How to Play Pool with 3 Players – Blatt Billiards

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How to Play Pool with 3 Players

by David Roeder |

Pool usually is a game enjoyed by two players or two pairs of players. However, it is possible to play pool with 3 players. So, whenever three of you want to play pool, you can play any of the following pool and billiard games.

3-Player 8-Ball Pool

Close-up of billiard balls arranged on pool balls.

You can use a few variations to 8-ball pool so all 3 people can play. First, you rack the balls like you would for two people with the 8-ball in the center of the third row.

However, you will need a sixteenth ball that could be any random ball from another set of balls. Place the sixteenth pool ball behind the last row after removing the rack in the middle of the row.

Next, decide who will break by playing “Rock, Paper, Scissors” or some other method like youngest to oldest. Each player will choose a set of five balls. One person will have four balls plus the 16th random ball from the other set of balls.

Play progresses like it would in a regular 8-ball pool game. The objective of the game is the same—the player to pocket all of their object balls first, and then pocket the 8-ball wins the game.

Tri-Ball Pool

Setting a rack of 9 ball in pool, billiard on a special rack, blue cloth billiard table.

Another 8-ball variation is tri-ball pool. You will need two sets of pool balls. Each player selects a set of six balls. To rack, choose four of one player’s balls and the 8-ball. Place one of the four balls on the foot spot, then another behind it.

Next, place the 8-ball and the remaining two balls. For the rows to the left and right, take two balls from the other two players and alternate them. Do the same for the row to the right.

For the top and bottom rows, randomly place one ball from each player in those rows. Your rack should look like a hexagon or “Stop” sign.

The object of tri-ball pool is the same as 8-ball pool—be the first player to pocket all your object balls and pocket the 8-ball.

Kelly Pool

close up of billiards ball on pool table

The number of players that can play Kelly pool ranges from 2 to 15. Each player is secretly assigned an object ball they must pocket to win the pool game.

The balls are racked with the 1-ball in the first row and the 2- and 3-balls in the opposite corners of the last row. Then randomly place all other pool balls.

The 1-ball must be struck during the break to be considered a legal break. Players must strike the lowest numbered ball on the table during their turn. They can either sink that ball or use it to sink another ball like their secretly assigned object ball.

Play continues until the player doesn’t pocket a ball or scratches. If another player pockets your secret object ball, you are out of the game.

To determine what ball each player must pocket to win the game, write out the numbers 1 through 15 on a sheet of paper, and then cut them up into individual pieces. Next, put these in a hat and let each player draw a random number from the hat.


Group of young colleagues playing billiard at work.

Rotation is another pool game that can be played with three players. Racking is similar to 8-ball pool, except the 1-ball is placed at the top of the rack, while the 2- and 3-balls are placed in the rear corners. Instead of putting the 8-ball in the middle of the third row, you put the 15-ball in this spot. All other balls are placed randomly.

The objective of the game is to be the first player to score 61 points. Therefore, you may need to play multiple games of rotation until someone reaches this point total. You can also decide on a higher point total depending on how long you want to play rotation.

Each object ball’s number is its scoring value. For example, the 15-ball is worth 15 points. However, while it can be tempting to go for the highest-value balls right away, that would be against the rules. You must pocket the lowest numbered ball on the table first.

Players should determine the order of play before breaking the balls. The person breaking must strike the 1-ball during the break. If they do not, then it is considered a foul, and any balls pocketed will be returned to the table.

When the player strikes the 1-ball during the break, any pool balls they pocket count toward their score. They also continue playing until they miss or the player scratches.

Players are allowed to sink higher-valued pool balls provided they first strike the lowest numbered ball currently on the table. If they do not, then it is considered a foul.

Cut-Throat Pool

White Cue with Multicoloured Pool Balls

Cut-throat pool requires each player to select a group of balls—1 through 5, 6 through 10, or 11 through 15. The pool balls are racked like 8-ball pool games. First, decide who will break and the order of play.

The objective of the game is to be the first player to pocket both opponents’ balls while having at least one or more of your pool balls left on the table at the end of the game. During the break, any balls pocketed count, whether your own or the other players’ balls.

However, after the break, you must strike another player’s balls first. If you strike your balls first, then it is considered a foul. Play continues as long as you are pocketing balls. If you miss or scratch, play progresses to the incoming player.

Fouls in cut-throat pool are essentially the same as in 8-ball pool. Yet, the penalties are somewhat different and give your opponents an advantage.

Whenever a foul occurs, the other players get to place one of their pool balls back on the table. So, even if all your balls were previously pocketed, you get to put one of your balls back on the table and reenter the game.

Pool Set Play Packages

Billiard Balls in a pool table.

As you can see, there are several fun billiards games for 3 players. To ensure you have plenty of pool balls, check out our pool set play packages and ball sets at Blatts Billiards or contact us at 212-674-8855 today.