The World Standardized Rules of Play were updated at the 1999 World
Pool-Billiard Association General Assembly, whereby it was approved to recognize
a five year moratorium on rules changes to last through the end of year 2004
Rules for Pocket Billiards
These general rules apply to all pocket billiard games, UNLESS specifically
noted to the contrary in the individual game rules.
All games described in these rules are designed for tables, balls and
equipment meeting the standards prescribed in the WPA Equipment Specifications.
When racking the balls a triangle must be used, and the apex ball is to be
spotted on the foot spot. All the balls must be lined up behind the apex ball
and pressed together so that they all have contact with each other.
Legal shots require that the cue ball be struck only with the cue tip.
Failure to meet this requirement is a foul.
For games of call-shot a player may shoot any ball he chooses, but before he
shoots, must designate the called ball and called pocket. He need not indicate
any detail such as kisses, caroms, combinations, or cushions (all of which are
legal). Any additionally pocketed ball(s) on a legal stroke is counted in the
TO POCKET A BALL
If a player fails to pocket a ball on a legal shot, then the player's inning
is over, and it is the opponent's turn at the table.
6 LAG FOR
The following procedure is used for the lag for the opening break. Each
player should use balls of equal size and weight (preferably cue balls but, when
not available, non-striped object balls). With the balls in hand behind the head
string, one player to the left and one to the right of the head spot, the balls
are shot simultaneously to the foot cushion and back to the head end of the
table. The player whose ball is the closest to the innermost edge of the head
cushion wins the lag. The lagged ball must contact the foot cushion at least
once. Other cushion contacts are immaterial, except as prohibited below. It is
an automatic loss of the lag if:
(a) The ball crosses into the opponent's half of the table;
(b) The ball fails to contact the foot cushion;
(c) The ball drops into a pocket;
(d) The ball jumps the table;
(e) The ball touches the long cushion;
(f) The ball rests within the corner pocket and past the nose of the head
(g) The ball contacts the foot rail more than once. If both players violate
automatic-loss lag rules, or if the referee is unable to determine which ball is
closer, the lag is a tie and is replayed.
The opening break shot is determined by either lag or lot. (The lag for break
procedure is required for formal competition.) The player winning the lag or lot
has the choice of performing the opening break shot or assigning it to the
8 CUE BALL
ON OPENING BREAK
The opening break shot is taken with cue ball in hand behind the head string.
The object balls are positioned according to specific game rules. On the opening
break, the game is considered to have commenced once the cue ball has been
struck by the cue tip.
DEFLECTING THE CUE BALL ON THE GAME'S OPENING BREAK
On the break shot, stopping or deflecting the cue ball after it has crossed
the head string and prior to hitting the racked balls is considered a foul and
loss of turn. The opponent has the option of receiving cue ball in hand behind
the head string or passing the cue ball in hand behind the head string back to
the offending player. (Exception: 9-Ball, see Rule
3: "cue ball in hand anywhere on the table"). A warning must be
given that a second violation during the match will result in the loss of the
match by forfeiture. (See Rule 28.)
BALL IN HAND BEHIND THE HEAD STRING
This situation applies in specific games whereby the opening break is
administered or a player's scratching is penalized by the incoming player having
cue ball in hand behind the head string. The incoming player may place the cue
ball anywhere behind the head string. The shooting player may shoot at any
object ball as long as the base of the object ball is on or below the head
string. He may not shoot at any ball, the base of which is above the head
string, unless he first shoots the cue ball below the head string and then by
hitting a rail causes the cue ball to come back above the head string and hit
the object ball. The base of the ball (the point of the ball touching the table)
determines whether it is above or below the head string. If the incoming player
inadvertently places the cue ball on or below the head string, the referee or
the opposing player must inform the shooting player of improper positioning of
the cue ball before the shot is made. If the opposing player does not so inform
the shooting player before the shot is made, the shot is considered legal. If
the shooting player is informed of improper positioning, he must then reposition
the cue ball. If a player positions the cue ball completely and obviously
outside the kitchen and shoots the cue ball, it is a foul. (Refer to Rule
2.21) When the cue ball is in hand behind the head string, it remains in
hand (not in play) until the player drives the cue ball past the head string by
striking it with his cue tip. The cue ball may be adjusted by the player's hand,
cue, etc., so long as it remains in hand. Once the cue ball is in play per the
above, it may not be impeded in any way by the player; to do so is to commit a
foul. Additionally, if the shot fails to contact a legal object ball or fails to
drive the cue ball over the head string, the shot is a foul and the opposing
player has ball in hand according to the specific game rules.
