Playing billiards in Phuket
Try billiards !
The purpose of this article is not to give a course on billiards or to explain the rules in detail.
The main purpose is to give people visiting Phuket some idea of what these games can be like.Many holidaymakers arriving in Phuket are not necessarily attracted by this game which often takes place in a rather noisy environment, sometimes with deafening music and not necessarily to their taste.
This lack of attraction can also be due to a simple lack of knowledge.
Here are some explanations...
As far as the choice of a venue is concerned, it is quite simple: go and play in a place you like and in which you feel good. In fact it's like going for a drink: you look from the outside, you listen... you feel like going in or not.
For many holiday makers in Phuket, playing pool is a common evening activity after a nice excursion and a good dinner, before going to sleep...
There are many places to play billiards in Rawai or in any other place in Phuket.
I have called this article "billiards" because there are several kinds of games that are played and the name billiards is the most convenient link to use.
- The "French billiard" or carambole which I will not dwell on because these specific tables do not exist here.
- American 8 pool which is most frequently played in most bars.
- American 9 pool which is played but less (it depends on the players who want to change the game)
- English snooker, of which there are fewer and fewer tables in Phuket.
For each speciality the tables exist in various dimensions. The most common size is 7 feet. Some establishments have 7 foot tables, others 8 and more rarely 9 foot tables.
The larger the table, the more difficult the game.
Just a small parenthesis to say a word about carom (carambole) or (3-ball billiards) since I alluded to it in the previous paragraph.
As I mentioned, this type of table does not exist in Thailand (or if it does, it is privately owned).
There are no pockets on such a table and you only play with 3 balls.
As you can see in this picture, one white ball has a small black dot on it, just to distinguish it from the other white one.
One player will use the ball with the dot, the other player the ball without the dot. Unless I'm mistaken, these balls are a bit bigger than the pool balls and a bit heavier too.
The game consists of playing your ball and hitting the other two in any order. Each "carom" scores 1 point. The strategy of this game (and it is the most difficult) is to keep the three balls as close together as possible. The more balls you keep together, the more points you can score. At first sight this may seem simple, but don't be fooled, this game is very difficult, and when you are a beginner in this discipline you have to be patient and spend a lot of time to progress.
I personally started playing this game when I was barely a teenager (10 to 12 years old)... then very quickly, I had to give up this game to go to school further away where there were no billiard tables. Anyway, at that time billiards was an "old man's sport"...
Comparing nowadays with other disciplines, I finally find this game of 3-ball billiards the most interesting, the hardest, the most complete and also my favourite game although I haven't played it since I was 12 years old !
I really enjoyed this 3-ball billiard experience and I have fond memories of it. Two or three very good players at the time gave me precious advice, and even lessons, and this is still useful today for American billiards or snooker.
Let's move on to these pocket tables...
8 ball, 9 ball, Snooker
As you can see from the two pictures above, there is a clear difference between an American Pool pocket and an English Snooker pocket.
The American Pool pockets are slightly larger (diameter) than the English Snooker pockets. In the game, the same applies to the balls: bigger pockets, bigger balls and vice versa.
On the English snooker tables still in use in some Phuket establishments, there is a tendency to prefer the American Pool game. Bigger balls in smaller pockets is complicated but doable. Playing pool on a snooker table is quite possible.
However, if you are a little bit skilled, snooker, which is a little bit less popular, is still a really interesting game that you can enjoy.
A brief history
Before 2004, most of the pool tables in Phuket were snooker tables. After the 2004 Tsunami which caused a lot of damage on the coast, many bars had to renew their equipment including their pool tables.
It is at this time, it seems to me, that the "American pool" tables really started to appear in Phuket. Equipped with a coin-operated machine, these new tables could not only be purchased for rent but could also bring in some money for the bar owners. Each game played was paid for.
As in many fields, word of mouth is the best form of advertising, so more and more bars were equipped with coin-operated American pool tables. Not only did this system avoid the need to invest a considerable amount of money for a small bar, but it also made money.
So, American pool tables took over from snooker tables in 2005...
On the other hand, I don't know if it is due to the long period of Covid 2019/2021 during which it was impossible to play pool, more and more bars don't charge for pool games anymore. Although tables are equipped with coin-operated machines, owners are increasingly letting people play for free, at least in Rawai... Some rare establishments charge by the hour (which can also be done)
It should also be noted that the American pool game (whether 8 pool or 9 pool) is much more friendly and easier to access than snooker. Anyone, from the beginner to the more experienced player, can have a great time and a great evening.
A low level player can play very well with a very good player.
Snooker is a completely different game, which requires a bit more technical and tactical skill and for a beginner it will certainly be less attractive. I would say that in this respect snooker and French billiards (carom) have one small point in common: if you are a beginner, you may find the time very long...
So in conclusion, if you land in a bar where there is a billiard table, whether it is a pool or snooker version, don't hesitate to try it, you will have fun for sure.
8 Pool (US)
The 8 Ball game: consists of 15 balls plus one cue ball.
A series numbered from 1 to 7 are called "spots".
