Billiards/Pool Rules, History, Tips & Equipment

A history of Billiards/Pool, how to play, tips for improvement & necessary equipment

How to Play Billiards/Pool

Billiards/Pool, also referred to as a cue sport, are games where a wooden stick is used to knock balls into six pockets on a felt table top.

Billiards/Pool History

Cue sports evolved into indoor games from outdoor stick-and-ball games such as trucco, croquet, and golf in the 15th century. King Louis the XI of France (1461-1483) had the first indoor billiard table. Louis XI popularized the game among the French nobility. When Mary, Queen of Scots was executed, her body was covered by her billiards table's cloth. By 1727 billiards was being played in nearly every cafe in Paris. The sport then spread throughout Europe. Billiards is found mentioned numerous times in Shakespeare's plays. Famous billiard enthusiasts throughout history include Napoleon, Mozart, Abraham Lincoln, and Babe Ruth. Regulated international billiard competition began by 1893.

Billiards/Pool Rules

Billiards is played by two players, or four players on two teams. The normal billiard table found in pool halls is nine feet long. A full sized English billiard table is 12 ft long. Billiard tables have six pockets, one on each corner, and two on the sides in the middle.

The most common game is eight-ball. The object of the game is to use the white cue ball to knock all of your balls into the pockets with the eight ball last. A game begins with 15 billiard balls racked in a triangle at one end of the table. One player stands at the other end of the table and "breaks" by using his stick to hit the cue ball into the billiard balls. Players alternate turns trying to hit the balls into the pockets. Once a player successfully hits a ball into a pocket their object is to target all the balls of that suit, either stripes or solids. Similarly, their opponent then goes after all the balls of the other suit. When a player gets one of their balls into a pocket they get to hit again. However, if a player "scratches," by accidently hitting the cue ball into a pocket, it becomes their opponents turn. The player is allowed to place the cue ball anywhere on one side of the table. If at any point a player scratches after hitting the eight ball, or knocks the eight ball into the pocket out of sequence they automatically lose. The player to knock all of their balls in with the eight ball last is declared the winner.

Some players play that they need to call their shots, by designating the pocket they will hit their ball into before they shoot. In this situation, if a player hits the ball into another pocket they forfeit their chance to go again. When playing as a two person team, teammates alternate hitting the ball during their turn.

Billiards/Pool Tips

Before beginning your turn look over the entire table. Plan your run, determining which ball you will target after knocking in your first ball.

Patience is important. If you do not have a good shot, try to set one up for the next turn.

Go after the harder shots first then clear the isolated balls.

Billiards/Pool Equipment

To play Billiards you need a billiard table, and two suits of balls, seven solid balls, and seven stripe balls, a black eight ball and a cue ball. Billiard balls have been made from many different materials since the start of the game, including clay, ivory, plastic, steel and wood. A triangle rack, is needed to organize the balls at the beginning of the game. Each player should have a billiard stick, or cue. Cues are made of two wooden pieces, the butt of the cue, where the player grips the stick, and the shaft of the cue, which is smaller and used to hit the ball. Cue sticks are made up of a wide variety of wood from low-quality wood and plastic to expensive exotic wood.

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