9 Ball - Object of the Game and General Description (Regulation 5.1)

9 ball is played with a cue ball and nine object balls numbered 1 through 9. 9 ball is a "rotation" game, meaning that the balls are shot in numerical order. The shooting player must strike the lowest numbered ball on the table first. Players are not required to call any shot, and the game is won when the nine ball is pocketed. A player retains their turn at the table as long as they strike the lowest numbered ball first, avoid fouls, and pockets a ball on each shot. After a miss, the incoming player must shoot from the position left by the previous player, but after any foul the incoming player may start with the cue ball anywhere on the table. The player need not pocket the lowest numbered ball to continue shooting. He may, for example, shoot the 1-ball into the 4-ball thus pocketing the 4. He will continue shooting but must again strike the 1 ball first. If the player shoots the 1-ball into the 9-ball and the 9 is pocketed, the game is over.

Racking the Balls (Regulation 5.2)

The same as in 8-ball, but only 9 balls are used and are racked in a diamond shape. The balls are racked with the 1-ball at the top of the diamond and on the foot spot, the 9-ball in the center of the diamond, and the other balls in random order. The balls should be racked as tightly as possible. 9 Ball games begin with cue ball in hand behind the head string.

Order of Break (Regulation 5.3)

The winner of the lag has the option to break the rack. In 9-Ball, the winner of each game breaks in the next, unless otherwise specified by the 9 Ball tournament organizer. The following are common options that may be designated by various tournament officials in advance:

  • Players alternate break.
  • Loser breaks.
  • Player trailing in game count breaks the next game.

Legal Break Shot (Regulation 5.4)

The rules governing the break shot are the same as for other legal shots except:

  • The breaker must strike the1-ball first and either pocket a ball or drive at least four numbered balls to the rail.
  • If the cue ball is pocketed or driven off the table, or the requirements of the opening break are not met, it is a foul, and the incoming player has cue ball in hand anywhere on the table.
  • If on the break shot, the breaking player causes any object ball to leave the table, it is considered a foul. At this juncture, the incoming player has cue ball in hand anywhere on the table. The object ball is not re-spotted (exception: if the object ball is the 9-ball, it is re-spotted).



After The Break

Various circumstances can occur upon completion of the break. They are:

  • A foul on break shot will result in a cue ball in hand anywhere on the table for the breaker's opponent. Pocketed balls, if any, stay in the pocket and are not spotted, except for the 9-ball.
  • No balls are pocketed and it is the other player's turn.
  • The 9-ball is made. This is a winning scenario unless the shooting player scratches. In this case, the 9-ball or any other high numbered ball is spotted and the turn is passed to his opponent.
  • One ball or a number of balls are pocketed. It is still the breaker's turn and they shoot the lowest numbered ball on the table.
  • Occasionally it occurs that the player mistakenly hits the wrong ball. Although it is sportsmanlike for the sitting player to remind the shooting player he is about to foul by shooting at the incorrect ball, they are not required to do so. Once the player has hit the wrong ball, the foul has occurred whether the ball was pocketed or not. If the ball is pocketed, it is permissible, though not recommended, that the sitting player allow the shooting player to continue shooting until he feels inclined to call the foul. The shooting player can escape penalty by quietly realizing his error and returning to shoot the correct ball and striking it first on a shot prior to his opponent calling the foul. In other words, the sitting player must call the foul before the shooting player has struck the correct ball.

Continuing Play After The Break (Regulation 5.5)

On the shot immediately following a legal break, the shooter may play what is known as a "push out." (See below) If the breaking player pockets one or more balls on a legal break shot, he or she continues to shoot until they miss a shot, foul, or win the game. If the player misses or fouls, the other player begins an inning and shoots until missing, committing a foul, or winning. The game ends when the 9-ball is pocketed on a legal shot, or the game is forfeited for a serious infraction of the rules.

