The Rules


Kentucky Pool is a bar game and is to be played on a quarter-fed, bar-sized table.

Standard balls, rack, and cues for 8-ball are used.

The Basic Idea of How to Play

Bounce your ball of the cue ball into the pocket.

The Real Rule Governing Shots in Kentuky Pool

It has to be all your balls to the cue ball and the cue ball has to move before your ball goes in, and slop counts.

Combinations are allowed, but you have to use only your balls in combination to hit the cue ball. .There is no need to call your ball before shooting as slop counts.

Always a Drink on the Game

There is always a drink wagered in Kentucky Pool. If one player wins the game with all the other player’s balls remaining on the table (skunks them) the loosing player owes the winning player a drink.

One wrinkle on this rule is during the break. If the player sinks the 8-ball in on the break, they win. If no balls were sunk except the 8-ball, then all the loser’s balls are on the table regardless of which suit they would have chosen, and therefor owe a drink. If only one ball goes down besides the 8-ball, then the winner of the game can claim that was his suit, and all the opponents balls remain on the table, costing them a drink. The only time the opposing player doesn’t owe a drink when the 8-ball goes in on the break is if one or more of each suit go in on the break.

Another wrinkle in this rule is that if a player wins the game pocketing the 8-ball, but inadvertently knocks one of the opposing player’s balls in on the winning shot, they DO NOT get a drink because not all the opposing player’s balls remain on the table.

No Smack-Talk Unless 7 to 2

Because Kentucky Pool is designed to be a sociable game, no smack-talk is allowed unless the score is 7 to 2. The reason it’s allowed at 7 to 2 is because at that point the leading player is only three shots away from skunking the other player and winning a drink. Once the score is 7 to 1, it would become unseemly to gloat.

Certainly, if you’re amongst a group of friends where smack-talk is the cultural norm, we understand abandoning this rule. But we very much enjoy the sociability of Kentucky Pool, and believe this rule fosters a friendly game where people cheer each other on rather than the reverse. This is a difficult game, and it’s great fun to applaud people when they do manage to make a good shot.

The Rack

The cue ball is placed at the front of the rack.
The one ball is set aside.
Behind the cue ball is placed one stripe and one solid.
The 8-ball is place directly behind and between the two balls, at the center of the rack.
Stripes and solids are then alternated down the side of the rack to the bottom corners.
A stripe and a solid are put behind the 8-ball to form an alternating row of four behind the 8-ball.
Two striped balls are placed next to the solid in the corner.
A solid will go in the remaining hole.

If you’ve done it right, a “J” shape should be made by the striped balls in the rack.

The Lag

The 1-ball is used to break the rack, and is shot from its resting position after the rack.

The main idea of this lag before the break is to simply to prevent the opponent from breaking from a preferred position. In Kentucky Pool it is not difficult to pocket the one-ball if you can place the cue ball in a preferred position for the break.

Making it hard for the opponent by lagging the ball next to the rail is usually counterproductive as a bad break leads to a weird sort of game. It is, however, legal.

When lagging the ball, the player must have some potion of their hip behind the line of the end of the table as they serve the ball.

The one-ball must end up in “the kitchen” for the lag to be legal. It must at least break the plane of the foot string. If it bounces off the far end and re-breaks the foot string before stopping it is not a legal lag.

If the lag is not legal, the opponent can replace the ball anywhere in the kitchen for the break.

As dumb as it sounds, every once in a while someone throws the one-ball into a pocket. This is considered a scratch. The player breaking the rack removes the cue-ball from the front of the rack and breaks with the cue-ball. Then, regardless of whether any balls went in, they receive ball in-hand and another shot in penalty for the scratch.

The Break

The player winning the previous game becomes the person to break in the subsequent game. Or, the person who puts the money in the table at the start of a match or series racks and lags the one-ball, and the opponent breaks.

A player must break by hitting the cue ball first or simultaneously with an adjacent ball. If you break against a ball farther back in the rack one must assume the 8-ball was in the combination prior to the cue-ball making it an illegal shot. If a ball is pocketed in this manner, or if a player pockets any ball on the break without the cue-ball moving it is a scratch, and ball-in-hand to the opposing player.

If a breaking player shoots the one-ball directly into a pocket without hitting any balls it is a scratch.  Since the rack remains unbroken, the opponent removes the cue-ball from the front of the rack and breaks with the cue-ball. Then, regardless of whether any balls went in, they receive ball in-hand and another shot in penalty for the scratch.

Open Table Rules

After every break (unless the 8-ball goes in) open table rules apply. That means all the balls are your balls except for the 8-ball, so any combination of balls before the cue-ball is allowed as long as it doesn’t include 8-ball.

Upon shooting, if no ball goes down, it remains open table to the next player. If one ball down, it is yours and you claim that type (stripes or solid). If one of each type go down, you claim either stripes or solids and continue play with that type.

The Scratch

A scratch occurs when the cue ball falls, or when a player gets an advantage (one of his balls goes in) during an illegal shot.

In Kentucky Pool it’s “no harm, no foul” concerning scratches. You can make an illegal shot but not get one of your balls in; you can miss the cue ball; you can shoot an opponents ball in; none of these constitutes a scratch. You have to gain an advantage illegally for it to be a scratch.

When one player scratches, the next player in rotation gets vall-in-hand.


A player with ball-in-hand can place the cue-ball anywhere on the table. Typically, it is placed directly next to a pocket so you can gently carom a few balls off it into the the pocket.

The Tap-Out

Occasionally, the cue-ball will end up very close to the edge of a pocket and caroming off it with another ball will cause it to go into the hole for a scratch. The player, in this case, has the option of a position shot, or tapping out and passing their turn to the next player. If the next player also taps out loosing his turn, the cue-ball is then spotted at the foot spot (where it would be at the front of the rack), and play continues with the next player in rotation.

The Dark Side

As long as one of your balls doesn’t go in illegally (a scratch), it is permissible to take a shot solely for the purpose of re-arraigning the balls on the table…even if the cue ball is not touched. Sometime you may want to move one ball from a particularly bad place, and sometimes you may want to separate a clump of your balls to different places on the table that are more advantageous. You do loose your turn, but sometimes it’s well worth it. In fact, sometimes (usually if you are far ahead)  it’s worth giving the opponent ball in hand to just shoot one of your balls straight into the pocket.

Because Kentucky Pool is a game that encourages “valiant attempts”, sportsmanship, and a sociable game, dark side shots are frowned upon, but they are legal.

Sinking the 8-Ball to Win

Unlike the rest of the game, the 8-ball must be called exactly, with all contacts made before sinking. If you clip another ball with the 8-ball without calling it, and the 8-ball goes in, you loose the game.

A new kind of cue sport