skip to content

The Official Rules of English Billiards


Measurements in parentheses state the metric equivalent to the nearest millimetre

1. The Standard Table

The playing area within the cushion faces shall measure 11ft 8½in x 5 ft 10in (3569mm x 1778mm) with a tolerance on both dimensions of +/_ ½in (+/_ 13mm).

The height of the table from the floor to the top of the cushion rail shall be from 2ft 9½in to 2ft 10½in (851mm to 876mm).

There shall be pockets at the corners (two at the Spot end known as the top pockets and two at the Baulk end known as the bottom pockets) and one each at the middle of the longer sides (known as the centre pockets).

A straight line drawn 29in (737mm) from the face of the bottom cushion and parallel to it is called the Baulk-line, and that line and the intervening space is termed the Baulk.

The "D" is a semi-circle described in Baulk with its centre at the middle of the Baulk-line and with a radius of 11½in (292mm).

Four spots are marked on the centre longitudinal line of the table:

  • the Spot, 12¾in (324mm) from a point perpendicularly below the face of the top cushion.

    The balls shall be of an approved composition and shall each have a diameter of 52.5mm with a tolerance of +/_ 0.05mm and:

    A cue shall be not less that 3ft (914mm) in length and shall show no substantial departure from the traditional and generally accepted shape and form.

    4. Ancillary

    Various cue rests, long cues (called butts and half-butts according to length), extensions and adaptors may be used by players faced with difficult positions for cueing. These may form part of the equipment normally found at the table but also include equipment introduced by either player or the referee (see also Section 3 Rule 18). All extensions, adaptors and other devices to aid cueing must be of a design approved by the WPBSA.


    1. Game

    A game is the period of play from the opening stroke until it is completed by

    A match is an agreed or stipulated number of games.

    3. Balls

    Stringing is when both players (or one from each side) play together from the Baulk-line on either side of the "D" to the top cushion, with the object of leaving the ball played closer to the bottom cushion than the ball played by the opponent.

    5. Striker

    The person about to play or in play is the striker and remains so until the referee has decided he has left the table at the end of his turn.

    6. Stroke

    a stroke is direct when the cue-ball strikes an object ball without first striking a cushion

    A pot is when an object ball, after contact with another ball and without any infringement of these Rules, enters a pocket. Causing a ball to be potted is known as potting. A pot is also known as a winning hazard.

    8. In-off

    An in-off is when the cue-ball, after contacting an object ball and without any infringement of these Rules, enters a pocket. If both object balls are contacted by the cue-ball, it is held to have gone in-off the first object ball contacted. An in-off is also known as a losing hazard.

    9. Hazard

    A hazard is any scoring stroke that does not include a cannon, being any of

    A cannon is when, without any infringement of these Rules, the cue-ball makes contact with both object balls during a stroke.

    11. Break

    A break is a number of scoring strokes in succession made in any one turn by the striker.

    12. In-hand

    before the start of each game,

    it is played fairly from in-hand,

    A ball is in Baulk when it rests on the Baulk-line or between that line and the bottom cushion.

    15. Forced off the table

    A ball is forced off the table if it comes to rest other than on the bed of the table or in a pocket, or if it is picked up by the striker whilst it is in play.

    16. Miss

    A miss is when the cue-ball fails to contact either object ball.

    17. Running a coup

    The striker when in hand directly pockets his cue ball when no ball(s) are in play.

    18. Foul

    A foul is any infringement of these Rules.

    19. Spot Occupied

    A spot is said to be occupied if a ball cannot be placed on it without that ball touching another ball.

    20. Push Stroke

    A push stroke is made when the tip of the cue remains in contact with the cue-ball

    A jump shot is made when the cue-ball passes over any part of an object ball, whether touching it in the process or not, except:

    when the cue-ball jumps and strikes an object ball, but does not land on the far side of that ball.

