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. The values are as follows. 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 in 4 Ball Billiards. Instead, 4 Ball Billiards scores are made through a variety of shots. These include pots, ‘in offs’, cannons 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 one 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 – “the race to eleven”! 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, Breaking and The Cue Ball

Ball Set Up: The opponent’s cue goes ball on the blue snooker spot – right in the middle of the table. 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.

Breaking: The breaking player’s first shot must always be played from the safety zone line. On your first shot may only shoot forwards, not directly sideways or backwards.

Cue Ball Positioning for First Shots: Whenever your cue ball has just been potted, and it’s your first shot, just like breaking, you must shoot from the safety zone line and may only shoot forwards, not directly sideways or backwards!

Cue Ball Positioning for “In Offs”: When you score an “in off”, which we come to later, you pot your own cue ball. If this happens, you position your ball anywhere in the safety zone and may shoot in any direction.

Cue Ball Colours: Popular cue ball colours are white, yellow, orange, pink or any striped ball.

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.

Cue Ball 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 directly sideways or backwards. This can make it very hard to hit any balls near the top of the table.


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 last before your cue ball goes in the pocket, is always the ball that counts for scoring purposes of an ‘in off’.

Cue Ball Note – After making an ‘in off’ you place your cue ball anywhere on the safety line – and you 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 and pot balls in the top pockets.


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 always score the value of the lowest of the two balls 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. There is no need to nominate this shot!

Foul shot – If you fail to hit any ball or pot your own cue ball without going in off, you lose your turn and it is 3 points to your opponent. This is known as “Neve’s Rule”. If you commit a foul your ball is either left where it is, or respotted on the mid table spot at your opponent’s discretion. Note that if you commit more than one foul on a shot, the maximum points that can go to your opponent are 3.

Safe shot – If you have already potted your opponent’s cue ball, consider playing 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, not directly sideways or backwards 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 in the safety zone. 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 – Leaving a tough set (lay of balls) for your opponent is crucial if scoring a shot is hard. Leaving a tough set makes it harder for your opponent to score. In 4 ball billiards it is fairly easy to score, and a skilled opponent can score 50 in one turn. 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. To leave a tough set, get the balls as far away from each other and the pockets as you can, and near the cushions. 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.

Using the safety zone – Trying to pot your opponent’s cue ball and leaving some or all of the balls in the safety zone is a great tactic. This will make it very hard from them to score as remember, if you pot their cue ball, they can only shoot downwards on their first shot. This means they will need to hit their cue ball down the table and off the bottom cushion to come up the table and make a shot – pretty hard!

Use the bottom of the table! – When you get your cue ball down the bottom of the table, with the other balls, scoring becomes a lot easier. You can pot the blue and red over and over and re-spot them, as well as going for easy cannons. At this point, you may want to avoid “in offs” as they will place your cue ball at the top of the table again.

Soft touch or whack it? – Sometimes, if you softly hit a cannon, you can be in a position for another cannon, and another. You can do this over and over gently pushing the balls around. Other times you may want to pot a ball hard with the hope your cue ball hits another ball for a bonus cannon or goes into a pocket itself.

Spin – Spin is useful in many ways. Top spin can make your cue ball follow in a pot, adding an in off to your score. Back and side spin can make what seemed impossible cannons come off with ease. Of course, spin is always useful for ball positioning too for your next shot.

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