I used to be a very good player when I was home in Moldova. But haven't played in 3 years, so I got rusty. (Too bad there are no Russian Pool Tables in Orlando, FL).
There are 2 basic ways of playing it:
- Regular Russian Billiards
- Moscow Russian Billiards
- You can hit any ball with any ball in order to get as many as you can into the pocket. The game always starts with hitting the pyramid with the red ball. The first one to score 8 balls wins.
- You can hit any ball only with the red ball. Any ball can go into the pocket, but if the red one goes in it is taken out of the pocket and is placed back on the table in the start-up position (center of the front part of the table). Game resumes by the player that scored.
The other rules are pretty similar to the regular pyramid game.
If you hit the ball and it doesn't hit any other balls then the player is penalized and has to put one of his scored balls back on the table by any wall and the next player in line gets 2 shots. If the ball flies off the table there are two scenarios: a) the ball that you hit with the cue flies off - the shooter is penalized and has to put one of his scored balls back on the table by the wall that the ball hit before flying off; b) the ball that got hit with the shooting ball flies off - it just gets back on the table by the wall that it hit. In both cases the shot goes to the other player.
The players sometimes have additional agreements that they set up before starting the game. E.g.: If either player has only one ball left to 8 (7 on the score board/shelf) then he/she can bet on the pocket and ball to score and says his choice out loud. If he scores in a different pocket or a different ball than he named, the ball gets back on the table by the wall. It's fun when the score is 7-7 and there are "fool" balls (that go in other than named/expected pockets) In Russian such balls are called "doorachyok" (=stupid, fool) or "phonar" (=lamp post, but also means fool in this case)
My advice: Read up attentively the rules on Wikipedia once, then watch some videos of Russian pool (YouTube, Google Videos) and read the rules again, if you are really interested in understanding how the game is played.