10 Fun Billiard Games Which You Might Not Have Played Before
By Phill Williams
09th Mar, 2023, 5 min read
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Cue games, or otherwise known as Billiard games, come in many different varieties. While the most well known are perhaps 8-Ball, 9-Ball, and Snooker, there is in fact a much wider range of options that you can enjoy, and learn. Billiards, and all of its descendants, dates back to as far as the 15th century. Back then, it was referred to as ‘Ground Billiards’. It was a popular lawn game played by families throughout medieval era Europe. From this popular game, many other games we know and love today evolved.
The outdoor evolution of ‘Ground Billiards’ became what we know today as Croquet. However, there were indoor versions of this game that were created to play during the harsh winter months. These early versions of indoor ‘Billiards’ evolved into the popular cue games that we all recognize today.
Since many of us are already familiar with the concepts of 8-Ball, 9-Ball, and Snooker, I will take the time to explore some often forgotten and little known cue games that have roots in the same places.
Some of them will look wildly different from the traditional games you are used to, and may even be played on a different style table. Although, all of them are quite fun, so if you have the chance, you should absolutely give these Billiard games a try.
1. Bumper Pool
Bumper Pool is played on a specifically designed table. It is typically quite a bit smaller than a standard Pool table, and can frequently be found in both rectangular and octagonal shapes. The shape of the table you play on will change the playstyle of the players slightly, but the concept remains the same. The table will have only two pockets, one on each side. Each pocket will have a bumper on either side of them, with a cross of bumpers in the center of the table.
The game is typically played between two players, with each player having 5 balls. One player will have 5 red balls, the other player will have 5 white balls.
There is no ‘cue ball’ in Bumper Pool. However, each player will have one ball with a dot marker, this ball will be placed in the center of the line of balls on their respective ends, and must be struck and pocketed first. The game begins by both players striking their dotted balls, and attempting to pocket them into their opponents pocket. If one player succeeds on the first shot, they will get to continue until they fail to pocket one of their respective balls. The players will take turns attempting to strike their balls into the opponent's pocket until one player pockets all 5 of theirs.
Bumper pool is a fast paced, and generally quicker and easier take on the cue games genre.
2. Cutthroat Pool
Cutthroat Pool is the battle royale of Billiard games. It is played on a standard Pool table, with standard Pool balls. You will play with either 3 or 5 players.
Each player will be assigned a group of balls, depending on the amount of players playing. If 3 players are playing, the groups will go as follows:
If 5 players are playing, the ball groups will be:
The object of the game is to take turns eliminating your opponents balls by striking the cue ball into them, and pocketing them. The winner is the last player standing with any remaining balls. You are eliminated by having all of your balls pocketed.
Players will continue their turn until they miss, scratch, or otherwise make an illegal shot. The groups are typically determined by the player who sinks a ball first. For example, if the first player to pocket a ball pockets the 9-Ball, they can choose to be group 7-9 or 6-10 depending on the number of players.
Cutthroat is a really fun, fast paced free-for-all version of Pool that is sure to leave you wanting more.
Check detailed Cutthroat pool rules here.
3. Straight Pool
Straight Pool is a quick and easy game that anyone can play, with very little learning curve. The game is played on a standard Pool table, with standard Pool equipment just like 8-Ball. The balls are racked exactly like 8-Ball, and the winner of the coin toss will go first. Each player will take turns pocketing balls, in any order, until they miss or commit a foul. Each ball is assigned a value of 1 point, and the game will continue until one player has reached the agreed upon amount of points.
Once all 15 balls have been pocketed, if no one has reached the winning point value, the balls are simply re-racked and the game continues. Prior to striking the cue ball into an object ball, a player must always designate or ‘call’ the ball they intend to pocket. Fouls are standard for Pool, as in:
- If the cue ball is pocketed.
- If the cue ball leaves the table.
- If a player touches the cue ball or object balls with anything other than the cue.
- Failure to ‘call’ your designated intended object ball prior to striking.
