Pool games for the new age

I have, what one might consider, an interesting hobby. I like to invent pool games.

My tabletop mini pool table reserved for game design experiments

I must confess though that it was not until quite late in life that I learned the rules of an 8-ball game for the first time. Having first gotten hooked on to pool through flash games, I assumed that I could easily master the real game as well I could the computer game. Since then, pool has grown on me and I have gotten better at it. Funny thing though, is that I think I had already played several variations of the game before including a version played in schools fondly called pen-fight.

Growing up in India, we had a carrom board like most families. If you have never seen a carrom board before, it is quite similar to a pool table except that you are playing with circular discs instead of balls on a table that has generous amounts of powder to help reduce the friction. Where I was from, people socialized around carrom boards in “clubs”. I remember trying to compete in a carrom tournament quite early in life and losing quite miserably, which was enough to convince me that I didn’t have the skill. I didn’t really care about getting skilled at the game but stayed fascinated by it.Back at home we played all sorts of variation on the standard carrom game depending on how many hands were available and how creative you wanted to get with the rules.

Naturally, when I learned to play pool the first analogy I made was to carrom. The 8-ball game for instance is quite similar to the standard carrom game played in tournaments, using black and white discs similar to solids and stripes. I was curious to learn other pool games and quickly caught on to 9-ball, which by staying unpredictable right till the end forces you to strategize. By the time, I learned cut-throat, I realized my choice of pool games had gotten so niche, that most people had never even heard of them before. The most common way people usually learn cut-throat is once they end up with 3 players on the table and cannot play 8-ball anymore.

The pool table with its numbered balls and cue techniques was always more than just a 3D carrom to me and it seemed unfair that there weren’t as many games to choose from when it came to pool. So I decided to do something about it and started making my own pool games. Some of the first games I invented were adapted directly from carrom games I had played as a child. From 9-ball I had learned that adding contact constraints only added to the fun so I developed several variations on the rules carefully trying to balance the constraints with the game objective.

Eventually, I also turned to billiards for ideas which typically has more constraints and is said to require more skill and planning ahead. For example here is a version called bar billiards popular in the UK.

In the next few blogs, I hope to bring you rules for some of these games I have designed. Some of them are less polished than others especially when it comes to scratch rules. In this journey, I have gone from adapting carrom and billiards games to re-imagining some completely unrelated games on a regular pool table with just the standard equipment. I hope you find this hobby of mine as interesting as I do.