How to Play 5 Different Kinds of Billiards Games

BY: Groupon Editors |Aug 31, 2022

It's a bit odd that cue sports are often played in bars, because casual players need all of their senses about them just to tell what's going on. And that's not even taking into account all the different types of billiards games there actually are. You know the standard eight-ball variety, and you've maybe heard the word snooker before, but chances are you're not deeply familiar with how to play pool in its less-common varieties. If that's the case, read on to get the low-down on five different pool table games, and show up to your local pool hall or friend's pool room with a new wealth of cue-game knowledge.

1. American-Style Eight Ball

Number of Balls: 16 (7 stripes, 7 solids, 1 eight ball, and 1 cue ball)

How to Play: After the break, each player is assigned to either the striped or solid-colored balls. The goal is to pocket all of the balls in your color, then to sink the eight ball in a called pocket.

Where to Find It: Like we said earlier, of all the versions of billiards games, this is the one you're most likely to find. You'll be able to play it at any pool hall and many dive bars and pubs.

2. Straight Pool

Number of Balls: 16 (7 stripes, 7 solids, 1 eight ball, and 1 cue ball)

How to Play: Players use the cue ball to pocket any ball on the table, regardless of color (players must call the ball and pocket on each shot). Each ball is worth one point, and a game may be played up to 100 or 150 points. Because of this, balls are often re-racked throughout a game, which can last much longer than standard eight-ball matches.

Where to Find It: Since straight pool is played on the same table as American eight-ball, you can technically play the former in the same places you find the latter. Beware of any added costs of re-racking all those balls though.

3. Carom

Number of Balls: 3 (1 white cue ball for each opponent and 1 red object ball)

How to Play: Carom is played on a pocketless table with a heated surface (this eliminates moisture, which helps speed up the action). Players score points by rebounding their cue ball off both the object ball and their opponent's cue ball in the same shot.

Where to Find It: Tables are few and far between, but the sport has been growing in popularity in recent years. Carom Café Billiards in Flushing, New York, is one of the few spaces in the country dedicated to the game.

4. Snooker

Number of Balls: 22 (1 cue ball, 15 red balls worth 1 point each, and 6 differently colored balls worth an increasing number of points)

How to Play: At roughly 12'x6', a snooker table is quite a bit larger than a standard pool table, but it also still has six pockets. Snooker games are played by players initially pocketing a red ball, then pocketing the other numbered balls in ascending order. The name "snooker" refers to one of the game's principal strategies: when you "snooker" an opponent, you create a situation in which they can't hit their ball in an easy, straight line.

Where to Find It: More common than carom but rarer than American eight ball, snooker can be a little tricky to find in the States (It's hugely popular in the UK, if you happen to be taking a trip there soon.). Halls like Houston's 147 Snooker Club can be found if you look hard enough, though.

5. English Billiards

Number of Balls: 3 (1 white cue ball, 1 yellow cue ball, and 1 red object ball)

How to Play: There are three ways to score in English billiards. An "in-off" happens when your cue ball hits one or more balls and then falls into the pocket. A "pot" happens when your cue ball hits another ball into a pocket. A "cannon" happens when your cue ball hits both of the other balls. Cannons are worth 2 points, scores off your opponent's ball are worth 2 points, and scores off the red ball are worth 3 points.

Where to Find It: Like everything in England, English billiards is essentially a more sophisticated version of its American kin. For this very reason, you'll have very a difficult time finding a dedicated place to play. Luckily, an English billiards table has exactly the same dimensions as a snooker table, so you can certainly rig a solution by using a few re-appropriated snooker balls.


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