A ball is considered pocketed if as a result of an otherwise legal shot, it
drops off the bed of the table into the pocket and remains there. (A ball that
drops out of a ball return system onto the floor is not to be construed as a
ball that has not remained pocketed.) A ball that re-bounds from a pocket back
onto the table bed is not a pocketed ball.
POSITION OF BALLS
The position of a ball is judged by where its base (or center) rests.
13 FOOT ON
Player must have at least one foot in contact with the floor at the moment
the cue tip contacts the cue ball, or the shot is a foul. Foot attire must be
normal in regard to size, shape and manner in which it is worn.
SHOOTING WITH BALLS IN MOTION
It is a foul if a player shoots while the cue ball or any object ball is in
motion (a spinning ball is in motion).
COMPLETION OF STROKE
A stroke is not complete (and therefore is not counted) until all balls on
the table have become motionless after the stroke (a spinning ball is in
The area behind the head string does not include the head string. Thus, an
object ball that is dead center on the head string is playable when specific
game rules require that a player must shoot at a ball past the head string.
Likewise, the cue ball when being put in play behind the head string (cue ball
in hand behind the head string), may not be placed directly on the head string;
it must be behind it.
RULE, ALL FOULS
Though the penalties for fouls differ from game to game, the following apply
to all fouls:
(a) Player's inning ends;
(b) If on a stroke, the stroke is invalid and any pocketed balls are not counted
to the shooter's credit, and;
(c) Any ball(s) is respotted only if the rules of the specific game require it.
TO CONTACT OBJECT BALL
It is a foul if on a stroke the cue ball fails to make contact with any legal
object ball first. Playing away from a touching ball does not constitute having
hit that ball.
Unless otherwise stated in a specific game rule, a player must cause the cue
ball to contact a legal object ball and then:
(a) Pocket a numbered ball, or;
(b) Cause the cue ball or any numbered ball to contact a cushion or any part of
the rail. Failure to meet these requirements is a foul.
It is a foul (scratch) if on a stroke, the cue ball is pocketed. If the cue
ball touches an object ball that was already pocketed (for example, in a pocket
full of object balls), the shot is a foul.
BY TOUCHING BALLS
It is a foul to strike, touch or in any way make contact with the cue ball in
play or any object balls in play with anything (the body, clothing, chalk,
mechanical bridge, cue shaft, etc.) except the cue tip (while attached to the
cue shaft), which may contact the cue ball in the execution of a legal shot.
Whenever a referee is presiding over a match, any object ball moved during a
standard foul must be returned as closely as possible to its original position
as judged by the referee, and the incoming player does not have the option of
restoration. (Also see Rule
22 FOUL BY
Touching any object ball with the cue ball while it is in hand is a foul.
23 FOULS BY DOUBLE HITS
If the cue ball is touching the required object ball prior to the shot, the
player may shoot toward it, providing that any normal stroke is employed. If the
cue stick strikes the cue ball more than once on a shot, or if the cue stick is
in contact with the cue ball when or after the cue ball contacts an object ball,
the shot is foul. (See Rule
2.20 for judging this kind of shot.) If a third ball is close by, care
should be taken not to foul that ball under the first part of this rule.
It is a foul if the cue ball is pushed by the cue tip, with contact being
maintained for more than the momentary time commensurate with a stroked shot.
(Such shots are usually referred to as push shots.)
The player is responsible for chalk, bridges, files and any other items or
equipment he brings to, uses at, or causes to approximate the table. If he drops
a piece of chalk, or knocks off a mechanical bridge head, as examples, he is
guilty of a foul should such an object make contact with any ball in play (or
the cue ball only if no referee is presiding over the match).
