One Pocket

One pocket is one of the most popular of the pocket pool games. The game most likely dates back to the early twentieth century. No one knows exactly how the game began, but some believe it originated in Oklahoma City in the 1920s, so maybe it was among the many varieties of pool that commenced as a barroom gambling game. What is known is that the game was once called “pocket apiece” because each player had only one pocket on the table into which he could pocket his object balls. That is true in today's version as well.

The Object of the Game

While all the general rules of pool apply to one-pocket pool, the similarities stop there. What makes this game particularly unique is that both you and your opponent get only one pocket each into which you must shoot your object balls. You can play any ball and it is not a call-shot game. It's a point-scoring game and the goal is to score a total of eight object balls into your target pocket before your opponent does the same in his target pocket (each ball is worth 1 point). All fifteen object balls are used.

Picking Pockets

First you have to determine who will shoot first. You can do this by lagging for the break or by drawing straws, or flipping a coin, but lagging is the traditional way to begin most pool games, so it's probably best to use that method. If you win the lag, you get to choose one of the two corner pockets on the foot rail. The logic in picking the pockets on the foot rail is that since you're breaking toward the foot rail, it makes sense to keep the play at that end of the table. So once you win the lag you get your choice of one of those two pockets, and the other corner pocket by default belongs to your opponent.

The Break

The winner of the lag breaks first. The rack is the triangular rack that you would use in straight pool or eight ball. If you are breaking, you must legally pocket one object ball into your own pocket or your cue ball must contact one object ball, which then must contact a cushion. If you don't accomplish this, the break is considered a foul. If the cue ball scratches on the break, then the incoming player gets ball-in-hand behind the head string and the player who fouled “owes” a ball, which means she must spot the ball at the end of the inning in which she pockets her first ball — not immediately, but at the end of the inning. If the break foul was for any reason other than a pocket scratch, the incoming player plays the table as it lies, including the cue ball, and the breaker who scratched “owes” a ball.

One pocket is sometimes referred to as “billiards chess” because of all the defensive maneuvering necessary to keep your opponent from scoring points in order to keep yourself in the game.

Any player who breaks is not going to want to shoot an open break, because you don't want the object balls to go all over the table; you want them to stay by the foot rail where all the action is going to take place. As the breaker, you also may want to break lightly and rather than have the cue ball strike the head ball, it can graze the side of the rack, which will push the object balls in the direction of your pocket. This type of opening break is both offensive and defensive, because you can then position the cue ball near your opponent's pocket, which makes it difficult for him to shoot a ball into his own pocket.

There is a lot of safety play in one pocket, which can make the game extremely slow but challenging nonetheless. Much of the time you'll find yourself making shots that prevent your opponent from pocketing balls into his or her pocket rather than shooting to get balls into your own pocket, so you can score those points. That's why the game takes so much patience. It can be a very long game at times.

The Rules

You can strike any object ball on the table with the goal of landing that ball into your own target pocket. If you legally pocket a ball, you score 1 point. If you pocket a ball into your opponent's pocket, your opponent will score 1 point and you'll lose your turn. Your opponent will even score that point if your shot is a foul. The only time that doesn't apply is if you scratch on a foul or if you lob the cue ball off the table.

When you foul you lose 1 point and you lose your turn — meaning that you have to return one of your pocketed balls to the table, onto the foot spot, and lose your turn. If you foul before pocketing any of your own balls, you will owe a ball, and you'll have to pay it back to the table once you pocket one (generally, at the end of the inning). If you scratch, you are also penalized 1 point (or one ball). If you commit three consecutive fouls, you lose the game.

Legal Shots

For a shot to be legal:

  • The cue ball must contact an object ball and then pocket that ball or another object ball, or the cue ball must contact an object ball and then cause the cue ball, or an object ball, to contact a cushion.

  • If you pocket one ball into your pocket and one ball into your opponent's pocket, you keep your turn at the table, but both you and your opponent score a point for the pocketed balls.

  • If you pocket a ball into your opponent's pocket and bring him or her to the winning point total, it's a valid win for your opponent … and you lose.

  • A legally pocketed shot means that the balls do not get spotted. Pocketing a ball in your opponent's pocket is a legally pocketed shot, but your turn at the table ends, unless you pocketed a ball in your target pocket at the same time. When playing one pocket, you're going to have to learn how to play both offensively and defensively at the same time, and often during the same shot. You have to take into consideration that if you miss your shot, you may leave your opponent in a good position to win the game. You always have to consider the fact that your turn may end prematurely, so strategy is of the essence here. You keep your turn until you shoot an illegal shot or play a legal shot but don't pocket a ball.

    Illegal Shots

    An illegal shot consists of:

  • A scratch

  • Pocketing a ball in any pocket on the table other than your or your opponent's target pockets

  • All other fouls are considered illegal shots

  • Techniques to Employ

    Now here's where you must use all your skill. It's time to put everything you've learned to the test in one pocket. It's a game that requires precision since you only have the ability to shoot into one pocket. It requires very tight cue ball control to maneuver your object balls into that one pocket. Finally, you'll need to employ all your patience, because concentration, strategy, and precision will be your best tools in this game.

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