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Scoring Fouls
Ball rules Glossary

The billiards table

The billiards table


Billiards is played with just three balls. The red is an object ball, and the other two are cue balls used by each of the two players. One is white, and the other is yellow, or white with a black spot on it (spot-white).

At the start of the game, only the red and the starting player's cue ball will be on the table - not all three as in the diagram above. One player's cue ball is the other object ball to their opponent.

The object is to hit one or both of the object balls with the cue ball, and make scoring shots. The second player's cue ball (the second object ball to the other player) is placed on the table when they play their first shot. It will be played from behind the baulk line - the line along the D.

Players take turns until one player makes a scoring stroke, or commits a foul. The game ends when either a pre-determined score is reached by the winning player, or a specific period of time has passed, and the player who has the most points by then wins.



Points are scored in three ways. By potting a ball, by an in-off (when the players cue ball goes into a pocket after striking one of the object balls), or by a cannon (when the player's object ball hits both object balls).

The points value of strokes are as follows:

3 points - potting the red
3 points - causing the cue ball to go in off the red
2 points - a cannon
2 points - potting the opponent's ball
2 points - going in-off the opponent's ball

Pots and in-offs are called hazards. If more than one hazard is scored as the result of one scoring stroke, all hazards count.

If the opponent's ball is potted, it remains off the table until that player has finished their turn. It is called a break when one player scores more than once in one turn.

If the red ball is potted, it is returned to its spot. If the red is potted twice, one after the other without any other score, it is placed on the centre spot. If it is potted again, it is returned to the original spot.

In short, only two pots are allowed in possession from the spot, unless another scoring stroke is involved at the same time.

Only fifteen hazards in a row (consecutively) are allowed. This does not include cannons. The referee will tell a player when they have scored ten hazards.

For example: If a player pots eight, or twelve reds and then scores a cannon, the hazards reset to 0 and the sequence can build up again.

Only seventy-five cannons in a row, not in conjunction with a hazard, are allowed. The referee will tell a player when they have made seventy cannons.

Similarly, a string of cannons with a hazard along the way would reset the number of cannons.

If a player makes sixteen consecutive hazards, or seventy-six consecutive cannons, it is a foul and the opponent would get two points, and it would be their turn to play.

If an in-off is scored with the same stroke as a cannon, the scoring would be two or three points according to which ball was struck first. If the non-red object ball was struck first, it would be two points, if the red was struck first, three points are given. If both balls are hit at the same time, two points are given.

The maximum score for a single stroke is ten points: three for potting the red, three for going in-off the red, two for the cannon, and two for potting the white.

Ball rules

Playing out of baulk

A ball is in baulk when it is resting on the baulk line or between the baulk line and the bottom cushion (the cushion nearest the baulk line). To play a ball out of baulk, it must be struck so that it hits a ball or a cushion outside baulk before it can hit a ball which is inside the baulk area.

Playing from baulk 1

This is not allowed. The ball must be played out of the area and hit either a cushion or a ball outside the area before it hits a ball within the area.

Playing from baulk 2

This is allowed. The ball may hit a cushion, a ball, or both, outside the area. When a player feels that they cannot score anymore, it is a common strategy to try and get all balls behind the baulk line to make the first stroke more difficult for the next player, as they have to play out of baulk.

Other rules

If a ball goes into a pocket without being struck by another ball, it is put back on the table. If it goes into a pocket during a stroke and would have otherwise been hit by a ball in that stroke, all balls are put back in their original positions and the stroke is replayed.

A player can deliberately pocket their own cue ball to restrict their opponent's scoring chances. It would be put back on the centre of the baulk line (or to the right if that spot is occupied). If the red will not go on its usual spot because another ball is there, it will be placed at the front of the pyramid (a little bit forward of where the red ball is on the top diagram).

Balls touching

If the player's ball comes to rest against another ball, the red ball is replaced on the spot. The cue ball of the player not at the table is placed on the centre spot. If it is not on the table, it stays off. The player at the table then plays from the D.

Safety shots

A safety shot allows the player to end their turn without penalty. The cue ball must either touch a cushion after striking an object ball, or cause an object ball to touch a cushion. Safety shots are often not allowed in consecutive turns.

Fouls and misconduct

All of these are fouls, and carry a two point penalty.

- Playing when the balls are still moving.

- Striking the cue ball more than once (in one stroke).

- Playing with both feet off the floor.

- Playing out of turn.

- Playing improperly from in-hand (when the cue ball is first put on the table).

- Playing with a ball not correctly spotted.

- Striking a ball other than the cue ball.

- Playing a jump shot (making the cue ball jump in the air).

- Touching the cue ball with anything other than the tip of the cue.

- Forcing a ball off the table.

- Using a ball off the table for any purpose.


Carom billiards is played on a standard billiards table without pockets. It is played with three balls; red, white, and spot white. The white balls are used as cue balls, and the opponent's cue ball becomes the other player's object ball.

A carom, scoring one point, is scored when the cue ball glances off one object ball onto the other. It can be directly, or off a cushion.

All three balls are on the table to begin the game. The first player to reach an agreed number of points wins the game. The rules of standard billiards, as described above, apply to carom billiards, except fouls, which result in the loss of one point, and the end of the offender's turn.

Also, balls can become frozen. If the ball is touching another ball or a cushion, it is frozen. If it is an object ball, the player can shoot away from the frozen ball or have the balls spotted for a break shot. If the cue ball is frozen against a cushion it can also be played against the cushion. If these rules are not followed it is a foul.

If the cue ball goes onto the rail and returns to the table, it remains in play. If it stays on the rail, it is treated as a jumped ball.


Lagging / String - When the two players hit their cue balls from the baulk line to hit the top cushion, and return as close as possible to the bottom cushion. The player who gets closest wins - this is the equivalent of tossing a coin.

Touching ball - If the striker's cue ball comes to rest touching another cue ball, the balls are spotted as shown in the top diagram. The striker's cue ball can be put anywhere in the D to be played.

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