If you’re a casual pool player without any professional experience, you might not realize that there are a few different pool table games being played around the world.
The three most common types of game are 8-ball, 9-ball, and 10-ball pool, and although they might look the same there are some discernible variances.
What’s the difference between 8-ball, 9-ball, and 10-ball pool table games then?
The key difference is the number of balls that are in play on the table, which is where these games get their names from. There are many rule variations also, and although most the equipment will be the same, these three games are actually worlds apart.
This guide will walk you through each type of pool table games, as well as some others you might not have heard of before.
For casual and beginner players, experimenting with the different pool games can bring a whole new element of fun to your new favorite game, so it’s great to know what they’re all about.
What’s the Difference Between 8-Ball, 9-Ball and 10-Ball Pool Table Games?
Before we can explore how these three games differ from each other, first we need to look at their similarities.
To the untrained eye, people playing a game of either 8-ball, 9-ball or 10-ball pool could very well be playing the same thing, and that’s because they also share so many similarities.
- They all use standard pool cue sticks;
- They’re all played on a regulation-sized pool table either 7, 8 or 9 feet in length or on a recreational or bar pool table;
- They all use regulation pool balls with a diameter of 1 and ¼ inches;
- The game is played with two players or two teams;
- The aim is to pocket balls with one ball being left as the last one;
However, each game comes with its own object and rules for play which makes them quite different.
It’s easy enough to master any of them and play them at home, as they use much of the same equipment and require similar techniques for hitting the balls.
The Rules and Play of 8-Ball Pool
8 ball is the most commonly played and popular game of pool in the world, and it’s the one you’ll find most people enjoying at home or in a bar.
The game of 8-ball features 14 balls, a black ball (also known as the 8-ball) and a cue ball.
The 14 balls on the table are split into two groups, with the balls number 1-7 being solid colors and 9-15 striped colors, leaving the black 8-ball.
When the game begins, the 15 balls are placed into the triangle rack with the point facing the end of the table.
The 8-ball is placed in the middle of these 15 balls and arranged correctly, then the rack is removed so that the first player can break them up.
To determine which balls each player should be aiming for, whichever the first colored ball to be pocketed is will belong to that player.
From there, they can only hit their specific type of balls into the pocket (either striped or solid colors).
A player is allowed to continue with their turn as long as they don’t miss, and at which point it’s the other players turn.
The object of the game is to be the first one to sink all of your colored balls, and then make the final shot which is to land the 8-ball in the pocket.
The Rules and Play of 9-Ball Pool
9-ball pool is a common type of pool for the US but not as popular in Europe. 9-ball uses only 9 balls and the cue ball, compared to 8-ball which uses 15.
The balls used for this game are just the solid colored balls numbered 1-8 and the 9-ball which is striped, with no other striped balls being played.
A special diamond rack is used to arrange the balls before play and there’s no special order that they have to be placed in.
Sometimes, rules will state that the 9-ball must be in the middle, but it depends on where you play.
The rack is removed and the first player breaks the balls, and if a ball is made on the break they are allowed to continue with their turn.
Players in 9-ball must shoot at the balls in numerical order and will always start with the 1-ball first.
They must continue in this manner until all of the balls have been pocketed and in their correct order.
Just like 8-ball, a successful pocketing of the object ball means your turn can continue, otherwise, the other player has their go.
There are two ways a player can win 9-ball, with the first being sinking the 9-ball after all others have been pocketed.
Secondly, they can win with a combination shot which means they first hit the next ball to be played (like the 6-ball) which then hits the 9-ball and sinks that instead.
Many players find this a much more strategic game to play because the same balls are being shared.
The Rules and Play of 10-Ball Pool
When compared to the other two games, 10-ball is more like 9-ball than any other.
This is a more modern approach to pool and has been gaining popularity in recent years because it presents more of a challenge.
The main difference is that 10 balls are in play on the table instead of nine, and the 10-ball is the most important to be sunk last.
To set up the table, the 10 balls are racked using a triangle with the 1-ball at the top and the 2 and 3-balls on the bottom right and left corners.
It is similar to 9-ball in that all balls must be sunk in their numerical order, but the key difference is that a player must call the show and state their intention of where they are trying to pocket that ball.
Failure to sink the ball that’s been called means the shot does not count.
Are There Other Pool Table Games You Can Play?
In addition to these three popular pool table games, there are others that you can learn the rules to play against friends and family.
Here are a few suggestions that are often enjoyed in pool rooms or bars that you can learn at home:
If you have groups wanting to play, this is a great way to get everyone involved. Each team picks a certain group of numbered balls as their own.
The goal is to then try and pocket the opposing team’s balls before they do the same to yours. Whichever team is left standing with balls on the table is declared the winner.
Each player has just one pocket on the table that they’re allowed to sink balls into, and they’re usually the foot corner pockets.
The goal is to get your 8 balls into your hole before your opponent, taking turns to make a shot.
This game states that a pocketed ball will only count if it’s been banked off of a cushion and not touched another ball on its way there.
It’s reserved for better players who have honed their shots but can provide an interesting challenge for the game.
Having a pool table means you’re free to explore the many variations of pool table games out there.
Learning the rules is the most important first step though, so we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about these popular styles of pool games.
Can You Play Billiards on a Pool Table?
It’s not generally recommended to play a game of billiards on a pool table because their entire design is different, as are the rules of each game.
The sizes and dimensions of these tables vary and as do their pockets, making it hard to achieve the purpose of the game without the correct setting.
What’s the Difference Between Billiards and Pool?
There are a few factors that make these games different, although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Billiards uses just a yellow, red, and white ball, whereas pool uses nine balls each. In pool, the balls must be sunk, and in billiards, they must be hit in a particular order.
What Size is a 9 Ball Pool Table?
9-ball can be played on any standard size pool table, and these are usually either 7, 8, or 9 feet.
This size of pool table is found in most pool rooms, bars, and home units, and there’s no regulation size that must be adhered to in order to play correctly.