How To Play 4 Ball Billiards


Welcome to 4 Ball Billiards

I developed 4 Ball Billiards 2012 through 2013 on my home table. I’d become bored of snooker and pool. Whilst traditional billiards was enjoyable, I wanted to create something with even more variety.

4 Ball Billiards is my attempt to blend the best elements of all 3 games. I genuinely believe I’ve created a game that’s even more than the games that spawned it!

I hope you enjoy the site and give the game a try. 4 Ball Billiards is in continual evolvement and I welcome all comments on your experience of the game and any suggested improvements.

Happy 4Balling!

Barclay Littlewood



The Basics of 4 Ball Billiards

4 Ball Billiards is the perfect combination of scoring and safety play. It allows players that use good tactics to compete with any other player – no matter what their skill level.

4 Ball Billiards Balls Values – There are two cue balls, a red ball and a blue ball. Opponent’s cue ball = 1 points, the Blue ball = 2 points, and the Red ball = 3 points. These are used in a variety of shots.

Scoring – Unlike pool or snooker where only pots and fouls count, you aren’t limited to just one shot type. Instead, 4 Ball Billiards scores are made through a variety of shots. These include pots, ‘in offs’, cannons, plants and foul shots. These are discussed in detail in their own section further down the page.

Nominating – In 4Ball there are often many shots available at any one time. To eliminate luck you must correctly announce a scoring shot you intend to make. Be careful! Get it wrong and you score nothing for the shot and play passes to your opponent! Forget to nominate and play also passes to your opponent!

Winning – The winner of a game of 4 Ball Billiards is the first to 50 points or an agreed total. Games to 100, 200, 300, and 501 can be carried out dependent on skill level.

For longer matches, the winner of a match is the first to win 5 games.

The Home Straight – When playing to 50 and both players have reached scores in the 40s, (known as being on the home straight) there comes an exciting twist. Now the winner is the first player to lead by at least a clear 11 points! Games can sometimes end in dramatic climax with players going well above 100 points as they race neck and neck to get to a clear 11 points!

Okay you know the basics, now let’s look at beginning a game!

lets start

Let’s Start 4 Ball Billiards!

Okay with the basics covered, we’ll look at the shot types in a moment, but first, how do you begin a game?

The Tip Off – Players begin by hitting the ball from the safety zone line towards the bottom cushion. Whoever gets their ball nearest to the top cushion decides which cue ball to use and who breaks.

Okay so you won the tip off? Now you need to set up the balls and choose to break or not!

Ball set up and Breaking – The opponent’s cue goes ball on the blue snooker spot, the blue goes on the pink snooker spot and the red on the black snooker spot. The breaking players cue ball goes anywhere on what you might know as the baulk line, in 4 Ball Billiards it’s called the safety zone line.

Each players first shot of the game must be played from the safety zone line. On your first shot may only shoot forwards, not directly sideways or backwards.

Popular cue ball colours are orange, yellow, white and pink.

Okay that’s the basics covered. Let’s now look at the shot types and how much they score!



4 Ball Billiards Shot Types

Unlike pool or snooker there are several different shot types, all with different values. Let’s take a quick look at them.

Because there are several different shot basic types, you are going to have plenty of options at any one time! The shot types are easy to remember especially after a few games, let’s now look at them in detail. More shot types can be found on the 4 Ball Billiards optional rules page.



Direct pot – In 4 Ball Billiards a direct pot of the opponent’s cue ball is worth 1 point. Potting the blue is 2 points and the red 3 points. If you pot your opponent’s cue ball directly it remains off the table until your opponent begins their turn. (This is usually to be avoided early in your turn, as one less ball on the table makes scoring harder for you.)

Note – If you pot your opponent’s cue ball, when they begin their turn, they must do so by placing ther cue ball anywhere the safety zone line and may only shoot forwards down the table, not sideways or backwards.


In off – This is potting your cue ball by hitting it off another ball. You score the value of the ball you hit to go ‘in off’. The ball you hit first, is always the one that counts for scoring purposes of an ‘in off’. After making an ‘in off’ you place your cue ball anywhere on the safety line – and may shoot in any direction. ‘In offs’ are therefore very useful when you want to position your cue ball towards the top of the table.


Cannon – For a 4 Ball Billiards cannon you need to hit two or three balls consecutively with your cue ball. If hitting just two balls you score the value of the lowest ball hit. If hitting all three balls,(called a double cannon), you score 6 which is the total of all 3 balls points value.


Other shots

4 ball – Pot all 4 balls on the same shot, this is an automatic win, even if playing to greater than 50.

Foul shot – fail to hit any ball or pot your own cue ball without going in off, or hit, go in off or pot a ball that is safe in the safe zone is 4 points to your opponent. If you commit a foul your ball is respotted on the mid table spot. Note if you commit more than one foul on a shot, the maximum points that can go to your opponent are 4.

Safe shot – If you have already potted your opponent’s cue ball, play a legal shot to get one or more balls into the safety zone. (Behind or on the safety zone line.) No points are scored but this method seriously lowers the chance of your opponent scoring highly on the next go if their cue ball has been potted because they may only shoot forwards from the safety line on the first shot.

Position shot – this is playing a legal shot that is not a foul, and is not made with the intention of scoring points or leaving a ball safe. A good position shot leaves the balls in as tough a set as possible.



Nominating your shot

We’ve looked at this in the basics, now a little more detail. The nominating rule helps eliminate a lot of luck from the game. You must nominate your shot –
If going in off, the ball you intend to go in off from and the pocket.
If a cannon the ball you intend to hit first and then second.
If potting or planting, the ball you intend to pocket and the pocket.

Any points scored as well as the nominated shot are allowed. If the nominated shot is not made even if another scoring shot is made, no points are scored for that shot and play passes to your opponent. If you forget to nominate the shot, no points are scored and play passes to your opponent.

If your opponent pots his cue ball on a non scoring shot (such as an un-nominated ‘in off’) it is replaced on the mid table spot for your turn.


hints and tips

4 Ball Billiards Hints & Tips

Leaving a tough set – As important as scoring well is leaving a tough set for your opponent. This makes it harder for them to score. Because in 4 ball billiards it is fairly easy to score, and a skilled opponent can score 50 in one turn, it is crucial that you try and leave a tough set at the end of your turn. The further balls are away from each other and the pockets, and if some of the balls are in the safety zone, the tougher the set (lay of the balls) will be for your opponent. Especially if you pot their cue ball!

Balls that are below the safety line, close together, close to pockets, or close to your opponents cue ball leave a far easier set for your opponent to score off.

So remember, if you’re going for a hard scoring shot, consider the likely set if you miss before you play it, or if there is no scoring shot on try and leave as tough a set as possible.

Now let’s look at the 4 Ball Billiards optional rules page.