FAQFAQFouls in Pool and Billiards

... how to detect and avoid various types of fouls in pool.

Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs),
mostly from the AZB discussion forum


For more information see Vol. V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots
and the Pool Rules Quiz resources


double hits

How can you tell if a shot is a double hit or not?

The following videos explain and illustrates how to detect and avoid a double hit in various situations:


For more information, see NV B.2 - Mike Page's double hits, push shots, and frozen balls and "Rules - Part II: double hits" (BD, September, 2009). The HSV DVD also has a nice feature on this. Also, many example shots, with explanations for the appropriate rulings, are available here:

For more information, see the Pool Rules Quiz resource page.

Clips HSV A.110-A.115 also show the effects of speed, cue stick elevation, and follow-through on double-hit avoidance for a chalk-width gap between the CB and OB. Unfortunately, clips A.110-A.112 and A.113-A.115 are from different viewpoints and were shot by different shooters with different amounts of follow-through, but the results are interesting nonetheless. Notice that the cue stick nudges the CB in mid air (i.e., the shot is a foul) in the 3rd (fast) stroke of A.112. This one is tough to call even with the high-speed camera.

Here an example elevated-cue small-gap foul by Shane VanBoening. If the CB was not frozen to the 10, the shot was most definitely a foul. The CB goes forward way too much before drawing back. With the balls not frozen, this cannot happen without a double hit. You can even hear the double-hit ferrule-slapping sound in the video (although, audio alone is not appropriate evidence for calling a foul). With a clean hit on this shot, the CB would have come off the tangent line of the 10 into the 14, the 14 would have moved more, and the CB would have drawn back without going forward very much at all (if any).

A video from Tony Christianson on FaceBook is another interesting example of small-gap elevated draw shot that is a foul, but is tough to call (even with slow-motion-replay video). From the slo-mo video evidence, this shot is a foul. With a ball gap that small, the cue would need to be elevated much more to cause the CB to go that much forward with a legal hit (in which case it would also go much higher). If you put your cursor on the CB a gap-width inside the front edge, it looks fairly clear that the tip and ferrule go too far forward during the shot, causing a double hit. The double hit is not visually obvious, but the action of the CB seems to imply a foul. For a ref watching this shot live, a foul would be hard to call. Even with the slow-motion video evidence, the call is disputable because the evidence is not very strong. In these situations, the benefit of the doubt goes to the shooter.

Sometimes a double hit is not a foul. If there is no clear evidence of a double hit based on observation of the motion of the balls, then the shot is considered legal. Here's an example:

For more information, see: "Legal Fouls" (BD, November, 2016).

The following videos show some interesting methods that can be used to avoid a double hit when there is only a small gap between the CB and OB:

Here's some slow-motion footage of various fouetté shots:

For reference, here's WPA rule 6.7 that defines a double hit foul:

6.7 Double Hit / Frozen Balls

If the cue stick contacts the cue ball more than once on a shot, the shot is a foul. If the cue ball is close to but not touching an object ball and the cue tip is still on the cue ball when the cue ball contacts that object ball, the shot is a foul. If the cue ball is very close to an object ball, and the shooter barely grazes that object ball on the shot, the shot is assumed not to violate the first paragraph of this rule, even though the tip is arguably still on the cue ball when ball-ball contact is made.

However, if the cue ball is touching an object ball at the start of the shot, it is legal to shoot towards or partly into that ball (provided it is a legal target within the rules of the game) and if the object ball is moved by such a shot, it is considered to have been contacted by the cue ball. (Even though it may be legal to shoot towards such a touching or "frozen" ball, care must be taken not to violate the rules in the first paragraph if there are additional balls close by.)

The cue ball is assumed not to be touching any ball unless it is declared touching by the referee or opponent. It is the shooter’s responsibility to get the declaration before the shot. Playing away from a frozen ball does not constitute having hit that ball unless specified in the rules of the game.


first contact legal hit

How can you tell if one ball is hit before another for a close-call legal hit?

See "Rules - Part IV: Which ball did you hit first?" (BD, November, 2009) and:

Also, for many example calls along with explanations, see:

Here's a great shot example by Efren Reyes against Keith McCready where the call is difficult. It is impossible to tell from the video whether that was a good hit or not (i.e., it is a "split hit"). One possibility is that the CB just barely feathered the 5 and then hit the 3 and then the 5 again. A shot very similar to this scenario can be found at the 1:52 point in NV B.54 - How to determine which ball was hit first by watching the object balls, with Bob Jewett. Another possibility that the CB barely missed the 5 on the way to the 3 and then came off the 3 to hit the 5. The two possibilities would result in the same or very nearly the same action of all three balls. In situations like this, where it is too close to tell, the call should probably be a legal hit, in favor of the shooter.


from Scott Lee AZB post:

A great test of "split hits" is something Jerry Briesath showed me 30+ years ago...freeze three balls together, with the odd ball towards the middle of the side pocket. Place the CB directly opposite the three frozen balls. Try to pocket the single OB frozen to the frozen pair, trying to get a split hit. You MIGHT make it once in a 100 tries. Move the CB right or left of the balls a few inches and you can pocket the OB every time. This is a proposition shot from decades ago.


kiss-back shot

Is a kiss-back shot a foul if the CB doesn't hit a cushion?

