General Billiard Rules - Equipment, Balls, and Tables (Regulation 3.1)

This regulation simply indicates that all billiard games described in these general rules of pocket billiards are designed for play on tables that meet the standards prescribed in the BCA Equipment Specifications. This also includes balls and other equipment.

General Billiard Rules - Racking The Balls (Regulation 3.2)

This regulation indicates that a triangle must be used when racking the balls, and that the apex ball is to be spotted on the foot spot. All balls are to be lined up behind the apex ball and be pushed together in such a way that they all have side to side contact with each other.

General Billiard Rules - Shooting The Cue Ball (Regulation 3.3)

Regulations state that for a shot to be considered legal, the cue ball can only be struck with the cue tip. Contact via any other method results in a foul. An example of this could be contact made with a hand, or with a mechanical bridge

General Billiard Rules - Calling Shots (Regulation 3.4)

Applying to games of call-shot, under this rule states that a player can shoot any ball they choose, but must "call" both the ball they are shooting at, and the pocket at which it will be shot. The player does not need to indicate details such as legal combinations, kisses, caroms or cushions. Any balls that are pocketed in addition to the called ball are counted in the shooter's favor.

General Billiard Rules - Failure To Pocket A Ball (Regulation 3.5)

This is a simple regulation which states that when a player fails to pocket any balls on a legal shot, their inning is over. At this time, the opponent's inning begins.

General Billiard Rules - Lag For Break (Regulation 3.6)

This regulation specifies the procedure for the "lag" for opening break. This lag will determine who shoots the opening break. For the lag, each player should use billiard balls of equal size and weight. The Billiard Congress of America's preference is that cue balls be used, but when they are not available, non-striped object balls should be used. The two players stand behind the head string with the balls in hand, one player to the left of the head spot, and one to the right. The balls are shot by the players simultaneously to the foot cushion and back to the head end of the table. The player whose ball returns closest to the innermost edge of the head cushion wins the lag. The regulations specify that the lagged ball must contact the foot cushion at least once. Other cushion contacts are immaterial, except as prohibited below. A player automatically loss of the lag if their ball:

  • crosses into the opponent's half of the table;
  • fails to contact the foot cushion;
  • drops into a pocket;
  • jumps off the table;
  • touches the long cushion;
  • rests within the corner pocket and past the nose of the head cushion, or;
  • contacts the foot rail more than once.

If both of the billiard players violate the automatic loss lag rules, or if the referee is unable to determine which player's ball is closer to the head cushion, the lag is called as a tie and replayed.

General Billiard Rules - Opening Break Shot (Regulation 3.7)

The opening break shot is to be determined by either lag or lot. For formal competition, the lag for break procedure is required. The player who wins the lag or lot then has the choice of performing the opening break shot or transferring it to the opposing player.

General Billiard Rules - Opening Break - The Cue Ball (Regulation 3.8)

This rule outlines how the opening break shot is to be performed. It states that opening break shot is taken with cue ball in hand behind the head string. The object balls are positioned according to specific game rules. (General rules for pocket billiards specifications for arranging the object balls are found in regulation 3.1 above.) On the opening break, the billiard game is considered to have commenced once the cue ball has been struck by the shooter's cue tip.

General Billiard Rules - Opening Break - Deflecting The Cue Ball (Regulation 3.9)

On the opening break shot, stopping or deflecting the cue ball after it has crossed the head string and prior to hitting the racked balls is considered a foul and thus, a loss of turn. The opponent then has the option of receiving cue ball in hand behind the head string or passing option back to the offending player. (Note that an exception occurs in 9-Ball, rule 5.3, which states: The cue ball in hand can be played anywhere on the table... is allowed at this juncture. A warning must be given that a second violation during the billiard match will result in the loss of the match by forfeiture. For more details on this portion of the regulation, please see Billiard Congress of America rule 3.28.

General Billiard Rules - Cue Ball In Hand Behind The Head String (Regulation 3.10)

This regulation was written regarding the situation that applies to specific games whereby the opening break is administered or a player's scratching is penalized by the incoming player having cue ball in hand behind the head string. The incoming player may place the cue ball anywhere behind the head string. The shooting player may shoot at any object ball as long as the base of the object ball is located on or below the head string.

The shooting player may only shoot at object balls that are above the head string ("uptable") unless the cue ball is first shot to the foot rail, (or one of the side rails below the head string) causing it to bounce back above the head string and hit an object ball. Per the Billiard Congress of America; The base of the ball (the point of the ball touching the table) determines whether it is above or below the head string.

