You've already read the history of this game, and you'll find that it's really not played that often nowadays, but for an extra challenge and even just a glance at a game that once stole the show, you should give balkline a try. Again, all the general rules of carom billiards apply to this game, except, of course, where the rules of balkline contradict the general rules.
The table layout is completely unique from anything else you've seen so far. The point of having balk areas is to prevent you from playing it too close to the cushions. Playing close to the cushions means you will be making it easier for yourself to score points. With balk areas you are forced to play a certain distance away from the cushions.
In order to learn the game, you should familiarize yourself with the following terms and regions on the table:
Balk areas: The table is divided into eight rectangular areas called “balk areas.” These rectangles are adjacent to the cushions. The outer edges of the rectangles are located 18 inches from the cushions.
Anchor areas: There are eight “anchor” areas on the table. Each area is 9 inches square and run out from the cushion.
Free area: This is the center of the rectangle. The borders of this rectangle are those of the larger balk areas.
The Object and the Rules
The object is the same as in three-cushion — to score a predetermined amount of points before your opponent. The table layout is the same at the beginning of the game. On the break, the red ball must be the first ball contacted. The difference is where you must position the balls on the table in order to legally score points:
You are considered to be “in balk” (or in anchor) when both object balls rest in one balk area (or anchor area).
At the beginning of your inning, you may score without paying attention to the balk areas or when one (or both) of the object balls rests in a new balk area — however, if both object balls rest in the same balk area where the last point was scored, you are required to shoot one of the object balls out of that balk area in order for the shot to be legal (and for you to score the point).
It can happen that after you shoot the object ball out of the balk area, it comes back and stops in that same balk area. If this happens you are still considered in-balk, and you have to try and strike one ball out again.
You use the anchor areas in the same way you use the balk areas. So, even though you shoot one of the object balls out of balk, it may still be in anchor (and vice versa: if you hit one object ball out of anchor, it may still be considered in balk).
To play pocketless pool well you should start thinking in terms of geometrical patterns. Pattern play is a skill that many of the pros excel at. If you practice your techniques enough, you will eventually see each play in terms of a geometric shape, which will help you score points.