Things Youth Workers Should Know: The Actual Rules of Pool

At some point in the early stages of your career as a youth worker or volunteer you will be faced with the question. And it is important in your fledging youth involvement that you get this question right. This is not one of those things to pussyfoot around, or one of those things where you say something like “it’s both yes and no”. Get this right now, or deal with the consequences forever. When a young person asks you “can I shoot backwards?” the answer is emphatically yes. These things are not down to house rules, or personal preference, or what would give you the advantage on the day, these things are down to the official rules of pool. These rules are not obscure, hard to learn, or hard to find; they are straight forward and available on the internet. Because, despite all this, youth workers still refuse to teach such things here is a summary of all the points you get wrong.

You can shoot backwards after someone pots the white.

Here is how it works when you play from behind the Baulk Line1, you place the white ball behind the Baulk Line and you take your shot. That’s it. Because there are people like you who struggle with this though, the nice people at the World Eight-ball Pool Federation, added a line into their rules to specifically state that the cue ball made be played in any direction. This is what the rules say: The Cue Ball may be played in any direction. See? I mean, if you want to complicate it and make things more confusing for people you can make up crazy rules about not shooting in one particular direction… oh no wait you can’t, because that would be making up rules.

You get two shots on the black.

If a standard foul is committed, the referee awards two visits to the opponent. There are no exceptions to this if you’re on the black, of if you’re both on the black, or if you’re an idiot. You probably don’t have a referee to award you two visits because you’ve probably never met a pool referee, you might try and use this as an excuse for not knowing the rules. Don’t.

You get two shots on an open table.

Sometimes people like to claim that if colours haven’t been decided, no-one gets two shots from a foul. Or they say that if you haven’t potted you can’t get two shots from a foul. I say if a standard foul is committed, the referee awards two visits to the opponent. That’s the same rule you’ve got wrong twice now. Sort it out.

That shot you just did there where you got all happy because you rolled the white incredibly slowly behind another ball to snooker your opponent? That’s called a foul shot.

Every time you play a shot, at least one ball has to be pocketed or bounce off a cushion. Those are the rules. With the above example it’s actually a step further, it’s a foul snooker, but that’s complicated and we’ll get onto that when we talk about free balls later on. What’s not complicated is the rule about getting one of your balls to hit the edge of the table.

Jump shots are fouls.

Really? Yes. Really. For simplicity it’s only considered a jump shot if it actually jumps a ball it would otherwise hit, but that’s the rule. If the rules say they are illegal, then they’re illegal. Stop making your own rules up. Aside: I think some of the pool rules exist to protect the table, especially as the table is normally in a pub and needs looking after. Extra evidence for this is found by noting that there is a whole sub-section of rules devoted to not smoking or drinking near or over the table. For example, causing a beverage container or beverage to touch the table or enter the space directly above the table is a standard foul.

You can’t just magically choose colours when you want to.

Before any ball is potted the table is called open. You could be either colour, will you be reds or will you be yellows? It’s one of the many questions that makes pool so interesting. Once the first shot is played (called “the break” even by people who get the rules as badly wrong as you do) if a ball is potted the player can then say that are going to be that colour. That’s the colours decision made. If you pot both colours from the break, you can pick which colour you want to be by telling your opponent. That’s the colours decision made. So far, so easy right? If you don’t pot anything, your opponent gets a go and he has to try and pot a ball. In which case he is on that colour. If he happens to pot two balls, he has to tell his opponent. The only slight hiccup to this rule is if you break and pot only the colour you don’t want. You can then choose to be the other colour but only if you pot it on your next shot. Otherwise the table is still open.

There is no such thing as a free ball.

Alright, this one is confusing, so I’ll let you off on not knowing this until now. Until now. Classically, if someone has committed a foul, there opponent has said “free ball” and then hit a ball they normally weren’t allowed to hit as if it was their own. I say classically, what I mean is ignorantly, stupidly, and wrongly. There is no such thing as a free ball in that sense. That said, if you are placed in a snooker as a result of an opponents foul you can either take the white and play it from the Baulk or you can nominate one of his balls or the black to be-for this turn only-one of your balls. You can play that ball like it’s your ball, although if you pot the black before you’re meant to, you still lose the game. To clarify then, it’s not wrong to snooker someone, it’s wrong to snooker someone by fouling the ball to get into that snooker and at that point special rules apply. It’s also wrong that up until now you’ve been making up these rules as they go along.

You don’t have to call the pocket you’re potting into on the black or double the ball on the black.

I mean, this is obviously wrong. You at least don’t do this one right?

Next week: I make you feel bad for letting your young people lean on the table during table tennis.

1 That area that you call “behind the white line”? It’s got a name, it’s called the Baulk. The line is called the Baulk line. How painful was that to learn? See, this is easy. Stop complaining.