Billiards - Cutthroat Rules

In my experience playing pool, very few people play by official “rules.” – especially in a bar, where variations have to be made to accomodate for coin-operated machines that don’t allow you to respot object balls.

You should always review certain points of play before taking the table with a player you’ve never played with before. For example, in eight-ball under British rules, you get two shots after a foul, not one. But some people play that you just get two free shots, whether the first goes in or not; others play that if you pocket the first, the free shot carries over, so in effect, you get one free miss. Unless you’re playing in a tournament, be prepared to play local variations. Some people have stricter definitions of slop than others; I’ve played with people who consider it slop if you double kiss an object ball and not call it. Others simply stop at a ball-pocket call, no matter how it goes in.

Another rule is the 8-ball going in on the break. I’ve had this happen to me once. Under the strict definition of 8-ball, this is considered a LOSS, and in a tournament play it is a loss. However, most people I’ve played with consider it a win, since it happens so rarely.

So just use common sense. Review the main rules, figure out points of difference, agree on them, and just play.

No. I’m certainly not saying that. In fact, I didn’t even mention how I play. The ONLY thing I mentioned is the fact that people INSIST they know the “official” rules, and don’t waver from their belief even when shown proof.

Yes, I’m certainly aware of house rules. I play by house rules. Me and my friends will willfully and knowingly alter rules as it suits us. But we certainly don’t make any pretensions that we are playing by official rules.

And where exactly did I say that you should only play by official rules? Oh, yeah. I didn’t.

My version of “Cutthroat” differs considerably from the above versions.

Before the break, we used the “Kelly peas”–the little bottle with fifteen numbered plastic balls–to determine who had what balls. You might have the 2, 5, 8, 14, and 15. Unlike the above, you’re trying to knock yours in rather than everyone elses. No one tells which balls are theirs until one gets knocked in, and its owner claims it.

Object balls (the one you gotta hit first) are “open-ended”. That is, after the break, the 1, 8, and 15 are all “good”. If you make the 1, the 2 is good. If you make the 8, the 7 and 9 are good. If you make the 4 on the break or a combo, the 5 and 7 are good. Thus, if you drew the 1, 7, 8, 9, and 15, you were in good shape. If you drew the 4, 5, 6, 11, 12, you’re screwed.

Slop only counts if it’s really impressive or if everyone is really drunk.

Dr. J

Hello, it’s me being big again. I misread the ‘tone’ of your email. If I sounded snotty, I apologize.

Bob McC
(real name used only for apologies)

We’ve always played that you claim your ahem balls only after you’ve sunk one. Naturally, you’re better off analyzing the lie of the table and the remaining balls before you choose. From time to time, you may find that you’re better off selecting a group with fewer still in play, if one (or more) happens to be in a location that is more difficult than most to sink.

Then again, we’ve also typically played by whichever rules are used by the biggest SOB playing.

Join a league, and then you’ll know the rules.

Or, go to a billiards store and buy a copy of the BCA rulebook.

“Bar Pool” rules differ from bar to bar, and generally suck. For instance the ‘no slop shot’ rule is just plain stupid, and almost unenforceable. Just what is a slop shot? Say I call it straight in, and it skids off the side rail and in. That’s a slop shot. But what if it touches the point of the pocket on the way in. Is that a slop shot? Where’s the dividing line? In bars, you wind up with the other guy saying, “you clipped the rail first”, and you either back down and agree, or you go outside and settle it. Stupid. Anyway, it makes for bad pool, because part of the strategy for choosing a shot is picking ones where the apparent pocket size is larger because of the ability to hit the rail and still drop, or the existance of an object ball near the pocket that you can clip off of and still make the shot if you miss slightly.

Bar rules typically don’t allow for ball-in-hand, and fouls are not called if a ball doesn’t touch a rail. That allows all sort of idiot safeties. So to get around that problem, bar pool is played such that safeties are ‘dirty pool’, and not socially acceptable. That reduces the game to a ball-pocketing contest, instead of a complex strategy game. More stupidity, but the bar owners like that on coin-op tables because it gets the games over with quicker.

If you think safeties are ‘dirty pool’ and slop shots are for little girls, I suggest you watch a tape of Efren Reyes or Buddy Hall playing 9-ball. The safety play is fascinating, and the most difficult part of playing pool.

Are you from this country? I have played 8-ball in a lot of bars, and I have never had anyone call a shot that clips the edge before going in a pocket ‘a slop shot’. A slop shot example would be shooting into a cluster of balls very hard in hopes that some of your balls go in.

While I’ve never joined a league, nor do I plan to. I’d be surprised if there were any official rules for cutthroat. I’ve never heard of a cutthroat tournament. I’m not saying there haven’t been any… but they’re not very popular if they exist.

…and finally, after reading the above posts I have one thought on cutthroat rules. If you pick your balls only after making a shot, then going third SUCKS.

You got it, Enright3 - going third sucks. That’s why you have to be good at lagging!


I’m from Chicago, and I’ve played several players who consider clipping the pocket “slop” if you don’t call it.
Same goes for unintentional double-kissing (see my previous post.) Now, to be far, these players are few and very far between, but they certainly annoy the hell out of me.

I’m having a hard time comprehending the idea of a ball touching a rail (adjacent to the pocket) as “slop” if it’s not called. Most of the time when a ball goes in, it hits part of a rail. Do they play so that only shots that fall into the hole without hitting any sides count (unless called exactly)? “Two ball in the corner, and it’s gonna hit the back of the pocket before falling.”

Of course, I play so that I call a ball in a specific pocket, and how it gets from here to there is completely up to me. But I don’t play on coin-op tables in bars very often. Even when I do, the people that I play with are usually willing to play by BCA rules.

Cut-throat is a little less formal, but I think it works out better to determine which groups of balls everyone has before the break. If I’m playing with decent players, we’ll play “gentleman’s call”, if not, we’ll let slop count. It’s best to discuss this ahead of time.

The other problem with ‘no slop’ rules is that you usually lose your turn if you call the ball straight in and it goes off another ball. The problem with this is that it’s often very hard to tell if the ball touched another one.

The proper way to play is simply call the ball and pocket. It doesn’t matter how it gets there, as long as it goes in the correct pocket.

And pool without ball-in-hand rules makes for a lousy game.