: Liz Ford
At ease, pool soldier! Congratulations, we've been working hard for almost a year on ways to improve your game. In keeping with the festive holiday season, I thought it was time to cut loose and have a little fun. The following ten games and activities have been known to incite laughter and merriment – especially when you add a few drinks, a boat-load of trash-talking and a friendly wager. Stay tuned in 2011 for more serious advice, but for now let your freak flag fly. A good time will be had by most.
This little gem is great for large groups of people: the more, the merrier. Collect $1 from each contestant and let him or her try to sink the three racked balls in the fewest shots possible. The winner of the cash is the sole possessor of the lowest score – if two or more people tie, the pot carries over into the next round.
Let your imagination run wild as you come up with shots that you can make but your compadres can't, but beware, they'll be trying to do the same thing to you.
3. Trick Shots
Alas, trick shots are more fun for the person doing them than for the audience. But, it's always good to have a few of these goofy shots in your back pocket – you never know when you'll be called upon to be a pool clown.
4. Opposite-Handed Pool
Nothing is more humbling than trying to play a game you know well with faulty equipment – even worse when that equipment is your own left arm!
5. One-Handed Pool
Just like it sounds, after the break you hold the cue in one hand to pocket balls. Have fun with your friends, but don't accept an offer to play for money from a stranger, he or she is most likely a specialist.
Play 9-ball with a group of people by giving everyone a chance to shoot as you take turns down the line. All players pay $1 to the person who makes the 5-ball and $2 to the person who makes the 9-ball and nobody is allowed to play safe!
7. Scotch Doubles
Grab yourself a buddy and challenge two of your frenemies to a no-holds-barred, mud-slinging match. You and your partner should alternate after each shot to get the most out of your quality time and come prepared to talk about your opponents' mothers.
8. Scratch 9-Ball
Instead of shooting the cue-ball to sink the numbered balls – shoot the numbered balls off the cue-ball into the pocket. Oops, this game will actually help your cue-ball control – but it's still fun!
9. Break Contest
Think your cannon is bigger than that guy's? Prove it with a contest to see who can make the most balls on the break while still keeping the cue-ball on the table.
10. Run a Pool Marathon
Pick a good friend with whom you like to butt heads on the table and challenge him or her to a race to 50 in 9-ball (or 100, or 200...) No need to lock yourselves away in the poolroom, you can play it over the course of a few days, weeks or months. Wager a nice dinner if you're polite folks or something involving cross-dressing if you're not.