What Are The Official Rules For Three-cushion Billiards?

If you’ve ever found yourself pondering the intricacies of the game of three-cushion billiards, look no further. In this article, we will unravel the mystery surrounding the official rules of this beloved cue sport. From understanding how to score points to deciphering the complexities of legal shots, we’ve got you covered. So, grab your cue stick and get ready to dive into the world of three-cushion billiards!


Welcome to the world of three-cushion billiards! This article will introduce you to the official rules of the game and provide you with all the information you need to start playing and enjoying this exciting sport. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, understanding the basics and strategies of three-cushion billiards will enhance your gaming experience and help you improve your skills.

Basic Information

Three-cushion billiards, also known as three-cushion carom, is a cue sport that originated in France in the late 19th century. Unlike traditional pool or pocket billiards, where the objective is to pocket specific balls, three-cushion billiards focuses on the precision and strategy of making contact between the cue ball, two object balls, and three cushions. This makes it a challenging and fascinating game that tests players’ ability to calculate angles and plan shots.

Objective of the Game

The objective of three-cushion billiards is to score points by making a successful hit that involves the cue ball, two object balls, and at least three cushions. The player who reaches a predetermined number of points first, or achieves the highest score within a specific time limit, wins the game. Three-cushion billiards is often played in a competitive setting, and there are professional organizations and world championships dedicated to this thrilling sport.

Game Setup

Before diving into the gameplay, let’s discuss the different elements involved in setting up a game of three-cushion billiards.

Billiard Table

Three-cushion billiards is typically played on a rectangular billiard table, similar to a pool table. The table’s dimensions usually measure around 9 feet by 4.5 feet, and it is covered with a smooth cloth surface. The table has six pockets, usually covered during three-cushion billiards play, as pocketing balls is not the objective of the game.


Three-cushion billiards is played with three different types of balls: a white cue ball and two object balls of different colors. Traditionally, one object ball is white and the other is red. These balls are typically made of high-quality materials to ensure their durability and consistent performance.

Racking the Balls

To start a game of three-cushion billiards, the two object balls are placed on the table in specific positions known as the “diamonds.” One diamond is located at the head of the table and the other at the foot. The red object ball is placed on the spot nearest to the head cushion, while the white object ball is placed on the corresponding spot nearest to the foot cushion. The white cue ball is placed anywhere within a designated area known as the “D,” located behind the head string.


Now that you’re familiar with the game setup, let’s explore how the gameplay unfolds in three-cushion billiards.

Starting the Game

To begin a game, one player is chosen to break, which means they will take the first turn. The break shot consists of striking the cue ball with the intention of making a legal hit on both object balls and at least three cushions. The player who successfully scores points on the break continues their turn, while the other player takes their turn if no points are scored or a foul occurs.

Player Turn

During your turn, your goal is to hit both object balls with the cue ball and make them contact at least three cushions before either object ball makes contact with the last cushion. This is known as achieving a “legal hit.” In order to keep your turn, you must make a legal hit or score points. If you don’t, it becomes your opponent’s turn.


In three-cushion billiards, scoring can vary depending on the level of play and agreed-upon rules. Generally, players receive one point for each successful legal hit. However, different scoring systems exist, such as the “plus one” system where each successful legal hit earns one point, and the “two-point” system where each scored carom earns two points. Understanding the specific scoring system being used in your game is crucial to keep track of your progress and plan your strategies accordingly.


Like any sport, three-cushion billiards has certain fouls that can result in penalties. Among the common fouls are failing to hit any ball, a direct hit on a cushion without contacting any ball, making contact with a cushion before hitting any ball, or making a double hit with the cue tip. When a foul occurs, the opponent receives the cue ball in hand and can place it anywhere on the table, setting themselves up for their turn.

Legal Shots

Now that you know the basics of gameplay, let’s delve into some fundamental rules regarding legal shots in three-cushion billiards.

Object Ball Contact

To be considered a legal hit, the cue ball must make contact with both object balls. The order in which the balls are struck does not matter, as long as both balls are hit during the shot. It is important to note that direct contact with a cushion before hitting an object ball is not considered a legal hit, and therefore will result in a foul.

Cushion Contact

In order for a shot to be legal, the cue ball must contact three cushions (including the two short rails) before either object ball makes contact with the last cushion. The number of cushion contacts can vary depending on specific rules or regional variations, but three cushion contacts are the most common requirement worldwide.

Three Cushion Requirement

The three-cushion requirement adds an additional layer of challenge to the game, encouraging players to consider different shot angles and trajectories. By incorporating three cushion contacts, players are forced to plan their shots carefully, calculating the necessary rebound angles to achieve a successful legal hit. This requirement distinguishes three-cushion billiards from other cue sports and adds an element of strategy that keeps players engaged and constantly improving their skills.

Three-Cushion Scoring

Scoring in three-cushion billiards can be a bit complex due to the various scoring systems that exist. While the scoring system may vary depending on the rules being followed or the level of play, we will outline two commonly used methods.

