What Are English Billiards Rules? – Blatt Billiards

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What Are English Billiards Rules?

by David Roeder |

Billiards can refer to several different types of games played on a billiards or pool table. A specific number of balls, cue balls, and cue sticks are used to play these games. The most popular billiards game most people know is 8-ball, a pool game.

However, another type of billiard game is English billiards. Learning how to play this game can broaden your billiard playing skills and give you more options when you want to play a game of billiards or pool.

What Is English Billiards?

English Pool Billiards Balls Rack Triangle Table Set Up 3D Render

English billiards refers to a billiards game invented in England. It is played on a billiards table that has six pockets. The game’s objective is to reach a predetermined point amount before the other player.

How Is It Different From Pool?

Billiard cue and pool balls

English billiards only uses three balls—a solid red, yellow, and white ball. You can use the cue ball, solid red ball, and solid yellow ball from your 8-ball pool set.

Another key difference is that the game is traditionally played on a 12-foot pool table—the regulation table size for English billiards and snooker. However, playing English billiards on a normal-sized pool table at home is perfectly acceptable. 

What Are the Official Rules of Billiards?

8 Ball Billiards or English Billiards

The billiards rules for English billiards are not too difficult to learn and include the following:

  • All English billiards games are played with only three balls.
  • The white and yellow balls are cue balls.
  • Players decide what color cue ball they want.
  • Players take a lag shot to determine who goes first.
  • During play, anytime balls are behind the head string, players must shoot their cue ball from behind the head string using any method of play before striking an object ball, which can be the red ball or the other player’s cue ball.
  • Players establish a predetermined score amount, usually 300, but it can be less.
  • The person who reaches the predetermined score amount wins the game.
  • A player continues to take shots until they do not make a scoring shot.

What Does Each Player Do?

Playing snooker

The first thing each player does is take a lag shot to determine who will make the “break shot.” To do this, place the red ball on the foot string. Next, each player places their cue balls on the table behind the head string and to the left and right of the red ball.

Each player shoots their cue ball so that it bounces off the foot rail. The objective is not to hit the red ball but see whose cue ball stops the closest to the red ball. That player will win the break shot.

The only balls on the table are the red ball and the breaking player’s cue ball during the break shot. With the cue ball in hand, place it behind the head string and take the initial shot. It is considered a scoring shot if the player sinks either their cue ball or the red ball.

Play continues until the player does not make a scoring shot. Then the opposing player gets their initial shot. They also place their cue ball behind the head string and must shoot it past the head string before striking an object ball.

If any ball is pocketed, the player has the option to continue to play until they miss a scoring shot. Once one player reaches the predetermined score, they win the game.

Anytime the red ball is pocketed, it is automatically placed back on the billiards table. Likewise, when a player sinks their cue ball, it is spotted back on the table behind the head string.

When a player pockets the opposing player’s cue ball, it remains out of play. It is not placed back on the table until that player’s turn.

Red Ball Placement

a red snooker ball balanced at a corner pocket

The red ball is placed on the billiards table in the same location as the black ball in snooker. Take your triangle rack and place it for the foot spot like you were going to rack the balls for 8-ball pool.

Next, using the middle maker on the foot rail and the side markers on the side rails closest to the foot rail’s pockets as guides, place the red ball behind the triangle rack. The ball should align with these three markers. You will return the red ball to this exact position each time you pocket it.

How to Score English Billiards

Focus on white cue ball with a red ball in soft focus over the corner pocket of a pool table

Scoring in English billiards is based on your ability to “pot” balls into the pockets, including scratching. In billiards, scratching is considered a legal shot. You can also earn points by making contact with the balls during certain shots, as you will see.

  • Potting the red object balls is worth 3 points.
  • Potting your cue ball or the other player’s cue ball is worth 2 points.
  • If you pot your cue ball after the ball contacts the red ball, it is worth 3 points.
  • If you pot your cue ball off the opposing player’s cue ball, it is worth 2 points.
  • A “cannon” is worth 2 points and occurs when your cue ball makes contact with the two other balls.
  • An “in-off” is worth 3 points if you strike the red ball with your cue ball and then pocket your cue ball.
  • If you strike the other player’s cue ball and then pocket your cue ball, this “in-off” is worth 2 points.

You can earn multiple points during a single shot by making different types of shots for a maximum of 10 points when all three balls are on the table.

  • Ten Shot – If you make a cannon while striking the red object ball first, pocket it, pot your opponent’s cue ball, and finally pocket your cue ball, you score 10 points.
  • Six Shot – If you pot the red ball and make an in-off off your cue ball, you score 6 points.
  • Five Shot – If you make a cannon and pot the red, you score 5 points.
  • Four Shot – If you make a cannon and pot either cue ball, you score 4 points. Another 4-point shot is potting the opposing player’s cue ball while making an in-off off their cue ball.

Ideally, you want to keep all three balls in play for as long as possible, as it allows the best scoring combinations to rack up points quickly. It is equally beneficial to keep the red object ball on the foot rail side of the table and rack up points quickly.

Play Billiards on Handcrafted Billiards Tables

Billiard room

You can learn how to play English billiards or other billiards and pool games at home on one of our handcrafted, high-quality tables. We also sell set play packages featuring high-quality accessories packaged together for all your billiards needs.

Please feel free to contact Blatt Billiards for further information or to order at 212-674-8855 today!

what are english billiards rules infographic