Pocket Billiards:

These are the general rules of billiards, which apply unless playing one of the specific games listed below.

All of the pocket games are played on a table with six pockets. The four corner pockets are 4 7/8 to 5 1/8" wide, with an opening angle of 142 degrees. The two side pockets are 5 3/8 to 5 5/8" wide, with an opening angle of 103 degrees.

The foot end of the table is the end on which the balls are racked and the head end is the end from which the break shot is made. The exact center of the playing area is marked by the center spot. Halfway between the center spot and the ends of the table are two other spots, the foot spot and the head spot. Four imaginary lines called strings subdivide the table into eight sections. The long string runs the length of the table, through the center spot. The foot, center, and head strings run across the table, through the spots for which they are named.

To assist players in calculating angles for bank shots, the cushions are marked by 18 diamonds, three between each set of two pockets. Pool balls are 2 1/4 inches in diameter, with a weight of 5 1/2 to 6 ounces. The cue stick must be at least 40 inches long, with a weight of no more than 25 ounces. The maximum width of the tip is 14 millimeters.

There are 15 object balls, numbered 1 through 15. The "low balls," 1 through 7 are solid colors, and the "high balls," 9 through 15, are striped. As the middle ball in the sequence, the 8 ball stands alone. The object of pocket billiards is to knock object balls into pockets by action of the cue ball. Before a match, players "lag" to determine the order of play. Each player strokes the cue ball against the foot cushion from behind the head string. The player whose ball comes nearest the head cushion after rebounding from the foot cushion is given the choice of whether to shoot first or second.

The scratch is a special kind of foul in pocket billiards. The most common scratch occurs when the cue ball goes into a pocket or jumps off the table. It's a table scratch if the cue ball remains on the playing surface but the shooter fails to fulfill certain requirements: for example, if the cue ball doesn't touch an object ball. The specific penalty for a scratch varies with the type of pocket billiards being played. Generally, though, the opponent is given the ball in hand to be placed on the table for the next shot.

Straight Pool:

Straight Pool is played by 2 players or 2 teams using a standard set of balls numbered 1-15, plus cue ball. The balls are placed in a standard triangle rack with the apex ball on the foot spot, 1 ball on the racker's right corner, 5 ball on left corner and other balls placed at random. All balls must touch their neighbors. The game is played to a pre-determined point total.

The player must nominate a ball and pocket. He is awarded one point for every correctly nominated and pocketed ball on a legal stroke and continues his turn until he either fails to pocket a nominated ball or commits a foul. Any ball legally pocketed counts one point for the shooter.

At the opening break, the starting player must either (1) designate a ball and a pocket and accomplish the designated shot or (2) cause the cue ball to contact a ball, then a cushion, plus cause two object balls to contact a cushion. Failure to do so is a breaking violation, and the offender is assessed a two point penalty for each breaking violation. The opponent has the choice of (1) accepting the table in position or (2) having the balls reracked and requiring the offending player to repeat the opening break.

If the starting player scratches on a legal opening break, he is assessed a one point penalty. The incoming player is awarded the cue ball in hand behind the head string, with object balls in position.

A shooter continues at the table until he fails to legally pocket a called ball on a shot. He may shoot any ball, but must designate the ball and pocket. Any additional pocketed ball on a legal stroke is scored as one point for the shooter.

When the fourteenth ball of a rack is pocketed, play stops with the fifteenth ball remaining in position on the table. The fourteen pocketed balls are racked, with the space at the foot spot vacant. The shooter then continues, normally pocketing the fifteenth ball so as to have the cue ball carom into the rack and spread the balls.

Illegally pocketed balls are all spotted. If object balls jump off the table, the stroke is a foul and any jumped ball(s) is spotted after the balls come to rest. If the cue ball jumps off the table or is scratched, the incoming player has cue ball in hand behind the head string.

Eight Ball:

Eight Ball is a call shot game played with a cue ball and object balls numbered 1 through 15. The balls are racked in a triangle at the foot of the table with the 8 ball in the center, the first ball of the rack on the footspot, a stripe ball in one corner and a solid ball in the other corner. One player must pocket the balls numbered 1 through 7 (solids), while the other player must pocket balls numbered 9 through 15 (stripes). The player pocketing his group first then legally pocketing the 8 ball wins the game. The table is always open immediately after the break. The choice of group is determined when a player legally pockets a called object ball after the break.

Obvious balls and pockets do not have to be indicated. The opponent may ask which ball and pocket if he is unsure. Bank shots and combination shots are not considered obvious. It is not necessary to indicate details such as number of cushions, banks, kisses, etc. Any balls pocketed on a foul remain pocketed.

Winner of the lag has the option to break. Players alternate breaking on each subsequent game. The breaker must either (1) pocket the ball or (2) drive at least four numbered balls to the rail. Failure to make a legal break is a foul. The incoming player has the option of accepting the table in position and shooting or having the balls reracked. He may then reshoot the opening break or allow his opponent to rebreak.

If a player scratches on a legal break shots all balls pocketed remain pocketed (except the 8 ball), it counts as a foul, and the table is open. If the shooter jumps an object ball off the table on the break shot, it is a foul. The incoming player may accept the table in position and shoot or take the cue ball in hand behind the head string and shoot. If the 8 ball is pocketed on the break, the breaker may ask for a rerack or have the 8 ball spotted and continue shooting.

Combination shots are allowed; however, a combination shot can never be used to legally pocket the 8 ball.

A player loses the game if he fouls when pocketing the 8 ball, pockets the 8 ball on the same stroke as the last of his group of balls, jumps the 8 ball off the table at any time, pockets the 8 ball in a pocket other than the one designated, or pockets the 8 ball when it is not the legal object ball.

Nine Ball:

Nine Ball is played with object balls numbered 1 through 9, plus cue ball. The object balls are racked in a diamond shape, with the 1-ball at the top of the diamond and on the foot spot, the 9-ball in the center, and the other balls in random order, packed as tightly as possible.

On each shot, the first ball the cue ball contacts must be the lowest numbered ball on the table; however, the balls need not be pocketed in order. If a player pockets any ball on a legal shot, he continues until he misses, fouls or wins the game by pocketing the 9-ball. After a miss, the incoming player may start with the cue ball anywhere on the table. Players are not required to call their shots.

To break, the shooter must strike the 1-ball first and either pocket a ball or drive at least four numbered balls to the rail. On the following play, the shooter may play a "push out" in an attempt to move the cue ball into a better position for the option that follows. The player must announce his intention before the shot or it is considered a normal shot.

If the shooter misses or fouls, the other player begins his inning and shoots until he misses, fouls, or wins.

The match ends when one of the players has won the required number of games.

When a player commits a foul, he must relinquish his run and no balls pocketed on the foul shot are respotted, except the 9-ball is respotted if it is pocketed. The incoming player is awarded the ball and hand, and he may place the cue ball anywhere on the table prior to his first shot.

If the first object ball contacted by the cue ball is not the lowest numbered ball on the table, the shot is a foul. If no object ball is pocketed, failure to drive the cue ball or any numbered ball to the rail, it is a foul. If an object ball is driven off the table, it is a foul. The ball is not respotted (unless it is the 9-ball) and play continues.

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