The rules of billiards: variations of the game


Pool, or American billiards, is fun and convivial, and anyone can play. Learn everything you need to know about the game, as well as its rules and different variations: 8-ball, 9-ball, Straight pool (aka 14.1 continuous) and Poker Pool. Everything you need to have a great time with friends or family! Internationally-acclaimed artistic billiards expert, Florian Kohler, alias “Venom”, explains 8-ball and 9-ball in a video. Learn about the other variations of pool further down the page.


8-ball is the most popular variation of pool. It’s played by calling, meaning the player has to call which pocket they intend to shoot their ball into. 8-ball is played with 15 numbered balls: one player must pocket the solid-colored balls 1-7, and the other the striped balls 9-15. The 8-ball, the black ball, must be pocketed last by the player who has already pocketed all of their balls. The winner is the first to pocket all of their balls, followed by the 8-ball.

A game is played in several rounds. The number of rounds is freely determined by the players before they start. When a player pockets one of their balls, they continue playing. A player can lose the round at any time if they pocket the 8-ball by mistake, or if it goes off the table.

The player who starts the round breaks. At this point the white ball is allowed to hit any other ball. When the first ball is pocketed by a player (without committing a foul), that group of balls is assigned to that player. The other player must try to pocket the balls of the other group. 

If a player pockets balls from two different groups during the break, they get to choose the group they prefer.
The 8-ball must be pocketed by a player once they've pocketed all of their other balls. That player wins the round.


In this variation of pool, only the white ball and balls 1-9 are used. The object of the game is simple: pocket the 9-ball! The game is played in several rounds, the number of which is decided upon by the players.

At the beginning of the game, the balls are placed in the diamond. The 1-ball is at the forward point and the 9-ball at the back point. The player who breaks must touch the 1-ball first, otherwise it's a foul. The rule that defines 9-ball is that the ball hit first by the white ball must always be the lowest numbered ball on the table.

Balls are generally pocketed one by one up to the 9-ball. However, the game can also be won with a combination. If, for example, the lowest ball on the table is the 4-ball, and the player touches this ball first with the white ball and then pockets the 9-ball all in the same shot, that player wins the round. In the same vein, a player who pockets the 9-ball during the break also wins the round.


As in 8-ball, Straight Pool (14.1 continuous) is played with 15 balls racked in a triangle in the center of the table. Players are not assigned a particular group of balls; they can pocket any ball in any order. Each ball is worth 1 point. The game is over when the pre-agreed upon score is reached. Each pocketed ball must be called, including during the break. If a ball is pocketed in the wrong hole or wasn’t called at all, there isn’t a foul, but the point doesn’t count. The ball in question is put back into play. This means breaking should be done more defensively than in 8- or 9-ball, making an effort to not just pocket any ball you can. When just one ball is left on the table, that ball and the white ball are left where they are. The other 14 balls are racked again in the triangle, and broken using the last ball left in its place. And off you go again!


Poker Pool is an original take on billiards that's a mix of pool and poker. To play you need a deck of 52 cards. The ideal number of players is 3, but it can be played with up to 6 people. 15 balls and the white ball are used. They are set up the same way as in 8-ball.

Each player is dealt 7 cards. Like in poker, your cards should be hidden from your opponents. Each card corresponds to a ball that the player must try to pocket. The object of the game is to pocket all of the balls on your cards.

  • Ace = 1-ball
  • 2 = 2-ball
  • 3 = 3-ball
  • 4 = 4-ball
  • 5 = 5-ball
  • 6 = 6-ball
  • 7 = 7-ball
  • 8 = 8-ball
  • 9 = 9-ball
  • 10 = 10-ball
  • Valet = 11-ball
  • Reine = 12-ball
  • Roi = 13-ball

If a player pockets a ball that’s not in their cards during the break, that ball is put back into play. If they pocket one or several balls, they place the correlating cards on the edge of the table to show the other players. When a player puts down their second-to-last card, they have to signal it to the other players by saying “last card”.


The basics of pool

When practiced in competition, pool has the peculiarity of being played with two cues: one for breaking and the other for playing. The first is slightly heavier, giving it more force to scatter the balls. The second, lighter cue can vary depending on player preference, but its tip always has a diameter of 13 to 14 mm. For casual play, many players do not own a breaking cue, and more often than not, only the playing cue is used. Each table has 6 pockets - one at each of the four corners and one in the middle of each side - which catch the balls.

There are 16 balls used in a game of pool:

> 15 balls numbered 1 to 15

> 1 white ball (the cue ball).

The numbered balls are not colored in the same way and are broken into two categories: balls 1 to 8 are “solids” or “lows” and balls 9-15 “stripes” or “highs”.

Positioning the rack

Place the white ball opposite the rack at the intersection of the diagonals.

Racking the balls for pool


8-ball is the best-known pool variation. To start a game, rack up all the balls except the white ball using the triangle supplied with your pool table. The placement of four of the balls is the only thing that matters. The rest of the balls can be racked at random.

> The 1-ball should be placed at the top of the triangle, making it the ball closest to the white ball.

> The (black) 8-ball should be in the center.

> The two lower angles should have a solid ball on one side and a striped ball on the other (the number doesn’t matter).

The 1-ball at the top of the triangle

The 8-ball at the center of the triangle

One of the lower angles of the triangle should have a solid ball

Fill in the rest of the triangle with the other balls at random.


Number 1 ball in the upper point of the triangle or rhombus

Number 9 ball placed in the center of the triangle or rhombus

Randomly fill the rest of the triangle or rhombus with the rest of the balls


Number 1 ball in the upper point of the triangle

Ball n ° 10 is placed in the center (in the middle of the row of 3 balls)

The remaining balls are placed randomly

At the start of a game of 10-ball, the only ball placement that matters is that of the 1-ball (at the top of the triangle) and the 10-ball (at the center of the triangle). You can use the same triangle you use to play 8-ball and just not fill in the bottom row of the triangle (see figure above).

Straight Pool (14.1 continuous)

While official rules state that balls can be placed randomly, custom holds that the 1-ball should be placed at the top of the triangle, and the 15-ball at another point of the triangle.

Fouls in American Pool

In all the variations of the game, a foul occurs if:

The white ball does not touch at least one other ball or cushion

- The ball hit by the white ball is not pocketed or does not touch a cushion

- The white ball is pocketed

- A ball goes off the table

- A player moves a ball with something other than their cue, or with another part of the cue than the tip

- There is double contact, meaning the player hits the white ball twice