English Billiards: Meaning, How To Play, Rules, Fouls And More

English Billiards: Meaning, How To Play, Rules, Fouls And More

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english billiards

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What is English billiards?

Billiards or English billiards, as it is correctly known, is one of the oldest sports in the world. With its origins in Great Britain, it was initially named as the winning and losing carambole game when it originated. It is played on a table, with dimensions similar to the snooker table, 12ft x 6ft, and six pockets around the table. It’s a cue sport played by two players that combines aspects of carrom billiards and pool. English billiards is played with three balls—a plain white, a white with a spot, and a red. Recently, the yellow ball has replaced the white ball with a spot.

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English billiards sport gained popularity worldwide. However, its popularity has plummeted with the surge in popularity of snooker in terms of the number of people playing it and its media consumption. Let’s dive into how to play English billiards.

How to play English billiards?

The game begins when a play called string determines which player gets to play first. The players play their cue ball in turn from the D section down the table. Ultimately, the players want it to land in baulk by bouncing it back up the table. The player whose ball rests closest to the baulk cushion may choose to break first or second. Having all the balls on the table is an advantage to most players, so they often choose to play second.

Using a different colour cue ball, each player tries to get more points than their opponent and reach the predetermined total needed to win. In a match of an English billiards sport, the player who scores the fixed number of points, generally, 300, becomes the winner.

What are the breaking rules, fouls and how is the scoring done in English billiards?

Fouls can occur in several different ways in a game of English billiards:

  • When a player strikes the opponent's cue ball or the red object ball.
  • When a player makes any ball jump off the table.
  • Unless it's a double baulk, a foul occurs when a player fails to make contact between the cue ball and at least one object ball.
  • When a player makes a cue ball jump over an object ball.
  • A double-hit or push shot.
  • When players play a 16th consecutive hazard or 76th consecutive cannon.
  • While playing in hand, when players don't hit an object ball or cushion out of baulk before hitting a ball in baulk.

Foul results in two points going to the opposing player who can either play from where the balls lie or respot them.


Players take shots and scores are awarded for pocketing the balls and cannons. In English billiards sport, players can score points in the following plays:

  • Cannon: Players score two points for hitting the object ball and the other cue ball in a single shot in any order.
  • Potting: Three and two points respectively are awarded for pocketing the red ball and other cue balls.
  • In-off: Three and two points respectively are awarded for pocketing the cue ball after the object ball or cue ball is first struck.

Players can combine the above multiple plays in a single shot to score a maximum of 10 points in a single play.

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