17 Fun Billiard Games to Play That Will Improve Your Game

Billiards (or pool) is one of America’s favorite pastimes, and it’s safe to say that most people have played a game at least once in their lifetime.

Depending on your skill level, there’s a variety of billiard games to play designed to not only be tonnes of fun but will also help improve your game.

Some solo pool games can give you a good starting point, but practicing with another person also adds a competitive edge to proceedings as well.

Once you’re confident in your pool skills, you can then play your friends and families at these games too, and impress them with your newfound skills.

So whether you play at your local bar or billiards hall or own your very own table, there will be many games where you find yourself as the winner with a bit of practice beforehand.

Related: Check out our guide to the best pool tables under $1,000

Read on to check out our list of the best Billiard games to play so that you can improve all aspects of your pool skills.

17 of the best Billiard games to play

billiard games to play playing image

8 BALL

Players: 2-4 players, 4 players played in pairs of 2.

Ages: Teenagers to Adults.

Length of Play: 10 – 20 minutes per game depending on skill.

Why it’s fun: Playing by the 8 ball rules are most often the bread and butter of pool games. Most people will already be familiar with the rules, so if you have a pool table close by and a friend to play with this will often become your go-to game.

Game Objective: Be the first player to pot all their balls, including the black 8 ball. Decide who breaks, and which player is ‘spots’ and which is ‘stripes’ depends on what type gets potted first. Make sure you know how to rack pool balls before you begin playing. Take turns potting balls, any fault gets punished with the other player gaining 2 shots in a row. Once a player pots all their assigned balls, and the black cleanly they win the game. 

9 BALL

Players: 2 – 4 players, again 4 players played in pairs.

Ages: Teenagers to Adults.

Length of Play: 10 – 20 minutes skill dependant.

Why it’s fun: Some pool tables that you come across will have an extra ball available to use, making it a good opportunity to try out the lesser-known 9 ball variation of billiards.

Game Objective: Similar to 8 ball, 9 ball rules require players to become the first to pot all their balls and finally the black. Flip a coin to see who breaks, and whatever type of ball gets potted first decides which ballplayers need to pot. Continue to play until one player pots all their balls and the black.

10 BALL

Players: Recommended for 2 players.

Ages: Best played by people 18+.

Length of Play: 15 – 30 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Experienced pool players looking for a challenge may find 10 ball is what they are looking for to enhance their pool games. Although not recommended for newer or less experienced players of the game, measure your skills by playing this game and seeing how you perform. 

Game Objective: The 10 ball rules start in the same way as its 8 and 9 ball cousins, breaking and potting the first ball to designate balls as normal. However, players need to call each ball and what pocket they intend to pot that ball in otherwise the shot isn’t legal. You can pot in any numerical order, but for an added challenge limit the game to potting in numerical order.

3 BALL

Players: 2+.

Ages: Easier than most Billiard games to play, so younger ages will have an easier time playing.

Length of Play: 10 – 15 minutes.

Why it’s fun: A quick-fire billiard game to play, 3 ball rules is a good game to use to refine your skills and notice your improvement when playing multiple rounds.

Game Objective: Line up the balls 1-3 in a triangle formation with 1 at the apex usually marked for the 8 ball. Decide who starts, the goal is to pot all 3 balls by using the fewest shots. Any foul gets penalized with a 2 shot penalty. Once players dispatch all 3 balls, count how many shots players took to pot the 3 balls. If you feel like it’s needed, set a timer while playing as well to settle any potential tiebreakers with the quickest player winning.

7 BALL

Players: 2 players, or 4 players if you prefer doubles.

Ages: Recommended for teenagers through to adults.

Length of Play: 10 – 20 minutes.

Why it’s fun: A fast-paced version of the standard 8 and 9 ball billiard game variations, 7 ball rules makes a couple of changes to the rules to set it apart from the other games. It is perfect to play to refine your skills as not only is it quick and fun, it teaches players to strategize shots too.

Game Objective: As you can imagine, you’ll only need 7 balls for this version. Set them up as a diamond-turned sideways, with ball number 1 at the front and 7 in the middle of the rest. Decide who breaks, the player breaking needs to hit the number 1 first otherwise it is a re-rack. Once broken, that player will then need to pot the balls in numerical order while also picking the pocket the ball will get pocketed in. Failure to pot any or committing a foul means the other player gets a chance to pot. Regardless of who pots the other balls, the winner is the player who pots the 7 ball first.

BUMPER POOL

Players: 2 players.

Ages: Recommended for ages 14+.

Length of Play: 10 – 20 minutes.

Why it’s fun: A different take on regular pool games, it isn’t as demanding as other games that are on this list but is still a good way to train your potting skills to transfer into other billiard games.

