The Ultimate Guide to Playing Billiards and Darts at Your Local Pub or Bar
Welcome, dear readers! It’s never a bad time to kick back with a cold brew and your friends at your favorite local pub or bar. For many of us in the age range of 20-35, a night out isn’t complete without a bit of friendly competition. The age-old bar games of billiards and darts have stood the test of time and are a great way to spark friendly rivalries, break the ice, and make some unforgettable memories.
This article will focus on the ins and outs of playing billiards and darts at your local watering hole. So grab your cue stick, start practicing your dart-throwing technique, and let’s dive into these two classic pub games!
Billiards: Choosing the Right Game and Equipment
Before we get into the rules, let’s first cover the basics of pool and the equipment you’ll need. There are several different pool games to choose from, and knowing the rules for each will make you a more well-rounded player. Here are three of the most popular:
8-ball pool is the most common version of the game, played on a standard 6-pocket pool table. You’ll find this variant in almost every bar or pub with a pool table.
9-ball pool is played with a different set of rules and a unique diamond-shaped rack. Though not as common as 8-ball, it can still be found in many establishments.
Snooker is a popular British pub game played on a larger table with 15 red balls and six colored balls. While not as widespread in the US, it’s still possible to find dedicated snooker tables in select locations.
Pool Table and Cues
A high-quality pool table will have a level playing surface made of slate or another solid material, ensuring a smooth and consistent roll for the balls. Pub pool tables can vary in quality, but as long as the table is clean and the felt is intact, you’re good to go!
As for cue sticks, most pubs will have at least a few house cues available for patrons to use. If you’re a regular player or just particular about your equipment, consider investing in your own cue. There’s an array of cues on the market, from beginner-friendly models to professional-grade options.
Let’s Cue it Up: How to Play 8-Ball Pool
Since 8-ball is the most popular form of pool played in bars, we’ll start there. The objective is to be the first player to sink all your assigned balls (either solids or stripes), followed by pocketing the 8-ball.
- Set up the table by placing the balls in a triangle-shaped rack, with the 1-ball at the apex and the solid and striped balls alternating. The 8-ball should be in the center of the third row.
Determine who breaks by either flipping a coin or having each player “lag” (a shot where both players try to send a ball as close to the opposite end rail and back without hitting it). The player with the closest shot to the rail wins and breaks first.
To break, place the cue ball behind the headstring (the imaginary line separating the first two diamonds closest to the rack) and shoot it at the racked balls. The goal is to scatter the balls across the table and, ideally, pocket one or more.
If a player pockets a ball during the break, they are assigned the group (solids or stripes) they sunk, and continue shooting. If they pocket balls from both groups, they choose their group, and the turn continues.
Players take turns shooting until one person pockets all of their assigned balls. After a player has sunk all of their balls, they must call a pocket in which they intend to shoot the 8-ball. If they successfully pocket the 8-ball in the called pocket, they win the game.
Some common fouls include failing to hit one of your own balls first, the cue ball jumping off the table, and “double hitting” (when the cue stick hits the cue ball twice in one stroke). Committing a foul results in “ball-in-hand,” allowing the opponent to place the cue ball anywhere on the table and take their shot.
If a player pockets the 8-ball before their assigned balls or fouls (e.g., scratches) while shooting the 8-ball, they lose the game.
Sharpening Your Skills: Billiards Practice Tips
No one becomes a pool shark overnight, but with deliberate practice and a few helpful tips, you can improve your game:
- Work on your fundamentals: Stance, grip, and bridge are all essential aspects of a good shot. Keep your stance wide and stable, hold the cue with a firm, relaxed grip, and use a solid bridge hand to steady the cue.
Eyes on the prize: Focus on where you want the cue ball to hit the object ball, not on the pocket you’re targeting. Visualize the path you want the cue ball to take, and make any necessary adjustments before taking your shot.
Practice, practice, practice: To sharpen your skills, play regularly, focus on your weaknesses, and watch better players to learn from their style and technique.
Darts: Hitting the Mark at the Pub
Now that you’re ready to become a pool shark let’s shift our focus to the wonderful world of darts. A game that combines skill, strategy, and a bit of arithmetic, darts is an ideal pastime for pub enthusiasts.
Setup and Equipment
The standard dartboard is divided into 20 numbered sections, with black and white pie-shaped wedges and a central bull’s-eye (divided into an outer ring worth 25 points and an inner circle worth 50 points). There are also two sets of thin rings: doubles (outermost ring), worth double the points of the corresponding section, and triples (inner ring), worth triple the points. The board should be hung with the bull’s-eye at 5 feet, 8 inches above the floor, and a clearly marked “throw line” or “oche” at a distance of 7 feet, 9.25 inches from the face of the board.
Darts come in various styles and materials, such as brass, tungsten, and nickel. If you find that you enjoy playing darts frequently, investing in a quality set of darts that suits your throwing style can make a big difference.