A Quick Guide to Play Billiards

It will take many weeks of practice before you are no longer a potter ( a player that can usually sink one ball at a time but struggles to sink multiple in one shot). Understanding the layout of the table, from the head to the foot and then everything else in between the rails, is crucial in understanding the game.

Understanding the pool table
Head to foot and everything in between.


If you have a cue stick in hand, you’re headed in the right direction. The billiards table is ‘set’ after the balls have been racked and positioned on point inside the break box. The break box area is defined by the head rail, the second set of diamonds on the side rails, then in between the two diamonds on the head rail.



The final object on the billiards table should be the cue ball, which is struck with the cue stick to hit and redirect one or more of the other balls into a pocket. The cue ball should be placed behind the head spot prior to breaking.


To hold the cue stick, first decide if you want to play left or right handed. Whichever you choose is now your ‘grip’ and should hold the cue stick loosely a few inches below the balance point on the shaft. The grip is the hand that holds and strikes with the cue stick.


Your other hand is the ‘point’ which is set on the table and holds to guide the tip of the cue stick. There are many variations to how a point will hold a cue stick. The most common is simply placing the side of your hand on the table while the cue stick rests on top of your thumb then tucked under your pointer finger, similar to how a pencil is held.


To strike the cue ball, grip and point the cue stick behind the cue ball, being careful to aim. Your grip arm only needs to bend at the elbow, with little shoulder rotation.



To begin a game, position yourself behind the cue ball. This will place you at the foot of the table, facing the head and break box. Being careful to aim at the rack, hit the cue ball hard enough that it will ‘break’ the rack and scatter the balls.


Solids or Stripes is determined by the first ball the first player sinks. If he pockets a solid, he only plays solids for the rest of the game and vice versa. If the first player doesn’t sink a ball, the second player takes a turn, and the game continues.


To finish a game, take turns to pocket your balls. Another shot is granted for each turn that a ball was sunk. The last ball that should be sunk is the solid black eight ball. If a player pockets this ball before the rest of his balls are sunk, he loses.


The game is over when one player has pocketed all of his balls followed by the solid black eight ball. To start another game, empty the pockets and re-rack the balls then you’ll be ready to go.