How to Play English Pool


The game is played on a rectangular six pocket table with 15 balls (seven yellows, seven reds and one black 8-ball) plus 1 white Cue Ball.

To win, a player or team must pocket all their group of object balls in any order, and then legally pocket the 8 ball.

The Lag

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.


The game begins with the first player breaking the balls. To be deemed a legal break, four balls have to hit a cushion. The break is also deemed a “fair break” if at least one colour is potted.

Nomination after break

Following the break shot, regardless of whether a player has potted a ball or not, the person breaking nominates their choice of balls. If the player breaking pots a combination of balls, for instance a red and a yellow, they can nominate which ball set they wish to play. Further, if one red is potted, they can if they so choose, nominate yellows without having to pot.

Foul on break

If a player fouls on the break, for example, pots the white, then they lose the right to nominate. This advantage passes to their opponent who receives two shots and a free table. With the first shot, they can play whichever ball they wish, and can then nominate a preferred set of balls on their second visit.

If the Cue Ball is potted on a fair break (four balls hit the cushion or an object ball is potted) the player is penalised by the turn passing to their opponent, with two visits and an open table.

If the break is not a fair break and the Cue Ball is potted, the penalty for failure to perform a fair break applies. The balls are re-racked. The opponent is awarded two visits and an open table.

The opponent re-starts the game and is under the same obligation to achieve a fair break.

Open table

If no colours are potted on the break the table is considered open. If a player is fouled under this rule the opponent faces an open table.


The game is completed and won when the 8 ball (black) is pocketed legally in any pocket, and all the remaining balls have come to rest, except on the break.


A game is deemed to be lost under the following circumstances.

  • If a player pockets the 8-ball (black) before all the balls in their own group, except on the break.
  • A player going in off the 8-ball (black) when the 8-ball (black) is pocketed.
  • A player pocketing the 8-ball (black) and any other ball on the same shot. Except following a foul when only the 8 ball (black) and ball(s) of the opponent’s group are on the table, then with the first shot of the first visit, the player may legally pocket the 8-ball (black) as well as ball(s) of the opponent’s group by any combination and in any order.
  • A player who clearly fails to make any attempt to play a ball of their own group will lose the game.


  1. A foul is deemed to have occurred in the following circumstances.
  2. If a player fails to pot a legal ball on any visit, either the cueball or an object ball has to touch a cushion. The only exception to the above rule is when a player is totally snookered on all of their balls, a total snooker being defined as the player not being able to see any part of their chosen ball set. In these circumstances, the need to make a ball contact the cushion after impact is not required, but the player must confirm to their opponent that they are indeed totally snookered before playing the shot.
  3. The cue ball is pocketed.
  4. Hitting an opponent’s ball(s) with the Cue Ball, except with the first shot following any foul.
  5. Failing to hit any ball the Cue Ball.
  6. Jump shot – defined as when the cue ball jumps over any part of any ball before making contact with any ball.
  7. Hitting the 8-ball (black) with the Cue Ball on the first impact of the Cue Ball before all their own group are pocketed, except with the first shot following any foul.
  8. Potting any opponent’s ball, except with the first shot following any foul.
  9. Ball off the table – A ball shall be deemed “off the table” if it comes to rest anywhere other than on the bed of the table. Any object ball or the 8-ball (black), shall be returned to the 8-ball spot, or as near as possible to that spot without touching any other ball, in direct line between that spot and the centre of the string line. If the cue ball, then the cue ball played from in hand.
  10. Player not having at least part of one foot on the floor.
  11. Playing or touching with the cue any ball other than the cue ball.
  12. Striking the cue ball with any part of the cue other than the tip.
  13. Playing out of turn.
  14. Playing before all balls have come to rest.
  15. Playing before any ball(s) require re-spotting.
  16. Striking the cue ball with the cue more than once.
  17. Push shot – defined as where the cue tip remains in contact with the cue ball for more than the momentary time commensurate with a normal stroked shot, or the cue tip remains in contact with the cue ball once it has commenced its forward motion.
  18. Failing to nominate when balls of both groups are pocketed with the first legal pot.
  19. Foul break, failing to pot an object ball or drive at least four object balls to hit any cushions.