Push Out (Regulation 5.6)

The billiard player who shoots immediately after a legal break may play a push out in an attempt to move the cue ball into a more favorable position for the option that follows. On a push out, the cue ball is not required to contact any object ball nor any rail, but all other foul regulations still apply. The player must announce his or her intention of playing a push out before the shot, or the shot is considered to be a normal shot. Any pocketed ball on a push out does not count and remains pocketed except for the 9-ball. Following a legal push out, the incoming player is allowed to shoot from that particular position or to pass the shot back to the player who pushed out. A push out is not considered to be a foul as long as no rule, except for the "Bad Hit" regulation and the "No rail" regulation, is violated. An illegal push out is penalized according to the type of foul committed. After a player scratches on the break shot, the incoming player may not play a push out.

Fouls (Regulation 5.7)

When a player commits a foul, he or she must relinquish their inning at the table. Additionally, none of the balls pocketed on the foul shot are to be re-spotted. An exception to this regulation is if a pocketed ball is the 9-ball, it shall be re-spotted. The incoming player is granted ball in hand meaning that prior to their first shot they may place the cue ball anywhere on the table. If a player commits several fouls on one shot, they are counted as only one foul.

Bad Hit (Regulation 5.8)

If the first object ball that is contacted by the cue ball is not the lowest numbered ball on the table, the shot is considered a foul.

No Rail (Regulation 5.9)

If no object ball is pocketed, a failure to drive the cue ball or any numbered ball to a rail after the cue ball contacts the object ball on is considered a foul.

Cue Ball In Hand (Regulation 5.10)

When the cue ball is in hand, the player may position the cue ball anywhere on the playable bed surface of the table. He or she may not place it in such a position that it is in contact with an object ball. The player may continue make adjustments to the position of the cue ball until shooting.

Jumping Object Balls Off The Table (Regulation 5.11)

An un-pocketed ball is considered to be driven off the table if it comes to rest in a place other than on the bed of the table. It is considered a foul to drive an object ball off the table. The jumped object ball is not re-spotted when this occurs. An exception is made if the object ball is the 9-ball, in which it is re-spotted, and play is continued.

Jump and Masse Shot Fouls (Regulation 5.12)

If a match is not presided over by a referee, it will be considered a cue ball foul if during an attempt to jump, curve, or masse the cue ball over or around an impeding numbered ball, the impeding ball moves, regardless of whether it was moved by cue stick follow-through, a hand, or bridge.

Three consecutive Fouls (Regulation 5.13)

If a player fouls three consecutive times on three successive shots while failing to make an intervening legal shot, the game is lost. The three fouls must occur in one game, and the warning must be given between the second and third fouls. A player's inning begins when it is legal to take a shot and ends at the end of a shot on which he or she misses, fouls, or wins, or when he or she fouls between shots.

Stalemate (Regulation 5.14)

If the referee finds that neither player is attempting to win from the current position, the referee will announce his or her decision, and each player will have three more innings at the table. Then, if the referee still feels that there is no progress towards a conclusion, he or she will declare the rack a stalemate and the original breaker of the rack will break once again.

Ending of the Game (Regulation 5.15)

On the opening break, the game is considered to have commenced once the cue ball has been struck by the cue tip. The 1-ball must be legally contacted on the break shot. The game ends at the end of a legal shot which pockets the 9-ball, or when a player forfeits the game as the result of a foul, or multiple fouls


9 Ball Rules - Other 9 ball Information

Saving Money

When using coin operated tables to play 9 Ball, you can save some money by using all the balls in the event of a short game. for example, if the 3 and 9 are made on the break, the balls are reracked (because a 9 on the break is a winner) using the 10 and 11 balls. The sequence in the next game is 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11. The 11, in effect, is the "9-ball", the last ball, in this game. Avoid making replacements such as the 10 replaces the 3; it is too confusing. Shoot the balls in numerical order.

Other 9 Ball Notes

  • Combination shots are legal and extremely common in the game of 9-ball. Keep in mind that one must make sure to hit the lowest numbered ball on the table first.
  • Balls must remain in a pocket to be legal. If a ball goes into a pocket but bounces back onto the playing surface, it is not considered pocketed.
  • It occasionally happens on tables with small pockets that two balls become jammed in a pocket and are leaning over the edge of the slate to some degree. They are off the playing surface and are pocketed. Throw them in and resume playing the game unless the pocketing ends the game.


A player receives a point for every ball pocketed, except those pocketed when he or she scratches or otherwise fouls. The player receives two points for pocketing the 9-ball.