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Top Ten Rules Most Pool Players Don't Know

Greetings, pool enthusiasts! I was practicing last night, and something came to mind. In my travels, especially when I play with people who are not in an organized league, I find that some players are not aware of some of the more obscure rules in pool. I’m not talking about the differences in leagues. I mean rules that are accepted no matter what variation of pool or billiards you are playing. I find myself kindly informing people of rules they were not aware of fairly often. It doesn’t upset me. I just find it interesting. For this reason, I decided to put together a list of the top ten rules I have found many players do not know. Here it goes, starting with the least frequent to the most frequent, counting backward.

10. If a player is shooting the 8 ball and scratches, his opponent wins by default. I played against two people who had no idea that a scratch on the 8 ball is an automatic loss. (Note: For those who don’t know, a scratch is when the cue ball is pocketed.)

9. Getting tips mid-game is actually a foul, necessitating loss of turn unless the game is played in a league that allows a time-out, or it is specified as legal ahead of time.

8. Movement of any numbered ball, even inadvertent, by any other method than contact from a legal shot necessitates a foul and loss of turn. Many people think that brushing a ball with their sleeve, their follow through, the butt of their cue stick, etc., is forgivable if the ball is moved back where it was. Frankly, most of the time I let it go unless I am in a league or tournament. However, even by accident, if a ball is moved in any way that is not the effect of a legal shot is actually a foul.

7. A lot of pool players are under the false assumption that if the cue ball is pocketed at any point during a shot and the object ball is pocketed, that the object ball must come back on the table. In almost all games, that is not true. Any pocketed ball on a legal shot is pocketed, even if the player scratches.

6. Contrary to popular belief, sitting on the table to make a difficult shot is not actually legal. In almost all situations, in almost all games, at least one foot must be flat on the floor. If you cannot keep at least one foot flat on the floor, you must get the bridge stick or pick another shot.

5. Everyone knows that hitting the cue ball off the table constitutes a scratch. Not everyone knows that hitting a numbered ball off the table not only constitutes a scratch but that the projectile ball is placed on the table at the foul mark (the spot the balls are racked on), hence the name “foul mark”.

4. If a player shoots the cue ball and strikes the opponent’s ball first (before their own), it constitutes a foul, and is actually treated like a scratch. In casual bar pool, I have seen players just play a ball where it lands, even if this foul has occurred. I suggested implementing this rule once, and the casual players looked at me like I had four green heads. This is one of many rules that are implemented in the league games I play in, but when playing casual pool, I have to make sure I know if the opponent honors this rule, or if he even knows it exists.

3. It is a fault to touch the pool table in any way, for any reason, while the opponent is shooting. This is primarily self-explanatory, but I will expound on it a bit more. Some shooters like to grab chalk from the sides of the table, or measure up their next shot. Do not even do that. If your opponent is enough of a jerk, he or she might call you on it. This is another rule that I don’t care about when I’m playing. As long as you don’t interfere with my shot or the balls on the table, touch anything you want if you are playing me. Due to the fact that cheating is possible, and cheaters in the past have sabotaged their opponents’ shots, the rule is there. To avoid having a jerk opponent call you on it, it is wise to just step away from the table and not even lay a finger on it until it is your turn.

2. If the tip of the cue stick touches the cue ball for any reason, it is considered a shot, forcing a shooter to lose their turn if the cue ball is touched in error or in habit. Many more experienced players like to move the cue ball to its intended location (for instance in the event of ball-in-hand, assuming you and your opponent are playing ball-in-hand rules, the intent to break, or any other reason for you to move the cue ball in a game) by using the tip of their cue stick. Wrong. Most players are not such jerks that they will call another player on such a silly technicality, but I have seen it called before in a league game. To ensure the situation does not present itself, either move the cue ball by hand, or use the top shaft of the stick between the joint and the tip, not allowing even the white portion under the tip to make contact with the cue ball. It may be asking for potential trouble against the wrong opponent.

1. If the 8 ball is hit in on a break, the breaker has just won the game. I would have thought that the vast majority of players, even casual bar players, would have known the quickest way to ensure a win, but I’ve found I was wrong. Three people I’ve played recently had no idea that an 8 ball break is an automatic win. I won that way against one person, who vehemently objected when I went to shake their hand with the customary “good game” comment. He refused to admit I had won until I showed it to him in my humongous rule book. I played a good friend of mine, and in conversation, I told him about this interaction, and he responded, “Well he was right. You didn’t win.” I had to show it to him in the same book. Two of my friends were playing each other last week, and again the same dilemma appeared, in which I had to yank the rule book back out.