- Striking an object ball other than the one designated first.
Fouls will result in the loss of 1 point, and the forfeiture of the turn. If a player commits 3 consecutive fouls, there is a 15 point penalty and the balls are automatically re-racked. The game only ends when one player has reached the winning point value, it’s as simple as that!
4. One Pocket
The goal of 9-Ball Pool is to pocket the 9-Ball. However, it isn’t as simple as it sounds. In order to make a legal shot, a player must first strike the lowest numbered ball on the table. Bear in mind, that if you strike the lowest numbered ball, and that ball in turn pockets a higher numbered ball, that is ok and is perfectly legal. You simply must strike the lowest numbered ball with the cue ball first, you may pocket a different ball as a result of this action. You can even win the game by pocketing the 9-Ball by striking a lower numbered ball.
If the 9-Ball is pocketed on the break, the player who broke wins the game automatically. The turn changes if a player fails to pocket the correct ball, or commits a foul. On a given turn, the player must pocket a ball, or have one of their balls hit the rail, if neither of these happen the player commits a foul. However, bear in mind that while not a foul, simply
Because 9-Ball typically ends much faster than other cue games, many players will agree to play until a certain player has won an agreed upon amount of matches. This is most commonly done as a ‘best of 3’ format. However, you and your friends can decide on how many matches you wish to play, before establishing a clear winner.
5. Bank Pool
Bank Pool is a simple game played with either 5, 9 or 15 object balls on a standard Pool table. The simple goal of the game is to pocket object balls by using only ‘bank shots’ or in other words, by bouncing the object balls off the rail and into a pocket. The first person to pocket the majority of the object balls in play, wins the frame. So if you are playing 5 balls, you must pocket 3, 9 balls must pocket 5, 15 balls must pocket 8. This is in order to ensure that your opponent cannot pocket more than you, and thus secure your victory.
Players will take turns attempting to make ‘bank’ shots to pocket object balls until they either miss, or commit a foul. Committing a foul will result in forfeiting your turn.
In Bank Pool, you must call your shots, and which rail you will be banking the object ball off of. Any subsequent balls that are pocketed as a result of this action, that are not designated within the action, are spotted at the end of a player’s turn. A legally potted ball must be designated first, strike the designated amount of banks or rails, and not strike, kiss, or carom any other object balls on the way in. Any balls pocketed that do not meet this criteria, are a foul, and result in the end of the turn.
Bank Pool requires quite a bit of thinking and planning in order to succeed. However, players who hone their Bank Pool skills, will find themselves becoming significantly better at other Billiard games as a result!
6. 15-Ball Pool
15-Ball Pool is probably the easiest, and most straightforward version of Pool that can be played. It is very simple, and is played with a standard Pool table, and balls. The 15 balls are racked exactly like you would rack for 8-Ball, with the exception that the order of the balls in the rack should be random aside from the 15 ball being at the front, or ‘apex’.
Each player will take turns pocketing balls, and will trade turns after each attempt whether you make it or not. If a ball is pocketed, the player receives the point value of the number on the ball. If the cue ball is scratched after a ball is pocketed, no points will be awarded and pocketed ball will be spotted back on the table.
The game will continue, with both players exchanging turns attempting to pocket object balls, until one player reaches a total of 61 points. The first player to do so will be the winner. It’s as simple as that!
7. Kelly Pool
Kelly Pool is a classic form of Billiards that made its name in pool halls throughout the 50’s-80’s, although the game itself is much older than that. Kelly Pool is played with the standard Pool equipment, and balls. It can be played with 3-15 players, and will require the use of 15 numbered beads that are placed in a bottle.
To start the game, each player is given a set number of beads that is determined by how many people are playing. If there are 2-5 players, each player gets 3 beads. If there are 7-6 players, each player gets 2 beads, any more than 7 and each player gets only 1 bead. These numbers are a secret to the player alone.
