How Many Pool Balls Are There? (General Terminology, Rules, And More)

pool table under lights

Your friend has invited you to play a little pool and have some drinks, but you know nothing about pool. You have so many questions, including how many pool balls are there.

For a traditional pool game, you will have 15 or 16 if you include the cue ball. This number can change depending on the type of games that you decide to play. 

A traditional game of pool is quite easy to pick up on, and you can usually do it in one night, but there are a lot of rules and terminology you can familiarize yourself with to help with your learning. Here is that information.

How Many Pool Balls Are There?

There are normally 15 balls if you are playing traditional game versions. There are variations where you may play with ten or maybe even more than 15.

If you want to be technical, in a traditional game, you are using 16 balls because you have the cue ball. But other games will use fewer balls than all 15 of them.

Break Down Of The Pool Balls

There are different types of balls which you can tell by a glance at the table. There are solids and stripes. This is necessary for a traditional game of pool.

Solids are full color and numbered 1 through 8. Sometimes they are referred to the low balls because of their low number.

Stripes have a white stripe around the middle of the ball and contain the numbers nine and above. These are sometimes referred to as the highs.

General Terminology

There are a lot of terminologies when you get into playing pool. There are so many that you could read a book about all the tips and tricks of pool, but here are some of the basic terminology:

  • Pockets
  • The Kitchen
  • Break Shot
  • Triangle
  • Scratch
  • Rack
  • Clean the table

Each of these is great before you start playing this game, especially if you are playing with a seasoned player.


Pockets are simply the pockets around the table. Your goal is to put the ball representing your team or yourself into the pocket for a point.

The Kitchen

The kitchen is where you hit the cue ball from when participating in the break shot or after you have scratched. It is usually the second mark on the rails opposite where you set up the triangle.

Break Shot

The break shot is the first shot made to break up the balls at the beginning. It often provides leverage to those who get to make this first shot.


The triangle is when you form the balls into a triangle so that someone can make the break shot. This is the formation for most games when it comes to pool.


Scratch is a term that describes when the cue ball is hit into one of the pockets. A scratch can occur even when you get other balls into the pocket. It will end your turn.


The rack is the frame that organizes the pool balls into the triangle formation. It is one of the tools a beginner should be familiar with because it is needed for the game’s setup.

Clean The Table

“Cleaning The Table” refers to a player hitting a ball into a pocket one after the other. This player is on a hot streak and is cleaning the table of all the balls.

Rules To The Game

The game’s rules can change depending on what version of the game you want to play. Sometimes others play by other rules as well. But for the traditional game, the rules are as follows:

  • The first person breaks the balls, and the next player goes if no balls go in.
  • Whichever the first player puts into a pocket will be assigned to that player or team.
  • Try to put as many of the assigned balls (Solid or Stripes) into the pockets first.
  • A scratch ends your turn whether you put another ball into a pocket. (If you get a scratch when going for the 8-ball, you lose).
  • Once all the balls assigned to you have been put in the pockets, put the 8-ball into one of the pockets.
  • The first one to finish this wins the game.

These are the basic rules, but there are some things to explore a little more. It doesn’t matter if it is the first player/team or the second player/team. Whoever puts a solid or stripe ball into the pocket first is assigned those balls. 

For example, if a player puts a solid ball into a pocket first, solid balls are assigned to them. Their goal is to put all the solids in every pocket.

If, for some reason, you put both solids and stripes into a pocket simultaneously, you get to choose which ones you want to be assigned to you.

Now the 8-ball is a ball that has some specific rules to it. First, if you accidentally hit it into a pocket before your assigned balls are off the table, you immediately lose.

More experienced players will push the rule that you must pick the pocket you will put the 8-ball in. If you don’t make it into a different pocket, then you lose. But beginners may be given more freedom.


Pool is a great and fun game, even for a beginner. You will catch on quickly, which can be a lot of fun. It is also a great social game if you just want to hang out and have a few drinks.


Benny is the owner of Supreme Billiards and has been shooting pool and teaching people how to shoot pool for a few years now. He enjoys showing new players techniques and drills to improve their pool game.

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