Home Pool How To Play: Speed Pool

How To Play: Speed Pool


When you get to a pool table, your options are pretty limited. Sure, you could play Subbuteo on it or jump up on the thing and pretend to surf, but it’d be pretty frowned upon. No, your choices are generally a game of 8-ball pool with a pal or  game of doubles. You could play 9-ball pool if you have the correct (pool) balls for it. But aside from that? Well, you could just practice your potting, we suppose.

The practice thing is fine if you’re playing on your own and looking to kill time. There’s nowt wrong with sharpening up your skills. You can refine your downing of the balls or work on your position, both will make you a better player. But surely there’s a more fun way of playing pool on your own? Well, there is. And you needn’t technically be on your own as you do it, either. You can also play this game in groups. It’s called ‘speed pool’ and here’s how you play it…


The basics


Now, you don’t need to be alone for speed pool, but your mate isn’t going to have much to do while you’re at the table. What you can do is take it turns playing, though. The other person can marvel at their pal’s technique, offer advice or be useful and get on stopwatch duties. Only this is a game that requires the action being timed.

The premise is simple… Clear up! And do so quickly. In a nutshell, that’s it. Of course there are a few rules and quirks, but in essence – that’s really it. You’re looking to break, pot every ball and do so in as fast a time as possible. You can then challenge your opponent to beat your time.

We’ll get into the specifics and the rules in a bit, but don’t worry – there’s not a huge amount to learn. It’s nice and easy. Well, the rules are nice and easy. Potting 15 consecutive balls isn’t all that easy!


The set-up

english pool rack

You rack up the balls for speed pool in exactly the same way as you would a normal game of 8-ball. In fact, it doesn’t actually matter what order the reds and yellows/stripes and spots are in. So it’s entirely up to you how you set them up. The only rule you need to observe when racking up for a frame of speed pool is that the black is in the usual spot in the middle (see above).

Oh, and make sure the head ball – the one closet to you as you break – is on the spot too.


The break

How To Play 8 Ball Pool (3)

As with normal pool, you want to down a ball or two from the break if you can. Preferably while spreading the rest of them out so that they’re nice and downable after the break. So use as light a cue as possible, chalk it up and really hit it hard. Right in the centre of the ball closest to you. Make sure you get plenty of follow through. You want to hit the ball square with no spin at all. We’d advise you avoid breaking off from the centre of the ‘D’. Put the ball slightly to the left or right, wherever feels most comfortable.

See how it works out for you. You can adapt your breaks to suit your own break-off style. Sooner or later you’ll be spreading those balls and potting from the very first shot nearly every time.


The Rules

How To Play 8 Ball Pool (5)

There aren’t many rules, but here they are:

– The time starts when you first hit the cue ball to break
– The cue ball must not – under any circumstances – be moving when you play a shot
– Object balls, however, are allowed to be in motion when you’re shooting
– Both the ball and the pocket must be called (you cannot legally fluke balls in)
– All shots must be ‘legal’ — any penalties (see below) will result in a 10-second penalty
– You must drive an object ball towards a cushion, or have the cue ball hit a cushion after contact (unless you pot the object ball)
– Ball can be pocketed in any order, but the black 8 ball must go down last.



How To Play 8 Ball Pool (1)

Time penalties are added to your final time if you break any of the rules…

– Potting the cue ball from the break (5 Seconds)
– Potting the cue ball during open play (10 Seconds)
– Cue ball goes off the table (10 Seconds)
– Object ball goes off the table (10 Seconds, ball goes in a pocket)
– Cue ball misses all balls completely (10 Seconds)
– Push shot (10 Seconds)
– Cue ball hits the 8-ball directly out of turn (10 Seconds)
– Miss the 8-Ball while trying to pot it on the final shot (10 Seconds)
– 8-ball is potted out of turn – Instant loss of game




The winner is the player that clears up in the quickest time with all penalties taken into account. The number of frames you decide on is up to you. Best of three is settled quickly. If there’s a few of you, a round robin works nicely. Or even a one-on-one league set-up. Or just everyone plays once or twice and the quickest wins. It’s up to you.




Seems obvious, but hurry up! The best speed pool players in the world don’t worry about looking cool and sauntering around the table, they run around like crazy. So always think at least a shot ahead and get moving as soon as you’ve played a shot.

Also, as you cannot hit the cue ball until it stops moving, ensure you hit the ball in such a way that it doesn’t roll. So play screw or run-through as little as possible. Aim for short little stop shots that you can punch balls in with and have the cue ball stop dead. That way you can immediately hit the next shot.

You can play little nudge shots to set up pots but they’re time killers. That said, they’re preferable to taking on difficult shots or even pots that aren’t on just for the sake of it.


An example

Not bad, eh…?

Look like fun? Then why not give it a go yourself the next time you’re down your local Rileys? You can book a table with us now!

Steve Charnock A freelance writer who writes news stories, features, articles, reviews and lists. But *always* forgets to write his mum a birthday card. Follow him on Twitter or follow him into the pub and buy him a drink.