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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 www.ishootpool.com.