This article is for the player that is ready to get a little more serious by adding the taste of competition to their game. Entering your first pool tournament can often be intimidating. Well, here is everything you'll need to get started.

The Format
Make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Run through this checklist so there are no surprises.

  • Which game are you playing? 8-ball? 9-ball? Something else?
  • Which rules are they using? Bar rules? League rules?
  • Is it double-elimination? This is most common but some tournaments may be single-elimination or round robin.
  • Does the winner break the next game or is it alternating breaks?
  • Is there a greens fee or should you be prepared to pump a fistful of quarters in the tables.

The Start
Always arrive early. Allow yourself plenty of time to hit some balls before the tournament starts to get warmed up. Many places offer free practice time before the tournament starts. There's also a chance that the tournament could fill up if you arrive on time or late.

  • Find the tournament director and pay your entry fee to make sure you get signed up for the tournament.
  • Listen for your match to get called or check the tournament chart for your table assignment.
  • Introduce yourself to your opponent and shake their hand to begin.
  • Flip a coin or lag the cue ball to determine who breaks first. (Lagging means to shoot the cue ball long ways from the kitchen to the opposite short rail. The one who gets their cue ball back, closest to the nearest short rail wins the lag.)


The Play

  • Make sure you are a respectful competitor. Liz gives several helpful hints in her Dawg Training on Etiquette.
  • If you must call a shot, make sure you speak clearly and your opponent has heard and acknowledged you.
  • Ladies, the safest place for your personal belongings is under the table that you're playing on.
  • Don't forget to mark your wins. Some tournaments offer score sheets or beads to mark your games. If that is not available, you can move a coin under the rail going the opposite direction from your opponent. As you move your coin along, each diamond indicates one game on the board.
  • If you have any questions during the match, see an official or the tournament director. Depending on the complexity of the question, you may feel comfortable just asking your opponent.


The End

  • Win or lose, always shake your opponent's hand after the match. Nobody likes a sore loser.
  • It is always the winner's responsibility to report their victory. Make sure you let the tournament director know right away when you win a match. Delaying this news could hold up the entire tournament.
  • Check the bracket for your next match. Rinse and repeat.
  • Did you have fun? Make some notes on the tournament to decide if it's one you'd like to return to. If it wasn't a good one, don't get discouraged. There are plenty more tourneys in the sea.


Now that you're ready to roll, good luck! We'll see you out on the battle field.

Player, writer, and Denver billiard instructor Samm Diep shares tips on basic care, instruction, and etiquette. Check back frequently for more articles and be sure to visit her website at