Pool is played in bars, amusement arcades and homes around the world. Appreciated for its fusion of strategy, skill and luck, it offers unique entertainment. Understanding the rules of pool is essential to fully enjoy the game and hone your skills.

This article describes the origins of the game. It lists the equipment required. It explains the rules of billiards and how the game is played. Finally, it discusses fouls and penalties, and suggests strategies and tips for perfecting the game.

History and origins of American billiards

American billiards, or pool, has its origins in the traditional game of billiards created in Europe in the 15th century. In its early days, it was played outdoors on grass, resembling croquet. Later, the game was moved indoors, on a green cloth table imitating grass.

Over time, the game has evolved and diversified. Several variants have emerged, including American billiards. In the 19th century, the game enjoyed a meteoric rise in the United States. Saloons in the West were often equipped with billiard tables, and the game became a popular pastime.

Michael Phelan, an Irish immigrant, is an emblematic figure in the sport. Often referred to as the “father of American billiards”, he was a champion, table builder and author of the first book on billiards in the United States. This book explains the rules of American billiards in detail.

In the 20th century, American billiards grew in popularity, with the creation of professional leagues and tournaments. Today, it is played at all levels, from local bars to international competitions, and remains a major aspect of American play culture.

Equipment required

Several types of equipment are needed to play American billiards.

The billiard table: The standard billiard table for American billiards is 9 feet long. However, smaller tables of 7 or 8 feet are often used in bars and homes. The playing surface is generally covered with green felt, which can vary in speed (i.e. the speed at which the balls move over the cloth) depending on its care and age. Rubber strips surround the table, allowing the balls to bounce.

The balls: American billiards is played with 16 balls, 15 of which are numbered and one of which is the cue ball. This is called the game ball. The balls from 1 to 8 are solid colours, while the balls from 9 to 15 have stripes. The black ball is numbered 8. Each ball measures approximately 2.25 inches in diameter.

The cue: The cue is the tool that players use to hit the cue ball. It is generally made of wood, although the tip, called the cue tip, is often made of leather. Cues vary in weight and length. Players therefore often choose their cue according to their size and playing style.

Triangle: The triangle, also known as a rack, is used to arrange the balls in a triangular formation at the start of each game. The top of the triangle points towards the player who is going to make the break.

Chalk: Chalk is used to increase the friction between the cue tip and the cue ball. This gives better control during the shot. Players generally apply chalk before each shot.

These are the basic items of equipment needed to play pool. However, there are also other accessories, such as billiard gloves and cue rests, which can enhance the playing experience.

billard américain

Pool rules

The rules of American billiards are fairly simple to understand. The game begins by placing the balls on the billiard table. The 15 balls numbered 1 to 15 are placed in a triangle at one end of the table. The 1 ball is at the apex of the triangle and the black ball (number 8) in the centre.

The break: This is the first shot of the game. To respect the rules of American billiards, the player who breaks must aim at the triangle of balls and try to pocket one or more balls. If a ball is pocketed on the break, the player can choose to play the full balls or the striped balls. He must try to pocket all the balls in his group before he can pocket the black ball (number 8).

The turn: Players take it in turns to play. If a player manages to pocket a ball from his group, he continues to play. If a player fails to pocket a ball from his group or commits a foul, the turn passes to the opposing player.

Fouls: There are several types of fouls to be taken into account when respecting the rules of billiards. For example, if a player fails to hit one of the balls in his group with the cue ball, this is a foul. If the cue ball is pocketed, this is also a foul. In the event of a foul, the opposing player gets ball-in-hand, which means that he can place the cue ball anywhere on the table for his next shot.

End of the game: The game ends when one of the players has pocketed all the marbles in his group, followed by the black marble. However, if a player pockets the black ball before having pocketed all the balls in his group, he loses the game.

These rules of American billiards provide a framework for the game, but it is important to note that specific rules may vary depending on the house or tournament rules.

Fouls and penalties in billiards

In billiards, committing a foul can have significant consequences on the course of the game. Here are some examples of fouls and the associated penalties:

Contact foul: When a player takes a shot, the first ball the cue ball touches must be a ball from its own group. If the cue ball first touches a ball from the other group or the black ball, it is a foul.

Pocketing foul: If a player pockets a ball from the other group or the black ball before pocketing all the balls in his group, this is a foul. In addition, if the cue ball is pocketed during a shot, this is also a foul.

Leaving the table foul: If the cue ball or any other ball leaves the table during a shot, it is a foul.

Penalties: When a player commits a foul, the opposing player gets ball-in-hand. This means that he can place the cue ball anywhere on the table for his next shot. This gives the player a significant advantage, as he can position the cue ball to make his next shot easier or to make his opponent’s shot more difficult.

Understanding fouls and penalties is an essential part of mastering the rules of pool.

Strategies and tips for applying the rules of billiards

Here are some strategies and tips to help you improve your pool game:

Plan your shots: Don’t just shoot at the ball that’s easiest to pocket. Try to plan several shots in advance. This can help you control the table and make your opponent’s shots more difficult.

Control the cue ball: Learning to control where the cue ball goes after hitting another ball is an essential billiards skill. This can help you position the cue ball for your next shot, or place it in a way that makes your opponent’s shot more difficult.

Practise your difficult shots: Don’t be content with just practising easy shots. Difficult shots can often make the difference between winning and losing a game. Opt for long-distance shots, shots with spin and shots where the cue ball is close to the rail.

Learn the rules: It’s important to know the rules of pool, including the different fouls and penalties. This can help you avoid making mistakes and take advantage of your opponent’s mistakes.

Stay calm and concentrated: Billiards is a game of precision. That’s why it’s important to stay calm and focused, even in stressful situations. Take the time to concentrate on each shot and try not to be distracted by your opponent or the spectators.

These strategies and tips do not guarantee victory. However, they can help you improve your game and become a better pool player.

This video summarises the rules of billiards:


Pool is a captivating game, combining strategy, skill and a touch of luck. Whether you’re a novice or an experienced player, understanding the rules of the pool is crucial. With perseverance and patience, you can develop your skills and even master this fascinating game. All you need to do is pick up your cue, aim accurately and enjoy the game.

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