Rules of Play
Independent Billiard League of Las Vegas
2013 Summer Season
1. General Rules (World Pool-Billiard Association)
The following General Rules apply to all the games covered by these rules except when contradicted by specific game rules. In addition, the Regulations of Pool Billiards cover aspects of the game not directly related to the game rules, such as equipment specifications and organization of events.
The games of Pool Billiards are played on a flat table covered with cloth and bounded by rubber cushions. The player uses a
stick (pool cue) to strike a cue ball which in turn strikes object balls. The goal is to drive object balls into six pockets located at
the cushion boundary. The games vary according to which balls are legal targets and the requirements to win a match.
[Editorial comments on the U.S. English version: The masculine gender has been used for simplicity of wording and is not intended
to specify the gender of the players or officials. The word “game” is used to refer to a discipline such as nine ball rather than a rack
or a match.]
1.1 Player’s Responsibility
It is the player's responsibility to be aware of all rules, regulations and schedules applying to competition. While
tournament officials will make every reasonable effort to have such information readily available to all players as
appropriate, the ultimate responsibility rests with the player.
1.2 Lagging to Determine Order of Play
The lag is the first shot of the match and determines order of play. The player who wins the lag chooses who will shoot first.
The referee will place a ball on each side of the table behind the head string and near the head string. The players will shoot
at about the same time to make each ball contact the foot cushion with the goal of returning the ball closer to the head cushion
than the opponent.
A lag shot is bad and cannot win if the shooter’s ball:
(a) crosses the long string;
(b) contacts the foot cushion other than once;
(c) is pocketed or driven off the table;
(d) touches the side cushion; or
(e) the ball rests within the corner pocket and past the nose of the head cushion.
In addition, a lag will be bad if any non-object-ball foul occurs other than 6.9 Balls Still Moving.
The players will lag again if:
(a) a player’s ball is struck after the other ball has touched the foot cushion;
(b) the referee cannot determine which ball has stopped closer to the head cushion; or
(c) both lags are bad.
1.3 Player’s Use of Equipment
The equipment must meet existing WPA equipment specifications. In general, players are not permitted to introduce novel
equipment into the game. The following uses, among others, are considered normal. If the player is uncertain about a
particular use of equipment, he should discuss it with the tournament management prior to the start of play. The equipment
must be used only for the purpose or in the manner that the equipment was intended. (See 6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct.)
(a) Cue Stick – The player is permitted to switch between cue sticks during the match, such as break, jump and normal cues.
He may use either a built-in extender or an add-on extender to increase the length of the stick.
(b) Chalk – The player may apply chalk to his tip to prevent miscues, and may use his own chalk, provided its color is
compatible with the cloth.
(c) Mechanical Bridges – The player may use up to two mechanical bridges to support the cue stick during the shot.
The configuration of the bridges is up to the player. He may use his own bridge if it is similar to standard bridges.
(d) Gloves – The player may use gloves to improve the grip and/or bridge hand function.
(e) Powder – A player is allowed to use powder in a reasonable amount as determined by the referee.
1.4 Spotting Balls
Balls are spotted (returned to play on the table) by placing them on the long string (long axis of the table) as close as
possible to the foot spot and between the foot spot and the foot rail, without moving any interfering ball. If the spotted ball
cannot be placed on the foot spot, it should be placed in contact (if possible) with the corresponding interfering ball.
However, when the cue ball is next to the spotted ball, the spotted ball should not be placed in contact with the cue ball;
a small separation must be maintained. If all of the long string below the foot spot is blocked by other balls, the ball is
spotted above the foot spot, and as close as possible to the foot spot.
1.5 Cue Ball in Hand
When the cue ball is in hand, the shooter may place the cue ball anywhere on the playing surface (see 8.1 Parts of the Table)
and may continue to move the cue ball until he executes a shot. (See definition 8.2 Shot.) Players may use any part of the
cue stick to move the cue ball, including the tip, but not with a forward stroke motion. In some games and for most break
shots, placement of the cue ball may be restricted to the area behind the head string depending on the rules of the game,
and then 6.10 Bad Cue Ball Placement and 6.11 Bad Play from Behind the Head String may apply.
