Easy 3-Player Pool Games to Play with Friends

3 Players and Pool usually just don’t work.

There are times when you have 2 friends over and you want to allow everyone to play pool. Sure, there is Kelly Pool, but did you know there are many other 3-Player pool games that can provide fun for all?

We’ve compiled a list of all of the 3-Player pool games we could find. Select a game that interests you from our quick list, or read on to find out all the games available.

ROTATION

TYPE OF GAME
Rotation requires that the cue ball contact the lowest numbered object ball first on each shot. Any ball pocketed on a legal shot counts. It is not necessary to call balls or pockets. This is a game requiring good cue ball control and position play.

PLAYERS
Two or more

BALLS USED
Standard set of 15 balls plus cue ball

RACK
Standard triangle rack with the 1-ball on the foot spot, 2-ball on racker’s right corner, 3-ball on left corner and 15-ball in the center. All other balls are placed at random.

OBJECT OF THE GAME
In Rotation, the object is to score balls of greater point value than the opponent(s)

SCORING
Each legally pocketed object ball has a point value equal to its number. Game ends when a player’s point total mathematically eliminates opponent(s); 61 points in a two-player game. If two or more players tie for highest point total after all 15 object balls have been pocketed, the tied player that legally pocketed the last object ball is credited with the win.

OPENING BREAK
The starting player must either make an open break or legally pocket an object ball. If failing to do so, the incoming player has the choice of either shooting with cue ball in hand behind the head string and object balls in position or having the balls re-racked and shooting the opening break shot.

RULES OF PLAY
A legal shot requires that the cue ball’s first contact be with the lowest numbered ball on the table. A player must then either pocket a numbered ball or cause the cue ball or any numbered ball to contact a cushion. Failure to do so is a failure.

A legally pocketed ball entitles the shooter to remain at the table until failing to pocket a ball on a legal shot. If necessary, a player is permitted only two legal safeties played by merely hitting that object ball (only) to the near cushion.

When a player legally pockets a ball, he must shoot again. The shooter can’t call a safety and spot a legally pocketed object ball.

When a player has the cue ball in hand behind the head string (as after a scratch) and the legal object ball is also behind the head string, the object ball may be spotted on the foot spot upon request.

It is a loss of the game if a player commits three successive fouls. In more than a two-player game, balls pocketed by disqualified player remain off the table.

ILLEGALLY POCKETED BALLS
All spotted

PENALTY FOR FOULS
In Rotation, there’s no point penalty. Incoming player has the option of either accepting the table in position or requiring offending player to shoot again with the table in position.

MR AND MRS

TYPE OF GAME
Mr and Mrs is a game that combines the general forms of Rotation and basic Pocket billiards. The rules are different for players of widely differing skill levels.

PLAYERS
Mr and Mrs can be played by two to six players.

BALLS USED
Standard set of 15 balls plus cue ball

RACK
Standard triangle rack with the 1-ball on the foot spot, 2-ball on racker’s right corner, 3-ball on left corner and 15-ball in the center. All other balls are placed at random.

OBJECT OF THE GAME
To score balls of greater total point value than opponent(s).

SCORING
In Mr and Mrs, each legally pocketed object ball has a point value equal to its number. Game ends when a player’s point total mathematically eliminates opponent(s); 61 points in a two-player game. If two or more players tie for highest point total, the tied player that legally pocketed the last object ball is credited with the win.

OPENING BREAK
Starting player must cause the cue ball’s first contact to be with the 1-ball. If starting player fails to meet this requirement, incoming player has the choice of either accepting the table in position and shooting or requiring that the balls be re-racked and offending player repeat the opening break.

RULES OF PLAY
A legally pocketed ball entitles shooter to continue at the table until failing to legally pocket a ball.

On all shots, the more skilled player must cause the cue ball’s first contact with a ball to be with the lowest numbered object ball on the table and then either:

  1. a) pocket a ball or;
  2. b) cause the cue ball or any object ball to contact a cushion

Failure to do so is a foul.

The less skilled player may shoot any ball, regardless of number. He need not call ball, pocket or mode of shot. Any ball pocketed on a legal shot is a scored ball.

Player loses game if he commits three successive fouls. If more than a two-player game, balls previously pocketed by disqualified player remain off the table.

