How To Gamble Playing Pool

Zoomed in White Pool Ball on Black Table

Shooting pool and gambling have a long history together.

Gambling in billiards is rather simple, you and your opponent agree on a few details and the amount you’ll play for. Winner takes all.

Gambling in Pool may or may not be illegal depending on where you play (state), what you wager (friendly wagers), and more details. We do not condone gambling and below is just opinion based. Please refer to your state or countries laws first!

Picking An Opponent

Don’t gamble with someone who is better than you or equal to you. Obviously, you want to pick someone you can beat by a good margin.

Make sure you are 100% sure you can beat this person even on your average days. You are doing this to make money, don’t take a risk on someone you “might” be able to beat on your good days.

Try Not To Gamble With Angry People Or People In Large Groups

You want to avoid trouble at all costs. You probably go to the same bars and you have made friends with other pool players and the staff.

No point in ruining it for some quick cash. If you do, try to make sure that the person comes off as an easy-going person or relaxed.

If you can, bring a friend too. This helps because you have someone in your corner that has your back. It might also help in case your opponent has multiple friends and it can make someone feel pretty uneasy gambling alone.

Figure out the details

How much money are you playing for?

Don’t bet all the money you have in your pocket. You may need it in case you lose and want a rematch. Get a bankroll dedicated for gambling so if you lose – it’s no big deal. Bills are still good to go.

Don’t bet a large amount of money with a person you just met.

If someone you don’t know walks in and wants to play for $1,000 – say no. You don’t know how good this person is (yet). Counter with a smaller bet so you can at least figure out how good they are. “How about $20 or $100 instead?”.

If you happen to be a phenomenal shooter (7 in 8-ball APA, Fargo Rating 550+), you can probably hold your own. My only advice then would be to make sure you aren’t alone for safety reasons.

Figure out how many games to play

It’s common to play a “race” to 3 games or 5 games. A race just means both players are trying to reach the same number of wins. First person to win 3 games first wins the race. The number of games varies depending on how long you want the entire match to last. Figure this out first.

Giving up weight or getting weight

It’s best to get weight by racing to less games. If I’m playing someone better than me, an example would be me racing to 3 games while my opponent races to 5 games. I still wouldn’t advise on this bet because it tells me that the opponent is much better than me. I would rather be racing to 5 games because I know my chances are still higher to win.

If you are giving weight, a good (or bad) strategy is to “give balls”. This is a hustler way to give weight because it clears the table out for you and makes it easier to run the table.

Example: After the break take 2 balls off the table for your opponent.

They are bound to miss at least 1 time. The table is open for you to run.

What are the rules?

Agree on the format. BCA? APA? 9-ball with alternating breaks? The most annoying thing is coming to a disagreement on what the rules are. Figure out the rules up front so there are no surprises.

Related Questions

Can I walk away after winning?

In most cases, no. It is good etiquette to give your opponent a chance to win their money back. If they want to play again and again, you have to stick around until they give up or the bar closes.

If you need to leave at a certain time, give your opponent a heads up so they are aware.

If you leave immediately after winning or quit – this is the worst kind of gamblers. No one will want to gamble with you in the future and you just come off as a jerk. Don’t do this.

You have to give the other person a chance to win their money back.

Don’t show the money, keep it in your pockets

You don’t want to get kicked out of a bar because you left the money on the table. This is an obvious and dumb way to do it. Unless you know every staff member in the bar or the owner, just keep it tucked away.

Is hustling or gambling in pool illegal?

It depends on the state you live in. You will have to look it up because it changes based on location.

For the most part though – this is a grey area that really doesn’t get enforced. I have gambled and seen other people gamble with shooting pool and no law enforcement was ever involved.

There are also other things to consider because some places only say its illegal if the ‘House’ takes a cut. Again, double check with your state laws.

Good Pool / Billiard Gambling Movies

Here are some awesome pool movies. There aren’t many, but there are a few gems out there. These are some of my favorite. Enjoy these movies and make sure you don’t end up losing like some of these shooters below!

  • The Hustler
  • The Color of Money
  • Poolhall Junkies
  • Turn the River

Final Note

Just make sure you have fun. When you are gambling in pool, you are playing a game first.

Make sure to check out my post on 20 tips on how to stay focused in pool. This might help you if you’re struggling to really stay focused in an intense match!

If it’s all seriousness when you’re gambling, then is it really just work? Stay safe and make some money. Good luck everyone!


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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