Buying a pool table for the first time?
Having a billiards table in your house is an instant past time for you, your family, and all of your friends that are going to come to visit. Nothing says atmosphere like the sound of laughing, cheering, and pool balls clinking together.
Everyone knows all about 8-ball pool. Even your youngest kid has probably seen the guys on ESPN 6 walking around the table in that dark room with about 23 people watching in the audience.
It’s classic and it’s fun, but there is so much more you can do with a pool table. Most countries claim to have invented billiards, so there are dozens of variations on classic 8-ball pool that you can enjoy with your family.
Let’s chalk up that cue and talk about the condensed history of billiards and different types of billiards games you can play with the whole family.
Pool – A Short History
Billiards date back to the 16th century. Its origins are as a lawn game similar to croquet, and it eventually evolved into a tabletop game with bumpers and a cue.
While its popularity spread because of English nobles, there’s evidence to suggest that billiards were played by people from all walks of life. The English form of pool is now known as snooker.
The industrial revolution played a huge part in the widespread popularity of billiards. As it made its way over to American soil, new types of games were invented.
Many American families own pool tables nowadays. They’re a great tool for strengthening family bonds and are actually proven to improve cognitive function in both children and adults.
Billiards tables have come down a great deal in price and increase the value of homes that have them (learn more here). More and more parents are putting them in their basements or backyard sheds for family enjoyment.
Billiards have been romanticized and popularized by pop culture, notably in films like “The Hustler” and “The Color of Money”.
Now that we know a bit about the history of pool, let’s take a quick walk through 7 of the best games to play with the family.
Different Types of Billiards Games
There are loads of different billiards games you can play if you own a table. Some are hugely popular and played all over the world, while some aren’t as well known but just as fun.
In America, the most famous billiards game is good old fashioned 8-ball pool.
That’s the one where you break, pick solids or stripes, and try to sink all of your balls before your opponent. Then you sink the 8-ball. That’s how it got its name!
Another hugely popular pool game is 9-ball. No, it doesn’t involve more balls, it actually involves less. Only 9, to be exact. In 9-ball, the object of the game is to pocket the 9-ball. Get it?
You only rack balls 1 through 9, and when you shoot, you have to strike the lowest numbered ball on the table. You don’t have to sink them in order, but you must strike the lowest one. The game is simple, you just have to be the one that sinks the 9-ball.
This version of pool started out as a recreational game played in American pool halls in the 1920s. Today, it’s a competitive game like 8-ball or snooker.
Snooker is still the main game in jolly old England. It’s a bit more complicated than 8 or 9-ball pool and requires a different set of balls, but it’s still great fun.
It involves a point system relating to the color of the ball that you sink. There are 15 red balls, each worth 1 point. You play by first sinking a red ball, then sinking a different colored ball, and alternating this way until all the red balls are potted.
Once you’ve potted all of the red balls, you sink the other balls in ascending order according to points. Whoever has more points at the end of the frame, wins.
Cutthroat is about as mean as it sounds. It’s played in groups, preferably of 3 or 5.
If you have 3 players, the balls are divided into three groups. When the first person pots a ball, they choose the ball grouping they want to have. The point of the game is to pocket the balls of your opponents.
It’s fun, but cutthroat can get a little…well, cutthroat!
The rules of one pocket are simple. Each player can only use their assigned pockets to pot balls. The type or number of the balls don’t matter, the only objective is to pot 8 of the balls before your opponent does.
Only the two corner pockets at the foot of the table are used, and any balls potted in any of the other pockets are set at the end of a turn.
If you’re a seasoned veteran of billiards, you can take the difficulty to a different level with bank pool.
In bank pool, you must bank a ball off of at least one cushion before it goes in the pocket AND it must not touch another ball. Sounds hard, doesn’t it?
Balls and pockets must be called out to count for a point and if you foul, you owe the table a ball, making bank pool one of the more difficult billiards games.
Here’s a fun one. Baseball billiards takes scoring and innings from baseball. The object of the game is to score the most points in 9 innings. An inning is a turn at the table. One player plays 9 innings in a row, then the next player has their 9 innings. The highest score wins.
You must always call your shot and if you make it, you get the number of points on the ball that sunk. If you sink other balls during a successful shot, they also count in your favor. If you sink other balls in an unsuccessful shot, they must be spotted.
While you can use a traditional 15-ball set, a 21-ball set is meant to be used for this game.
The Perfect Family Game
There are many more different types of billiards games out there. Heck, you could even invent your own. Most of the offshoot games were made up by enthusiastic pool sharks, trying to make money in the halls.
Do some research and figure out which type of pool table is best for your family. There are smaller and larger ones that are suited for specific styles of play. Once you’ve bought yours, you can win back the money you spent by taking your kid’s allowance money.
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