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Know the Rules

By Bob Jewett

IN THE 1970s and '80s, 10-ball, rather than 9-ball, was often played in ring games among good players to reduce the chances of a runout. In such games the rules were the usual rules for ring games - no safes, try to make a good hit, no ball in hand except in the kitchen on a scratch, everything spots, and if you fouled, you could be asked to shoot again.

In 1982, 10-ball made its first appearance in the Billiard Congress of America rule book - and was, beyond the extra ball, the same as 9-ball at the time, which called for all illegally pocketed balls to be spotted.

By the end of the 1990s, the mysteries of the 9-ball break were being solved and more 10-ball tournaments started to appear. Generally, they were governed by the same rules as 9-ball, just with the extra ball. By contrast, the official rules for 10-ball didn't track the changes that had occured for 9-ball - such as not spotting balls - and remained the same as when they first appeared.

In 2008, the World Standardized Rules for 10-ball were introduced. The intent was to remove some of the luckier elements of 9-ball to make the game a better test of skill. The main change was that the game became call-shot, removing slop (and some two-way shots) from the game. Also, if the player pocketed a ball but not the called shot, the other player could pass the shot back.

Unfortunately, the move to 10-ball has been somewhat chaotic in the U.S., with each tournament organizer selecting his own rules and sometimes making them up on the spot. If you are going to play in a tournament, check to see which of the following rules are in effect:

1. Full World Standardized Rules, including call-shot and random rack order.

2. The 2 and 3 balls are required to be on the corners for the break shot.

3. The breaker racks for himself and may choose the order of the balls.

4. The non-breaker racks and may choose the order of the balls.

5. No requirement on how many balls contact cushions on the break.

6. The 10 ball does not count for a win in the two foot pockets on the break.

7. The 10 ball does not count for a win in any pocket on the break.

8. The player may call safe. (Under WSR, calling safe is allowed but it is never the right thing to do.)

9. If the shooter has not called safe, the incoming player may pass a shot back.

10. No shot has to be called - all slop counts.

Some events may also have cue stick restrictions, but that's rare. It's always a good idea to know the rules, but it's especially important in 10-ball, considering the many variations.

10-Ball Home Page
Bob Jewett: Know the Rules
Darren Appleton: Break It Open
Kelly Fisher: The Pro's Game
Mika Immonen: A Walk Through