Determining Points

In the “plus one” scoring system, each legal hit counts as one point. When a player scores a legal hit, they continue their turn and attempt another shot. If the player fails to make a legal hit, their opponent takes the turn.

In the “two-point” scoring system, each scored carom (when the cue ball contacts both object balls and at least three cushions) earns two points. If a player fails to make a scored carom, they continue their turn until they achieve one or foul.

Scoring Examples

Let’s look at two scoring examples to illustrate how points are calculated in three-cushion billiards:

  1. Plus One Scoring System: You successfully hit both object balls, and the cue ball contacts at least three cushions. You score a legal hit and earn one point. You continue your turn to attempt another shot.

  2. Two-Point Scoring System: You hit both object balls, and the cue ball contacts at least three cushions, resulting in a scored carom. You score two points and continue your turn. If you fail to make a scored carom, your turn ends, and your opponent takes over.

Special Situations

In addition to the standard gameplay rules, three-cushion billiards offers players the opportunity to enhance their skills and showcase their talent with special shots that require advanced techniques. Here are three special situations you might encounter:

Carom Shot

A carom shot occurs when the cue ball makes contact with both object balls, but only one of them touches a cushion before the last cushion. Carom shots can be more challenging to execute, as they require precise accuracy and control over the position of the object balls. Mastering carom shots can significantly impact your scoring potential and strategic options during a game.

Massé Shot

A massé shot is a highly advanced technique where the cue ball is intentionally elevated and imparted with a significant amount of spin, causing it to curve around an obstacle ball or curve into a desired direction. Massé shots are considered trick shots and are not commonly used in regular three-cushion billiards play due to their complexity. However, they showcase the skill and finesse of experienced players and can be a thrilling addition to exhibition matches or friendly competitions.

Jump Shot

Similar to pocket billiards, a jump shot in three-cushion billiards involves lifting the cue ball off the table to strike an object ball that is obstructing the path to the target. Jump shots are useful when faced with challenging situations where an ordinary shot is not feasible due to obstacles. Mastering jump shots requires practice, control, and precision, as mistimed or inaccurate execution can result in fouls or negative outcomes.

General Rules

Beyond the specific gameplay and shot techniques, there are additional general rules and guidelines to ensure a fair and enjoyable experience in three-cushion billiards.

Time Limit

In some competitive matches or tournaments, a time limit may be imposed to ensure the game progresses at a reasonable pace. Players must complete their turn within the designated time frame, failing which they may face penalties or lose their turn. It is essential to be mindful of time limits to maintain the flow of the game and allow both players an equal opportunity to demonstrate their skills.

Conceding the Game

At any point during a game, a player may choose to concede if they believe it is impossible to catch up to their opponent’s score or if they encounter an insurmountable challenge. Conceding allows players to gracefully acknowledge their opponent’s skill or their own limitations, ending the game early without unnecessary delay.

Equipment Issues

If any issue with the equipment, such as the table or balls, is encountered during a game, players should immediately bring it to the attention of the referee or the opponent. It is important to address equipment issues promptly to avoid unfair advantages or disadvantages and ensure a fair playing environment.

Penalties and Fouls

Just as in other sports, three-cushion billiards has a set of penalties and fouls that players should be aware of to avoid any inadvertent rule violations.

Loss of Turn

Failure to make a legal hit or score points results in the immediate loss of the player’s turn. The opponent then takes over and begins their turn.

Point Deductions

Certain fouls can result in point deductions. The number of points deducted can vary depending on the specific rulebook being followed. Common fouls include not hitting any ball, double hit, touching balls with another object (such as a cloth brush), and touching a ball with your hand.

Warning System

In official competitions, a warning system may be implemented to keep players accountable for their conduct during matches. Players can receive warnings or penalizations for various reasons, such as unsportsmanlike behavior, deliberate fouls, or repeated rule violations. A certain number of warnings may result in the loss of points, a forfeit of the game, or disqualification from the tournament.

Tournaments and Championships

For those passionate about three-cushion billiards, the sport offers exciting opportunities to participate in tournaments and championships organized by professional organizations worldwide.

Professional Organizations

Various professional organizations promote and govern the sport of three-cushion billiards at the international level. These organizations, such as the Union Mondiale de Billard (UMB) and the Asian Carom Billiards Confederation (ACBC), create opportunities for players to compete against the best in the world, earn rankings, and represent their respective countries on a global stage. Following these organizations and participating in their events allows players to be part of a thriving community and constantly develop their skills through challenging competition.

World Championships

The most prestigious event in three-cushion billiards is the World Championship. These championships are held annually and gather the world’s top players for a high-stakes battle to prove their skills and claim the ultimate title. Participating in the World Championship is considered a significant achievement and a dream for many three-cushion billiards enthusiasts.


Three-cushion billiards is a captivating and mentally stimulating sport that combines precision, strategy, and finesse. By understanding the official rules and guidelines, players can fully immerse themselves in the game and enhance their skills over time. Whether you’re playing recreationally with friends or competing in professional tournaments, three-cushion billiards offers endless possibilities for enjoyment and personal growth. So grab your cue stick, line up your shots, and let the game begin!