Yes. A kiss-back shot is where the CB squarely hits an OB frozen to a cushion and bounces straight back after a double hit of the OB, leaving the OB close to where it was originally. With these shots, the OB does not return to the cushion, and since a ball must make contact with a cushion after contact, the shot is a foul if the CB does not reach a cushion. Here's a video explanation, with numerous examples:


A game-situation example can be found here: NV B.13 - End-of-game frozen kiss-back safety option

And many more game-situation examples can be found in the following video:



Is a miscue a foul if it results in multiple hits?

A miscue is a bad hit resulting from the cue tip sliding off the CB during tip contact (e.g., see HSV 2.1 and super-slow-motion follow-shot miscue). With a normal shot, the cue tip grabs the CB and doesn't slide at all relative to the ball (e.g., see "good hit" video).

In the current rules (see WPA WSR 6.16c), a miscue is a foul only if it is intentional.

HSV 2.1 shows a good example of a typical miscue. HSV A.13-A.20 and A.98-A.109 show many more examples under different conditions. Here's another:


With most miscues, the tip slides along the cue ball, and the tip, ferrule, and/or shaft make secondary contact with the cue ball. The secondary contacts might partially explain the slapping sound you hear with a miscue. Normally, multiple hits on the cue ball results in a foul; but in case of a miscue, the multiple hits are not considered a foul under the current rules (unless the miscue is judged as "intentional"). For more information, see "Rules - Part V: miscellaneous fouls" (BD, December, 2009) and:

One case where a miscue should be called a foul is when secondary contact clearly affects the shot. Here's a good example where the miscue might not be "intentional," but it should be ruled as a foul, because secondary contact is obvious:

Another example where a miscue is a foul is with an intentional "scoop" jump shot. And another is with the classic tip-lifting double-hit-avoidance technique that was once allowed under older rules where you place the tip under the front edge of the CB and then lift the tip straight up, creating a slight glancing hit on the CB. This is a foul for two reasons. For one, it is not a legal forward stroke into the ball. Secondly, it is an intentional miscue (since the tip is sliding across the surface), which is an unsportsmanlike conduct foul.

Actually, an argument can be made that all miscues should be called as fouls. For one reason, miscues can create scuff marks and other surface damage on the CB (for an example, see: Is a Pool Ball Smoother Than the Earth?," BD, June, 2013). Also, miscues with draw shots can easily damage the cloth. The following video of an elevated draw shot clearly illustrates why:

And here's another, with a highly-elevated jump-draw-shot attempt:

The current rules require a single, non-prolonged, forward-stroke hit of the tip on the cue ball. All miscues involve the tip sliding along the cue ball (which can be considered "prolonged contact" and a non "single hit"), and most miscues involve secondary contact with the tip, ferrule, and/or shaft. A miscue is also the result of either player error or intentional, unsportsmanlike play. Also, the "intention" of the player might not always be obvious (when trying to determine if a miscue is "intenional" or not). However, the current "intention" of the rules is that only intentional and blatantly obvious "secondary contact" should be considered a foul. The shot in HSV B.28 is an example. Another example is where you miscue on a follow shot, and you trap the CB under the cue ... this embarrassing and unintentional miscue should also be called a foul, because there is obvious "secondary contact."

One potential issue with making all miscues fouls is: sometimes a miscue can be "late" or "partial," where the hit sounds funny and the CB does not quite go in the expected direction with the expected amount of spin. But this type of shot is not very common, and only an obvious miscue would be called as a foul (but this still might require judgement at times).

For more info related to miscues, see:


push shot

What is a push shot foul and what are some examples?

A push shot is where a shot in which the cue tip remains in contact with the cue ball longer than is appropriate for a normal stroke and legal shot. A push shot is a foul (i.e., it is not allowed). Examples can be found in the following videos:

NV B.2 - Mike Page's double hits, push shots, and frozen balls
HSV B.28 - frozen-ball kiss, miscue, and push shots and fouls
Mike Masséy trick shot collection


"scoop" jump shot

Is a "scoop" jump shot a foul, even if there is no miscue or multiple hit?

Yes. Here is the pertinent quote from WPA Rule 8.18:

A scoop shot, in which the cue tip contacts the playing surface and the cue ball at the same time and this causes the cue ball to rise off the cloth, is treated like a miscue.

and, per WPA Rule 6.16c, a miscue is a foul if it is intentional (e.g., if used to purposely jump the CB over an obstacle).

The following video shows and explains what happens with various types of illegal "scoop" jump shots:

Here's an example scoop shot resulting from an elevated draw shot miscue:

For many example rule calls along with explanations, see "Rules - Part I: introduction" (BD, August, 2009) and:


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