Several evenings a week, across the country in small towns and big cities, people come together. Carrying long cylindrical tubes slung over their shoulders, pockets full of quarters, they converge on pool halls and bars. They are members of the American Poolplayers Association, and they are reporting for their weekly night of league play. Team eight-ball is the more common league.
The two players lag to determine who breaks their first game. A lag is when the players stand at the head of the table, at the same time, and gently shoot a ball to the other end of the table and back. The player who hit the one that stops closest to the head rail gets to break.
The player who lost the lag must rack the balls, and should make sure they are packed tightly together. The breaking player can assess the rack and ask that it be redone.
In order for the break to be legal, the player breaking must hit either the top ball or one of the second-layer balls in the rack; and pocket a ball or cause at least four of the balls in the rack to hit a rail.
If a player sinks the eight ball on the break (and does not sink the cue ball), he wins.
The winner of the previous game breaks in subsequent matches between the same two players.
The first ball legally pocketed determines who is stripes and who is solids. Players don't have to call their shots and can shoot combination shots. The only requirement is that the cue ball hits one of their balls first; if it hits the opponent's bal, or doesn't hit any balls, it is a foul. In a foul, the opposing player gets "ball in hand" and can shoot the cue ball from anywhere on the table he chooses.
If the eight ball is shot off the table, that player loses. If the cue ball goes off the table, it is a foul for the shooter. If a numbered ball goes off the table, it is spotted on the foot spot (where the top ball in the rack goes).
If a player has ball in hand, he can adjust the cue ball as desired until he is ready to hit it. However, moving it unintentionally with the cue or with any part of the body as the shot is under way constitutes a foul.
If the player pockets the cue ball on any shot except the eight ball, it is a foul.
After a shot, at least one ball on the table has to hit a rail. If not, it is a foul.
The opposing player or his coach are the only ones who can declare a foul was made, though other people on the team can advise them to do so.
The Eight Ball
The games comes down to who can pocket the eight ball. After you have pocketed all of your balls, you must shoot the eight ball. If anyone pockets the eight at any other point in the game, he loses.
The shooter must mark the pocket for the eight ball. He can use anything available (coaster, cell phone, lipstick), but the APA discourages using chalk to mark the pocket, to avoid confusion.
If the player shooting the eight ball pockets the cue ball, alone or along with the eight ball, he loses.
- Photo Credit pool image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com
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