While pool is generally considered a game for two, there are a few solo games that can help you stay sharp until an opponent comes along. Some are simply variations on traditional two-player competitions, while others are best used as exercises to improve your skills and strategies.
Fifteen in a Row
Rack the balls as if you were going to play a regular game of 8-ball with all 15 balls in the rack. When you break, at least one ball must go in a pocket or you have to start over. After that, every shot has to sink a single ball. There are different versions depending on your skill level. A beginner just needs to make any shot available. Advance players can challenge themselves by shooting the balls in numerical order, or calling the shot first. If a ball other than the one you called is pocketed, you must start over.
Solo 9 or 8 Ball
This challenge is simply playing 8-or 9-ball against yourself. Rack the balls for the game you want to play. Play as if you were playing against a real opponent, taking on the roles of yourself and your challenger. If you don’t have a good shot, shoot a safety shot. Always play to win. This exercise is to sharpen your skills, so cheating or taking shortcuts defeats the purpose.
Solo 3 Ball
Set up three balls in a triangular formation, then attempt to pocket the three in as few shots as possible. The break counts as a shot and a scratch counts as two shots. This is a quick game, but it helps develop the skill to think several shots ahead. Count the number of shots it took to pocket three balls and continue to try and break your personal best. Pocketing all three balls on the break is a perfect score (one shot).
Target Pool is available online or in toy or billiard stores, but it's easy to make a home version. It comes with two targets that resemble targets on a shuffle board court, along with scorebooks and instructions. The targets are laid out on the pool table. Instead of trying to shoot the balls into the pockets, you aim for points within specific areas of the targets. Some variations call for particular techniques such as English shots, draw shots and riding the rails.
Rack all 15 balls as if you were playing a game of 8-ball. Set the timer to 20 minutes, start it and break the balls. Sink all the balls in numerical order before the timer runs out. Once you beat the 20-minute time limit, try to do it in less than 15 minutes. As you succeed at each level, reduce the time in five-minute increments and play again.
Robert Dumas has been a journalist for over 25 years. In 2007 he was the winner of the prestigious Maggie Award for magazine writing and has also received the American Society of Business Publication Editors Award. He has worked in trade journalism and community-based journalism, and spent several years as a sportswriter. Robert holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications.