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Killer Pool Rules

Learn how to play killer pool!

"Killer" is a cue sport game which can be played with an unlimited number of players.

Killer pool is a ring game and can be a good way of keeping everyone engaged and involved when there are a lot of players and only one pool table because a single game can include all players.

Killer pool is not a call-shot game. Shots do not need to be called.

Players get one shot per inning, during which they must pocket a ball. If they fail to pocket a ball, they lose one of their three lives. Players are eliminated when all three of their lives are lost.

The goal is to be the last player remaining.

There are many variants of killer pool. The rules listed here are for "classic killer pool" or the "original killer pool rules". See below for variations.


The game of "classic" killer pool requires the following:

  • A pocket billiard table (or snooker table),
  • A standard set of 15 pocket billiard balls and a cue ball
  • Something to write on; ideally a blackboard or whiteboard

Killer Pool - Set Up

  • Each player pays an entry fee to join the game. This is typically one or two pounds or dollars.
  • Player's names are written to a list at random (e.g. by drawing names from a hat). First on the list plays first, and so on.
  • To the right of each player's name, three tally marks are drawn. These represent the player's "lives".

Racking the Balls for Killer Pool

In killer pool, the balls are racked in a triangle formation, in any order, but with the 8 ball in the center position.

Killer Pool - Break Shot (Break-Off)

  • The player whose name is at the top of the list performs the first break shot.
  • The starting player may perform the break shot from anywhere behind the baulk line (aka "head string", or "kitchen", in North American terms).
  • If no balls are potted on the break shot, the shooting player does not lose a life. Instead, they are allowed another shot in which they must pocket a ball, otherwise they lose a life.
  • If a player scratches or causes the cue ball to leave the table during the break shot, a life is lost and control passes to the next player.

Break Shot Scenarios

  1. Player pockets an object ball on the break shot - No life is lost and play passes to the next player.
  2. Player doesn't pocket a ball on the initial break shot - No life is lost, and player takes a second shot.
    • Player pockets an object ball on that second shot - No life is lost and play passes to the next player.
    • Player fails to pocket an object ball on that second shot - One life is lost and play passes to the next player.
  3. Player fouls on the break shot by either (a) potting the cue ball or (b) causing the cue ball to leave the table - One life is lost and play passes to the next player.

Killer Pool - Continuing Play

After the first player is finished their inning, play passes to the next player on the list in order from top to bottom.

Each player gets a single shot per inning, and may shoot at any object ball on the table.

If the player:

  • Pockets a ball - No lives are lost and play passes to the next player in the list with ball-in-hand behind the baulk line.
  • Fails to pocket a ball (and doesn't foul) - One life is lost and play passes to the next player in the list with the cue ball in it's existing position on the table.
  • Commits a cue ball foul (scratch/potted, or caused to leave the table) - One life is lost and play passes to the next player in the list with the cue ball-in-hand from behind the baulk line.

When a "life" is "lost", one of the "tally marks" is wiped away from beside that player's name on the board

When the last object ball is potted, the balls are re-racked and play continues with the next player taking a break shot as described above.

When last player on the board has taken their shot, the turn moves back to player at the top of the board and the game continues.

If playing killer pool on a coin-op bar-box pool table where you have to pay for each rack, the player who pots the 8-ball / black ball must pay for the next rack.

When a player has lost all three lives, they are eliminated from play, and their name is removed from the board.

The last player to remain on the board is deemed the winner and receives the money from the pot.

Killer Pool - Fouls

Fouls in killer pool result in the loss of a life for the player committing the foul.

When a player fouls, the next player begins with the cue ball-in-hand behind the baulk line.

For example, if a player scratches in killer pool i.e. the cue ball falls into a pocket, or if the player causes the cue ball to leave the table, then that player loses a life.

Killer Pool - Safeties

The following notes on safety play aren't part of any official Killer pool rules we've seen, but have been included here as they're commonly observed.

Safeties are generally allowed in killer pool if you can't pot a ball (even though it means you lose a point in doing so).

Managing where the cue ball comes to rest for the next player is generally a big part of one's strategy.

The general idea is to leave the cue ball "safe" for the incoming player, in an attempt to make them lose a life.

However, you don't want them to foul as this gives a prime opportunity to the following player.

