General Rules of Pocket Billiards

Unless specifically stated to the contrary, these general rules apply to all pocket billiard games. Tables, Balls and all other equipment should meet the standards recommended by the BCA Equipment Specifications.

Racking the Balls
A triangle must be used for racking the balls with the apex ball on the foot spot and all the other balls lined up behind the apex ball in such a way that they are pressed together and have contact with each other.

Striking the Cue Ball
The cue ball can only be struck with the cue tip or else it is considered a foul.

Lag for Break
Players should use balls of equal weight and size for the lag for the opening break. Cue balls are preferable but non-striped object balls can be used if cue balls are unavailable.

One player stands to the right and the other stands to the left of the head spot with balls in hand behind the head string. The balls are simultaneously shot to the foot cushion and back to the head end of the table. The player whose ball lands nearest to the innermost edge of the head cushion is the winner of the lag. The lagged ball should necessarily make contact with the foot cushion at least once. Other cushion contacts do not count except for those that are prohibited.

Some of the instances when a loss of lag is automatically declared include:

If the automatic-loss lag rules are violated by both partners, or if the referee cannot determine which ball is nearer, the lag is declared a tie and it has to be replayed.

Opening Break Shot
In a tournament or any formal competition, the opening break shot is determined by the lag break procedure. The player who wins the lot or lag can either choose to perform the opening the break shot or to assign it to the opponent.

Cue Ball on Opening Break
The player takes the opening break shot with cue ball in hand behind the head string. The positioning of the object balls is done in accordance with the specific game rules. On the opening break, once the cue tip strikes the cue ball and it crosses the head string, the game is considered to have begun.

Deflecting the Cue Ball on the Opening Break of the Game
On the break shot, if the cue ball is deflected or stopped prior to hitting the racked balls and after it has crossed the head string, it is considered a foul and the player loses their turn. The opponent now has the option of passing the cue ball in hand behind the head string back to the offending player or receiving the cue ball in hand behind the head string.

Cue Ball in Hand behind the Head String
This situation is applicable in specific games where a player's scratching is penalized by the incoming player having a cue ball in hand behind the head string and being able to place the cue ball in any place behind the head string.

The player who is shooting may shoot at any of the object balls provided the base of the object ball that is shot at is below or on the head string. He cannot shoot at any ball if the base of the ball is above the head string. The base of the ball, which is the point of the ball that is touching the table, is what determines whether the ball is below or above the head string.

In the event that the incoming player unintentionally places the cue ball below or on the head string, it should be brought to the shooting player's attention that the cue ball is improperly positioned prior to the shot being made. If the referee or the opposing player fails to inform the shooting player at the appropriate time, the shot is considered legal. If the shooting player is notified about the improper positioning, the cue ball will have to be repositioned.

When the cue ball is in hand behind the head string, it stays in hand and not in play until such time that the player strikes it with his cue tip and drives it past the head string.

The player is allowed to adjust the cue ball with the cue or by hand as long as it still remains in hand. However, if the player impedes the ball in any way once the cue ball is in play, it is considered that a foul has been committed.

Head String Defined
The head string itself is not included in the area behind the head string. If an object ball is dead center on the head string it is playable when the specific game rules state that a player must shoot at a ball past the head string. Likewise, when the cue ball is put in play behind the head string, it should be placed behind the head string; it cannot be placed directly on it.

Pocketing a Ball
In case of failure to pocket a ball on a legal shot, that player's innings are considered over and the opponent gets a shot at the table.

Pocketed Balls
If a legal shot has been played and the ball drops off the bed of the table into the pocket and stays there it is considered as a pocketed ball. A ball is not considered a pocketed ball if it drops out of a ball return system and falls onto the floor.

Ball Positions
The position of a ball is determined by the position in which its center or base comes to rest.

Foot on Floor
Both feet should be in contact with the floor when the player is shooting. If at least one foot is not in contact with the floor, it is considered a foul.

Completion of Stroke
Only when all the balls on the table have come to a completely standstill after a stroke is the stroke considered complete and is counted.

Balls moving spontaneously
If the ball turns, settles, shifts or moves any way by itself, it is allowed to remain in that position and play continues. If a hanging ball is motionless for 5 or more seconds and then falls into a pocket by itself, it is replaced as closely as possible to its position before falling and then play is allowed to continue.

Shooting with balls in motion
If the player shoots while any object ball or the cue ball is in motion, it is considered a foul.

Spotting Balls
If a specific game rule calls for spotting balls, these balls should be replaced on the table on the long string upon completion of the stroke. A single ball is typically placed on the foot spot. If multiple balls are to be spotted, they are placed on the long string in ascending numerical order; starting on the foot spot and moving ahead towards the foot rail.