In Mr and Mrs, when a skilled player has the cue ball in hand behind the head string (as after a scratch) and the legal object ball is also behind the head string, the object ball may be spotted on the foot spot at his request.

When a less skilled player has the cue ball in hand behind the head string (as after a scratch) and all of the object balls are also behind the head string, the object ball nearest the head string may be spotted at his request. If two or more object balls are an equal distance from the head string, he may also designate which of the equidistant object balls should be spotted.

ILLEGALLY POCKETED BALLS
All spotted and no penalty

PENALTY FOR FOULS
No point penalty. If foul is other than jumped cue ball or cue ball scratch, incoming player accepts the cue ball in position. A third consecutive foul by the same player is a loss of game.

KELLY POOL

TYPE OF GAME
Kelly pool, also known as pea pool, is a pocket billiards game with numerous variations, played on a standard pool table using 15 numbered markers, called commonly peas or pills or shake balls.

PLAYERS
Kelly poll can be played with up to 15 players but is most interesting when played with two or three.

BALLS USED
All 15 regular balls are used.

RACK
At the start of the game a standard set of fifteen pool balls are racked at the foot end of a pool table, with the apex ball of the rack centered over the foot spot. Viewed from the racker’s vantage point, the 1-ball is placed at the rack’s apex, the 2-ball at the rack’s right corner, and the 3 ball at the rack’s left corner. All other balls are placed randomly. An open break is required, meaning that at least four balls must be driven to rails.

OBJECT OF THE GAME
In Kelly pool, the object of the game is to be the first player to pocket the ball or balls(if drawing more than one pea) having the same numbers as the pea or peas that particular player drew at the beginning of the game.

RULES OF PLAY
Kelly pool is a rotation game, meaning the lowest numerical ball on the table must be contacted by the cue ball on every shot. There are no called safeties in kelly pool; the legal pocketing (i.e., with no foul committed on the same stroke) of the lowest numerical ball on the table, permits and requires the shooter to continue play. When a ball is illegally pocketed it is spotted to the foot spot.

If a foul is committed, there is no point penalty and the incoming player has the option of accepting the table in position, or requiring the offending player to continue shooting. However, when the foul is the result of jumping the cue ball off the table, or scratching it into a pocket, the incoming player has cue ball in hand from the kitchen (behind the head string), and retains the option of forcing the opponent to shoot. Whichever player ultimately shoots with cue ball in hand has the option of spotting the object ball to the foot spot if it is in the kitchen area.

SCORING
There are two main scoring variations played. Under the first and simpler ruleset, the first player to pocket his private number wins. Under the second variation, although a player still wins by pocketing his private number, points are scored in various ways:
1) two points are given by each participant to the triumphant player for the pocketing of his private number;
2) a players receive one point for pocketing any other player’s private number, and the person whose private number was pocketed is assessed a penalty of one point (and can have a negative point total);
3) if a player whose private number is pocketed by another does not disclose this fact before a subsequent shot is taken, the game is forfeited as to that player, and the player who made that ball is given two points instead of one. Where no player succeeds in pocketing his private number, gameplay ends when the last private number is potted, and the game is played again with all points values doubled.

FORTY ONE

TYPE OF GAME
Forty one is another game that is well-suited for social play at parties or other gatherings where players of mixed abilities will take part. Since no one knows what number “pea” is held by the opponent(s), it is difficult to play defensively. In addition, the rules are designed to greatly equalize all the players’ chances. An unusual and interesting game.

PLAYERS
3, 4 or 5 players are generally preferred

BALLS USED
A standard set of 15 balls plus cue ball and a set of 15 peas or “pills” with a shake bottle.

RACK
Standard triangle rack with balls placed totally at random.

DETERMINING PRIVATE NUMBERS
After the balls are racked but before play begins, each player is given a pea from the shake bottle containing the peas numbered from 1 through 15. The number of the pea is the player’s private number and is kept secret.

OBJECT OF THE GAME
As its name forty one says, the object of the game is to score points which, when added to the player’s private number, total exactly forty one.

SCORING
Each legally pocketed ball has a point value equal to its number.

OPENING BREAK
Starting player must make an open break. He is not obligated to pocket a ball on the break shot but if he fails to make a legal open break, it is a foul.

