How To Play 9 Ball Billiards
Walk into anywhere that has public billiards tables and you can quickly pick up on how to play 9 Ball billiards. However, pool halls and pubs as well as individual players each have their own spin on the rules of the game. If you really want to know how to play 9 Ball billiards, there are official rules published by the World Billiard Association. It might seem strange to have official rules for a game whose prime objective is simply to hit nine balls in sequential order, but rules help when questionable shots and unforeseen circumstances leave you scratching your head.
- Officially, the player who breaks is chosen by lagging. Lagging involves players hitting balls in opposite directions on the table to see whose ball hits the foot cushion and returns closest to the head cushion. The winner choose who breaks. In casual games, players seldom select who breaks based on a lag. Instead, one player simply calls break.
- To set up the table to play 9 Ball billiards, select all balls numbering one through nine. The balls are racked in a tight diamond shape.
- Place the one ball in the foot spot, at the apex of the diamond. Place the nine ball in the center of the diamond. The other balls can form the diamond with no particular regard for order.
- Concerning the break for 9 Ball billiards, the ball is in hand behind the head string. In other words, the shooter can place the cue ball anywhere behind the head string to set up their break shot. To avoid a foul, the break must result in either a ball falling in a pocket, or at least four balls driven to the rails.
- If an object ball (any ball other than the cue and the nine ball) is pocketed on the break, the player continues their turn. In 9 Ball billiards, balls must be pocketed in ascending numerical order after the break. If no ball is pocketed on the break and no fouls are committed, the player can opt for a push out shot where Wrong Ball First and No Rail After Contact rules are temporarily suspended for the shot. Balls pocketed on a push out do not qualify as legal pockets, therefore the players turn ends.
- Play alternates between players. When a player fouls a shot or fails to pocket the correctly numbered ball, play passes to the opponent.
- At any time during the game, a legally pocketed nine ball wins the match. If a player has a legal shot at the nine ball during play, even while other object balls remain on the table, they have the option of attempting to pocket the nine ball.
Things to consider during 9 Ball billiards:
- Spotting only applies to the nine ball. If the nine ball is illegally pocketed, fouled, or jumps the rails, it can be spotted. No object balls can be spotted.
- Standard fouls place the ball in hand to the opponent. Standard 9 Ball billiards fouls include scratch, wrong ball first, no rail after contact, no foot on floor, jumped balls, double hits, push shots, balls still moving, stick on the table, and slow play.