APA Nine Ball Rules of Play
General Description – 9-Ball is played with a cue ball and nine object balls numbered 1 through 9. 9-Ball is a rotation game, meaning the balls are shot in numerical order. The shooter must strike the lowest numbered ball on the table first. The game is over when the 9-ball is pocketed. A player retains his turn at the table as long as he strikes the lowest numbered ball first and legally pockets a ball. He 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 would continue shooting and must, once again, strike the 1-ball first. If the shooter shoots the 1-ball into the 9-ball and the 9-ball is pocketed without committing a foul, the game is over.
1. Lagging – The same as 8-Ball.
2. Racking – Nine balls are used and are racked in a diamond shape. The 1-ball is at the front of the rack and on the foot spot. The 9-ball is in the center and the rest of the object balls can be placed in any numerical order. All balls should be frozen (touching) as tightly as possible. The breaking player may request and receive a rerack.
Note 1: When using coin-operated tables, save some money by using all the balls in the event of a short game. Example: If the 3 and 9 are made on the break, the balls are reracked (because a 9-on-the-Snap 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” (last ball) in this game. Do not say the 10 replaces the 3; it is too confusing. Shoot the balls in numerical order.
Note 2: The breaker can demand that the lowest available nine balls be used each game.
3. Breaking – To be a legal break, players must break from behind the head string. The head ball must be struck first and at least four object balls must be driven to the rails or a ball must be pocketed. The cue ball may not be shot into a rail before the rack. Failure to strike the 1-ball first does not result in a foul. If the break does not qualify as legal, the balls are reracked and broken by the same player. If the rack is struck, but the break does not qualify as legal and results in a scratch, the balls are reracked and broken by the opposite player. THE RACK MUST BE STRUCK BEFORE A FOUL CAN OCCUR. Breaking safe or soft is not allowed. The League Operator may make judgments and issue penalties to teams and players who are not breaking hard. Breaking just hard enough to comply with this rule is not a guarantee against penalties. Remember, break as hard as you can with control.
4. After the Break – Various circumstances can occur upon completion of the break. They are:
- a. A foul on a legal break will result in ball-in-hand anywhere on the table for the breaker’s opponent. Pocketed balls, if any, stay down (are not spotted), except the 9-ball.
- b. No balls are pocketed and it is the other player’s turn.
- c. The 9-ball is pocketed. This is a win unless the player scratches, in which case the 9-ball (any other available high numbered ball is adequate) is spotted and the turn passes to his opponent.
- d. A ball or a number of balls are pocketed. It is still the breaker’s turn and he shoots at the lowest numbered ball on the table.
- e. Occasionally it occurs that a player mistakenly shoots the wrong ball. Although it is sportsmanlike for the sitting player to remind the shooting player he is about to foul by shooting the wrong ball, he is not required to do so. Once the shooter has hit the wrong ball, the foul has occurred whether the ball is 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. Any balls pocketed prior to the foul being called will be marked as “dead balls.” 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 shooter has shot the correct ball.
Note: Push-outs are fairly standard in pro events and in the U.S. Amateur Championship (conducted by the APA); however, APA rules for all handicapped competition does not allow push-outs.
5. Combination Shots – Combination shots are legal and extremely common in 9-Ball. Just make sure to hit the lowest numbered ball on the table first.
6. Balls on the Floor – Knocking the cue ball off the playing surface is a foul. Knocking an object ball on the floor is not a foul. Object balls that get knocked off the playing surface will be immediately spotted on the foot spot. If the foot spot is taken, the ball will be placed on a line directly behind the foot spot as close to the foot spot as possible. If two or more balls are knocked on the floor, they are placed in numerical order with the lowest numbered ball closest to the foot spot. Spotted balls are frozen to one another. It might occur that a player legally pockets a ball while simultaneously knocking some other ball(s) on the floor. In this situation, the ball(s) is spotted and the player continues shooting until he misses.
7. Pocketed Balls – Balls must remain in a pocket to be legal. If a ball goes in a pocket but bounces back onto the playing surface, it is not considered pocketed.
Note 1: If a ball which has been hanging in a pocket for more than a few seconds suddenly falls in, it is to be placed back on the table where it was originally sitting. Once a ball has stopped all motion, it cannot move again without outside forces affecting it. So, if it falls in a pocket, it is to be placed back on the table where it was before it fell.
Note 2: 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 considered pocketed. Drop them in and resume playing the game unless the pocketing ends the game.
