4 Exciting Three-Player Pool Games (With Rules & Scoring)

Are you one of those people who do not necessarily have large groups of friends? Or do you often hang out with them but stay on your phones all the time? Well, to get the gang back together, playing pool may be an excellent hangout activity for you and your friends.

You might think that playing pool is limited to even-numbered players, or you can just play all by yourself. But actually, the idea of playing pool with any number of odd players is not an uncommon one, and there are plenty of games for just three players.

So, why not invite some friends over for a round? Pool is fun, and it’s even more so with three people. You’re sure to have an enjoyable time playing these games below!

Starting A Pool Game for Three Players

Striking the Pool Ball Straight

Most pool games are suitable for an even number of players. I bet that when you think of pool, you probably think of two parties competing for pocketing all object balls followed by the 8-ball. However, games meant for three players progress much differently. The unique aspect of such games is the starting of the session.

You can’t toss between three players. Instead, all three players have to choose a ball each. They should then place the balls on the table in a line. One after the other, the players will have to strike the balls so that they hit the opposite rail and deflect backward. The player who manages to get their ball to travel the farthest without hitting the first rail will start first.

1. Cutthroat

This variation of pool is a very popular game that only requires three players. Cutthroat is an elimination pool game that requires you to use a single cue ball and 15 object balls. It’s an excellent game, especially if the players are newbies to pool and are learning to run non-rotation racks for an average percentage.

A more advanced version of this pool game for advanced players calls for every player to snaffle their balls in rotation. The person who has all the balls of all three groups is the winner.

Scoring

The scoring of cutthroat follows as each player gets to pick their group of balls. Out of the three players, the first player will have balls 1 to 5, the second will have 6 to 10, and the last will have 11 to 15.

How To Play

Every player has five object balls that they need to look for and stop other players from going after them. You need to snaffle all your opponent’s balls, and the player with some or even one of their object balls still on the pool table is the one who wins.

Players call for what group of the balls they want after starting by going after the ball of the group they want. When the player succeeds in doing so, they can now go after the opponent’s ball, which is in their line of view.

So it continues with the next player until the next who is opposite the head string continues. The best way to make sure your opponent is at a disadvantage is always to shoot the opponent’s ball in rotation, meaning to always go after the ball with the lowest number and so on. The player with most of the balls of their group still on the pool table wins the game.

Rules and Fouls

Cutthroat is an easy game to play because there are very few players involved. If a player knocks the cue ball into a pocket or off the table, each of his opponents can get one of their balls back on the pool table.

If the others eliminate you, but a player who remains commits a foul, that gives you a pass to get one of your balls on the table, and you are back in the game.

When you are shooting, you are required to be in contact with the ball of your opponent first. You can also not hit your ball, as that is a foul. You cannot jump the ball off your opponent’s because that is a foul too.

2. Rotation

Rotation is also one of the most popular pool games that you can play with only three players. In this game, players win by gaining the highest points rather than eliminating each other in cutthroat. This game will let the player win automatically when they reach a score of 61 in total.

Similar to 9-ball, points are the method of determining the winner. Its scoring system is what makes it easy and exciting to play as players attempt risky and outbound shots to earn the highest points.

Scoring

Due to its scoring system based on the number of points, balls from 1 to 10 are worth 1 point each, while balls from 11 to 15 are worth 2 points each. There are default set points before you play the game. A target is set, and the first player that reaches the set target wins.

How To Play

The game starts with the player hitting the white cue ball after the ball with the lowest number. If your cue ball touches the ball you went for on the pool table, you need to sink it.

If, however, your cue ball fails to touch the numbered ball, the next player gets their turn and can position the cue ball wherever on the pool table they want to. That player has to touch the numbered ball; if they fail, it is the next player’s turn.

The players sink their numbered balls and earn points accordingly to the numbers printed on the balls. This goes on until all balls are in the pockets, and the one with the highest score wins the game.

Rules and Fouls

Rotation is relatively easy if you are considering getting into pool with your friends. It has very basic rules and fouls that are easy to learn once you get the gist of it all.

The most basic one is if you fail to hit the lowest numbered ball at all, that is a foul. Knocking an object ball off the pool table is also a foul. But, there are no penalties if you commit one.

What you need to be careful of is that you have to make sure you hit the lowest numbered object ball first and go on consecutively, avoiding any fouls.

3. Kelly Pool

Also known as pea pool or pill pool, this game allows a wide variety when choosing the number of players. You can play this game with 3 players or 15 players. This game uses an added featured equipment of pool called peas with the standard pool equipment.

These additional peas are in a bottle and represent the fifteen balls that the pool has. It is quite an advanced level of pool and requires some experience before playing it. However, once you learn it, you can immensely enjoy this game with your peers.

Scoring

There are a few variations when it comes to scoring. With the first set of relatively simple rules, you simply pocket your number to win. However, there’s another method whereby pocketing the number alone isn’t enough.

With that method, if a player pockets his secret number, he gains two points at the expense of each of his competitors. If a player pockets another player’s private number, he gains a point. Moreover, the player whose ball was pocketed suffers a one-point penalty.

How To Play

To start a game, we put the peas/pills in a special bottle. Then, we shake the bottle to mix the different numbered peas. Then, each player randomly picks one of them from the bottle (and conceals them).

The corresponding number ball is the ball that they need to try to pocket. They must not allow opponents to know what number it is.

You start the game with a set of 15 balls racked on the table as usual. The rack is at the foot end of the table. The start of the game must be via an open break, where at least four balls hit the rails of the table.

Rules and Fouls

Its rules and fouls are similar to those in a rotation game where the player cannot proceed to play the game further if they are not successful in hitting the lowest numbered ball on the table. When a player illegally pockets the ball, you should return it to the foot spot of the table.

4. One-Pocket

One-pocket consists of a teaming system as well as individual plays where the opponents have their chosen foot pockets where they have to sink their object balls.

The players are not allowed to have similar foot pockets to the one their opponents choose. The player who sinks the most object balls in their foot pockets or the first to score the 8-ball is the one who wins.

Scoring

Very similar to rotation, this game involves a scoring system by scoring the most balls. The balls that the players into sink their foot pockets equate to their number of points. The loser has the lowest balls in their foot pocket.

How To Play

One-pocket starts by the player that is also known as the breaker, choosing the foot pocket of their choice. The rest of the players respectively select theirs.

The game then continues as the players try to pocket the opponent’s balls in their foot pocket. The first one to bag the most balls is the one who wins.

Rules and Fouls

Simple enough, this game has standard penalties if a player fouls or scratches. For example, if the cue ball somehow hit an object ball that was already pocketed, then the shot is a foul. If the player manages to drive the object ball off the pool table, that is also a foul.

Conclusion

Playing pool is one of the best activities you can indulge in when you hang out with your friends or family. While most games will require many players, these pool games won’t need such things. You can have a good time with some of your friends or family without having to call up everyone to have fun.

There may be some rules you need to follow to make the games much more exciting. However, that just creates the effect of boundaries and adds so much spice to any game.

The competitiveness and slight arguments these pool games bring are part of what makes them so entertaining. So if you are a group of three people hanging out, why not try playing these variations of pool? They will undoubtedly make your hangouts much more enjoyable.

But what if another friend shows up? Well, never fear! We’ve all been there. Here are some four-player pool games worth checking out.

Daniel Bouie - SportsDean
Daniel Bouie
Daniel Bouie has been playing and helping others learn the ins and outs of pool for eight years. His profound love for the game inspired him to become a qualified billiard instructor in 2015. He frequently practices in his spare time and teaches private lessons to novice and intermediate players.

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