Someone Forgot to Put Holes in my Pool Table!

Feb 11


MJ Marks

MJ Marks

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Ever seen a pool table without pockets and wondered what you were supposed to do with it? Find out some of the many games played on pocketless tables.

Now,Someone Forgot to Put Holes in my Pool Table! Articles I have to admit my ignorance, but I had no idea that you could get a pool table without the pockets.  The game of pool (or billiards) is just one of many games in what is know as cue sports. One subcategory of cue sports are carom billiards, also know as carambole billiards or just carambole. These types of games are played on a 5’ x 10’ pocketless pool table. Most carom games have three balls: two cue balls (one plain white, the other white spotted) and a third ball that ball is traditionally red. The basic object of most carom games is to score points by rebounding (caroming) your own cue ball off of your opponents cue ball and the object ball in one shot. This unusual form of billiards originated in France.

There are a handful of  games that are played on a pocketless pool table, and many others that derived from those games. Some of the prevalent games are:

  • Straight rail
  • Cushion caroms
  • Artistic billiards
  • Balkline

Let’s take a more detailed look at each of these games.

Straight Rail

The other name for this game is carom billiards, though it is also sometimes referred to as straight billiards, the three-ball game, and the carambole game. It is believed to have originated in the 1700s by the French, so was originally referred to as French caroms. The object of this game is fairly simple: you score one point when your cue ball makes contact with both object balls (our opponents cue ball and the third ball) on a single stroke. You play to a predetermined number or “count”. As long as you score a count, your turn continues until you miss.

This originally sounded difficult, but it did not take long for players to discover “cheats” that allowed them to score many points in a turn. One was to “crotch” the two balls in a corner. Trapped there, you can gently hit them both over and over again without knocking them out of the corner. By 1862 it was ruled that a player could only score three points by crotching before one of the balls had to be knocked away from the corner of the pool table.

Cushion Carom

This game, also known as the indirect game, originated in Britain in the 1820s. It is very similar to straight rail, but your cue ball has to rebound off a side rail (or “cushion”) of the pool table after it hits the first ball, but before it strikes the second one. Scoring is the same as above, except you lose a point if you fail to hit either of the object balls. An earlier version of this game was played on a pocketed pool table and was called the doublet game. A ball had to be banked off a cushion before being pocketed.

Three-cushion Billiards

If banking off one rail is good, banking off three rails before hitting the 2nd ball is better. In a nut shell, that is three-cushions. Of all the carom billiard games that are played on a non-pocketed pool table, this is the most popular played in the US today.

Artistic Billiards

Also known as fantasy billiards, in this game the players have to execute 76 preset shots. Points are scored based on the perfection fo the execution of the shot. Shots range in value from 4 - 11 points, the total game is worth 500 points.  This is a relatively new game with World Title Competition beginning in 1986. Even the simplest shots are difficult, with 427 being the highest score ever achieved in competition. This game is mostly played in France, Belgium and The Netherlands.


Blakline is also based off of straight rail, and was originally designed to discourage nursing shots along the rail (very boring to watch, only hitting the two balls a few centimeters at a time all the way along a rail to rack up points). In balkline, the table is divided into regions called balk spaces. The game is played the same as straight rail, but a player can only score a certain number of points in each balk space before the balls must be hit hard enough to knock them into another region. There are many versions of this game based upon the placement of the lines and the number of hits allowed in each blak space. The various games are numbered. The first number refers to how many inches away from the rail the balklines are drawn and the second number indicates how many points are allowed in each space before one ball must leave the region. For example, in 18.2 balkline, the lines are drawn 18 inches parallel to each rail (four lines total) and that only 2 counts are allowed in each balkspace. This game is mostly enjoyed in Europe and the Far East.

So, if you ever come across a pool table that is missing the holes, do not panic! Just grab three balls and try one of the games above.