How to Play Pool: A Beginner's Guide

Posted by Billiards King on

Pool is a globally celebrated game, enjoyed by millions. With its origins rooted in the USA, the game has evolved into various forms, with 'eight-ball' and 'nine-ball' pool being the most prominent. This guide will primarily focus on the rules and nuances of eight-ball pool, the version you're most likely to encounter in local pool halls.

Basics of the Game

Eight-ball pool is played on a standard-sized pool table with six pockets. The game involves two players or two teams, using cues to strike the cue ball and pot object balls into the pockets.


The primary goal in pool is straightforward: pot all your designated balls (either stripes or solids) and then pot the 8 ball. By doing this, you win the game. In competitive settings, matches often consist of multiple games, and the player or team winning the majority is declared the overall winner.

Equipment Needed

  • Table: A standard pool table measures approximately 9 feet by 4.5 feet, although variations in size can exist.
  • Balls: The game uses 16 balls in total. This includes one white cue ball, seven striped balls, seven solid-colored balls, and one black ball (the 8 ball).
  • Cues: Each player uses a cue, which can be crafted from wood, carbon fibre, or fibreglass. This is the instrument used to strike the cue ball.
  • Chalk: Players often chalk the tip of their cues to ensure better control and contact between the cue and the ball.


  • Starting the Game: The game begins with a break shot. Players can decide who gets the first break through various means, such as a coin toss or a "lag," where each player strikes a ball from one end of the table, aiming to get it as close as possible to the opposite end without touching the end rail. The player whose ball ends up closest to the opposite end typically gets the first break.
  • The Break: All balls are racked in a triangle, with the 8 ball at the center. The objective of the break is to scatter the balls across the table. Ideally, the player aims to pot a ball during the break, but the primary goal is to ensure a good spread of balls.
  • Designation of Stripes or Solids: After the break, the table is "open," meaning the player can aim for any ball. The first type of ball (stripes or solids) potted after the break determines that player's designated set for the rest of the game. If a player pots both a stripe and a solid on their first shot after the break, they can choose which set to continue with.


  • Taking Turns: Players alternate turns. A player continues to shoot as long as they legally pot one of their designated balls with each shot. If they fail to pot a ball or commit a foul, their turn ends.


  • Fouls: Several actions can result in fouls, including:
    • Failing to hit any ball with the cue ball.
    • Not hitting one of your designated balls first.
    • Potting the cue ball ("scratching").
    • Knocking a ball off the table. When a foul occurs, the opposing player typically gets ball-in-hand, allowing them to place the cue ball anywhere on the table for their next shot.


  • Potting the 8 Ball: Once a player has potted all of their designated balls, they aim to pot the 8 ball. Before this shot, the player must declare which pocket they intend to pot the 8 ball into. Successfully potting the 8 ball into the declared pocket results in a win, provided no fouls are committed in the process.


  • Safety Play: Not every shot in pool is about potting a ball. Sometimes, especially in tight situations, players might opt for a "safety shot." This is a strategic shot where the player doesn't aim to pot but instead tries to leave the cue ball in a position that makes it difficult for their opponent to make a successful shot.

Winning the Game: A player can secure victory by:

    • Potting all their designated balls followed by a legal pot of the 8 ball into the declared pocket.
    • If the opponent pots the 8 ball before clearing their set.
    • If the opponent commits a foul while attempting to pot the 8 ball, such as knocking it off the table.


The gameplay of pool is a blend of skill, strategy, and sometimes, a touch of luck. While the basic rules provide a framework, the real beauty of the game lies in the myriad strategies and decisions a player makes in real-time, adapting to the ever-changing layout of the table. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned player, there's always something new to learn and master in the captivating world of pool.

Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →