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Quick Guide to Billiards Rules

Billiards, also known as cue sports, encompasses a variety of games played on a cloth-covered table with cues and billiard balls. Understanding the rules of billiards can enhance your enjoyment of the game, whether you’re a casual player or a serious enthusiast. This comprehensive guide covers all the essential rules of billiards, from the basics of gameplay to specific regulations for popular variations.

The Basics of Billiards

The Table: A standard billiards table is rectangular, with pockets at each corner and in the middle of the long sides. The size and number of pockets may vary depending on the game.

The Balls: Billiard games use a set of balls, typically made of phenolic resin. The number and color of balls vary by game.

The Cue: Players use a cue stick to strike the cue ball, aiming to hit other balls according to the rules of the game.

General Rules of Play

Break Shot: Most billiards games start with a break shot, where the cue ball is used to break the rack of object balls.

Shot Making: Players take turns striking the cue ball with the cue stick, aiming to hit other balls and achieve specific objectives depending on the game.

Fouls: Common fouls include failing to hit any balls, pocketing the cue ball (scratch), and hitting the wrong ball first. Fouls typically result in a penalty, such as loss of turn or allowing the opponent to place the cue ball.

Popular Billiards Games

Eight-Ball Pool

  • Objective: One player aims to pocket all solid-colored balls (1-7), while the other aims for striped balls (9-15). The first to legally pocket the 8-ball after clearing their group wins.
  • Break: The game starts with a break shot, and the table is “open” until a player pockets a ball.
  • Calling Shots: In some variations, players must call the pocket for each shot.

Nine-Ball Pool

  • Objective: Players aim to pocket the balls in numerical order, from 1 to 9. The winner is the first to legally pocket the 9-ball.
  • Shot Making: Players must hit the lowest-numbered ball on the table first but can pocket any ball after contact.
  • Push Out: After the break, the shooter may declare a “push out,” allowing them to hit the cue ball without needing to hit the lowest-numbered ball or call a pocket.


  • Objective: Players score points by alternately potting red and colored balls. The winner has the most points at the end of the frame.
  • Ball Values: Red balls are worth 1 point each, while colored balls range from 2 to 7 points.
  • Frame: A frame of snooker includes a set sequence of potting red and colored balls, ending when all balls are potted or one player concedes.

Straight Pool (14.1 Continuous)

  • Objective: Players aim to reach a predetermined number of points by potting balls.
  • Racking: When only the cue ball and one object ball remain, the other balls are re-racked.
  • Scoring: Each potted ball is worth one point.

Billiards Etiquette

  • Respect: Players should respect their opponents, the rules, and the equipment.
  • Conduct: Players should avoid distractions, remain quiet during shots, and acknowledge good shots by opponents.

Official Rules and Organizations

Billiards is governed by various organizations, each with its own set of official rules. The World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) and the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) are two prominent governing bodies.

Understanding these rules is crucial for fully appreciating and enjoying billiards. Whether you’re playing eight-ball, nine-ball, snooker, or straight pool, keeping these guidelines in mind will help you engage with the game more deeply and play with greater skill.

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