Likewise you don't want to leave them a safety with a half-chance at a pot that will likely leave the next opponent an easy shot, especially if you're playing a 3-player game and that player is likely to play the shot and tie you up.


  • In general, players are expected to play in the spirit of the game. This means that players should not conspire and "partner up" to eliminate stronger players. The game is called "Killer" and not "let’s play secret partners".

Killer Pool Variations

Other common "named" variants of classic killer pool include:

  • Cards Killer Pool - aka, Killer Pool with Cards
  • Extra Life Killer Pool - Players can earn extra lives by making certain shots. If a player pots two balls in one shot, they earn an extra life. Players have the highest chance of this on break shots. It adds a "hope" factor of winning back a life, and has the effect of keeping players in the game longer.
  • Multi Life Killer Pool - Identical to classic killer pool, but this version allows players to pay a pre-determined monetary amount for each life tally mark. Players can buy a maximum of five lives. This increases the total prize money available for the winner. The more lives a player buy, the more chance they have of winning, but stakes are higher as more funds are put at risk.
  • Nasty Rat Killer Pool - Identical to classic killer pool, but each player selects which player will shoot next. This allows players to gang-up on the better opponents.
  • Roll-Over Killer Pool - The last player remaining must take a shot and legally pocket an object ball to win the pot. If the shot is missed, the funds in the pot roll over to the next game, effectively doubling the pot.
  • Tower Killer Pool

Other local rule variants which can enhance the game include:

  • A rule to ensure players are available when it is their turn:

    If a player is not available to play within 45 seconds of all balls coming to rest from the previous shot, then a nominated admin person will call "loss of life".

    Source: jakartapoolplayers.com/rules-killer

  • A rule to increase difficulty of mid-game break shots

    When balls are re-racked within a game, the next player must break from where the cue ball lies after the previous shot.

    Source: jakartapoolplayers.com/rules-killer

  • A rule whereby pocketing the 8 ball provides a special benefit to the shooting player (and risk to the other players)

    Upon potting the 8 ball (but before the next player shoots), the player either

    • Earns back a life (only if one or more lives have been lost)
    • Nominate another player (any other player having more than 1 life left) to lose a life (a player may not be eliminated from the game by the taking of a life.)

    If the player potting the 8 ball has 3 lives, and therefore unable to add a life to him/herself, must decide who else to take a life from before the next shot is played or shall be subject to loss of life him/herself. The incoming player need not wait for the previous player to make their selection.

    Source: jakartapoolplayers.com/rules-killer

  • On coin-op pool tables, the player potting the 8 ball must pay for the next rack (including intra-game racks, and racks for starting subsequent games)

    Pay For The Rack: The player that pots the black ball must pay for the next rack, including starting a new game.

    Source: alandavisautomatics.weebly.com

  • Starting with different amounts of lives.

    You start with six lives. One for every letter in the word ‘Killer’ (hence the name).

    Source: rileys.co.uk/blog/how-to-play-killer-pool/

Killer Pool Notes and Miscellanea

  • Killer pool is a popular gambling game in the UK on English 8 ball tables.
  • Killer pool is often played late in the evening after league matches.
  • Killer Pool is, to a large extent, a game of chance and is intended to level out skill differences somewhat.
  • Killer pool is the primary game subject of the popular 1980s-1990s video game, Side Pocket.

Here's a video from 2019 showing snooker great Jimmy White playing killer pool with Norwich City players Grant Holt, Darren Huckerby, Grant Hanley, and Patrick Roberts in the Dafabet Killer Pool Challenge.

Killer Pool Rules

If you have any questions about Killer Pool Rules, please post them in the pool rules forum.

...or view existing Killer Pool Rules questions in the forum.

Killer Pool Rules History

If anyone knows of Killer Pool's origins, or any other history of the game, please comment down below.

These rules are compiled from several different sources (below) but none discuss the history of Killer Pool.

The official Killer Pool Rules are predominently observed in UK.

How to Play Killer Pool

  • Title: Killer Pool Rules
  • Author: (Billiards Forum)
  • Published: 12/19/2020 7:12:56 AM
  • Last Updated: 12/19/2020 9:53:39 AM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum

Killer Pool Rules

The Killer Pool Rules article belongs to the Billiards Ring Game Rules category.

In cue sports, a ring game is a game of pool played with more than 2 players and which follow a special set of modified rules.

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