How to Play Pool Alone

  • By: Rob
  • Date: May 12, 2022
  • Time to read: 9 min.
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When researching how to do any activity alone you are either going to be focused on the activity or focused on the “alone” part of your search.

Many sports and games are designed with no consideration to how to play them without other players present, so that “alone” part of the search can feel particularly lonely. That is not so much the case with pool, however. To say that playing pool on your own is not as fun as playing pool with friends is technically accurate.

But the trouble is that the fun of playing pool on your own is simply so different than the fun of playing with friends that it really is a completely different game. How then can you play pool alone?

You can play pool on your own in a variety of different ways. There are comparatively easy ways, such as the free-form challenge of sinking every ball without missing a shot. But there are also unique and challenging ways, such as setting up deliberately tricky situations for yourself to solve with skill.

Essentially, playing pool with friends is either going to be about hanging out with them, or testing your skill against theirs. But playing pool alone is going to be about testing yourself against yourself.

For that reason, these methods of how to play pool alone are organized from testing skill the least to most.

GAME 1 – The Free Form Challenge – Easy mode!
GAME 2 – The One Versus Zero Challenge – Challenging! 
GAME 3 – The Antediluvian Challenge – Hard!
GAME 4 – The Manufactured Stress Challenge –Mega Hard!

How to Play Pool by Yourself

Billiards is a great game when played with others but it can also be a great game to play on your own.  I know you might be wondering, but, how can you play pool by yourself? well, below I have given some excellent pool games for one person to play and enjoy!

If you are playing pool alone and want to try something a little different while improving all aspects of your game then why not download my free pool lessons below! 

Improve all aspects of your game with easy-to-follow drills and tips!

It’s 100% FREE!

Get your FREE pool lessons and drills right now!

  • Cue ball control
  • Positional play
  • Safety play
  • Practice drills

The Free Form Challenge

A “free form” challenge in pool is simple and requires no setup beyond what a normal game of pool demands. It’s a perfect solo pool game that is basically a game of pool, but without another player. There is no division between who gets to sink striped balls and who gets to sink solid balls. You must simply sink them all yourself.

This is the most obvious way to play it on your own, but it requires some not-so-obvious modifications to the rules. 

pool balls on a pool table

For instance, what do you do about “scratches”? In normal pool, a scratch happens when one player sinks the cue ball. This allows the opposing player to position the cue ball where they want it for their next shot.

It would not be much of a test of skill if you allowed for this in a free-form challenge. So, a free-form challenge will likely replace the normal scratch rules with rules of your own. The best way to do it is to place the cue ball right next to the hole into which it was sunk. This means it is easy to keep track of where it should be.

The essential element of a free-form challenge is keeping the game challenging while changing it as little as possible. This is similar to the next method of playing it on your own, which is…

The One Versus Zero Challenge

Another great single-player pool game is the one vs zero challenge.

Much like the free form challenge, you set this challenge up just like you set up a normal game of pool. However, in this case, you are not looking to sink every ball on the table. Instead, you are looking to sink only the stripes or only the solids. The challenge here is to shoot around an invisible opponent.

Whereas a free-form challenge is for beginners who are looking to learn how to sink their shots, this challenge more closely resembles the strategy of an actual pool. In an actual game of pool, you will need to sink one of stripes or solids while avoiding sinking the other. This challenge trains you for avoiding the “other”.

After this challenge, however, things start to get more clearly modified.

The Antediluvian Challenge

This eccentrically named challenge is meant to be the most challenging of the “normal” pool challenges. Its a pool game for one person, where you once more set up everything like a normal game of pool. You then break the game and sink either a stripe or a solid, just like the previous challenge. But then comes the catch.

Whenever you sink a ball, mark where that ball was with a coin. That marked area should be treated as impassable. If you want to make it actually impassable, you can use a weight instead. As long as it is something that is clearly visible and/or impedes the cue ball when you shoot it, it will work.

coins on a pool table

By the end of the game, you will have a web of inaccessible areas that will force you to look at the pool table in a very critical way. At first you might use multiple shots to navigate the forest of impassable terrain. But quickly you will see how inefficient this is.

It will not take many iterations of this challenge to start making a point to take the most ludicrous long shots in order to save on effort. This challenge is all about forcing you into awkward situations. It deliberately creates situations that are more difficult and improbable than anything that would happen in a normal game of pool.

When you are backed into the corner, would you rather play it safe or bet it on a long shot? Take three shots to set up your positioning, or take one ridiculous shot to seal the game early? If you have ever chosen to take the safe path, then you know how nerve-wracking that can be. You know that the unsafe way is better.

But the unsafe way being better and faster is counterbalanced by it being, as you might have guessed, unsafe. This challenge lets you practice the unsafe way in a controlled environment.

Speaking of practicing in a controlled environment, the next way to play pool on your own is all about controlling the environment. To the point, in fact, where it is less similar to a game of pool.

I wrote an article on how to play cutthroat pool that could help you get a handle on the tough game-changing shots, check it out if you’re interested.

The Manufactured Stress Challenge

This single-player pool game, As the name implies, the Manufactured Stress Challenge is all about creating rough situations for yourself. This game is a great game to play alone but be warned, it’s extremely difficult!

This challenge is done a bit differently than other challenges in that you do not set up and play a normal game of pool.

Instead, you set up the pool table to reflect a difficult situation. Have the balls set up in a way that they are “scattered” around the table – preferably more in the middle than the edges.

playing pool alone

The other challenge we have talked about train the fundamentals. They help you prove that pool is both a game that can be won, as well as a game that you can win. This challenge is about performing a miracle: Turning a game that cannot be won into a game you win.

So, how do you play the manufactured stress challenge?

After you have “scattered” both sets of balls around the table you need to choose either solid or stripes.  

This game works on your ability to make bank shots. A bank shot, if you do not know, is a shot that involves bouncing the cue ball or object ball off the rails of the pool table and potting the object ball.

To play this game you will need to make all bank shots while not failing to pot and avoiding your “opponent’s” balls.

If either your object ball or cue ball hits your opponent’s ball, that’s ok – as long as you still make the banked pot of your object ball.

To win this game you will need to successfully pot all of your chosen balls and finish by banking the black – If you can do this without missing then you are a serious pool hustler. 

To add another level to this, if you complete the game, try continuing by banking all the opponent’s balls.

This is an insanely hard game to play and will require a serious amount of skill and precision to complete this game. 

In Conclusion

So, how to play pool alone? 
Playing pool alone can be as relaxing or intensive as you want it to be. But hopefully, now, you can see that while it might be many things, it is the furthest thing from being boring.

Also, you can check out the article I wrote on the different Types of Billiard Games in which the rules of some of the games can be adapted to be played alone.

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Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.