How to Play Billiards

How to Play Billiards

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How to Play Billiards

This is the traditional original English three-ball variety, a game played by gentlemen long before snooker and pool were even in diapers. Here are the rules.

It can be played with two or more people. The table is the same as a snooker table, but you only have three balls.

There are two white balls. One has a little black spot on it and the other is just plain white. One player uses the white ball as the cue ball and the other player uses only the white ball with the spot. The third ball is red.

Starting position

At the start of the game, the red is placed on the spot furthest from the “ID” (the black spot in snooker, called “the spot”). The first player plays from in. hand, from within the “D’ and the second white ball stays off the table until the second player makes his fist shot (also in-hand within the “D”).


Players score as follows:

  1. Potting the opponent’s cue ball scores two points. It then stays off the table until the opponent’s turn (it is advisable to keep it on the table to enable higher scoring).
  2. Going in-off. This means bouncing your cue ball off another ball so that your cue ball ends up in a pocket. If you go in-off the red, you score three points. If you go in-off the other white, you score two points.
  3. Cannon. You hit your cue ball and it hits the red and then the red hits the other white (or you hit the white and then it hits the red). This scores two points.
  4. Potting the red scores three points.

If you get a combination of scores with the same shot (e.g., a cannon and an in-off), tote them all up. A player keeps on going until he or she doesn’t score.

When the red is potted it returns to the spot. If this is occupied, it goes on the pyramid spot; if the pyramid spot is occupied, it goes on the center spot.

All foul shots score two points for your opponent. A foul shot means that you end your turn and lose all points scored during it. After a foul, the other player can play the balls where they are, or move the red to the spot, place your ball onto the center spot, and play his or her own white ball from in-hand from the “O.”

High-scoring Tricks

Breaks can get into the thousands.

If you get the two bats very near a pocket it means you can play repeated cannons and in-offs easily.

The ideal thing to do is get the two balls jammed in the pockets so you can get consecutive cannons (but you can’t take more than seventy-five consecutive cannons in one turn). And consecutive pots or it-offs not combined with a cannon are restricted to fifteen.

The art of the game is either getting the balls close to the pockets or getting good angles. Angles are very important. You are generally not hitting the balls very hard but are doing gentle strokes most of the time.

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