3 Player Pool Games

Pool is primarily thought of as a game that is played by 2 players at a time, 8 ball pool being one of the most common. However, there are some great pool games that can be played by 3 players and sometimes more. 

We have listed some popular 3 player games for you below. Each game of the games that we have listed are slightly different in how they are played, however, these games vary in difficulty so there is bound to be a game that every player enjoys regardless of your experience or skill level.

3 Player Pool Games

Cutthroat Pool

Cutthroat pool is one of the most popular games that can be played by 3 players. This is an elimination style game that uses 15 balls which are divided into groups based on their number. Every player is then responsible for one of these groups, this may be 1 to 5, 6-10, or 11-15. The aim of the game requires each player to protect their own grouping of balls while trying to pocket as many of your opponent's balls as possible.

Whoever is left with the most balls on the table at the end of the game is the winner. 

There are two ways to assign the player’s their balls. This can either be done before the game begins or the players can choose their own balls following the first inning which sees them pocketing a ball. Once each player has been assigned a ball group the game can then commence. 

It is pretty simple to rack cutthroat, the number 1 balls must be placed at the top of the triangle with the 6 and 11 balls placed in the bottom two corners. Each of the other balls can then be placed randomly inside the triangle.  

If the player taking the opening shot pockets any balls, even their own, they can continue to play until they either miss, scratch or jump a ball off the table.

There are a few fouls to make sure that you are aware of before you begin playing. If a remaining player fouls, an eliminated player has their ball put back onto the table. Others include hitting your competitor's ball before your own or jumping it off the table.

3 Man 8

Another great game but one that is less commonly known is 3 Man 8 and the concept of this game is in fact very similar to cutthroat pool. 15 balls are placed inside the rack with balls 1,6 and 11 placed in each corner. Similarly to the concept of cutthroat pool, each player is responsible for a group of balls depending on their numbering. This will either be 1 to 5, 6 to 10, or 11-15. The aim is for each player to attempt to pocket their own balls. 

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This game differs slightly from cutthroat pool, as an 16th odd colored ball, known as the common ball, is placed in the center of the pool table. To win the game, the player has to pocket this common ball too.

The game isn’t completed until this common ball is pocketed by a player deciding the winner of the game. So even if all of your own balls are pocketed you do not win unless you have pocketed this common ball too. 

Each player's group is decided by using the common ball to break the other 15 balls, the number that is on the ball that they hit decides their grouping. 

There are a few fouls to be aware of before you begin playing and these include pocketing an illegal ball, or failing to pocket any balls at all, or scratching a ball. 

Kelly Pool

This game can be played by 2-15 players at a time, using equipment called peas along with the standard equipment that is used in a game of pool. Unlike the majority of pool games, Kelly Pool doesn’t use a points system and can be won in one of the two following ways. Either the player sinks the ball that matches their pea or they sink the ball of the last remaining player.

The concept behind this game is relatively simple to understand. Each player is secretly assigned a specific ball that they have to pocket to win the game. However there is a twist, the ball that you are assigned must remain a secret from the other players. 

A shaker with peas inside is used to decide each player's ball. The peas are numbered 1-15 with each correlating to a numbered pool ball. The number on the pea that you select is the pool ball that you have to try and pocket to win the game. 

To begin the game, the first player must hit the cue ball aiming to make contact with the highest or lowest numbered ball first, once they have done so the challenge is on to sink the ball matching your pea. 

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Each player must make contact with the lowest numbered ball on each shot first until they are able to pocket their own. 

A foul occurs when contact is made with another ball before the lowest number or if a player scratches or jumps their opponent's ball off the table. If the current player fouls, the following player has the decision to take their turn or ask the current player to continue. 

Rotation Pool

Our final recommendation is Rotation pool; a fun game that can be enjoyed by 2 to 4 players at a time. Using all 15 balls and the cue ball, the concept of this game revolves around each player attempting to reach a particular score threshold of 61 points faster than their opponents. 

To play this game, the lowest numbered ball on the table must always be hit first before attempting to pocket any of the numbered balls to earn points.  Only once the lowest ball is hit can you attempt to sink your shot.

Tracking the scores is relatively easy. The number on each ball equates to the number of points that you earn from the shot. For example, if you pocket the number 2 ball you earn 2 points etc. Each ball must be pocketed legally ensuring that the lowest numbered ball is always hit before the highest. 

All 15 balls are racked at the beginning of the game with 1 at the head of the triangle, 2 at the right corner and 3 at the left corner, 15 is placed in the center with all the other remaining balls placed randomly.

If the player currently taking their turn commits a foul then their turn is over and the game moves onto the next player giving them the choice to take their turn or ask the player to continue and take their shot with the balls remaining in their exact current position on the table.

There are a few fouls to be aware of, remaining aware of these will ensure that you play your best game. The lowest numbered ball must be pocketed first. Scratching or jumping the cue ball is a foul as well as failing to legally pocket a ball.

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Final Thoughts

There are a number of popular pool games that can be enjoyed by 3 players.  Regardless of your experience or skill level when it comes to playing pool, you are bound to find a 3 player game that everyone is able to play and enjoy.  With the choice of cutthroat pool, 3 Man 8, Kelly Pool and Rotation there is a game for every player. 

The concept behind some of these games are pretty similar. For example, cutthroat pool and 3 MAN 8 follow a relatively similar style of playing, however, 3 Man 8 differs slightly as it incorporates a 16th ball which becomes the focus of the game. Others don’t follow a strict points system and instead offer some exciting and different ways of playing the game such as Kelly pool. This game revolves around each player trying to pocket a specific ball that they are responsible for. Throughout the game the aim is to keep the number of their ball a secret from the other players.

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These games can range in difficulty and some advanced players may find it easier to grasp the concept over those players who are at a beginner's level. There are some exciting ways of increasing the complexity of some of these games. With rotation pool, you may increase the score that the players have to reach. In cutthroat pool you may suggest that the balls have to be shot in a particular order, e.g hitting the lowest numbered first. It is also important to ensure that each player is aware of the fouls in each game before playing. In most of these games jumping or scratching your opponent's ball is a foul, however, there are also fouls that are applicable to some but not all of these games and others that may differ slightly.

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