At the start of the game, before the break, each player is expected to put a predetermined bet, or ‘ante’ amount. This can be any amount of money the players agree upon, Kelly Pool is a wagering game, and requires a bet be placed.
Balls are pocketed in rotation, with each player assuming their turn after the player before them attempts a pocket. You must call your ball and pockets prior to striking. Each ball pocketed is 1 point. If the shooter pockets one of their own secret numbers, they are given 1 point and each player must pay them the amount of the bet.
If the shooter pickets an opponent's secret number, the shooter gets 1 point and the owner of the number pays them the value of the bet. If all balls are pocketed without any owner pocketing their own secret number, the pot is paid out. The following game will double in value of antes and bets. This is a rather simple form of Pool that requires a bit of a gambling spirit.
8. Chicago Pool
Chicago, otherwise known as ‘Rotation Billiards’ is very similar to 15-Ball pool, and must always be played as a gambling game. The game begins by players assigning a dollar value to what is known as the ‘Money Balls’. This is typically 4 balls of the 15 that are chosen at random by the players before hand. The game begins, and continues much like 15-Ball Pool. However, the players must begin by shooting the lowest numbered value ball on the table, and are only allowed to pocket the balls in that order.
The game ends when one player reaches 61 points. During the game, however, the players who manage to pocket the ‘Money Balls’ will collect the profit from the money that has been assigned to these ‘Money Balls’ at the beginning of the game. This is the gambling aspect of the game.
Chicago Pool is a rotational game, and only allows each player one shot attempt per turn. It is fast paced, and provides the opportunity to make a little money while having fun!
Bowlliards is a fun and unique Billiard game that draws some inspiration from Bowling, as the name would suggest. Much like Bowling, Bowlliards does not require other players for you to play, and can be enjoyed by yourself. Just like Bowling, the rules of Bowlliards are very much the same.
The game is played on a standard pool table, with 10 balls, like in 10-Pin Bowling. The game begins with a ‘free break’ which means that a player need not pocket a ball to continue their turn. The player will then have two chances per frame to pocket all 10 balls for a total of 10 points. The player will continue to shoot until they miss, or fail to pocket a ‘called’ shot. All shots must be called before being made. If the player fails to do so, they get a second try, just like attempting to pick up a ‘spare’ in bowling.
If the player pockets all 10 balls in their first try, this is a ‘strike’. If it takes them two tries, it is a ‘spare. If there are any remaining balls left un-pocketed at the end of the frame, the player only receives the point value of the balls pocketed. The scoring system is identical to 10-Pin Bowling.
The game ends after 10 frames, and the player with the highest score wins if you are playing against opponents. In essence, Bowlliards is simply Bowling on a Billiards table.
10. Baseball Pool
Baseball Pool is a pocket Billiards game that utilizes the phrases of Baseball. Terms such as ‘Home Plate’ and the ‘Pitcher’ will be used in this game. The game of Baseball Pool is played with 21 numbered balls, and one white cue ball. The balls will be racked in a triangle in the same way as 8-Ball Pool. The game is played in 9 ‘Innings’ in which each player will have 9 turns to score as many points or ‘runs’ as possible.
Points are scored by pocketing as many balls in succession without committing a foul or missing. The player will play their ‘inning’ until they foul or miss. At the end of their ‘inning’ the numerical value of each pocketed ball is converted into points, or ‘runs’. The player with the most ‘runs’ at the end of 9 ‘innings’ wins.
Standard Pocket Billiard foul rules apply in Baseball Pool, to include each player being required to call their shots prior to attempting them. Baseball Pool is a fun game for those who really love to rack up points.
Summing it up
Now the next time you see a Pool table, you know that you will have far more options for games to play than just the standard 8-Ball that everyone already knows. You can amaze your friends by teaching them some new and exciting Billiard games that they may have never heard of!
The world of Billiard games is vast, and comes with as many ‘flavors’ and varieties of games as you can imagine. Now all you have to do is grab the cue stick, and try them out!