JUMPING OF BALL
It is a foul if a player strikes the cue ball below center ("digs
under" it) and intentionally causes it to rise off the bed of the table in
an effort to clear an obstructing ball. Such jumping action may occasionally
occur accidentally, and such "jumps" are not to be considered fouls on
their face; they may still be ruled foul strokes, if for example, the ferrule or
cue shaft makes contact with the cue ball in the course of the shot.
Unless otherwise stated in rules for a specific game it is legal to cause the
cue ball to rise off the bed of the table by elevating the cue stick on the
shot, and forcing the cue ball to rebound from the bed of the table. Any miscue
when executing a jump shot is a foul.
BALLS JUMPED OFF TABLE
Balls coming to rest other than on the bed of the table after a stroke (on
the cushion top, rail surface, floor, etc.) are considered jumped balls. Balls
may bounce on the cushion tops and rails of the table in play without being
jumped balls if they return to the bed of the table under their own power and
without touching anything not a part of the table. The table shall consist of
the permanent part of the table proper. (Balls that strike or touch anything not
a part of the table, such as the light fixture, chalk on the rails and cushion
tops, etc., shall be considered jumped balls even though they might return to
the bed of the table after contacting items which are not parts of the table
proper). In all pocket billiard games, when a stroke results in the cue ball or
any object ball being a jumped ball off the table, the stroke is a foul. All
jumped object balls are spotted (except in Nine-Ball and in Eight Ball) when all
balls have stopped moving. See specific game rules for putting the cue ball in
play after a jumped cue ball foul.
INTENTIONAL FOUL PENALTY
The cue ball in play shall not be intentionally struck with anything other
than a cue's attached tip (such as the ferrule, shaft, etc.). While such contact
is automatically a foul under the provisions of Rule 19, if
the referee deems the contact to be intentional, he shall warn the player once
during a match that a second violation during that match will result in the loss
of the match by forfeiture. If a second violation does occur, the match must be
Unless specific game rules dictate otherwise, only one foul is assessed on a
player in each inning; if different penalties can apply, the most severe penalty
is the factor determining which foul is assessed.
If a ball shifts, settles, turns or otherwise moves "by itself,"
the ball shall remain in the position it assumed and play continues. A hanging
ball that falls into a pocket "by itself" after being motionless for 5
seconds or longer shall be replaced as closely as possible to its position prior
to falling, and play shall continue. If an object ball drops into a pocket
"by itself" as a player shoots at it, so that the cue ball passes over
the spot the ball had been on, unable to hit it, the cue ball and object ball
are to be replaced to their positions prior to the stroke, and the player may
shoot again. Any other object balls disturbed on the stroke are also to be
replaced to their original positions before the shooter replays.
When specific game rules call for spotting balls, they shall be replaced on
the table on the long string after the stroke is complete. A single ball is
placed on the foot spot; if more than one ball is to be spotted, they are placed
on the long string in ascending numerical order, beginning on the foot spot and
advancing toward the foot rail. When balls on or near the foot spot or long
string interfere with the spotting of balls, the balls to be spotted are placed
on the long string as close as possible to the foot spot without moving the
interfering balls. Spotted balls are to be placed as close as possible or frozen
(at the referee's discretion) to such interfering balls, except when the cue
ball is interfering; balls to be spotted against the cue ball are placed as
close as possible without being frozen. If there is insufficient room on the
long string between the foot spot and the foot rail cushion for balls that must
be spotted, such balls are then placed on the extension of the long string
"in front" of the foot spot (between the foot spot and the center
spot), as near as possible to the foot spot and in the same numerical order as
if they were spotted "behind" the foot spot (lowest numbered ball
closest to the foot spot).
If two or more balls are locked between the jaws or sides of the pocket, with
one or more suspended in air, the referee shall inspect the balls in position
and follow this procedure: he shall visually (or physically if he desires)
project each ball directly downward from its locked position; any ball that in
his judgement would fall in the pocket if so moved directly downward is a
pocketed ball, while any ball that would come to rest on the bed of the table is
not pocketed. The balls are then placed according to the referee's assessment,
and play continues according to specific game rules as if no locking or jawing
of balls had occurred.
ADDITIONAL POCKETED BALLS
If extra balls are pocketed on a legal scoring stroke, they are counted in
accord with the scoring rules for the particular game.