Honorable mention:It is a much more minor rule, but many people do not realize that it is universally accepted that a break is not legal unless at least four numbered balls individually touch the rail at some point before the break is over.

It is not my intention to ever “preach” at anyone, but I was shocked to find out how many rules people were unaware of. I don’t blame the players. I blame the large variety of different rules in different leagues and situations. Nobody ever really knows what rules to play by until the situation comes up. I always just default to the “home” team or player, namely the player or team that has “possession” of the table. When push comes to shove, I figure home rules precede any assumed or understood rules. In some cases, I ask the player or team that has control of the table when the situation comes up, before acting on anything or assuming.

For more tips and tricks of the game of pool, and stories from a good, active pool shooter, please visit my site called I Shoot Pool at


ken on October 23, 2017:

Where did rule #8 come from?

Frank on September 15, 2017:

When playing in a diff. bar I try to ask what the rules are, but there is always a rule that comes up that we didn't cover. In that case I always go by the rules of the bar that we are playing in.

Chuck Trahan on August 12, 2017:


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No... A toe's enough; but if the foot is lifted when you stroke, then it's a foul.

Mak on August 11, 2017:

Does the one foot required to be touching the floor, need to be flat on the floor?

Chuck Trahan on May 12, 2017:

I'm the rule officianado of our little "Pool for fun league" and I spent hours researching APA & WPA rules to make us a rules board. I feel I know what I call "Tournament Play" rules well. Also, we have a couple members who were in APA leagues. Sometimes there are conflicting statements when surfing for rule definitions, but recently I found a succinct rule book at

Concerning your #8 above, "Movement of any numbered ball, even inadvertent...", here is an except from The Official APA/CPA 8-Ball & 9-Ball Game Rules Booklet (This was copied and pasted without modification):

g. Causing movement of the cue ball, even accidentally, is a foul. It is not a foul to accidentally move any other balls (including the 8-ball) unless, during his turn at the table, a player moves a ball and it in turn strikes the cue ball. Even dropping the chalk on the cue ball is a foul. Any balls moved accidentally during a shot must be replaced by the opponent after the shot is over and all balls have stopped rolling. If it occurs before the shot, it must be replaced by the opponent before the shot is taken. Exception: If an accidentally moved ball comes in contact with the cue ball, creating a foul, no object ball will be replaced.

In all my research I have never found a rule set contradicting this. All the various leagues, and specifically the APA, allow for the inadvertent movement of a ball when setting up your bridge or stroking your shot. It's pretty tough to avoid sometimes and there'd be a helluva lot of fouls for this reason. Check your humongous rule book again.

Mohsin on May 11, 2017:

I was playing pool with friends last night. One dispute occurred one of my friend potted all his coloured balls (solids) but made a foul by potting the cue ball along with his last solid ball. The eight ball or black ball and all of the 7 stripes (opponents ball) were on the table. What happens now, I said the friend loses as he fouled on his last shot but many disagreed and treated it like a normal foul. Can you explain.

john nunya on October 14, 2015:

Its a hell off a shot n the player that broke n intun sunk the black (off the brake) is the winner n an outright champion... No re rack, nothing but praise n admiration... Peace

foxyfowle on June 25, 2015:

Hi, I am the chairman of the California Tavern (Flegg Pool League, I was refereeing a game against another pub and their player took a shot on an open table hitting a yellow on to red and potting the red he then took a shot for a red and I called a foul as he didn't nominate a colour and he argued and is still arguing that he could do that, I did say that he it yellow first and the red went down but he should have nominated could you clear this up for me please. Thanks J.Fowle

Chuck Trahan on January 14, 2015:

According to another chat at it is totally legal to shoot one-handed in pool.

shannon on January 13, 2015:

Is it legal to shoot one handed?

Chuck Trahan on January 07, 2015:

Jerm: What is 'fail'? I'm dyin' for controversy over pool rules...

Jerm on January 06, 2015:


Chuck Trahan on October 26, 2014:

I don't know how to respond to a particular comment. This is to Ernie: IMHO there's no legal way you can strike the 8 ball other than your 8 ball shot.

Chuck Trahan on October 26, 2014:

I apologize for the post I just submitted; not because there was anything wrong with it, but because the same comments have been submitted for 4 years.

