How To Play Kelly Pool

Man holding Kelly Pool shaker bottle with marbles

Pool and billiard games are classics and can be lifelong passions. They combine physical and mental exercises in one fun social activity. Some people find these table games easy to learn, whilst others have a bit of a hard time. Regardless of your age and skill level, a wide range of pool and billiard games never go out of style and accommodate a crowd of players. One of them is Kelly Pool.

What is Kelly Pool?

If you haven't heard about Kelly Pool, that's probably because you know it as pea pool or pill pool. The name is also spelt differently with variations like Keilley, Keelay, and Killy. Whatever you want to call it, this game has been around since 1893 and was introduced by Calistus "Kelly" Mulvaney in Chicago, Illinois.

So, what is Kelly Pool about? The game involves at least two players, but it can be played by up to 15 people. It's recommended, though, that three to six people participate. This makes Kelly Pool a perfect match for large gatherings like family get-togethers.

The game requires:
  • A pool (or billiards) table
  • 16 pool balls
  • Cue sticks
  • 15 numbered peas (also known as pills, tally, or shake balls)
  • A shake bottle
Kelly Pool involves players drawing one out of the 15 numbered peas from the shake bottle. No one should know what number they got, but each player should pocket the corresponding pool ball in order to win the game.

Still confused? Don't worry; we'll get into more details, so you can play Kelly Pool with your family and friends. 

How to Set up Kelly Pool

Once you have the necessary equipment listed above, you can begin setting up the game by racking the balls as follows:

  • The 1 ball is placed at the top of the rack, right on the spot at the foot end of the table between the second diamonds on the long rail.
  • The 2 ball is placed in the corner to your right
  • The 3 ball is in the left corner
The other balls are then randomly placed as you pleased, ensuring all are touching.

How to Play Kelly Pool

To begin the game, all peas or pills are placed in a container with a narrow neck. Players traditionally shake the bottle to ensure the numbers are randomly drawn. Each player then picks their numbered pill from the bottle without revealing what number they got. This number is sometimes called the players' number, which they will legally pocket during the game.

The object of Kelly Pool is to pocket the same number as the pea or pill you got at the start of the game. You can "kill" another player's pill by sinking their numbered object ball, which will give you extra points. In most games, it is a requirement to make sure that the cue ball hits the lowest numbered ball on the table. 

Stick to the Rules
With the mechanics above, it seems like Kelly Pool is pretty straightforward. It's a rotation game, meaning players pocket the balls from the lowest to the highest. In billiards, there is a safety call where a shooting player is not required to continue their turn after pocketing a ball. Kelly Pool does not have safety calls. Legal pocketing requires the player to continue shooting the lowest numbered ball on the table. Illegal pocketing occurs when the ball is spotted close to the foot rail.

Fouls do not cost any point penalties. However, the next player can either accept the next shot or require the previous shooter to continue playing. Sometimes, fouls occur when the cue ball jumps off the table. Other times, it scratches or goes into a table pocket. In both cases, the next player places the cue ball behind the head string or kitchen. They can then take the next shot or compel the opponent to shoot. Whoever gets to pocket a ball can spot the object ball to the foot spot if it is behind the head string.

Other Kelly Pool rules all players have to follow include:
  • Just like pool and billiards, Kelly Pool requires an open break where at least four balls should be driven into the rails.
  • With each shot, the cue ball should always touch the lowest numbered ball on the table.
  • A player whose private number is pocketed by another must announce this before the next shot. Otherwise, they are disqualified from the game.
  • Fouls occur, as mentioned previously. There are no penalties for each foul, including scratches as a result of pocketing the cue ball. Instead, the incoming player can decide whether they take the next shot or force the offending player to continue the shot.
Some players can claim a foul shot with the same rules as pool and billiards. For example, both feet are off the floor, or the cue ball is moved whilst striking. However, in order for these rules to be recognised, the players should know about them prior to starting the game. So, who wins the game? With the rules followed, the winner of the game is the first player to pocket their private number legally.

Another popular variation of the game has a points system, where players score points for pocketing other players' private numbers. Meanwhile, players who have their private number pocketed lose a point. You still win the game if you are the first player to pocket your private number. However, if no player pockets their private number, the game continues until the last private number is pocketed. The points are doubled and can then be restarted.

As you can see, Kelly Pool is not that complicated. It's fun with no complex rules. That's why it's a great game to play, whether you are an avid pool player or you're just looking to pass the time with your friends. You can go one-on-one or have multiple other players go against you.

Products and Accessories for Kelly Pool

Aside from the most fundamental billiards necessities (a pool table, sticks, balls, and a rack), there are not many other parts used for Kelly Pool. The Cue Shop has everything you need to started and finesse your game.

Kelly Pool is indeed a versatile game, so once you have all the equipment ready, you know they will be a mainstay of your billiard collection!

Have More Questions on How to Play Kelly Pool?

If you have questions on how to play Kelly Pool or would like personalised product recommendations, we love providing customers the best tips and tricks on all cue sports. Reach out to our dedicated team.