Oh, The Games People Play
Oh, the Games People Play: An Introduction to the Different Games of Pool
Variety isn't just the spice of life, it's also your route to becoming a better and more well-rounded player. There are games out there for every taste - from fast-paced and flashy exhibitions to epic battles that require great thought. This is not a complete list, but it should keep you busy for the next ten to fifteen years!
One player shoots at the seven solid balls, the other at the seven stripes. Once you clear your suit, you can pocket the eight for the win - hopefully before your opponent beats you to it. It's a good game for beginners because having a choice of shots makes it easy to string three or four balls together. When played by advanced players, 8-Ball is full of defensive battles, careful planning and pinpoint run-outs. A good player won't start pocketing balls until he or she sees a clear path to running the table.
9-Ball is played with balls one through nine, shot in numerical order. Once you make a legal shot - done by hitting the lowest numbered ball on the table first - any ball that goes in allows you to keep shooting. Bonus? If the nine goes in, even on the break, you win. It's exciting and unpredictable - fun when you are lucky, not so fun when you aren't. Need a little more stability? 10-Ball is a similar game only all balls must be called - no sloppy joes on the menu.
Straight Pool (14.1)
Back when people had attention spans, this was what it meant to go shoot pool (as seen in "The Hustler.") The 15 balls can be pocketed in any order. Once you get down to the last shot on the table, the other 14 balls are re-racked. The goal is to pocket the 15th ball and smash the rack open with the cue-ball, allowing you to continue your run. The highest officially-recorded run was 526 balls, by Willie Mosconi, yours will probably be fewer.
Guaranteed to make your brain hurt, this game will help both your defense and offense. You own one of the two lower corner pockets, your opponent owns the other. You score points by pocketing balls in your pocket. The strategy is to keep pushing balls toward your pocket while trying to keep your opponent from doing the same. Though it's a great game, One-Pocket DVD's have been known to cure insomnia.
All points are scored by first banking the object ball into a cushion (or 2, 3 or 4!) and then into a pocket. All shots must be called and have to go in cleanly (not off another ball.) Bank pool can be played with 15 balls (winner needs 8 points) or 9 balls (winner needs 5.)
Multiple Player Formats
Your days of playing cut-throat are officially over! 9-Ball can be played as a ring-game with three or more players - each player shoots until he or she misses. Got four people? Any game can be played as a doubles match. Switching off after every shot (you shoot the one, your partner shoots the two...) is a good way to ensure that everyone gets time on the table.
Why are you still reading this? Go play some pool!
Liz Ford is a professional pool player on the WPBA tour and a teacher in New York City. Liz has been playing pool for 15 years and has represented the United States in tournaments around the world. In addition, Liz has appeared on TV nationally as a billiards expert including an episode of "Time Warp" on The Discovery Channel.