taken to break up the balls from the rack. It also determines who plays which balls

Bank Shots-A bank shot is when you hit the cue ball into an object ball.  Then it hits off a rail and goes into the pocket

Player scratches- When you pocket the cue ball

Combination shot- this is when a ball is pocketed by another object ball.

Stable bridge-A stance created by your fingers. When your less powerful hand is on the table. Then pushing your fingers together to create a “bridge” which your pool cue can use to strike a ball.

Bank Pool-A pool game where the house rules are; Shots are called first. The pockets must also be called. You must pocket without the ball touching the cushion. No combination shots are allowed as well.


 What is the most popular pool game?

The most popular of all the types of pool games is Eight-ball. It is well known to many as solids and stripes. It’s played worldwide. It is very popular among beginners. This is because of its foolproof rules.

Do you have 2 shots on the black in pool?

There is no 2 shot rule in the Billiard congress pool rules, therefore there will NEVER be two shots on the black ball.

If your opponent fouls, you are allowed to pick up the cue ball and place it anywhere you want on the pool table.

What are the IPA rules?

These are some basic rules put together by the International Pool Association.

  1. Members are expected to behave properly and correctly at all times during games and tournaments.
  2. No doping allowed.
  3. Child protection policies are to be obeyed at all times
  4. You must report any and breaching/ bribery witnessed immediately.
  5. If a player fails to abide by these laws, they will be fined and or disqualified.
  6. Ranking lists and points are handled by the IPA.
  7. All equipment used (tournaments) must be approved by the IPA. You cant use your own set of equipment.

Do you win if you sink the 8-ball on the break?

No, you do not win if you sink the 8-ball on the break. In several games, you automatically lose if you sink the 8-ball.

If you sink the 8 on the breakyou don’t winYou either spot the black ball or you can re-rack