    English Billiards is played by two persons or sides and the game can be summarised as follows:

    who has scored most points in the agreed or stipulated time,

    The choice of white ball and which side is to play first shall be decided by stringing or any mutually agreed manner, the winner having both options unless all players mutually agree on these options.

    as a stroke is made, or

    The players play alternately, or in turn, unless a score is made, in which case the striker continues the break playing from the position left or, after an in-off or if touching another ball as provided for in Section 3 Rule13, from in-hand. When the striker fails to score, his turn ends and the next player plays from the position then left, this being from in-hand if his cue-ball is off the table or touching another ball as provided for in Section 3 Rule 13. After a foul the next player has the additional option of playing from in-hand with both object balls spotted as provided for in Section 3 Rule 15(c)(ii).

    4. Scoring

    Points are awarded as follows:

    three points if the red was struck first by the cue-ball,

    (c) In a game or match played to a time limit, it is possible that the scores could be level at the end of the period of time allowed and the rules setting the period of time should include any provision for any necessary tie-break.
    (d) When playing to an agreed or stipulated number of points, the end of the game is reached when a player first reaches or passes the required number. Only the points required are counted, though the player shall be credited with a break that includes all points scored.

    6. Playing from In-hand

    To play from in-hand, the cue-ball must be struck from a position on or within the lines of the "D", and

  • the referee will state, if asked, whether the cue-ball is properly placed (that is, not outside the lines of the "D").

    The referee shall state, if asked, whether a ball on or near the Baulk-line is in Baulk or out of Baulk.

    8. Spotting Object Balls

    if the Spot is occupied, it shall be placed on the Pyramid Spot

    if the Centre Spot is occupied, it shall be placed on the Pyramid Spot.

    Consecutive cannons, not in conjunction with a hazard, are limited to seventy-five.

    Consecutive hazards, not in conjunction with a cannon, are limited to fifteen strokes.

    with no infringement of these Rules, all balls will be replaced and the same stroke played again, or a different stroke may be played at his discretion, by the same striker.

    If a ball, stationary or moving, is disturbed other than by the striker, it shall be re-positioned by the referee to the place he judges the ball was, or would have finished.

    When the striker's ball remains touching another ball, red shall be placed on the Spot, the non-striker's ball, if on the table, shall be placed on the Centre Spot, and the striker shall play from in-hand.

    14. Fouls

    The following acts are fouls:

    When a foul is committed, the referee shall immediately call FOUL.

    from where the balls have come to rest, the red if not correctly spotted remaining where positioned except that if off the table it shall be correctly spotted, or

    If a miss is made, by other than a stroke made directly into a pocket or off a shoulder of a pocket when the striker is in-hand with no object ball out of Baulk, the referee shall call MISS. A penalty of two points is incurred, which is added to the opponent's score. Any other miss is a foul, and all direct 'coups' are fouls.

    17. Four-handed Billiards

    whilst one is the striker and at the table, nor

    It is the responsibility if the striker to both place and remove any equipment he may use at the table.

    If the referee considers that a player is taking an abnormal amount of time over a stroke or the selection of a stroke, he shall warn the player that he is liable to have the game awarded to his opponent.

    2. Unfair Conduct

    For refusing to continue a game, or for conduct which, in the opinion of the referee is wilfully or persistently unfair, including continued time wasting after being warned under Rule 1 above or ungentlemanly conduct, a player shall lose the game.

    3. Penalty

    When a game is forfeited under this Section

    The non-striker shall, when the striker is playing, avoid standing or moving in the line of sight of the striker. He shall sit or stand at a reasonable distance from the table.

    5. Absence

    In the case of his absence from the room, the non-striker may appoint a deputy to watch his interests and claim a foul if necessary. Such appointment must be made known to the referee prior to departure.

    6. Conceding

    A player may only concede when he is the striker. The opponent has the right to accept or refuse the concession, which becomes null and void if the opponent chooses to play on.


    1. The Referee

    be the sole judge of fair and unfair play

    (i) answer any question not authorised in these Rules,

    The marker shall keep the score on the scoreboard and assist the referee in carrying out his duties. He shall also act as recorder if necessary.

    3. The Recorder

    The recorder shall maintain a record of each stroke played, showing fouls, hazards and cannons where appropriate and how many points are scored by each player or side as required. He shall also make a note of break totals, and calculate average scores per turn after the completion of the game.

    4. Assistance by Officials