Pool Games To Play By Yourself (And Improve Your Skills)

pool table and balls closeup

If you’re like me, when I play a game of anything, I play to win.  And if you have a pool table in your man cave or game room,  you’ll want to be king of the pool table.

But practicing and playing on your own is boring right?  Whilst it is true that pool is first and foremost a game for two, there are ways to play pool on your own and still have fun.

Now, playing one shot over and over again would improve your pool skills (as Bruce Lee once said – “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times”) but that can quickly get boring.

But, what if I told you that there’s ways of making it interesting playing billiards games by yourself.  Interested?  Good.  Below are some pool games to play by yourself.

Fifteen in a Row

The most common suggestion you’ll hear around bars or pool halls when you ask the above question would be fifteen in a row. For those of you not in the know, the way you play the game is by racking the balls like you would in a typical game of eight-ball.

You have to pocket a ball (or more) on the break, otherwise you must go back to square one. Following the break, you must pocket one ball on every shot.

Where this game gets interesting is the difficulty level. For example, if you’re just learning the ropes, you can make use of any shot that’s available.

Alternatively, if you’re more advanced, you can challenge yourself and call the shot before taking it or doing it by the numbers (literally). You can spice it up with any handicap you can think of, but keep in mind that whenever you miss it takes you back to square one.

A Game of Chess

8-Ball

Another common thing to do if you’re looking to play billiard by yourself is just play against yourself.

Set up the balls as if for a regular game of 8-ball and play both Mario and Luigi, so to speak (player 1 and player 2).

To make it more interesting, you can spice it up with uneven handicaps.

Planning Ahead

3-Ball

If you’re looking to improve your reading of the table rather than precision, you might want to play a game of 3-ball (a sort of stripped down version of 9-ball).

What you want to do is arrange three balls (hence the name) in a triangle and try to sink all three taking as few shots as you can.

As far as scoring goes, the break is counted as a single shot, whilst a miss counts as double (so you can, theoretically, run the rack on the break).

It’s a short game, admittedly, but a great way of learning to plan your shots ahead.

Pacing Your Play

Speed Pool

One of the joys of playing pool alone is having all the time in the world to plan and execute your shots, but in competitive play or, indeed, just a friendly round over a round of beer, you don’t have that luxury. So, if you want to challenge yourself and hone your skills, you might want to try playing speed pool. The game is exactly what it reads on the tin – playing a regular game of eight-ball under a given amount of time. If you’re an absolute novice, start by setting your timer to twenty minutes and then deduct a minute as your play progresses and your skills improve. You can jazz up things by adding all sorts of conditions or handicaps (e.g. pocketing balls in reversed numerical order).

Control Your Cue Ball

Target Pool

Yet another great way to practice your game without making it dull is to play target pool. The intent here is to practice (or learn, if you’re new to the game) position play and cue ball control, as well as enhance your shot selection and creative play.

You can either order the game online (comes with a couple of targets similar to those you see on shuffle board courts, as well as a neat instruction book and score books), or you can easily make it yourself using some paper and ingenuity.

In short, the object of the game here is to sink a ball and have the cue ball park neatly inside or overlapping the target.

Some shots are straightforward, but other variations will require an oblique approach, rail-riding or English.

Sudden Death

Ghost

Ghost is a popular pool game among players of all levels. What you do here is take a number of balls – could be as few as three for novices or ten for expert players – and set them up.

Once you break, give yourself a ball in hand for that first shot and then run the whole rack like you would in a regular round of 8-ball.

The key difference between this and playing against yourself is that a miss or a scratch count as an automatic win for the ghost.

Playing it backwards

Cowboy pool

Cowboy pool, aka Backwards pool is an excellent way to practice a variety of shots, learn about angles and really train your nerves.

The game starts as usual by setting up all fifteen balls, and break. Where it gets interesting is the way you run the rack.

You have to carom the balls off the cue ball and into the pockets. It is imperative that you hit the cue ball first.

If you sink the cue ball as well, that counts as a scratch, which gets spotted if you play against an opponent (in this scenario, you).

Call the Shots

Fargo

Fargo is a pool game that you can play by yourself or against an opponent – the objective here is to score more total points. The game consists of innings (much like baseball) which have no set number, though the norm is 10.

Each shot and pocket has to be called, though you need not indicate any caroms, kisses or cushions (or combinations thereof).

The break counts as a shot and carries no penalty for jumped balls or scratches.

On that note, any jumped balls or pocketed balls on the break are spotted and you get a ball in hand.  Each ball you sink counts as a point.

Wrap Up

Now you have 8 pool games to play by yourself for fun and practice.  Do you have any billiard games to play by yourself that are not mentioned above?

Let us know in the comment section below.

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