Chuck Trahan on October 26, 2014:

I just came across this "Top 10" list. There are notable inaccuracies according to APA and WPA 8-Ball rules:

(10. If a player is shooting the 8 ball and scratches, his opponent wins by default.) See APA.9.c-d WPA.5 WPA.6.d "A scratch or foul is a loss only if the 8-Ball is pocketed, otherwise it results in “Ball in hand” for the opponent. The game is not over until the 8-Ball is pocketed."

(8. Movement of any numbered ball, even inadvertent, by any other method than contact from a legal shot necessitates a foul and loss of turn and 5. ...hitting a numbered ball off the table ... constitutes a scratch ) See APA.6 APA.11.e "If the shooter causes any ball to move with body, clothing or the cue stick, or leave the table (other than the 8-Ball), ball(s) moved this way are replaced in their approximate location(s) at the end of the shooter’s turn."

I realize these are controversial and vary from one pool establishment to the next, but I would assume the APA and WPA rules constitute a rule basis and variations are considered Bar Pool or House rules. It just sounds as if ishootpool, in his opening comments, is saying these are the base rules of any billiards game.

I welcome comments.

Ernie on October 16, 2014:

Can you hit the 8 ball to break it out away from your ball?

fukapa on August 28, 2014:

Apa is not a governing body of pool, not in any way, they are a social networking unit that uses pool as a way to mingle

eveything on August 08, 2014:

Proof that everything you read on the Internet is true

blah on August 08, 2014:

Wrong on so many levels. This is sheer ignorance. Read the rules from various governing bodies (bca, apa, wpa) before you go on here and make a fool out of yourself and others with this misinformation.

Obviously you are new to this game. If you really want to fuck with your other uninformed pool buddys try reading up on the double hit and frozen ball rules of the bca. Bet you will get at least a few ball in hands from those each night with the idiots you shoot with. And if you still cannot win, try involking the stalemate rule. They will love you for that.

chuey on April 22, 2014:

I am a 40 year pro and have played by EVERY rule book there is! This guy mentions his huge rule book . Well if you carry a rule book that has all the various association rules in it you can make you argument as you please. But a couple of these so called rules do not exist in ANY rule book, and I have NO IDEA. Where he gets them from.

clos on April 04, 2014:

If on your last shot, you hit your ball in (the called ball and pocket) and on the ricochet the cue knocks in the 8-ball - do you win?

Lee on April 02, 2014:

This list is ridiculous. The rules are partially correct yes. But it's like he took rules from multiple leagues and mismatched them to his own set of rules. I play multiple leagues and still have trouble remembering which is which. So before you play a pickup game, just agree to a set of rules like BCA or APA etc and stick with it. Don't mix match them like this guy did. This shouldn't even been published as it will confuse non real players. No offense but you should done the research and cite your sources before publishing this

Elmer Sabin from Munising, Michigan on April 01, 2014:

Ok. Just came on this sight, seems ok. I have run pool leagues in BARs for years. We try to play it like you and i are just playing a game of pool. Michigan bars. One thing that comes up is.....Can i legally make my last ball and call and make the 8 ball on the same shot.

Selective on January 21, 2014:

If you make the eight ball on the break in pool do you win?

No. According to World Standardized Rules, if the 8 ball is pocketed on the break without fouling, the breaker may ask for a re-rack and break again.

poolgod on January 16, 2014:

at what point is the cue ball weightless

jon on January 03, 2014:

I think what we have here is a self proclaimed pool god.

Faranza on December 21, 2013:

Interesting list, but it seems like a number of these are in direct conflict with official rules. However, it seems like the rules people play with are really those that everyone agrees on before the game is played. If both players agree to the rules, then you'll have a fun and enjoyable game regardless of whether those rules are professional league rules or not.

Unless you are playing a serious pro circuit, the players of a game of pool should aim to have fun. I generally kick my opponent's butt regardless of the rules they want to play by, so I let all sorts of pro rules slide just because it makes the game more interesting. I'd rather see if I can pocket one of my numbered balls via a specific bank shot than annoy my opponent over a rule they aren't aware of.

On a related note, I was playing a couple of rounds of pool the other day and brought up some archaic rules the other players didn't know about. Based on this post and the various responses, it looks like I need to update my knowledge of pool rules since they've apparently changed in the last decade. The basics are the same (of course) but the details are different.

Josh on November 30, 2013:

Some poor soul is going to read these rules and lose an argument because of it... Maybe even a couple arguments.

Smooth Cue Mike on November 07, 2013:

As a registered BCA instructor, I must say that your list is no good. Your set of rules does not conform to any approved set of rules. some are taken from the World Standardized, some are from APA, and some have been abandoned by both. You clearly have a rule book written by someone unfamiliar with the approved governing bodies of Billiards.

chetan25 on May 01, 2013:

Is a shot made with the butt of the cue legal? I've seen it in a couple of places and I was wondering if it is actually allowed.