RULES OF PLAY
Any ball(s) scored on a legal stroke count for the shooter. Players may shoot any ball and need not call ball, pocket or mode of shot.

A player is permitted only one shot or turn per inning, regardless of whether or not he scores.

On all shots, player must cause the cue ball to contact an object ball and then either

  1. a) pocket an object ball or;
  2. b) cause an object ball or the cue ball to contact a cushion

Failure to do so is a foul.

Any illegally pocketed ball is a foul, and does not score for the shooter.

When a player has the cue ball in hand behind the head string (as after a scratch) and all object balls are also behind the head string, the object ball nearest the head string may be spotted on the foot spot at his request. If two or more balls are an equal distance from the head string, the player may designate which of the equidistant balls he desires to be spotted.

When a player has a total count of forty one, he must announce his victory and present his pea for confirmation before the next player shoots. If he fails to declare his forty one total until the next player has shot, he must wait until his next turn to so declare. If, in the meantime, another player succeeds in attaining a legal total count of 41 and properly declares, the latter player wins the game.

If a player totals more then forty one points, he has “burst” and must so declare immediately (before the next player shoots). All ball the burst player has pocketed are spotted, and the burst player may request a new pea prior to his next turn. Any player who bursts and does not declare it prior to the following player’s shot is disqualified from further play in the game; if a two-player game, the opponent is automatically the winner.

If all balls are pocketed prior to any player attaining a total count of forty one, the player whose count is closest to 41 wins the game. If two or more players are tied for nearest to 41, the game is a tie.

ILLEGALLY POCKETED BALLS
All spotted, no penalty

PENALTY FOR FOULS
The player committing a foul must spot one of his previously scored object balls for each foul committed. If a player has no previously pocketed balls, he is exempt from a penalty for that particular foul.

EQUAL OFFENSE

TYPE OF GAME
Equal Offense is a game in which each player shoots until missing a shot, fouls pockets the maximum amount of balls allowed for the inning. The winner is determined by the total inning score. Based on 14-1 Continuous, the game is ideal for leagues and tournaments. Although copyrighted by Billiard Congress of America master instructor Jerry Briesath, he has placed no restrictions on its use.

PLAYERS
Equal Offense can be played by any number of players

BALLS USED
Standard set of 15 balls plus cue ball

RACK
Standard triangle rack. Balls are placed entirely at random

OBJECT OF THE GAME
The object of Equal Offense is to score more total points than the opponent(s) in a predetermined number of innings.(200 points in 10 innings maximum). The balls are racked at the beginning of each inning for each player.

SCORING
Any legally pocketed ball counts for 1 point for the shooter.

OPENING BREAK
At the start of each player’s inning, he has a free break (no special balls to cushion or other requirements once break stroke commences, and a jumped or scratched cue ball is without penalty). Any balls pocketed on the break are spotted and player then begins shooting with object balls in position and cue ball in hand behind the head string (kitchen). The opening break takes place at the start of every inning of each player.

RULES OF PLAY
In Equal Offense, player may shoot any ball, but before shooting must designate an object ball and call a pocket. He need not indicate kisses, caroms, combinations or cushions (none of which are illegal). A legally pocketed ball entitles the shooter to continue at the table until failing to pocket a called ball, or until he has scored the maximum total per inning permissible (20 points in championship play).

Player is entitled to any additional balls pocketed on a shot, as long as he pockets his called ball.

Shooting order for subsequent innings is determined by the scoring results of preceding innings. Player with the highest score shooting first. In the event of a tie inning, the order doesn’t change.

If players are tied for high match total score, additional innings are played by each tie player with the first player posting a superior score to his opponent(s) in an equal number of innings being the winner (sudden death).

PENALTY FOR FOULS
No points penalty but the player’s inning ends.

CUT THROAT

TYPE OF GAME
Cut throat is a three-player pocket billiards game. Each player is assigned a set of numbered balls. The object is to be the last player with at least one ball still on the table. Subtle differences in game rules exist, with numerous regional variants.

PLAYERS
The name “cutthroat” is not unique to pool, but refers to any game played with three or more players in which each player must fend for himself.

