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Billiard Basics

Updated on March 15, 2018
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Ms. Millar has had many books published online and in print. She learned how to bind her own books to save money on publishing costs.

Pool Table

Standard 9 ft Pool Table
Standard 9 ft Pool Table | Source


Billiards (aka Pool) is a table game. It is played on a flat, raised surface, with 15 individually numbered and colored balls plus a cue ball. The table is lined with bumpers. Pockets are located at each corner of the table, and one on each side mid-way. The pockets are used for scoring. Each player has a cue stick they use to strike the cue ball with. One to several people can play at the same time.

American Billiard Balls

Biliards | Source


The original billiard was made from ivory. When the elephant population started suffering drastically, from the collection of their tusks for billiards, other compounds were sought after to create the billiard.

The billiard ball in America is now made of hardened plastics and resins resistant to cracking and chipping. It measure 2 1/4" in circumference.

Each ball is either a solid color, with a number stamped on it within a white circle, or it has a stripe around the circumference with a number stamped within the stripe.

The cue ball is the solid white ball. It is the only ball to be struck by the cue stick. Some cue balls have a dot marking the center point of the ball.

Ball Number and Color

Ball Number
Color Solids
Ball Number
Color Stripes
White W/Yellow Stripe
White W/Blue Stripe
White W/Red Stripe
White W/Purple Stripe
White W/Orange Stripe
White W/Green Stripe
White W/Brown Stripe

Cue Stick

Cue sticks are made of solid wood or fiberglass. Most cue sticks can be separated at the mid-section for easy transporting. By cutting the stick in half and attaching a screw and receptor on the cut ends the cue stick can be unscrewed and put into a carrying case and then screwed back together by hand when needed. The cue stick measures 58" long weighing 18 to 22 ounces. A variety of designs are applied to the cue stick reflecting a players personality and individuality.


Billiard tables are lined with deflecting bumpers along the edge of the table. The bumpers provide action on the ball. You may hear someone refer to the bumpers as, "live" or "dead".

  • A Live bumper is a compliment to the fact that the bumpers deflect the ball in a satisfactory fashion. A live bumper will provide a good deflection of several inches to feet. When a bumper deflects a billiard, depending on the force behind the billiard, it should continue rolling to some degree before coming to a stop. If struck with great force, the billiard played on a table with live bumpers, can continue deflecting off two, three or even four bumpers before loosing inertia and coming to a stop.
  • Dead bumpers mean either the bumpers are old, cheap or both. A dead bumper absorbs the force behind the billiard. The billiard either stops rolling all together after it hits the bumper, barely rolls after the bumper or deflects in an unexpected direction.

The Rack

When playing a game of billiards the balls must be racked. According to what game is going to be played, the balls are racked in a certain formation. Either a diamond or triangular shaped rack is used to make the job easier. A very common game played on a billiard table is 8-ball. The triangle rack is used to rack the balls in the following fashion:

Triangle and Diamond Racks
Triangle and Diamond Racks
Legally Correct 8-Ball Rack
Legally Correct 8-Ball Rack

American 8-Ball Rack

Notice the Pattern, Solid, Stripe, Solid.  This is an American 8-Ball Rack. The Legal Rack Would Have Two Corner Balls Opposite Patterns; a Stripe and a Solid.
Notice the Pattern, Solid, Stripe, Solid. This is an American 8-Ball Rack. The Legal Rack Would Have Two Corner Balls Opposite Patterns; a Stripe and a Solid. | Source

Everyone Can Enjoy Pool

Eight ball is a very common game of billiards. So common that some people believe incorrectly the name of billiards is eight ball.

People of all skill levels can enjoy playing billiards. The novice, weekend player or professional, can all enjoy the game regardless of their skill level.

Now that you have a basic understanding of the game give it a shot!

Barroom Rules

In America the game of 8-ball is played by barroom rules, instead of the legal rules written by the WPA/BCA, World Pool Billiard Association/Billiard Congress of America.

Barroom rules opposed to WPA/BCA rules:

  • Racking order is solid, stripe around the edge with the eight ball in the center and the one ball at the top.
  • Sinking the eight ball on the break is an automatic win.
  • You must strike your ball first in a combination shot.
  • No ball in hand regardless of the foul.
  • Fouls result in opposing player placing the ball anywhere in the "kitchen". (kitchen the point opposite of the rack, within a specified area)


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