There is a specification where the incoming player inadvertently places the cue ball on or below the head string, the referee or the op-posing player must inform the shooting player of improper positioning of the cue ball before the shot is made. Additionally, if the opposing player does not so inform the shooting player before the shot is made, the shot is considered legal, and the billiard game continues. If the shooting player is informed of improper positioning, he or she must then reposition the cue ball. If a player positions the cue ball completely and obviously outside the kitchen and shoots the cue ball, they receive a foul. For full details on this regulation, refer to regulation 2.21. When the cue ball is in hand behind the head string, it is considered "in hand" and not "in play" until the player strikes the cue ball with his or her cue tip. The shooting player is allowed to adjust the position of the cue ball with their hand, or cue, or any other object as long as it remains "in hand". When the cue ball is back "in play", it may not be impeded in any way by the player. In fact, to do is considered committing a foul. Additionally, if the shot fails to contact a legal object ball or fails to drive the cue ball over the head string, the shot is considered a foul and the opposing player has ball in hand according to the specific billiard game rules.

General Billiard Rules - Pocketed Balls (Regulation 3.11)

This is the rule stating that a ball is to be considered pocketed if, as the result of an otherwise legal shot, it drops off of the bed of the table into the pocket and remains there. However, a ball that drops from a table's ball return system onto the floor is not to be construed as a ball that has not remained pocketed. One should note that a ball rebounding from a pocket back onto the table bed is not considered a pocketed ball.

General Billiard Rules - Positioning of the Balls (Regulation 3.12)

This rule simply states that the position of a ball is judged by where its base, or center, actually touches the billiard table.

General Billiard Rules - Contact With the Floor - Foot (Regulation 3.13)

This rule specifies that the shooting billiard player must have at least one foot in contact with the floor at the moment the cue tip contacts the cue ball. If this regulation is violated, the shot is a foul. Additionally, the player's footwear must be of normal size, shape, and manner in which it is worn.

General Billiard Rules - Shooting When Balls Are In Motion (Regulation 3.14)

The shooting player receives a foul if a they shoot while any object ball, or the cue ball, is in motion. This rule applies to spinning balls as well.

General Billiard Rules - Completing A Stroke (Regulation 3.15)

A stroke is not complete, and therefore is not counted, until all balls on the table have become motionless after the stroke. This rule includes balls that are spinning, as the Billiard Congress of America considers spinning balls to be in motion.

General Billiard Rules - Definition of the Head String (Regulation 3.16)

The area behind the head string does not include the head string. Thus, an object ball that is dead center on the head string is playable when specific game rules require that a player must shoot at a ball past the head string. Similarly, when the cue ball is put in play behind the head string as done with cue ball in hand behind the head string, it may not be placed directly on the head string. It must be behind the head string.

General Billiard Rules - All Fouls - General Rules (Regulation 3.17)

Generally the penalties dealt for fouls differ across various billiard games, however, the following rules apply to all fouls:

  • The player's inning ends;
  • If on a stroke, the stroke is considered invalid and any pocketed balls are not counted to the shooter's credit, and;
  • Balls are re-spotted only if the rules of the specific game require it.

General Billiard Rules - When a Player Fails To Contact The Object Ball (Regulation 3.18)

This rule states that if on a stroke, the cue ball fails to make contact with any legal object ball first, the player receives a foul. Also, Billiard Congress of America's regulations state that playing away from a touching ball does not constitute having hit that ball.

General Billiard Rules - Legal Shots (Regulation 3.19)

Unless otherwise stated in a specific game rule, a player must cause the cue ball to contact a legal object ball and then:

  • Pocket a numbered ball, or;
  • Cause the cue ball or any numbered ball to contact a cushion or any part of the rail. Failure to meet these requirements is a foul.

General Billiard Rules - Cue Ball Scratch (Regulation 3.20)

This rule says that it is a scratch foul if on a stroke, the cue ball is pocketed. If the cue ball touches an object ball that was already pocketed, the shot is considered a foul. An example of this would be in a pocket full of object balls.

General Billiard Rules - Foul By Touching Balls (Regulation 3.21)

It is a foul to strike, touch, or in any way make contact with the cue ball in play or any object balls in play. This includes contact with anything, including the body, clothing, chalk, mechanical bridge, cue shaft, etc, except the cue tip that is attached to the cue shaft. This, and only this may contact the cue ball in the execution of a legal shot.

Whenever a referee is presiding over a billiard match, any object ball moved during a standard foul must be returned as closely as possible to its original position as judged by the referee. The incoming player does not have the option of restoration. For more details on this regulation, you can reference regulation 1.16.1 of the general rules.

General Billiard Rules - Foul By Ball Placement (Regulation 3.22)

This regulation states that touching any object ball with the cue ball while it is in hand is a foul.