BALLS USED
All the 15 balls are used

RACK
When starting a Cut Throat game, the one-ball, six-ball, and eleven-ball should be placed on the three points of the rack. The one-ball is placed on the top where it is spotted.

OBJECT OF THE GAME
The object of the Cut Throat game is to be the last player with at least one ball left on the table. When a player has no balls on the table, he is said to be ‘out’ and his turn is skipped in the rotation of taking shots. Under normal rules (where balls are retrieved on a scratch), if one of the remaining players scratches, the “out” man can recover a ball and return to the game.

RULES OF PLAY
In cut throat, the “low” balls are 1-5, the “mid” balls are 6-10 and the “high” balls are 11-15. Each set of five balls is initially unclaimed, the assignment of groups of balls to each player is done during the initial stages of game play. The three players take turns attempting to knock any ball into a pocket. Once a player has knocked in a ball, he knows that he does not own that group of balls. For example, if a player started the game by hitting in the 3-ball and the 8-ball, he would own the high balls, as he has knocked in a low ball and mid ball. The other two players would still not have ownership over a set of balls, and would, during their turns, attempt to knock in balls to gain ownership over a set. This may vary by region. The most common variation is to assign the sets ahead of time in order of play (the first shooter is 1-5, the second shooter is 6-10, and the third shooter is 11-15).

A player’s turn continues so long as he knocks in an opponent’s ball with each shot. A shooter can even knock in his own ball without sinking an opponent’s ball, thereby weakening his own chances to win in exchange for continuing his turn. This circumstance is called “cutting one’s own throat”.

SCRATCH
Another peculiarity of this game is the consequence of scratch, or knocking the cue ball into a pocket. In most circumstances, a player’s opponents are rewarded by taking one of their balls each out of the pockets, and spotting them back onto the table. In some regional variants (and especially when played in bars with coin-operated tables where balls cannot be removed at will) the player who scratched selects one of his balls to be pocketed immediately. Other variants allow the next player ball-in-hand.

CUT THROAT CONTINUED PLAY
Various point system’s may be used to play matches or sets, rather than just one game. With it’s uniqueness as a three player game, counting games won is possible but does not give credit for finishing second. One system is awarding three points for a win, plus an additional one point for each of the winner’s remaining balls at the end of each game. The player last eliminated receives two points, the first eliminated player none.

There may also be a bonus awarded for playing a perfect game, sinking both opponents sets of 5 balls while having all 5 of yours remaining (Usually 2pts, making a perfect game worth 10pts total, 3 for the win, 5 for remaining balls, 2 bonus). This system adds great importance and strategy to who to eliminate first as the match goes on, often creating alliances of the two trailing players to catch the leader in points. The match may be won by reaching a set amount of points, or reaching a set deadline in time.

COWBOY POOL

TYPE OF GAME
Cowboy pool, sometimes just called cowboy, is a hybrid pool game combining elements of English billiards through an intermediary game, with more standard pocket billiards characteristics. The game employs only four balls, the cue ball and three numbered balls, the 1, 3 and 5. It is played to 101 points, with points being awarded for a host of different shot types.

PLAYERS
Any number of players or teams

BALLS USED
Object balls 1, 3 and 5 plus the cue ball

PLACEMENT
The balls have a set opening placement: The 1 ball is placed on the head spot; the 3 ball on the foot spot; and the 5 ball on the center spot.

OBJECT OF THE GAME
To score 101 points

SCORING
For the first 90 points of the 101 needed to win the game, points are scored in three ways: 1 point for caroming the cue ball into any two object balls; 2 points for caroming into all three object balls; and a player scores the face value of any ball pocketed, i.e., if the 3 ball is pocketed, the player scores 3 points. Thus, the maximum score possible on any single shot is 11 points, achieved by caroming off and pocketing all three balls.

RULES OF PLAY
As in the game of snooker, pocketed balls are immediately respotted to their starting position. Beginning with cue ball in-hand from the kitchen — the area behind a pool table’s head string — the incoming player must contact the 3 ball first. If the player fails to do so, the opponent may either force the player to repeat the break shot, or elect to break him or herself.

The failure to score in one of the delineated manners on any shot ends the player’s inning at the table. All fouls in Cowboy pool result in the player losing all points scored during the inning (not just those on the fouled stroke), and the opposing player comes to the table with cue ball in position except in the case of a scratch, which results in ball-in-hand from the kitchen.