Josh on February 11, 2013:

Scratch on the 8 ball is ball in hand, not a loss.

Mark on February 08, 2013:

Many of your rules are not World Standardized Rules. You should do a little research before assuming everyone should know your personal rules.

Corey on September 27, 2012:

10. False. According to BCA rules, scratching on the 8 is just a normal foul. VNEA switched to that same rule about four years ago.

8. False. VNEA rules dictate that if the shooter inadvertently moves a ball, it is up to his opponent whether to move it back to its original position or leave it where it was moved.

5. Incomplete. You left out that if the 8 ball leaves the table, it is loss of game in most leagues.

1. False. Some leagues call that a win (and making the eight and scratching on the break a loss), some go with either a re-rack or spot the 8, and some (VNEA for sure) give you the option of setting it one way or another for your league/tournament.

HM. (Partly) false. Either four balls have to hit a rail OR you have to pocket a ball.

I'd give you 6.5/10 or 7/11 on these.

Just curious, but whose rules are you citing?

Jeff on September 08, 2012:

I can't find any approved rules that say you win or lose by pocketing the eight ball on the break. In the approved international rules it is simply a foul and it is spotted.

kris on June 25, 2012:

Well again it all depends on what rules u play. For instance in the league I play in 8 on the break is not a win. You actually have to pay to get the 8 back out and have the option of a rerack or to spot the 8 and keep going. You do get a patch for it though. Also in my league a scratch on the 8 only constitutes a ball in hand fowell unless u sink the 8 as well.

J.R. on June 22, 2012:

What is it when you pocket the 8 ball and your opponents ball

Dragos on June 15, 2012:

According to the WPA rules, if the 8 ball is potted on the break the breaker can respot and continue or re-rack.

ffff on May 27, 2012:

#10 is blatantly false. The only ways to lose on the 8 ball are:

1. pocketing the 8 ball in the wrong (uncalled) pocket

2. pocketing the 8 ball and scratching

3. driving the 8 ball off the table

4. pocketing the 8 ball before all other balls of your group are cleared

The only exception is the break. But if you happen to scratch when shooting the 8 ball but you don't sink it, it's just a normal scratch.

John MacNab from the banks of the St. Lawrence on December 15, 2011:

Interesting, ishootpool. I didn't know about rule numer 1.

ishootpool (author) from The biggest pool table I can find. on September 27, 2010:

Actually, "hmm", I would argue that point slightly, but agree with you on some of it. I would amend that comment to say that most leagues DO hold true to #8 and #10, but some leagues do not. Every rule is different in some league, so this article is not completely true every single time, but with the differences in leagues, that is to be expected. I would say that 90% of leagues, especially amateur leagues, hold 9 of 10 of these rules consistently.

hmm on September 27, 2010:

Rules vary across leagues. #10 is not true in most leagues. #8 is also not true, even in most pro events that are not televised. Also you do not need to have a flat foot on the floor, you just need to be touching the floor.

lori on August 02, 2010:

This is an excerpt from the VNEA rules regarding your rule #1 and that it is not generally used , Both the adult leagues and juniors in our areas use option 2.

7. Making The 8-Ball On The Break: (Leagues may adopt Option #1 or Option #2)

Option #1. An automatic win for the player breaking, however, if the cue

ball is scratched when making the 8-ball on the break, the opponent wins

the game.

Option #2. The breaker may ask for a rerack or have the 8-ball spotted and

continue shooting. Should the breaker pocket the 8-ball and scratch, the

incoming player has the option of spotting the 8-ball and shooting from

behind the headstring or reracking and assuming the break. Using Option

#2, a game cannot be won or lost with an 8-ball on the break, regardless of

what is pocketed on the same shot.

During International Championships and Junior Championships, Option #2

will be used.

Tom Taylor on May 25, 2010:

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ishootpool (author) from The biggest pool table I can find. on March 15, 2010:

Great point! Determining the rules beforehand is a GREAT way to eliminate problems. Do the bar rules you play by dictate that after a scratch, the cue ball is played from behind the fault line (the line you break from)? That is what I am used to in bar rules.

Tabitha Oscorp on March 12, 2010:

Often when I play with friends we decided first if we're playing tournament rules or bar rules, so everyone knows if it's a strict or laidback game from the beginning. For examples there is no ball in hand in bar rules.

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