General Billiard Rules - Double Hits Causing A Foul (Regulation 3.23)

If the cue ball is touching the required object ball prior to the shot, the player may shoot toward it, providing that a normal stroke is employed. If the cue stick strikes the cue ball more than once on a shot, or if the cue stick is in contact with the cue ball when or after the cue ball contacts an object ball, the shot is considered a foul. For more information, see regulation 2.20 for judging this sort of shot. If a third ball is close by, care should be exercised by the shooter not to foul that ball based on the first part of this regulation.

General Billiard Rules - Foul By Push Shot (Regulation 3.24)

If the cue ball is pushed by the cue tip as such that contact is maintained for more than the momentary time commensurable with a stroked shot. These shots are generally referred to as "push shots".

General Billiard Rules - Player Responsibility Fouls (Regulation 3.25)

The player is responsible for chalk, bridges, and any other items or equipment he or she brings to, uses at, or causes to approximate the table. For example, if a player drops a piece of chalk, or knocks off a mechanical bridge head, they are guilty of a foul should such an object make contact with any ball in play This also applies to the cue ball, but only if there is no referee presiding over the match.

General Billiard Rules - Illegal Jumping of Balls (Regulation 3.26)

It is considered a foul if the shooting player strikes the cue ball below center such as by digging under or lofting the cue ball, and intentionally causes it to rise off the bed of the table in an effort to clear an obstructing ball. Such jumping action may occur accidentally, and these accidental jumps are not to be considered fouls on their face. However, they may still be ruled foul strokes if, for example, the ferrule or cue shaft makes contact with the cue ball in the course of the shot.

General Billiard Rules - Jump Shots (Regulation 3.27)

Regarding jump shots, unless otherwise stated in rules for a specific game, it is legal to cause the cue ball to rise off the bed of the table by elevating the cue stick on the shot, and forcing the cue ball to rebound from the bed of the table. Any miscue when executing a jump shot is a foul.

General Billiard Rules - Balls Jumped Off Of The Table (Regulation 3.28)

Balls coming to rest on surfaces other than the bed of the table after a stroke, such as on the cushion top, rail surface, or floor, are considered jumped balls. Balls may bounce on the cushion tops and rails of the table in play without being jumped balls if they return to the bed of the table under their own power and without touching anything that is not a part of the billiard table. The billiard table is to consist of the permanent part of the table proper. Balls that strike or touch anything not a part of the table, such as the billiard table lamp, chalk on the rails and cushion tops, etc., shall be considered jumped balls. This is the case even though they might return to the bed of the table after contacting items which are not parts of the table proper. In all pocket billiard games, when a stroke results in the cue ball or any object ball being a jumped ball off the table, the stroke is a foul. All jumped object balls are spotted, except in 8 and 9-Ball, when all balls have stopped moving. You should reference specific game rules for the regulations on putting the cue ball in play after a jumped cue ball foul.

General Billiard Rules - Intentional Foul Penalty (Regulation 3.29)

The cue ball in play shall not be intentionally struck with anything, such as the ferrule, shaft, etc., other than a cue's attached tip. While such contact is automatically a foul under the provisions of Regulation 3.19, if the referee deems the contact to be intentional, the player will be warned once during a match that a second violation during that same match will result in the loss of the billiard match by forfeiture. If a second violation should occur, the match must be forfeited.

General Billiard Rules - The One Foul Limit (Regulation 3.30)

This regulation pertains to the number of fouls that can be assessed per inning. Unless specific game rules dictate otherwise, only one foul is assessed on a player in each inning. If different penalties can apply, the most severe penalty is the factor determining which foul is assessed.

General Billiard Rules - Spontaneous Movement of the Balls (Regulation 3.31)

If a ball shifts, settles, turns or otherwise moves by itself, the ball is to remain in the position it assumed, and play is to continue. A hanging ball that falls into a pocket by itself after being motionless for 5 seconds or longer is to be replaced as closely as possible to its position prior to falling, and play shall continue. If an object ball drops into a pocket by itself as a player shoots at it, so that the cue ball passes over the spot the ball had been on, unable to hit it, the cue ball and object ball are to be replaced to their positions prior to the stroke, and the player may shoot again. Finally, any other object balls that are disturbed on the stroke are also to be replaced to their original positions before the shooter replays.