If the balls are moved (or a player bumped such that play is directly
affected) by a non-player during the match, the balls shall be replaced as near
as possible to their original positions immediately prior to the incident, and
play shall resume with no penalty on the player affected. If the match is
officiated, the referee shall replace the balls. This rule shall also apply to
"act of God" interference, such as earthquake, hurricane, light
fixture falling, power failure, etc. If the balls cannot be restored to their
original positions, replay the game with the original player breaking. This rule
is not applicable to 14.1 Continuous where the game consists of successive
racks: the rack in progress will be discontinued and a completely new rack will
be started with the requirements of the normal opening break (players lag for
break). Scoring of points is to be resumed at the score as it stood at the
moment of game disruption.
BREAKING SUBSEQUENT RACKS
In a match that consists of short rack games, the winner of each game breaks
in the next. The following are common options that may be designated by
tournament officials in advance:
(a) Players alternate break.
(b) Loser breaks.
(c) Player trailing in game count breaks the next game.
37 PLAY BY
During the course of play, players alternate turns (innings) at the table,
with a player's inning ending when he either fails to legally pocket a ball, or
fouls. When an inning ends free of a foul, the incoming player accepts the table
BALL FROZEN TO CUSHION OR CUE BALL
This rule applies to any shot where the cue ball's first contact with a ball
is with one that is frozen to a cushion or to the cue ball itself. After the cue
ball makes contact with the frozen object ball, the shot must result in either:
(a) A ball being pocketed, or;
(b) The cue ball contacting a cushion, or;
(c) The frozen ball being caused to contact a cushion attached to a separate
(d) Another object ball being caused to contact a cushion with which it was not
already in contact. Failure to satisfy one of those four requirements is a foul.
(Note: 14.1 Continuous and other games specify additional requirements and
applications of this rule; see specific game rules.) A ball which is touching a
cushion at the start of a shot and then is forced into a cushion attached to the
same rail is not considered to have been driven to that cushion unless it leaves
the cushion, contacts another ball, and then contacts the cushion again. An
object ball is not considered frozen to a cushion unless it is examined and
announced as such by either the referee or one of the players prior to that
object ball being involved in a shot.
PLAYING FROM BEHIND THE STRING
When a player has the cue ball in hand behind the head string (in the
kitchen), he must drive the cue ball to a point across the head string before it
contacts either a cushion, an object ball, or returns to the kitchen. Failure to
do so is a foul if a referee is presiding over a match. If no referee, the
opponent has the option to call it either a foul or to require the offending
player to replay the shot again with the balls restored to their positions prior
to the shot (and with no foul penalty imposed). Exception: if an object ball
lies on or outside the head string (and is thus playable) but so close that the
cue ball contacts it before the cue ball is out of the kitchen, the ball can be
legally played, and will be considered to have crossed the head string. If, with
cue ball in hand behind the headstring and while the shooter is attempting a
legitimate shot, the cue ball accidentally hits a ball behind the head string,
and the cue ball crosses the line, it is a foul. If with cue ball in hand behind
the head string, the shooter causes the cue ball to hit an object ball
accidentally, and the cue ball does not cross the headstring, the following
applies: the incoming player has the option of calling a foul and having cue
ball in hand, or having the balls returned to their original position, and
having the offending player replay the shot. If a player under the same
conditions intentionally causes the cue ball to contact an object ball behind
the headstring, it is unsportsmanlike conduct.
BALL IN HAND FOUL
During cue ball in hand placement, the player may use his hand or any part of
his cue (including the tip) to position the cue ball. When placing the cue ball
in position, any forward stroke motion of the cue stick contacting the cue ball
will be considered a foul if not a legal shot.
If the non-shooting player distracts his opponent or interferes with his
play, he has fouled. If a player shoots out of turn, or moves any ball except
during his inning, it is considered to be interference.
Players are not allowed to use a ball, the triangle or any other
width-measuring device to see if the cue ball or an object ball would travel
through a gap, etc. Only the cue stick may be used as an aid to judge gaps or as
an aid to aligning a shot, so long as the cue is held by the hand. To do so
otherwise is a foul and unsportsmanlike conduct. (Also see Rule
1.3, Rule 1.4 and Rule
If a player intentionally marks the table in any way to assist in executing
the shot, including the placement of chalk, it is a foul.