The following video provides a good overview of everything you need to know about how to identify, detect, and avoid fouls in pool. It is based on the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) World Standardized Rules (the “official rules of pool”), which are also recognized and used by the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) and many international tournaments and pool organizations.

Here is a concise rules summary for 8-ball and 9-ball, based on the official WPA rules. And here is a 1-page summary for 8-ball (PDF version, editable Word version), suitable for posting in a bar (created by Nathan Rhoades, Newport RI).

A good way to practice and test your understanding of how and when to call fouls is to take the Pool Rules Quiz.

Documented rules for different league systems can be found below. The rules deviate slightly from the official WPA rules, but not by much. A good summary of the differences can be found here:

differences among APA, BCAPL, and VNEA league rules

There are also many “unwritten rules” of pool etiquette, dealing with how to behave properly when playing, that one is expected to follow:

Here’s a useful 1-page handout summarizing the etiquette rules demonstrated in the video.

Pool Rules Documentation

8-Ball “Bar Rules”

The problem with “bar rules” is that they are different in every bar and in every part of the country, and they vary with the person you are playing, especially when the person has been drinking in said bar. in other words, “bar rules” = “anything goes at the whim of the people playing.” Regardless, the main differences between “bar rules” and the “official rules” of pool are:

  • there are no fouls (except scratches).
  • a scratch on any shot results in ball-in-hand in the “kitchen” (behind the head string), and you must shoot the CB out of the kitchen before contact with a ball or cushion.
  • if a shot is not obvious or if non-obvious ball or cushion contacts might occur, you need to call exactly how it will be pocketed (e.g., off a ball vs. clean).
  • if you pocket one or more balls on the break, the group with the largest number of balls down becomes your group (i.e., the table is not open).
  • if the 8-ball is pocketed on the break, you win (unless you scratch, in which case you lose).
  • safeties are considered “dirty pool.”

There is no official rule set for “bar rules” 8-ball, but here is a good summary (by Freddie Agnir), that summarizes generally accepted customs and variations:

Cornerman’s “Bar Rules”

Other Useful Learning Resources

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