General Billiard Rules - Spotting Balls (Regulation 3.32)

When specific game rules call for spotting balls, regulation 3.32 provides that they shall be replaced on the table on the long string after the stroke is complete. A single ball is placed on the foot spot, and if more than one ball is to be spotted, they are placed on the long string in ascending numerical order, beginning on the foot spot and advancing toward the foot rail. When balls that are on or near the foot spot or long string interfere with the spotting of balls, the balls to be spotted are placed on the extension of the long string in front of the foot spot between the foot spot and the center spot, as near as possible to the foot spot and in the same numerical order as if they were spotted behind the foot spot. The lowest numbered ball would be closest to the foot spot...



General Billiard Rules - Jawed Balls (Regulation 3.33)

If two or more balls are locked between the jaws or sides of the pocket, with one or more suspended in air, the referee shall inspect the balls in position. Once the situation is assessed, the referee will execute the following procedure: The referee shall visually or physically project each ball directly downward from its locked position. Any ball, that in his or her judgement would fall in the pocket if so moved directly downward is a pocketed ball. Any ball that would come to rest on the bed of the table is not pocketed. The balls are then placed according to the referee's assessment, and play continues according to specific game rules as if no jawing or locking of balls had occurred.

General Billiard Rules - Pocketing Additional Balls (Regulation 3.34)

If extra balls are pocketed on a legal scoring stroke, they are counted in accord with the scoring rules for the particular game.

General Billiard Rules - Interference By Non-Players (Regulation 3.35)

When it comes to non-player interference, the regulations are very clear. If a player is bumped, or the balls moved such that play is directly affected by a non-player during the match, the balls are to be replaced as near as possible to their original positions immediately prior to the incident, and play shall resume with no penalty on the player affected. If the match is an officiated one, the referee shall replace the balls. This rule also applies to an act of God interference, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, light fixture falling, power failures, etc. If the balls cannot be restored to their original positions, the game is replayed with the original player breaking. This rule is not applicable to 14.1 Continuous where the game consists of successive racks: the rack in progress will be discontinued and a completely new rack will be started with the requirements of the normal opening break. (Players lag for break.) Scoring of points is to be resumed at the score as it stood at the moment of game disruption.

General Billiard Rules - Breaking Subsequent Racks (Regulation 3.36)

In a match that consists of short rack games, the winner of each game breaks in the next one. The following are common options that may be designated by tournament officials in advance:

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

General Billiard Rules - Billiard Play By Innings (Regulation 3.37)

During the course of play, players alternate turns, called "innings", at the table. A player's inning ends when he or she either fails to legally pocket a ball, or fouls. When an inning ends free of a foul, the incoming player accepts the table in position.

General Billiard Rules - When an Object Ball is Frozen to the Cushion or Cue Ball (Regulation 3.38)

This regulation applies to any shot where the cue ball's first contact with a ball is with one that is frozen to a cushion or to the cue ball itself. After the cue ball makes contact with the frozen object ball, the shot must result in either:

  • A ball being pocketed, or;
  • The cue ball contacting a cushion, or;
  • The frozen ball being caused to contact a cushion attached to a separate rail, or;
  • Another object ball being caused to contact a cushion with which it was not already in contact.

Failure to satisfy one of those four requirements is cause for a foul. One must note the following at this juncture: 14.1 and other games specify additional requirements and applications of this rule, thus it is recommended that readers see specific game rules. A ball which is touching a cushion at the start of a shot and then is forced into a cushion attached to the same rail is not considered to have been driven to that cushion unless it leaves the cushion, contacts another ball, and then contacts the cushion again. An object ball is not considered frozen to a cushion unless it is examined and announced as such by either the referee or one of the players prior to that object ball being involved in a shot.

General Billiard Rules - Playing From Behind The String (Regulation 3.39)

When a player has the cue ball in hand behind the head string, "in the kitchen", he or she must drive the cue ball to a point across the head string before it contacts either a cushion, an object ball, or returns to the kitchen. Failure to do so is a foul if a referee is presiding over a match. If no referee is present, the opponent has the option to call it either a foul or to require the offending player to replay the shot again with the balls restored to their positions prior to the shot with no foul penalty imposed. An exception exists here: if an object ball lies on or outside the head string, and is thus playable, but so close that the cue ball contacts it before the cue ball is out of the kitchen, the ball can be legally played, and will be considered to have crossed the head string. If, with cue ball in hand behind the headstring and while the shooter is attempting a legitimate shot, the cue ball accidentally hits a ball behind the head string, and the cue ball crosses the line, it is a foul. If with cue ball in hand behind the head string, the shooter causes the cue ball to hit an object ball accidentally, and the cue ball does not cross the headstring, the following applies: the incoming player has the option of calling a foul and having cue ball in hand, or having the balls returned to their original position, and having the offending player replay the shot. If a player under the same conditions intentionally causes the cue ball to contact an object ball behind the headstring, it is considered unsportsmanlike conduct.