How to Play Carom Billiards (Rules, Tips & Tricks)

Home Rec World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

Carom billiards is one of the most unique cue sports you will see around. Most people, even those that play a lot of pool, do not know what carom billiards even is. However, those that play it will tell you it is among the most fun and skillful variations of billiards games you can play.

In this article, you will discover the differences between carom billiards and regular pool as well as the equipment and rules you will need to know to play the game. Plus, you will find some tips, tricks, and mistakes to avoid as well so you can fully enjoy this great alternative billiards game.

How to Play Carom Billiards (Rules, Tips & Tricks)

What Is Carom Billiards and How Is It Different from Regular Pool?

Carom billiards is played on a similar table and with similar pool cues as regular pool but this is about where the similarities end.

The felt on a carom billiards table is typically a good bit slicker than a normal pool table so it is easier for balls to travel for longer. Also, there are no pockets on a carom billiards table as the object of the game is not to pocket any balls. There are only three balls in carom billiards as well and they are a little bit bigger than the balls you would use for eight-ball.

Lastly, the rules to play this game are much different than regular pool which we will get into in a later section.

What Equipment Do You Need to Play Carom Billiards?

To play carom billiards you will need to start with a carom billiards table. These tables are usually 10 x 5 feet and do not have any pockets on them.

Next, you will need at least two pool cues (unless you plan on sharing) and a set of three carom billiard balls (one white, one white with a dot, one red). Sometimes, a set of four balls is used instead.

Other than this, it is a good idea to buy some chalk for your cue sticks’ tips and you are all set to play.

How to Play Carom Billiards: The Rules

With the basics out of the way, let’s go in detail over the rules of carom billiards.

Starting a Game

To figure out who starts, the two players can decide by shooting a lag shot. This is when you shoot a ball from behind the head line of the table and try to bounce it off the back rail to get it as close to the head rail as you can on the way back. The person who gets closest to the head rail is the one that chooses whether they want to break or not.

However, if your ball doesn’t touch the back rail or if it touches any other part of the table besides the head or back rail, the other person gets to choose.

You can shoot this shot at the same time but, if you decide to do this, neither player’s balls can cross the imaginary vertical line in the center or they lose the lag automatically. If players do this, shoot the lag again.


Carom billiards is won by scoring points rather than pocketing balls and you score one point every time you hit the cue ball into the other two balls.  Other variations of this game such as one-cushion or three-cushion billiards require you to hit the cue ball into one or three cushions as well as hitting the other two balls to score a point.

Performing fouls will deduct a point from your total score and, typically, carom billiards is played until one player racks up a score of 50 points. Of course, you can play to any amount of points you’d like depending on how quick or long you want the game to go for.


The player who breaks should put the cue ball they wish to start with within 6 inches of the center spot on the head line, the red ball on the foot spot, and the other white cue ball on the head spot.

A legal break must contact the red ball first and, if the player manages to get a point on the break, they can choose which ball they want to use as their cue ball for the rest of the game. If they do not get a point, the opponent gets to make this choice.

Continuing a Game

The players rotate turns whenever their opponent does not successfully get a point or commits a foul. There are no scratches in this game but there is a foul if a player jumps their cue ball off of the table.

At this point, both players have chosen which cue ball is theirs and cannot strike the other cue ball with their stick. The game stops when a player reaches 50 points or whatever the agreed-upon winning number is.


Fouls in carom billiards will always result in a one-point deduction from the offender’s total score and a loss of turn for that player as well. Players can play safety shots by contacting a cue ball to another ball and having at least one other ball touch a cushion. However, if they fail to do this or shoot a safety shot two times in a row it is a foul.

Also, you are not allowed to jump balls whatsoever in carom billiards. This includes trying to jump the cue ball over another ball, doing so is a foul and you will get a one-point deduction regardless of if the shot is successful or not.

Shooting your opponent’s cue ball or the red ball is also a foul and other basic pool rules such as having at least one foot on the ground when you shoot and not shooting a push shot also apply in carom billiards as well.

Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks

Practicing bank shots and combination shots on a regular pool table is a great way to get better at carom billiards. Since the way you score points is essentially hitting combination shots, the more you try these on a normal pool table the more comfortable you’ll feel in this game.

Also, you will want to utilize the railings in this game as much as you can. In particular, variations like three-cushion require you to use the railings and if they are used well, they can turn a difficult shot into a much nicer one.

Another good thing to keep track of is how you set up your next shot. Cue placement is very important in pool and even more so in carom billiards.  You will want to adjust how hard you hit your cue ball and at what angle so you can set yourself up for the next shot and possibly go on a good run to stack up a big lead before your opponent gets the chance to do the same.


Now that we have come to a close, hopefully, you now have everything you need to know in order to properly play carom billiards and have fun with this very different style of billiars.  There aren’t many rules that govern carom billiards and you are free to try out all kinds of different strategies to give you an edge over your opponents and get better along the way.

Be sure to keep in mind all the mistakes to avoid, as well as the tips and tricks told above, and best of luck in continuing to learn all about carom billiards and enjoying this great alternative to regular pool.