The 90th point in cowboy pool must be reached exactly and the failure to do so is a foul resulting in a loss of turn. For example, this means that a player with 89 points, who then scores 2 points rather than exactly 1, has committed a foul. Once the 90 point benchmark is reached, all points up to the penultimate 100 must be made by caroms. The pocketing of balls during this phase of the game garners no points. The final point necessary to reach 101 and the win must be made by a losing hazard; an intentional scratch made by caroming the cue ball off one of the three object balls.

BOWLLIARDS

TYPE OF GAME
Bowlliards apply the scoring concepts of bowling to pocket billiards. Like bowling, there’s a perfect score to strive for. That could be a good training game since scoring allows you to track if you’re improving.

PLAYERS
Any number of players or teams can play.

BALLS USED
Any ten object balls plus cue ball.

RACK
Standard triangle position(front apex ball on foot spot) without the last 5 ball row, as in 10-pin bowling.

OBJECT OF THE GAME
In Bowlliards, as in bowling, the goal is to achieve a perfect score of 300 in 10 frames. Or, when playing against an opponent, shoot a higher score.

SCORING
Each legally pocketed ball is scored as one point regardless of the ball number. The points scored as per the Rules of Play below are treated exactly as in regular bowling.

OPENING BREAK
In Bowlliards, at the start of a the player’s frame, he has a free break meaning that the player doesn’t have to pocket a ball to continue playing. If one or more balls are pocketed in the break shot, they are spotted back on the table and the player starts its scoring play with the cue ball in hand behind the head string. The opening break takes place at the start of every frame.

RULES OF PLAY
A legally pocketed ball entitles the player to continue at the table until failing to pocket a called ball on a shot or scoring 10, the maximum total per frame. The player must designate a single ball and a pocket into which the ball will score. The shooter need not indicate kisses, caroms, combinations, or cushions, none of which are illegal.

As in bowling, player has two chances to pocket the 10 balls in each frame. If he does it on the first try, it’s a strike. If he takes two tries, it’s a spare. If after his 2 tries, some balls are still on the table, that’s an open frame and his score is the number of balls pocketed after his two tries.

A strike in the tenth frame earns two extra shots and a spare, one extra shot.

If the score is tie after the game, players go in “sudden death” and the first player to post a higher score in a frame is the winner.

ILLEGALLY POCKETED BALLS
Illegally pocketed balls are spotted.

OBJECT BALL JUMPS OFF THE TABLE
They are spotted. The stroke is a foul and the penalty for fouls is followed.

CUE BALL AFTER JUMPING OFF THE TABLE OR SCRATCH
Only apply if occurring as a player’s first foul of a frame. Player has cue ball in hand behind the head string to begin his second chance of the frame.

PENALTY FOR FOULS
One point is deducted from offender’s score for each foul. If a foul ends the player’s first chance of a frame, he has cue ball in hand behind the head string to begin his second chance of the frame.

SPEED POOL

TYPE OF GAME
Speed Pool is a solitary billiard game. As its name suggests, one pockets all the balls on the table as quickly as possible. It can be played competitively with the aid of a stopwatch. Although speed pool is played by one player at a time, 3 or more players can take their turn so that everyone is involved.

PLAYERS
Only one player at a time. Many can compete against each other

BALLS USED
15 regular balls

RACK
The eight ball must be in the middle as in the eight ball game. All other ball are at random.

RULES OF THE GAME
a) The cue ball must not be in motion when shooting
b) Object balls can still be in motion when shooting
c) Ball and pocket must be called, (No lucking the balls in)
d) Legal shots must be made, or a 10 second penalty will be incurred
e) A legal shot involves the cue ball contacting an object ball, and driving it to the rail, or the cue ball hitting a rail after contact, or pocketing an object ball
f) Any ball may be pocketed, but the 8-ball must be last

STRATEGY
Observing professionals, one can see them running madly around the table to place their next shot. Unlike most billiard games, the cue ball is mostly used with a stop-shot to minimize the waiting time. Bank shots are legal, but time-consuming, and thus rare. A legal shot to just nudge the object ball for position on an easy shot is preferred.