When the shooter has the cue ball in hand behind the head string and all the legal object balls are behind the head string,
he may request the legal object ball nearest the head string to be spotted. If two or more balls are equal distance from the
head string, the shooter may designate which of the equidistant balls is to be spotted. An object ball that rests exactly on
the head string is playable.
1.6 Standard Call Shot
In games in which the shooter is required to call shots, the intended ball and pocket must be indicated for each shot if they
are not obvious. Details of the shot, such as cushions struck or other balls contacted or pocketed are irrelevant. Only one
ball may be called on each shot.
For a called shot to count, the referee must be satisfied that the intended shot was made, so if there is any chance of
confusion, e.g. with bank, combination and similar shots, the shooter should indicate the ball and pocket. If the referee or
opponent is unsure of the shot to be played, he may ask for a call.
In call shot games, the shooter may choose to call “safety” instead of a ball and pocket, and then play passes to the opponent
at the end of the shot. Whether balls are being spotted after safeties depends on the rules of the particular game.
1.7 Balls Settling
A ball may settle slightly after it appears to have stopped, possibly due to slight imperfections in the ball or the table. Unless
this causes a ball to fall into a pocket, it is considered a normal hazard of play, and the ball will not be moved back. If a ball
falls into a pocket as the result of such settling, it is restored as closely as possible to its original position. If a settling ball falls
into a pocket during or just prior to a shot, and this has an effect on the shot, the referee will restore the position and the shot
will be replayed. The shooter is not penalized for shooting while a ball is settling. See also 8.3 Ball Pocketed.
1.8 Restoring a Position
When necessary for balls to be restored or cleaned, the referee will restore disturbed balls to their original positions to the
best of his ability. The players must accept the referee’s judgment as to placement.
1.9 Outside Interference
When outside interference occurs during a shot that has an effect on the outcome of that shot, the referee will restore
the balls to the positions they had before the shot, and the shot will be replayed. If the interference had no effect on the shot,
the referee will restore the disturbed balls and play will continue. If the balls cannot be restored to their original positions,
the situation is handled like a stalemate.
1.10 Prompting Calls and Protesting Rulings
If a player feels that the referee has made an error in judgment, he may ask the referee to reconsider his call or lack of call,
but the referee’s decision on judgment calls is final. However, if the player feels that the referee is not applying the rules
correctly, he may ask for ruling by the designated appeals authority. The referee will suspend play while this appeal is in
process. (See also part (d) of 6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct.) Fouls must be called promptly. (See 6. Fouls.)
If a player concedes, he loses the match. For example, if a player unscrews his jointed playing cue stick while the
opponent is at the table and during the opponent’s decisive rack of a match, it will be considered a concession of the match.
If the referee observes that no progress is being made towards a conclusion, he will announce his decision, and each
player will have three more turns at the table. Then, if the referee determines that there is still no progress, he will declare a
stalemate. If both players agree, they may accept the stalemate without taking their three additional turns. The procedure for
a stalemate is specified under the rules for each game.
3. Eight Ball
Eight ball is played with fifteen numbered object balls and the cue ball. The shooter’s group of seven balls (one through
seven or nine through fifteen) must all be off the table before he attempts to pocket the eight ball to win. Shots are called.
3.1 Determining First Break
The player winning the lag has the option to determine who has to execute the first break shot.
(See 1.2 Lagging to Determine Order of Play.)
The standard format is alternate break (See Regulation 15, Subsequent Break Shots.)
3.2 Eight Ball Rack
The fifteen object balls are racked as tightly as possible in a triangle, with the apex ball on the foot spot and the eight ball
as the first ball that is directly below the apex ball. One from each group of seven will be on the two lower corners of the
triangle. The other balls are placed in the triangle without purposeful or intentional pattern.
