Game On: 6 Billiard Games to Play at the Pub

We’ve all heard about 8-ball pool, but that’s not the only game you can play at the pub. Discover 6 billiard games that’ll make your nights out even better.

Cue sports like pool, snooker and billiard games are more popular than ever. They came out of smoky bars and into the realm of family entertainment with enthusiasts up by a third since the mid-1980s.

While you may think only “stripes and solids,” games like billiards have many fun variations. So chalk it up and get your stick on with these enjoyable games.

Cutthroat Pool

This game works best with three to five players. Each player is assigned a group of balls. Like Capture the Flag, the goal is to sink all your opponents’ balls before they pocket yours.

  • Groups are assigned based on the number of players

  • The 15 balls are distributed evenly

  • Then each player takes turns shooting their opponent’s balls

  • If you sink a ball, you get another turn

  • If you miss or scratch, it’s the next player’s turn

The winner is the last player with balls on the table.

One Pocket

Looking for more of a challenge? One Pocket, known as the “chess of pool,” changes things up by only using the two pockets at the foot of the table.

This game is for either two people or two teams. Each is assigned one foot pocket. The other four pockets are considered neutral and any balls pocketed in them are spotted (removed and placed back on the table) at the end of each turn.

The winner is whoever pockets the most balls in their specified pocket once all are sunk. The game spotlights tactical strategy over ball running to test your basic pool skills.


Seven-Ball is a fantastic beginner’s game. With fewer balls on the table, there’s more space to maneuver and a better chance to sink balls.

Seven Ball requires you to rack the 1 through 7 balls in a circle with the 7 ball in the middle and six others around it. In sequence, start with the 1 at the front.

  • The break must hit the 1 ball first to count

  • Each shot goes after the next sequential ball until none are left

  • You must call the pocket before you try to sink the 7 ball

You’re allowed one safety in each game of Seven-Ball. This means that you can call “safety” and intentionally miss the target ball. This gives you better position on the table.

Whenever you shoot at the 7, call “safety” with the pocket. That way you can try for the win, but if you miss, you get another shot instead of the other player getting “ball-in-hand.”


This fun game starts with all fifteen balls in the rack with the 15 at the tip of the triangle. The rest of the order doesn’t matter.

Unlike a traditional pool game, turns go one after another whether you sink a ball or not. If you sink the cue ball, it’s a scratch and any balls also sunk on that turn are spotted with it.

The winner is determined by how many points are earned. Each ball is worth its own number in points, so it’s beneficial to sink the higher-numbered balls.

This game is good for beginners since it’s straightforward and the rules correlate with the actual numbers of the balls. Fifteen-ball is also a great way to pass the time with a couple of craft brews and an amazing burger.

Bank Pool

Bank pool is a more complicated game and best for advanced players. Banking is when you shoot a ball toward a rail of the table and it bounces off into a pocket.

Every shot must be banked and called. So you must hit a rail first and sink the ball into the correct pocket, or it doesn’t count.

The game is generally played with nine balls and racked in the traditional nine-ball method. During the break, four balls must hit rails or it’s an illegal break. This means your opponent chooses whether you re-rack or play with the break as is.

You win by being the first to bank five balls (or eight balls when playing with a full rack) in any numbered order.


Of all the games to play on a pool table, this one is the best mishmash of two fun games. Bowlliards uses a rack of ten balls to simulate the ten pins of a bowling lane.

The goal is to score as close to a perfect 300 in ten frames—just like in bowling.

The player has two chances to pocket all 10 balls in each frame. Each ball is worth one point regardless of the ball number.

  • It’s a strike if the player does it on the first try

  • A spare if it’s on the second

  • It’s an open if balls remain after the second try. The score is the number of balls pocketed after two tries.

  • A strike in the 10th frame earns two extra shots

  • A spare gets one extra shot

  • Sudden death determines the winner of a tie game

Enjoy Billiards More With These Variations

We hope this list of billiard games encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and try something different. Get your friends together, chalk up your cues and play something different than standard pool table fare.

Here at Upstream Brewing Company, we have beautiful tables with enough space to spread out, enjoy some food and brews, and have a great time with your friends.

Come check out our beautiful billiards room in the Old Market!