Another set numbered 9 to 15 are called "stripes".
A black ball numbered 8 is the ball that must not be put in the pocket during the game or you will lose the game.
At the beginning of the game each player has a colour of ball: one will play the striped balls, the other will play the spot balls. The player playing stripes will have to manage to pocket all his balls... and this is where the black ball comes in. If the player who has entered all his striped balls then enters the black one, he has won the game.
Finally, in this game, the numbers of the balls are not used... it is only their colour and there is no order to play the balls.
It should be noted that more experienced players use a rule called "International" where each ball must be announced, for example: "I play the 6 in the middle pocket..." etc. In this case the ball numbers are used.
If you are a beginner, you will probably not be concerned by this detail.
There is no need to count or keep score... you empty the table of balls and that's it.
The numbers are used for another game (same table, same balls): the 9-ball game.
9 Ball (US)
Less practised, the game of 9 balls.
These are the same balls as for 8-ball, except that only the balls numbered 1 to 9 are kept on the table.
As in 8-ball, you have to pocket the balls, but you don't have to choose a colour. You start by pocketing the 1-ball, then the 2-ball, then the 3-ball and so on, until you reach the 9-ball. The winner is the one who pockets the 9-ball.
As in 8-ball, there is no scoring, you clear the table and that's it.
This game is as fun as the previous one... maybe a little more difficult for a beginner...
Snooker: consists of 15 red balls, one black ball, and several coloured balls.
This game is really different from the two others mentioned earlier, and requires a certain level... that said, even great players have started as complete beginners... so why not you?
If in the previous games (8 ball, 9 ball) you don't count points, here you have to count.
The principle is not complicated: you have to pocket a red ball, then a different coloured ball, then a red ball again, then a different colour again.
Each red ball earns 1 point. The black ball scores 7 points, the pink ball 6 points, etc...
Again, the game is played until the table is cleared of balls, ending with the black ball.
This game is really very interesting because it requires "touch" of the ball, technique, reflection and logic. Even more than in pool, you have to play with the next move in mind: play in such a way that the cue ball is in a favourable position to make the next move easier: this is the difficulty. In pool too, but this detail is more important in snooker.
For small players, usually only 6 red balls are placed on the table, otherwise the games would be endless. This game is admittedly more difficult than pool.
The best example of Snooker
Whether in Phuket, Bangkok, Chiang Mai... 8 or 9 ball competitions are regularly organised. It can be in the form of championship (by teams) or in the form of tournament (individual).
- The championship formula is played on a specific evening of the week. For a new player, it is not necessarily easy to fit in unless you have acquaintances who can get you to play in a team occasionally. Every week during these championship evenings, there is always a team looking for a player to replace an absent one...
- There is no fixed day for the tournaments... each bar organises its tournament as it sees fit. The number of players depends on the number of tables available, but this number can go from 10 to 25 players.
- Another form of mini-competition are the "Killer" evenings which are organised by some establishments, but this discipline does not require any particular organisation, it can be organised as soon as 5 or 6 players are present and one of them launches the idea of making a killer. It is often very amusing, very convivial.
For the holidaymaker passing through Phuket, these competitions are probably not very interesting.
However, even if you are just passing through, you can always sign up and participate in an organised tournament.
These tournaments are open to everyone, and to all levels.
In general, the entry fee is 300THB and you can play against several players during the evening, get to know each other, make friends... the tournament organiser records the results, establishes a ranking, designates at the end of the first round the players qualified for the next round etc...
In Rawai, for example, Monday is dedicated to championship matches... but from Tuesday to Sunday, tournaments are organised in the evening in many bars. To know which bar is organising a tournament, just ask a player you meet at a table... or ask a bar owner...
It is the same in places like Kata/Karon, Patong, Kamala, Bangtao... or Kathu.
8 pool ball Tournament
TOURNAMENTS: The principle is simple... these are organised directly by the bars in the evening. To take Rawai as an example, Monday is reserved for the championship and then from Tuesday to Sunday each bar can organise its own tournament.
The number of participants is variable depending on the tournament... this participation can go from 10 to 24 players.
Championnat de 8 Pool
CHAMPIONSHIP: In Rawai a championship is organised every year and the team competition takes place every Monday evening. Contrary to the tournaments which are individual competitions where each player registers according to his desire... the championship is a team competition which requires a real organization.
Each bar can present a team of 4 players. Some bars present two or even three teams...
Contrary to tournaments, a championship requires a committee with leaders: President, Treasurer, Secretary etc... In fact, it requires a whole organisation: rules, organisation (calendar of matches) in short, it requires work from the organisers.
This season 2022/2023 the Rawai championship is incredibly long since it is composed of a single pool of 28 teams... which means that 27 matches will be played in a round robin format, i.e. 54 matches which will take more than a year to complete.
28 teams with 4 players... so every Monday 112 players are present to defend their team's colours. Impressive, isn't it?
To give you an idea of this championship, here is the link which will allow you to have a more precise idea:
Schedule of matches, results, rankings: