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On this page, we will try to clarify some of the International Rules where perhaps a picture is more easy to understand than the words of the rule book.
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The rack should always be setup with reds at the front as illustrated by the picture in the rules. If it is not setup as per the picture, then it is wrong. Like it or loathe it, that's where it's at.
Why does it matter that the reds are at the front? It's because of the rule described further down this page here regarding the order in which balls are replaced behind the eight-ball spot if they need to be. The reds are the dominant colour and are always re-spotted before the yellows, and for this same reason, the dominant colour group goes at the front of the pack on setup.
Just as in the World Rules, there is NO penalty for breaking the pack if the balls are not setup correctly. It is the referee's responsibility AND all players involved in the frame also to ensure that the balls are set correctly. If they are not, and the break goes ahead, then everyone involved with the frame has accepted the rack for what it was, and the frame simply continues as normal without any further actions.
The playing surface is the flat part of the table bordered by the cushions, marked in green here.
The rules require that there is a rack line that is 280mm long with a head ball marker and a spot for the eight-ball.
They do not specify how big the spot should be or the position of the rack line in relation to the eight-ball spot which is at the intersection of the two diagonal lines between the corner pockets and the middle pockets.
It is suggested (only by the author here) that the centre of the 280mm rack line should be on the eight-ball spot, because then the rack line extends 25mm (1 inch) in front of the head ball and 25mm (1 inch) behind the centre back ball, so it can clearly be seen if the rack is 'tilted' to one side (i.e. it is not inline with the rack line) which may give an unfair advantage to the breaker.
Additionally, by making the head ball marker line maybe 50mm - 75mm (2 - 3 inches) long so that it protrudes beyond the sides of the head ball, both players can clearly see if the rack is set high or low on the table, which can also give an unfair advantage to the breaker.
The main purpose of the rack line and it's markings is to best ensure that all rack setups are equally and consistently for both players or teams, regardless of who is setting them up.
The break is only deemed legal if the breaking player scores at least 3 points from their break shot. Each ball that crosses the imaginary centre-line of the table between the centres of the two middle pockets counts for one point and also each object ball potted (including the eight-ball). Each ball can only be counted once.
Referees need to watch the break carefully to track balls that cross the centre-line and end up back on the top cushion side, because they count.
Failure to perform a legal break is an automatic re-rack with the other player having the choice of who breaks.
The red ball has NOT completely crossed the centre-line of the table, so it does not count for a point.
The three yellow balls all count for one point each:
You must play away from all touching balls at 90 degrees or more from the line joining the centres of the cue ball and the object ball(s) that it is touching.
This is different to World Rules in that if you are touching two object balls of your own colour group, you are only required to play away from one of them. This is not the case in International Rules.
Failure to do this is a standard foul and all object balls are considered, including the eight-ball.
There is no penalty for an object ball moving slightly after being played away from, just because the cue ball is no longer there..
Although unlikely, if the cue ball is touching two object balls like in the last image here, it is still possible to play away at 90 degrees, although the choice of shot direction is limited to either one way or the other, and even more unlikely that the cue ball is surrounded by touching object balls on 3 sides, then the player should request a stalemate situation from the referee.
In the event that the eight-ball is potted off the break, an/or object balls come off the table, they must be re-spotted on the eight-ball mark, or as close to it in a direct line along the lengthwise centre-line of the table towards the top cushion.
The balls are placed in the following priority order where applicable and must not be touching any other balls, but be as close as possible:
In the event that there is not enough space to re-spot all of the balls between the eight-ball spot and the top cushion, the same process can then be applied in the opposite direction at the front of the rack, starting from the eight-ball spot and placing balls towards the baulk cushion, starting with the eight-ball, then reds and then yellows.
When playing from baulk, both for the break shot and as the incoming player if the cue ball has been potted off the break, the cue ball must be placed with it's centre point either on or behind the line.
Failure to satisfy this rule is a standard foul, even from the break shot if the break is otherwise legal in respect of points scored as described above.
When the table is open (for example, always after the break regardless of which colours were potted), the player does not have to nominate their colour group EXCEPT if the choice is not clear, like in a situation illustrated here.
The rules require that to decide groups, the player must pot the colour that they play, which then in turn means that it must be clear to the referee which color group they are playing.
The decision about whether or not the choice was obvious is at the discretion of the referee, so for the avoidance of doubt, making a habit of nominating is not a bad thing. But, unlike the World Rules, if a colour group was potted from the break and that colour group is then nominated, the player is NOT that colour until they legally pot a ball of that group. Nomination does not decide colours, it only makes it clear to the referee what the target colour group is for the next shot.
There has often been some confusion regarding which end of the table is the 'top' and which end is the 'bottom'.
The concept of top and bottom comes from Billiards where the majority of points scored by skilled players happens around the 'black spot' of the table (so, therefore known as the 'top' of the table) and has cascaded down into almost all cue sports.
Sometimes in sports commentary on the TV, the ends may be swapped over, because that's how they appear on the television from the usual camera angle facing up the screen towards baulk.
The correct end for the 'top' cushion is the end nearest the eight-ball spot, because we break 'up' the table, and the bottom cushion may also be referred to as the baulk cushion.