8. Spotting Balls – Other than the circumstances described in Balls on the Floor, the only ball that will ever be spotted will be the 9-ball when the shooter has pocketed the 9-ball and scratched or otherwise fouled. If the shooter makes the 9-ball on the break and fouls or scratches, the 9-ball (and only the 9-ball) is spotted. If the shooter is shooting at the object ball and plays it into the 9-ball and pockets the 9-ball, but scratches or otherwise fouls in the process, the 9-ball is spotted. The incoming player has ball-in-hand and will be shooting at the lowest numbered ball on the table.
9. Fouls – If any of the following fouls are committed, the penalty is ball-in-hand for the incoming player. Make certain you have ball-in-hand before you touch the cue ball by confirming with your opponent. Ball-in-hand means you are allowed to place the cue ball anywhere on the table and shoot the lowest numbered ball on the table. Even after having addressed the cue ball, a player may, if not satisfied with the placement, make further adjustments with the hand, cue stick or any other reasonable piece of equipment. A foul may be called only if the player fouls while actually stroking at the cue ball, meaning a double hit of the cue ball (sometimes called double clutching). The ball-in-hand rule penalizes a player for an error. Without this rule, a player could benefit by accidentally or purposely scratching or otherwise fouling. Only the player or the Team Captain may officially call a foul, although anyone may suggest to the player or the Team Captain that a foul should be called. These are the only fouls resulting in ball-in-hand. All other violations are sportsmanship violations. The ball-in-hand fouls are as follows:
- a. Anytime during a shot, the cue ball goes in a pocket, on the floor, or otherwise ends up off the playing surface.
- b. Failure to hit the correct ball first. (The correct ball is always the lowest numbered ball on the table.) The shooter has the advantage in these situations unless his opponent has asked an outside party to watch the hit. Protect yourself. If you think your opponent is attempting a shot that could result in a bad hit, get someone to watch the shot before he starts shooting. Teams involved in repeatedly calling bad hits without outside party verification may be subject to penalty points for disruptive unsportsmanlike behavior.
- c. Failure to hit a rail after contact. A sentence that should answer many questions is: “Any ball (including the cue ball) must go to a rail AFTER LEGAL contact.” A pocketed ball counts as a rail.
- d. The object ball is frozen to a rail and the player is contemplating playing a “safety.” In order for the “frozen ball” rule to be in effect, the opponent must declare the ball frozen and the player should verify. Once it is agreed the ball is frozen the player must drive the object ball to another rail (of course, it could hit another ball, which in turn hits a rail) or drive the cue ball to a rail after it touches the object ball. If the latter method of safety is chosen the player should be sure to obviously strike the object ball first. If the cue ball strikes the rail first or appears to hit both the rail and ball simultaneously, it is a foul unless either the cue ball or object ball went to some other rail.
- e. It is illegal and, therefore, a foul to jump a cue ball over another ball by scooping it up in the air on purpose.
- f. Receiving illegal aid (coaching from person(s) other than the coach) during your turn at the table.
- g. Causing even the slightest movement or altering the course of the cue ball, even accidentally, is a foul. Even dropping the chalk on the cue ball is a foul. It is not a foul, however, to accidentally move any other balls unless, during his turn at the table, a player moves a ball and it in turn comes in contact with the cue ball. Any balls moved accidentally during a shot must be replaced by the opponent after the shot is over and all balls have stopped rolling. If during the course of the shot, another ball stops in the position previously occupied by the accidentally moved ball, the opponent must place the accidentally moved ball, in an ethical manner, as close as possible to its original position. If it occurs before the shot, it must be replaced by the opponent before the shot is taken.
Exception: If an accidentally moved ball comes in contact with the cue ball, creating a foul, no object ball will be replaced.
- h. If, during the course of a shot, the cue ball does not touch anything.
- i. Use caution when picking up or placing the cue ball in a ball-in-hand situation. The cue ball is always alive. If the cue ball, or the hand holding it or moving it, touches another ball it is a cue ball foul and your opponent has ball-in-hand. Be especially careful when picking up or placing the cue ball in a tight spot.
- j. The player or his coach (during a coaching time-out) may place the cue ball in a ball-in-hand situation. The same rule regarding placing the cue ball applies to the coach as applies to the player. If the player, or coach fouls in the process of placing the cue ball, it will be ball-in-hand for the opponent. Therefore, it should be the player’s choice if he wishes to place the cue ball or allow his coach to do so.
The American Poolplayers Association (APA) and Canadian Poolplayers Association (CPA) is the World’s Largest Amateur Pool League.