Pocket billiards, or just plain pool, provides a mental challenge mixed with camaraderie among players. While Eight Ball is the most played game in informal settings, several games can be played on a pool table. Different games may emphasize different aspects of pool shooting--Eight Ball puts a premium on performance under pressure while Rotation calls for a more defensive game. Try your hand at several of these; you might find a game that fits your style.
To many pool shooters, Eight Ball is the only game in town. A favorite at bars and pool halls, it is a game designed for two players or two teams. In a two-player game, one is assigned the seven low-numbered balls--dubbed "solids" for their solid colors, while the other gets the seven striped higher-numbered balls. The black eight ball is the last one to be played, after a player pockets his seven balls. In most games, all shots are to be called. Eight Ball provides almost a playoff atmosphere, as a player could pocket his seven balls quickly but lose the game by "scratching"-- pocketing the cue ball while going after the eight--or by putting the eight in the wrong pocket. If a player pickets the eight before it becomes the active ball, he automatically loses.
Championship billiards, also called straight pool, was the choice of professional pool shooters for years until the faster Eight Ball overtook it in popularity. In championship billiards, the shooter goes after the balls as he finds them, but he is required to call his shot before making it. Each ball counts as one point, and players may go until someone scores the agreed-upon number of points--often 100. A player will continue shooting until he misses or scratches. In a 100 point game, players will rack up the balls several times.
Rotation, also called Chicago, is similar to straight pool in that the players shoot at the balls as they find them. However, the lowest-numbered ball on the table--starting with the one--must be the first ball struck by the cue ball. As with eight ball and straight pool, the shooter continues play until he misses or scratches. Balls are usually one point each, although players may agree to use the numbers on the balls for scoring. Shots may be called or not, depending on agreement between the players. Rotation is a challenging game that allows for defensive play and combination shots.
Nine Ball uses only the balls marked one through nine, racked in a diamond pattern. The shooting order is the same as Rotation, where the shooter aims the cue ball at the lowest numbered ball on the table. The player who pockets the nine ball on a legal shot anytime in the game wins.
In One Pocket, each player has his own pocket to shoot at. Only the balls that go into the assigned pocket--usually one of the two at the foot of the table--are legal. The first player to place eight balls in his assigned pocket wins. The game allows for fancy bank shots and, as with Rotation, combination shots and defensive play.
Al Bondigas is an award-winning newspaperman who started writing professionally in 1985. His print credits include the "Mohave Valley Daily News" and "The Mohave County Standard." Bondigas studied journalism at San Bernardino Valley College in California.