If the balls that are near or on the long string interface or the foot spot impede the spotting of balls, the balls that are to be spotted are placed on the long string as near as possible to the foot spot without moving the interfering balls. The spotted balls should be placed as near as possible to such interfering balls, except if it is the cue ball that is interfering.

If the room on the long string between the foot rail and the foot spot is insufficient for balls that must be spotted, these balls are placed on the extension of the long string in font of the foot spot, between the center spot and the foot spot and as close as possible to the foot spot.

Jawed Balls
In the event that two or more balls are locked between the sides or jaws of the pocket, with one ball or more suspended in the air, the referee inspects the balls in their respective positions and follows a specific procedure. He first visually or physically projects each ball downward directly from its locked position. The ball is considered a pocketed ball if the ball, in his opinion, would have fallen into the pocked if it was thus moved directly downward. Any ball that would have come to a stop on the bed of the table is not considered a pocketed ball. The placement of the balls is done according to he referee's judgement and play continues in accordance with specific game rules as if no jawing or locking of balls had occurred.

Additional Pocketed Balls
If extra balls get pocketed on a legal scoring stroke, they are counted in keeping with scoring rules of that specific game.

Interference by Non-player
If a non-player moves the balls either directly or by bumping the player during the match, the affected player is not penalized. Play is resumed after the balls are replaced as close as possible to where they were immediately prior to the incident. The referee, if there is one, will be responsible for replacing the balls. This rule is applicable in case of any natural interference including power failure, hurricane or earthquake. If, for any reason, the balls cannot be replaced in their original positions, then the game is replayed with the original player breaking. This rule does not apply in certain games, such as 14.1 Continuous, where there are successive racks.

Breaking Subsequent Racks
If the match is comprised of short rack games, the winner of each game gets to break in the next. Some of the common options that may be chosen by tournament officials in advance include:

Play by Innings
Players have to alternate innings or turns at the table during the course of play. The player's innings end either when he fouls or when he fails to legally pocket a ball. If there has been no foul at the end of the innings, the incoming player accepts the table in position.

Object ball Frozen to Cue Ball or Cushion
This rule is applicable to any shot wherein the first contact between the cue ball makes and another ball happens to be with a ball that is frozen to the cue ball itself or to a cushion. According to the rules, after the cue ball makes contact with the frozen object ball, the shot must result in any one of the following four results in order to not be declared a foul:

An object ball is only considered frozen to a rail if examined and declared as such by the referee. One of the players can also declare the object ball frozen prior to it being involved in a shot.

Playing from Behind the String
When a player has the cue ball in hand behind the string, which means the cue ball is in the kitchen, it must be driven to a point outside the kitchen before it comes in contact with either an object ball or a cushion. Failure to do so is considered a foul against the player if there is a referee presiding over the match. In the absence of a referee, the opponent can choose to either declare it a foul or he can choose to ask the offending player to replay the shot with the balls replaced in the positions they were in before the shot and no foul penalty is imposed.

The exception to this rule is when an object ball lies outside or on the head string and is in such close proximity that the cue ball comes in contact with it before the cue ball comes out of the kitchen. In this case the ball can be legally played. If the player is attempting a legitimate shot with cue ball in hand behind the headstring and the cue ball hits the ball behind the head string accidentally and the cue ball crosses the line, it is considered a foul.

If, under the same circumstances, the cue ball accidentally hits an object ball but the cue ball stops short of crossing the headstring, the incoming player can choose to declare a foul or he can choose to have the offending player replay the shot after restoring the balls to their original positions. If the cue ball comes in contact with an object ball behind the headstring because of deliberate action on the part of the player, it is unsportsmanlike conduct.

Cue Ball in Hand Foul
During cue ball in hand placement, the player is allowed to use either his hand or any part of his cue, including the tip in order to position the cue ball. When positioning the cue ball, any forward stroke motion that contacts the cue ball is considered a foul, if the shot was not legal.

The non-shooting player is fouled if he interferes with the play or distracts his opponent in any way. If any player moves any ball except during his own inning or if he shoots out of turn, it is considered to be interference.

No player is allowed to use the triangle, a ball or any type of width-measuring device to determine whether or not an object ball or a cue ball would be able to pass through a gap. The cue stick is the only device that can be used to aid in judging gaps, that too only when it is held by the hand. To measure any other way except with the cue stick is considered a foul.

Illegal marking
A player is fouled if he intentionally marks the table in such a way so as to assist him in executing a shot. However, if the player removes the mark before taking the shot, a penalty is not imposed.

These rules are continued in Rules of Billiards Fouls.