Nine-Ball is played with nine object balls numbered one through nine and a cue ball. On each shot, the first ball the cue ball contacts must be the lowest numbered ball on the table, but the balls need not be pocketed in order.
If a player pockets any ball on a legal shot, he remains at the table for another shot, and continues until missing, committing a foul, or winning the game by pocketing the 9-ball.
After a miss, the incoming player must shoot from the position left by the previous player, but after any foul the incoming player may start with the cue ball anywhere on the table.
Players are not required to call any shot. A match ends when one of the players has won the required number of games.
Racking the Balls
The object balls are racked in a diamond shape, with the 1-ball at the top of the diamond and on the foot spot, the 9-ball in the center of the diamond, and the other balls in random order, racked as tightly as possible. The game begins with cue ball in hand behind the head string. The head string is the quarter of the table furthest from the rack.
Each player takes a ball-in-hand. They should be balls of equal size and weight.
The players stand at the head rail, one on the left side of the table and the other on the right with the balls placed on the head string. The head string is the quarter of the table farthest from the rack, the players shoot their balls to the end of the table simultaneously. The balls must bounce off the foot rail (the far rail) and come back to the head rail.
The player with the ball that stops closest to him or her at the head rail wins. The ball can either bounce off the head rail or just come to a halt after the bounce off the foot rail — it doesn’t matter. All that matters is how close the ball stops in relation to the head rail. The player who shot the ball that stops closest, wins the lag. The winner may then choose to break first or to have his or her opponent break first.
Order of Break
In 9-Ball, the winner of each game breaks in the next, unless otherwise specified by the tournament organizer. The following are common options that may be designated by tournament officials in advance:
- Players alternate break.
- Loser breaks.
- Player trailing in game count breaks the next game.
Legal Break Shot
The rules governing the break shot are the same as for other shots except:
- The breaker must strike the 1-ball first and either pocket a ball or drive at least four numbered balls to the rail.
- If the cue ball is pocketed or driven off the table, or the requirements of the opening break are not met, it is a foul, and the incoming player has cue ball in hand anywhere on the table.
- If on the break shot, the breaker causes an object ball to jump off the table, it is a foul and the incoming player has cue ball in hand anywhere on the table. The object ball is not re-spotted (exception: if the object ball is the 9-ball, it is re-spotted).
On the shot immediately following a legal break, the shooter may play a “push out.” If the breaker pockets one or more balls on a legal break, he continues to shoot until he misses, fouls, or wins the game.
If the player misses or fouls, the other player begins an inning and shoots until missing, committing a foul, or winning. The game ends when the 9-ball is pocketed on a legal shot, or the game is forfeited for a serious infraction of the rules.
The player who shoots the shot immediately after a legal break may play a push out in an attempt to move the cue ball into a better position for the option that follows. On a push out, the cue ball is not required to contact any object ball nor any rail, but all other foul rules still pocketed on a push out does not count and remains pocketed except the 9-ball.
Following a legal push out, the incoming player is permitted to shoot from that position or to pass the shot back to the player who pushed out. A push out is not considered to be a foul as long as no rule is violated. An illegal push out is penalized according to the type of foul committed. After a player scratches on the break shot, the incoming player cannot play a push out.
When a player commits a foul, he must relinquish his run at the table and no balls pocketed on the foul shot are re-spotted (exception: if a pocketed ball is the 9-ball, it is re-spotted). The incoming player is awarded ball in hand; prior to his first shot he may place the cue ball anywhere on the table. If a player commits several fouls on one shot, they are counted as only one foul.
If the first object ball contacted by the cue ball is not the lowest numbered ball on the table, the shot is foul.
If no object ball is pocketed, failure to drive the cue ball or any numbered ball to a rail after the cue ball contacts the object ball on is a foul.
When the cue ball is in hand, the player may place the cue ball anywhere on the bed of the table, except in contact with an object ball. The player may continue to adjust the position of the cue ball until shooting.
Object Ball Jumps off the Table
An un-pocketed ball is considered to be driven off the table if it comes to rest other than on the bed of the table. It is a foul to drive an object ball off the table. The jumped object ball(s) is not re-spotted (exception: if the object ball is the 9-ball, it is re-spotted) and play continues.
Jump and Massé Foul Shot
If a match is not refereed, it will be considered a cue ball foul if during an attempt to jump, curve or massé the cue ball over or around an impeding numbered ball, the impeding ball moves (regardless of whether it was moved by a hand, cue stick follow-through or bridge). The massé, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a technique that causes the cue ball to follow a curved path.
Three Consecutive Fouls
If a player fouls three consecutive times on three successive shots without making an intervening legal shot, the game is lost. The three fouls must occur in one game. The warning must be given between the second and third fouls. A player’s inning begins when it is legal to take a shot and ends at the end of a shot on which he misses, fouls or wins, or when he fouls between shots.
If the referee decides that neither player is attempting to win from the current position, he will announce his decision, and each player will have three more turns at the table. Then, if the referee still feels that there is no progress towards a conclusion, he will declare the rack a stalemate and the original breaker of the rack will break again.
End of Game
On the opening break, the game is considered to have commenced once the cue ball has been struck by the cue tip. The 1-ball must be legally contacted on the break shot. The game ends at the end of a legal shot which pockets the 9-ball, or when a player forfeits the game as the result of a foul.