Playing pool in real life is a tricky game involving muscle control and cold calculation. Playing Pool Pro Online 3 on your iPhone takes away the muscle problem, but the intricate physics are so well-done, you’d swear it was the real thing.

A simple billiards game at heart, Pool Pro Online 3 gives you three different games to play: 8-Ball, 9-Ball and Snooker. If you’ve never played any of these pool variations, the game’s generous tutorials will let you in on the simple rule sets, and you’ll be off. If you play against the computer, you’ll have four difficulty levels to choose from.

Pool Pro Online 3

The first thing you’ll notice in Pool Pro Online 3 is the silky smooth visuals. Boasting great detail and smooth animation, Pool Pro Online 3 is certainly one of the prettier games on the iPhone. Each locale is has clear textures, with cool ambient lighting. At any time, you can switch from a bird’s-eye view of the table to a first-person view, to help you line up that tricky shot. Guide arrows (which can be toggled on or off) add an extra level of help to novices.

Unfortunately, the in-game music doesn’t hold up as well. It’s a kind of smooth-jazz saxophone affair that can be mercifully changed in the options screen to a playlist of your own music. The sound effects are fine, though. The clinking of pool balls and the satisfying “plunk” of a sunken ball are all there.

Playing Pool Pro Online 3 is as deep as you want it to be, but very easy to control. First, you’ll line up your cue to aim generally where you want to shoot by circling it with your finger on the table. A slider bar at the bottom allows you to subtly change your angle. If you want to add a little “English” (spin or curve), you can tap the cue ball icon at the top and set precisely where your cue will hit by moving a red dot on a close-up of your ball. Finally, when it is time to shoot, a vertical slider on the right side of the screen gives you perfect control of the force of the shot. If you’re not 100% happy, you can just trace your finger off the slider to cancel the shot. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to get it right, and the control means there’s no excuse for a botched shot.

Pool Pro Online 3

The physics, too, are solid. Balls behave exactly as you would expect. Hitting a ball too hard could result in the ball rattling around the opening of the hole, but not falling in. Ricochet is clean and predictable, and very solid. As a bonus, when the computer shoots, you can fast-forward to the final results of the shot to get on with your game.

(If there is a downside here, it’s that there are only three games to play. Some trick shooting involving those great physics would have gone a long way to fleshing out the package.)

Playing well earns you “scratch,” Pool Pro Online 3‘s in-game currency. There is a ton of material to buy, including different cues, tables, felts and bumpers and even new locales. You’ll have no shortage of motivation here.

But playing pool against the computer is only the start. Pool Pro Online 3 feature a number of local multiplayer options, including either sharing the device by passing it form one player to the next. If you and your friend both have iPhones (or iPod Touches, or even iPads; you can mix and match) you can play using a local WiFi or Bluetooth connection.

As if this weren’t enough, the game’s online mode allows you to bet against other players (either over WiFi or 3G if you have an iPhone, or WiFi if you have an iPod Touch) to earn more scratch (or just a friendly “gentlemen’s game” if you’d prefer not to put cash on the line). Online play was smooth and responsive even just using my phone’s data plan, and even has a nice text chat feature. The only problem was that I would be typing a message, and would get kicked out of the chat window to watch the shot. After the shot was finished, I could bring up the chat window again and resume. Not game-breaking, but definitely a nuisance. The people I played with online, though, were very pleasant! If you want to boast about your achievements, Pool Pro Online 3 also features Facebook Connect.

Pool Pro Online 3 is the complete pool hall experience. If you love shooting a few rounds, Pool Pro Online 3 brings it to your lap or pocket with uncanny accuracy. Even if you have a passing interest in the game, rack up Pool Pro Online 3 and give it a break.