Game Objective: The winner of the game is the first player who is able to sink all their balls from the assigned set first. Physical obstacles are in the way to give the game some challenge, and players take it in turns to attempt to pot each ball in a single hole. In the bumper pool rules, the game starts with both players hitting their balls simultaneously.

KILLER

Players: 3 – Unlimited.

Ages: Suitable for all ages.

Length of Play: Up to an hour depending on the number of players.

Why it’s fun: Killer is a billiards game that has 1 simple premise and involves as many people that are willing to play. It is also for any skill level. Also, use it as a way to encourage players to think about their shots before making them.

Game Objective: On a piece of paper or chalkboard, write everyone who’s playing names down the left-hand side and write KILLER next to the names. Whoever’s name is first on the list breaks, and the next player on this list needs to pot a ball. Failure to pot means that a player loses a letter from KILLER. Potting the black gains a letter back, and any fouls get punished by the removal of a letter. Once all the balls get potted, re-rack them and start the game again by breaking. If a player breaks, they do not have to pot a ball. The last person left at the end of the game wins. A good break can really turn this game in your favor, so have a look at the best break cues to improve your chances of winning.

BANK POOL

Players: 2 or more, a game where many can play at once.

Ages: 13+, as long as players can reach the pool table without difficulty.

Length of Play: 20 – 30 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Bank pool is the ideal game to play to get better at making and choosing shots. The sole focus on the game is being able to pot multiple balls, and adding in an additional competitive edge to the game only increases the fun.

Game Objective: The objective stated in bank pool rules is to either bank 5 balls or 8 balls, done so in a rack of 9 or 15 respectively. Decide in your normal way who breaks. Players attempt to pot balls by banking their shots, otherwise known as potting the ball once the cue ball has bounced off of the cushion. Players can go for any ball on the table, and if a ball gets potted then that ball gets owned by the player who potted. If potted without banking, then that ball is ‘dead’. The first player to get more than half of the balls banked wins the game.

STRAIGHT POOL

Players: 2 or 4 players in doubles.

Ages: Teenagers to Adults, more aimed at adults, however.

Length of Play: Up to an hour.

Why it’s fun: A game straight out of the well-known film The Hustler, straight pool is for those who enjoy lengthy games that can really develop skills.

Game Objective: Played in the same way as a conventional game of 8 or 9 ball pool, the only difference is that straight pool has a points system attached. Agree to a predetermined score to play until each successfully potted ball gains 1 point. Each foul deducts a point from the player’s score. If a player pots 3 in a row, then they gain 15 points. Re-rack the balls once they are all potted and continue as normal.

FIFTEEN BALL

Players: 2 players, also played in doubles or teams.

Ages: All players can take part and enjoy this billiard game.

Length of Play: 20 – 30 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Possibly one of the easier billiard games to play, there is a slight twist to 15 ball that is handy if you were looking for an ideal game to practice your potting skills.

Game Objective: Set the game up and play in the same way as if you were playing 8, 9, or 10 ball pool. However, the difference is that all balls are available to pot (hence the name) and that the number of balls potted gets added to the player’s score. Turns are also alternated regardless of if a ball got potted. If you or your opponent pots a ball that incurs a foul, then give a score of 0 for that turn and place the ball back on the table. Once all balls are legally potted, count up the scores with the highest scoring player winning.

ONE POCKET POOL

Players: 2+.

Ages: 13+, but another difficult game to master.

Length of Play: 10 – 20 minutes.

Why it’s fun: This Billiards game can be frustrating to play, but if you can get past the frustration then you’ll find that it’s a game that rewards patience. Pick a pocket that you struggle to regularly pot and use this to practice for when you are in an 8, 9, or 10 ball game.

Game Objective: One pocket pool rules state that balls can only get potted in 1 of the 6 pockets on the pool table, nominated before the game. Break as normal. The game follows similar rules to bank pool where any player can pot any ball. This means more than 2 players can play at once. Whoever pots the most balls in the nominated pocket wins the game.

MINESWEEPER

Players: 2 – Unlimited.

Ages: Might be a tad too difficult for kids and teenagers.

Length of Play: 15 – 30 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Completely deviating from what we’ve listed so far, Minesweeper is a billiard game to play to aid in developing a light touch when potting balls. Improve gameplay by ensuring you have the best pool table felt so that the ball glides across the table.

Game Objective: Set the 15 balls up in different places around the pool table, making sure that they aren’t too easy to pot. The goal is to pot each ball in numerical order, but you cannot touch any other ball except the one you are trying to pot. Any fouls or if any ball gets disturbed, then that player is out, the table is re-racked and the next player attempts the drill. The first player who is able to pot them all without fouling wins.

CIRCLE DRILL

Players: 2- Unlimited.

Ages: Another difficult game recommended for adults.