Eight Ball Rack
3.3 Break Shot
The following rules apply to the break shot:
(a) The cue ball begins in hand behind the head string.
(b) No ball is called, and the cue ball is not required to hit any particular object ball first.
(c) If the breaker pockets a ball and does not foul, he continues at the table, and the table remains open.
(See 3.4 Open Table / Choosing Groups.)
(d) If no object ball is pocketed, at least four object balls must be driven to one or more rails, or the shot results in an
illegal break, and the incoming player has the option of
(1) accepting the table in position, or
(2) re-racking and breaking, or
(3) re-racking and allowing the offending player to break again.
(e) Pocketing the eight ball on a legal break shot is not a foul. If the eight ball is pocketed, the breaker has the option of:
(1) re-spotting the eight ball and accepting the balls in position, or
(f) If the breaker pockets the eight ball and scratches (See definition 8.6 Scratch), the opponent has the option of
(1) re-spotting the eight ball and shooting with cue ball in hand behind the head string; or
(g) If any object ball is driven off the table on a break shot, it is a foul; such balls remain out of play (except the eight ball
which is re-spotted); and the incoming player has the option of
(1) accepting the table in position, or
(2) taking cue ball in hand behind the head string.
(h) If the breaker fouls in any manner not listed above, the following player has the option of
(1) accepting the balls in position, or
(2) taking cue ball in hand behind the head string.
3.4 Open Table / Choosing Groups
Before groups are determined, the table is said to be “open,” and before each shot, the shooter must call his intended ball.
If the shooter legally pockets his called ball, the corresponding group becomes his, and his opponent is assigned the other
group. If he fails to legally pocket his called ball, the table remains open and play passes to the other player. When the table
is “open”, any object ball may be struck first except the eight ball.
3.5 Continuing Play
The shooter remains at the table as long as he continues to legally pocket called balls, or he wins the rack by pocketing
the eight ball.
3.6 Shots Required to Be Called
On each shot except the break, shots must be called as explained in 1.6 Standard Call Shot. The eight ball may be called
only after the shot on which the shooter’s group has been cleared from the table. The shooter may call “safety” in which
case play passes to the opponent at the end of the shot and any object ball pocketed on the safety remains pocketed.
(See 8.17 Safety Shot.)
3.7 Spotting Balls
If the eight ball is pocketed or driven off the table on the break, it will be spotted or the balls will be re-racked.
(See 3.3 Break Shot and 1.4 Spotting Balls.) No other object ball is ever spotted.
3.8 Losing the Rack
The shooter loses if he
(a) fouls when pocketing the eight ball;
(b) pockets the eight ball before his group is cleared;
(c) pockets the eight ball in an uncalled pocket; or
(d) drives the eight ball off the table.
These do not apply to the break shot. (See 3.3 Break Shot.)
3.9 Standard Fouls
If the shooter commits a foul, play passes to his opponent. The cue ball is in hand, and the incoming player may place
it anywhere on the playing surface. (See 1.5 Cue Ball in Hand.)
The following are standard fouls at eight ball:
3.10 Serious Fouls The fouls listed under 3.8 Losing the Rack are penalized by the loss of the current rack.
For 6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct, the referee will choose a penalty appropriate given the nature of the offense.
If a stalemate occurs (see 1.12 Stalemate), the original breaker of the rack will break again.
The following actions are fouls at pool when included in the specific rules of the game being played. If several fouls occur on
one shot, only the most serious one is enforced. If a foul is not called before the next shot begins, the foul is assumed not to have happened.
6.1 Cue Ball Scratch or off the Table
If the cue ball is pocketed or driven off the table, the shot is a foul. See 8.3 Ball Pocketed and 8.5 Driven off the Table.
6.2 Wrong Ball First
In those games which require the first object ball struck to be a particular ball or one of a group of balls, it is a foul for the
cue ball to first contact any other ball.
