TYPE OF GAME
Nine ball is played with ten object balls 1 through 9 and the cue ball.
This game is normally played with two players but can also be played with two teams.
The object balls are placed in a diamond-shaped configuration, with the 1 ball positioned at the front of the rack, and the 9 ball placed in the center. The physical rack used to position the balls is a diamond-shaped rack holding all nine balls. The placement of the remaining balls is generally considered to be random.(see picture below)
OBJECT OF THE GAME
The object of the nine ball game as its name implies, is to pocket the nine ball on a legal shot to win the game.
One person is chosen to shoot first, or “break”, the rack. Usually this is determined by flipping a coin, or by lagging, especially in professional tournaments in the case of the latter, or it may be ruled by the authority in charge or the sponsor or the players themselves that the winner or loser of the previous game will always shoot first in the next rack. If the player who breaks fails to make a legal break (by contacting the one ball first and pocketing a ball or driving four or more object balls to a rail), the opponent can either demand a re-rack and become the breaker, or continue to play as if it was an ordinary foul. If the breaker pockets a ball and commits no foul, it remains the breaker’s turn.
THE PUSH OUT
For much of its history nine-ball rules allowed participants to “push out” multiple times during a game, meaning any player could call a “push-out”, and then hit the cue ball to any area on the table without being penalized by normal foul rules. This manner of playing nine-ball is considered “two-foul.” However, once a push-out was called and executed, the incoming player had the right to shoot or give the inning back to the opponent. If the player shooting the resulting shot fouled, the other player would have ball-in-hand.
Hence the name, “two-foul.” “One-foul” became popular in the 1970s as play turned more aggressive for the early televised matches. This version of nine-ball awarded ball-in-hand on any cue ball foul. A rule variant, which started to sweep the sport of nine-ball in the mid-1980s restricted the push-out option to once per game and only to the inning immediately following the break. This change profoundly affected the way the game was played. By about 1990 this new push-out rule had become ubiquitous and it and any additional rules appended to it were collectively referred to as “Texas Express” rules, so called because of the supposed state of origin and the speeding up of the game. Today, Texas Express push-out rules dominate the way nine-ball is played and is the variant incorporated into the official rules maintained by the BCA.
RULES OF PLAY
The general rules played are fairly consistent and usually do not stray too far from the format set forth in the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) BCA World Standardized Rules for Nine Ball, which have merged with those of the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA). Although amateur leagues sometimes use as their standard the similar rules promulgated by the American Poolplayers Association (APA), the BCA/WPA rules are considered by most authorities to be the more correct and official source of rules.
In nine-ball, on all shots, a player must cause the cue ball to contact the lowest numerical ball on the table first before the cue ball strikes any other ball (excepting when a push-out has been invoked) otherwise a foul has been committed. This does not mean that object balls have to be pocketed in order; any ball may be pocketed at any time during the game, so long as the lowest numerical ball is contacted first. Because nine-ball is not a call shot game, the 9 can also be made in this manner for a win. A player also wins the game if the 9 ball is pocketed on the break (a “golden break”).
Players alternate innings at the table, meaning play continues by one player until he or she misses, commits a foul or pockets the 9 ball for the win. The penalty for a foul in nine-ball is that the player’s inning ends and the opponent comes to the table with ball in hand, which means the opponent may place the cue ball anywhere on the table prior to shooting.
Nine-ball is a relatively fast-paced game and is rarely played by the rack. Instead, players normally play a match to a set number of games, often five, seven or nine. The first player to win that set number of games wins the match.
WINNING THE GAME
A player wins in nine ball by pocketing the 9 ball at any time in the game in a legal manner, either by hitting it in with the cue ball or with a lower numbered ball in a combination shot. A player can also win by default if the opponent commits three successive fouls. However in most formats, including under BCA rules, the opponent must be told that he or she is “on two fouls” in order to lose by committing a third foul.