How to Win at Four-Ball Billiards

Four-ball billiards is one of the classic billiard games, but there are variations. Int the basic version of the game, you hit four balls around a pool table in a certain manner to win the game. The right winning strategies can help you get ahead in this classic billiard game.

Once the King of American Billiards
Pool enthusiasts trace American four-ball billiards to the 1870s, when it was the most popular billiards variation in the United States. This variation is played on an English-style pool table, with no pockets and four balls: two personal cue balls and two red balls. American four-ball billiards is an old game, and it isn't played regularly in the United States anymore. One of the most popular variations of four-ball billiards is a variation that's extremely popular in Asian countries.

In both American and Asian four-ball, players must strike the two red balls with their personal cue ball, but avoid striking the opponent's cue ball. Failure to strike the two red balls ends the turn, while successfully striking them awards two points.

In the Korean version, players win by working their way down from a handicap score. In the Japanese version, players work their way up to a predesignated score to win. These variants also have differences in the way the opening shot works.

Four-Ball in Central Europe
Another variation of four-ball billiards in Central Europe includes a red ball, a blue ball and the two cue balls. When players hit any two balls, they score a point. If players hit all three balls, they score 10 points. If a three-ball hit follows a hit off the cushion, the point total doubles for a score of 20 points in a single shot.

Carom Four-Ball
While variations exist, including the classic four-ball game called American four-ball billiards, most people think of carom billiards when they talk about four-ball. Carom billiards involves hitting billiard balls around a pocketless table, and attempting to hit the balls in order to score. Each player has a private cue ball, and the object of the game is to hit as many of the other balls as possible in order to score.

Understand the Point System
Four-ball billiards relies on a point system to determine the winner. Each player is assigned a cue ball, and the object of the game is to hit as many other balls as possible with your cue ball. When you hit two of the other balls, you get one point. When you hit all three balls, you get two points. Some variations stipulate that you must hit cushions before or after a hit to score.

It takes a strong command of billiards geometry to work out the shots. Always take your time when sizing up a shot. Clarify the rules of the variation you're playing before gameplay begins, so you know what you're doing.

You can lose points in some variations for hitting your opponent's cue ball with your own. Going for one of the red balls is always preferable if there's even the slightest risk of touching your opponent's cue ball.

Think ahead to where you want your ball to lie at the end of the shot. Playing defensively can be a great strategy, if you can consistently keep your cue ball in your opponent's path or close enough to the red balls to make a double shot risky.

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