6.3 No Rail after Contact
If no ball is pocketed on a shot, the cue ball must contact an object ball, and after that contact at least one ball (cue ball
or any object ball) must be driven to a rail, or the shot is a foul. (See 8.4 Driven to a Rail.)
6.4 No Foot on Floor
If the shooter does not have at least one foot touching the floor at the instant the tip contacts the cue ball, the shot is a foul.
Definition from John Lewis, Executive Director of American CueSports (ACS) Alliance: This is clearly interpreted in
organized competition that BOTH feet do NOT have to be touching the floor (your other "non-touching" leg/foot can be
up on the table bed or in any other position). Also...any part of the foot (not all of the base of the foot) need be touching
the floor at the moment the cue tip contacts the cue ball.
6.5 Ball Driven off the Table
It is a foul to drive an object ball off the table. Whether that ball is spotted depends on the rules of the game.
(See 8.5 Driven off the Table.)
6.6 Touched Ball
It is a foul to touch, move or change the path of any object ball except by the normal ball-to-ball contacts during shots. It is
a foul to touch, move or change the path of the cue ball except when it is in hand or by the normal tip-to-ball forward stroke
contact of a shot. The shooter is responsible for the equipment he controls at the table, such as chalk, bridges, clothing, his
hair, parts of his body, and the cue ball when it is in hand, that may be involved in such fouls. If such a foul is accidental,
it is a standard foul, but if it is intentional, it is 6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct.
6.7 Double Hit / Frozen Balls
If the cue stick contacts the cue ball more than once on a shot, the shot is a foul. If the cue ball is close to but not touching
an object ball and the cue tip is still on the cue ball when the cue ball contacts that object ball, the shot is a foul. If the cue
ball is very close to an object ball, and the shooter barely grazes that object ball on the shot, the shot is assumed not to
violate the first paragraph of this rule, even though the tip is arguably still on the cue ball when ball-ball contact is made. However,
if the cue ball is touching an object ball at the start of the shot, it is legal to shoot towards or partly into that ball (provided it is a
legal target within the rules of the game) and if the object ball is moved by such a shot, it is considered to have been contacted
by the cue ball. (Even though it may be legal to shoot towards such a touching or “frozen” ball, care must be taken not to violate
the rules in the first paragraph if there are additional balls close by.)
The cue ball is assumed not to be touching any ball unless it is declared touching by the referee or opponent. It is the
shooter’s responsibility to get the declaration before the shot. Playing away from a frozen ball does not constitute having
hit that ball unless specified in the rules of the game.
6.8 Push Shot
It is a foul to prolong tip-to-cue-ball contact beyond that seen in normal shots.
6.9 Balls Still Moving
It is a foul to begin a shot while any ball in play is moving or spinning.
6.10 Bad Cue Ball Placement
When the cue ball is in hand and restricted to the area behind the head string, it is a foul to play the cue ball from on or
below the head string. If the shooter is uncertain whether the cue ball has been placed behind the head string, he may
ask the referee for a determination.
6.11 Bad Play from Behind the Head String
When the cue ball is in hand behind the head string, and the first ball the cue ball contacts is also behind the head string,
the shot is a foul unless the cue ball crosses the head string before that contact. If such a shot is intentional, it is unsports-
The cue ball must either cross the head string or contact a ball in front of or on the head string or the shot is a foul, and
the cue ball is in hand for the following player according to the rules of the specific game
6.12 Cue Stick on the Table
If the shooter uses his cue stick in order to align a shot by placing it on the table without having a hand on the stick, it is a foul.
6.13 Playing out of Turn
It is a standard foul to unintentionally play out of turn. Normally, the balls will be played from the position left by the mistaken
play. If a player intentionally plays out of turn, it should be treated like 6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct.
6.14 Three Consecutive Fouls
If a player fouls three times without making an intervening legal shot, it is a serious foul. In games scored by the rack,
such as nine ball, the fouls must be in a single rack. Some games such as eight ball do not include this rule.