Length of Play: 15 – 30 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Similar to Minesweeper, this game however will help you with your draw and stun shots instead.

Game Objective: Using all 15 balls, place them in a circle in the middle of the table in numerical order. Place the cue ball in the middle of the circle, the goal is to pot all of the balls without the cue ball leaving the circle or disturbing any other ball that you are not potting. Any fouls, disturbing other balls, or leaving the circle means that game is over for that player. The first player to complete the drill wins.

ANY EIGHT

Players: 2- Unlimited.

Ages: Recommended for kids or novices looking to develop their skills.

Length of Play: 10 – 20 minutes.

Why it’s fun: This game is good to play if you are introducing players to billiards, or just starting out yourself. Takes away any of the game pressures and rules and leaves just the pool shooting instead.

Game Objective: Rack all 15 balls as normal, players also do not need to worry about who is spots and who is stripes. The game is then played in the same way as the conventional billiards game 9 ball. Whoever pots 7 balls and then the black wins the game, regardless of the type of ball.

CUTTHROAT POOL

Players: Between 3 -15 players.

Ages: All age groups can play as generally played in teams of 3.

Length of Play: 20 – 40 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Cutthroat pool is one of the few examples of playing in teams, so everyone can get involved in this billiards game.

Game Objective: The cutthroat pool rules are fairly simple once you get the hang of them. Depending on the number of pool balls used, divide them into 3 and have the lowest third be the lower set, the middle third is the middle set, and the highest third the highest set. Players or teams need to pot 1 ball from a certain set to ‘close’ that set for the other players and have that set represent them for the game. Then, players need to attempt to pot the other player’s balls in their set before they themselves have their own set potted. The last player or team standing wins the game.

BASEBALL BILLIARDS

Players: 2 or you can play in larger teams.

Ages: All ages can play this game.

Length of Play: 30 – 60 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Baseball billiards is very different from other games if you are looking for a bit of variety in billiard games to play. It’s also designed to last longer than more conventional pool games as well.

Game Objective: Traditionally, the game gets played with a 21 ball rack, but you can use less if necessary. Players have 9 innings each to accumulate as big a score as possible, with each inning ending after a player misses or scratches. Whatever number is on the ball that gets potted gets added to that player’s total. Pockets must get called before potting, otherwise, you cannot add that score to the total. The player or team with the most points after 9 innings is the winner.

BOWLLIARDS

Players: 2 players or played in teams.

Ages: All ages should be able to enjoy this one.

Length of Play: 15 – 30 minutes.

Why it’s fun: Bowlliards is an unorthodox game that mixes billiards with bowling. A lot more accessible than bowling though if you fancy a game with your pals, especially if you give easy access to a pool table. You can also use this as a way to improve your breaking skills as you will be doing plenty of that in this pool game.

Game Objective: Use any 10 balls, line them up in the rack as you would see at a bowling alley. Decide who has the first go, the game gets played in frames of 10, 2 innings per frame. The break isn’t counted as an inning, but any ball that gets potted still counts provided the pocket gets called first. After breaking, players pot balls by calling out pockets until they miss. Once they have missed twice, the balls get re-racked and the next player takes their turn. After the last player finishes their 10th frame, count the number of balls potted to see who wins. 

Billiard Games Frequently Asked Questions

Most games of pool start with a break, so it is important that you understand and get these right as a good break can give you an early advantage when playing competitively.

The ball at the tip of the triangle has to be the first ball that gets hit by the cue ball. At least 3 balls within the cluster must also hit the surrounding cushion as well.

If neither of these things occurs on a break, re-rack with the opposing player attempting the break instead.

What classes as a foul in pool games?

Fouls in pool occur in a few different ways, with the most common being:

  • Failing to hit any balls with the cue ball
  • Hitting your opponent’s ball before hitting your own
  • Hitting the black 8 ball before hitting any of our own
  • Potting the cue ball at any point
  • Potting the black 8 ball before you are ready to
  • Potting your opponents ball at any point
  • If any ball leaves the table after your shot

Each time one of these occurs, the offending player gets punished with the opponent gaining 2 shots on their resulting turn.

Why not attempt to improve your darts skills as well?

Usually, billiards and darts go hand in hand with one another, and if you are someone who enjoys bar games then we have handy tips to help with your throwing skills as well.

Start by checking out some of our favorite dartboard games to play which includes games for any number of people that you intend to play with.

You’ll learn all about some easy dart games such as 301 darts and even some of the more obscure games like Shanghai darts.

Play these games competitively with your pals, some games like around-the-clock darts or the killer darts game can even be adapted into a training exercise for those who are keen to improve their skills. 

We hope you agree that by reading our guides, it’s never been easier to learn about all the different ways you can play common billiard games.