How to Play Billiards

How to Play Billiards

The games popularly known under the umbrella term “billiards” date as far back at 14th century Europe, having evolved from outdoor cue sports that themselves date back even further. You’ll still find these games in bars and pubs across the civilized world, and knowing how to play billiards is one of the most fun ways to spend a few hours drinking beers with your best mates.

The various games of billiards all require skill to master but are fairly straightforward. Learn how to play billiards and you will soon be passing the time stylishly holding a drink while waiting your turn to whack some balls with a stick. It’s a great way to practice geometry, sharpen your mind, and to just look cool.

This information should help you with everything you need to know about how to play billiards

  • Equipment You’ll Need
  • Carom Games
  • Pool Games

People have been enjoying billiards for centuries. Soon, you’ll be one of many! There are two main types of cue games known collectively as “billiards”- carom and pocket games. Here’s what you’ll need to play versions of each of them.

Equipment You’ll Need

The first thing to do is to find either an establishment that has all of the equipment you’ll need to play a proper game, or to get your hands on this yourself. Before learning how to play billiards, you will need the following equipment.

Billiard Balls: Historically, billiard balls were most commonly made of ivory, but from the 20th century onward they are usually made of Bakelite, cellulose, plastic, or other synthetic materials. Depending on exactly what type of game you’re playing they can vary in size, color, and number.

Table: Tables come in a variety of sizes and style, but usually maintain a specific ration between their height and width. Tables used in carom games lack pockets, while pool tables have six. Tables are covered in a felted cloth that is traditionally green, reflecting the sport’s origin as a game played on well-clipped lawns.

How to Play BilliardsRack: This is the frame used to set up the billiard balls at the beginning of each game. Made of wood, plastic, or aluminum, the rack is most commonly triangle-shaped (although a diamond-shaped rack is used for pool games such as nine ball).

Cue Sticks: Also known more simply as cues, players use these long rods to strike the balls and score points. Cheaper cues are one piece and made of low-grade woods such as pine and maple. Quality cues are usually two pieces and made of hardwood, and can have cores made of varying lightness and springiness just like fancier golf clubs.

There’s no single way how to play billiards. Two basic types of games fall under the umbrella term “billiards.” Here’s what you need to know.

Carom Games

If you’ve found yourself a good pub or bar with all the right equipment (or invested in some yourself), you’re ready to learn how to play billiards. Let’s start with the carom games. All carom games are played on a pocketless table with three balls – two cue balls and an object ball. Generally, players shoot their cue ball so that it strikes the opponent’s cue ball and the object ball.

Straight Billiards: Also sometimes called straight rail, in this game a player scores a point each time his cue ball strikes each other ball. In this game it is common for skilled players to set up so-called “nurse shots,” that allow them to score repeatedly by barely nudging balls that are very close together. This relatively difficult, unstructured game is not a game for amateurs.

Balkline: Named after the imaginary lines drawn parallel to each end of the table, balkline developed as a result of the excessive use of nurse shots (and ridiculously one-sided games) in straight billiards. The rules of balkline are similar to straight billiards, except that after scoring a point, a player must drive the object ball past s balk line, thus breaking up tight groupings and making repeated use of nurse shots impossible.

Three-Cushion Billiards: Similarly to balkline, three-cushion billiards developed as a method to limit the nurse shots common in straight billiards. A simpler, more elegant game that balkline, in three-cushion billiards players must make contact with each ball as well as three cushions in order to score.

Pool Games

If you’re in the United States, the tables you’re most likely to find at your local bar (or in your friend’s rec room) are pocketed pool tables. The games played on these tables involve using a series of numbered balls that are either solidly colored or striped. Players score by hitting a cue ball against another ball and causing it to fall into one of the table’s pockets.

There are many popular versions of these games. If you’re serious about learning how to play billiards, you may want to try them all.

Eight-ball: The most commonly played version of pool by far, eight-ball is played with a complete rack of fifteen balls and one cue ball. The object of the game is to first claim a suit (stripes or solids) by pocketing a ball of one suit first, then to pocket all balls of your suit. The final ball pocketed by the winning player should be the black eight ball.

Generally, pocketing the eight ball before pocketing all the other balls of your suit automatically wins the game for your opponent. As one might expect with any popular game usually played by people who are drinking, there are many local variations of the specific rules of eight-ball.

Nine-ball: Played only with the nine solid-colored balls and the cue ball, nine-ball players must make contact with the lowest numbered ball on the table before pocketing a ball or else they receive a foul. The first player to legally pocket the nine ball wins the game.

Snooker: Rare in the United States but popular in the UK, snooker is played on a pocketed table but with 15 red balls and six balls of various colors: yellow (worth 2 points), green (3 points), brown (4 points), blue (5 points), pink (6 points) and black (7 points). The game is won by the player who has the most points after all the colored balls have been pocketed.

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