The referee must warn a shooter who is on two fouls when he comes to the table that he is on two fouls. Otherwise a
possible third foul will be considered to be only the second.
6.15 Slow Play
If the referee feels that a player is playing too slowly, he may advise that player to speed up his play. If the player does
not speed up, the referee may impose a shot clock on that match that applies to both players. If the shooter exceeds the
time limit specified for the tournament, a standard foul will be called and the incoming player is rewarded according to the
rules applicable to the game being played. (Rule 6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct may also apply.)
6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct
The normal penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct is the same as for a serious foul, but the referee may impose a penalty
depending on his judgment of the conduct. Among other penalties possible are a warning; a standard-foul penalty, which
will count as part of a three-foul sequence if applicable; a serious-foul penalty; loss of a rack, set or match; ejection from
the competition possibly with forfeiture of all prizes, trophies and standings points.
Unsportsmanlike conduct is any intentional behavior that brings disrepute to the sport or which disrupts or
changes the game to the extent that it cannot be played fairly.
(a) distracting the opponent;
(b) changing the position of the balls in play other than by a shot;
(c) playing a shot by intentionally miscuing;
(d) continuing to play after a foul has been called or play has been suspended;
(e) practicing during a match;
(f) marking the table;
(g) delay of the game; and
(h) using equipment inappropriately.
8. Definitions Used in the Rules
The following definitions apply throughout these rules.
8.1 Parts of the Table
The following definitions of parts of the table refer to the accompanying diagram. Some details of exact size and
placement are in the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) Equipment Specifications.
The table is comprised of rails, cushions, a playing surface and pockets. The foot end of the table is where the
object balls usually begin, while the head end is where the cue ball usually begins.
Behind the head string is the area between the head rail and the head string, not including the head string.
The cushions, tops of the rails, pockets and pocket liners are parts of the rails.
There are four “strings” on the playing surface as shown in the diagram:
the long string down the center of the table;
the head string bounding the quarter of the table closest to the head rail;
foot string bounding the quarter of the table closest to the foot rail; and
the center string between the two side pockets.
These lines are only marked as mentioned below.
The rails may have inlays referred to as diamonds or sights which mark 1/4th of the width and 1/8th of the length of
the table measured from nose to nose on the cushions.
On the playing surface, which is the flat, cloth-covered part of the table, the following will be marked if they are used
in the game being played:
the foot spot, where the foot string and the long string meet;
the head spot, where the head string and the long string meet;
the center spot, where the center string and the long string meet;
the head string;
the long string between the foot spot and the foot rail; and
the triangle, either in outline or by alignment marks depending on the game.
A shot begins when the tip contacts the cue ball due to a forward stroke motion of the cue stick. A shot ends when
all balls in play have stopped moving and spinning. A shot is said to be legal if the shooter did not foul during the shot.
8.3 Ball Pocketed
A ball is pocketed if it comes to rest in a pocket below the playing surface or enters the ball return system. A ball near
the brink of a pocket partly supported by another ball is considered pocketed if removal of the supporting ball would
cause the ball to fall into the pocket.
If a ball stops near the edge of a pocket, and remains apparently motionless for five seconds, it is not considered
pocketed if it later falls into the pocket by itself. See 1.7 Balls Settling for other details. During that five second period,
the referee should ensure that no other shot is taken. An object ball that rebounds from a pocket back onto the playing
surface is not a pocketed ball. If the cue ball contacts an already pocketed ball, the cue ball will be considered pocketed
whether it rebounds from the pocket or not. The referee will remove pocketed object balls from full or nearly full pockets,
but it is the shooter’s responsibility to see that this duty is performed.
8.4 Driven to a Rail
A ball is said to be driven to a rail if it is not touching that rail and then touches that rail. A ball touching at the start of
a shot (said to be “frozen” to the rail) is not considered driven to that rail unless it leaves the rail and returns. A ball that
is pocketed or driven off the table is also considered to have been driven to a rail. A ball is assumed not to be frozen to
any rail unless it is declared frozen by the referee, the shooter, or the opponent.
See also Regulation 27, Calling Frozen Balls.
8.5 Driven off the Table
A ball is considered driven off the table if it comes to rest other than on the playing surface but is not pocketed.
A ball is also considered driven off the table if it would have been driven off the table except for striking an object such
as a light fixture, piece of chalk or a player which causes it to return to the table.
A ball that contacts the top of the rail is not considered to have been driven off the table if it returns to the playing surface
or enters a pocket.
A shot on which the cue ball is pocketed is called a scratch.
8.7 Cue Ball
The cue ball is the ball that is struck by the shooter at the beginning of a shot. It is traditionally white, but may be marked
by a logo or spots. In pocket billiard games, a single cue ball is used by both players.
8.8 Object Balls
The object balls are struck by the cue ball with the usual intent of driving them into pockets. They are typically numbered
from one to the number of balls used in the game. Colors and markings of the object balls are covered under the
World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) Equipment Specifications.
In some matches, the match is divided into parts called sets, with a certain number of sets won required to win the match.
In turn, a certain number of points or racks won is required to win each set.
The rack is the framing device, typically triangular, used to arrange the object balls for the break shot at the start of the
game. It also refers to the group of balls so arranged. To rack the object balls is to group them with the rack. A rack is
also a portion of a match played with a single rack of object balls. Some games, such as nine ball, are scored at one
point per rack.
A break shot is the opening shot of a match or rack, depending on the game. It happens when the object balls have
been racked and the cue ball is played from behind the head string usually with the intent of breaking the rack apart.
An inning is a player’s turn at the table. It begins when it is legal for him to take a shot, and ends at the end of a shot
when it is no longer legal for him to take a shot. In some games a player may choose not to come to the table in certain
situations when play would normally pass to him, and then the player remaining at the table continues the inning
(e.g. a push-out at nine ball). The player whose turn it is to play is called the “shooter.”
8.13 Position of Balls
The position of a ball is determined by the projection of its center vertically downward onto the playing surface. A ball
is said to be placed on a line or spot when its center is placed directly over that line or spot.
8.14 Re-spotting Balls
In some games, object balls are required to be placed on the playing surface other than when forming a new rack.
They are said to be re-spotted when they are so placed. See 1.4 Spotting Balls.
8.15 Restoring a Position
If the balls are disturbed, the rules of the game may require them to be replaced where they were. The referee will
replace the balls to their original position as accurately as possible.
8.16 Jump Shot
A jump shot is one in which the cue ball is made to go over an intervening obstacle such as an object ball or part of
the cushion. Whether such a shot is legal depends on how it is accomplished and the intention of the shooter. Usually
a legal jump shot is played by elevating the cue stick and driving the cue ball down into the playing surface from which
8.17 Safety Shot
A shot is said to be a safety shot if the game in play is a call shot game and the shooter declared the shot to the referee
or his opponent to be a “safety” before the shot. Play passes to the other player at the end of a safety shot.
A miscue occurs when the cue tip slides off the cue ball possibly due to a contact that is too eccentric or to insufficient
chalk on the tip. It is usually accompanied by a sharp sound and evidenced by a discoloration of the tip. Although some
miscues involve contact of the side of the cue stick with the cue ball, unless such contact is clearly visible, it is assumed
not to have occurred. A scoop shot, in which the cue tip contacts the playing surface and the cue ball at the same time
and this causes the cue ball to rise off the cloth, is treated like a miscue. Note that intentional miscues are covered
by 6.16 Unsportsmanlike Conduct (c).
For additional World Pool Billiard Association Rules governing Nine Ball, Eight Ball, Straight Pool, Black Ball, Fouls,
Wheelchair Competition, Definitions, and Ten Ball go to the WPA website at www.wpa-pool.com.
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