Which Rules Do You Play?

Let’s set the scene…

You walk into a bar, pub or club with a Pool table and a stranger invitingly asks “Fancy a game?” You willingly accept. 

After that, you enter the coin into the slot, thrust in the old-school mechanism and the emphatic thud of the released balls takes over the room. Then, you rack the balls into a triangle formation with the 8-ball left over. You slide the triangle of balls into position using the 8-ball spot as a marker. You add the black to complete the pack. Finally, you toss a coin to determine who breaks-off then away we go…

*Cue (excuse the pun) second loud crashing sound as the white ball is sent crushing into the set of object balls!💥

Initially you both tentatively play your own game without much interaction, after all – you’re both strangers, and us Brits aren’t great with strangers!  As time passes you continue to bond and enjoy the game. Unfortunately, one of you plays a foul shot, and in turn gives the other 2 visits to the table. Then comes the awkward question: “Which rules do you play?”

Let’s rewind back to the first time I picked up a cue in the 1990’s. I quickly discovered that the rules were hazy. There were nuances depending on the opponent. My perception was that people in the pubs in particular, were just cherry picking whichever rules suited them at the time. EPA Rules (English Pool Association), more widely referred to as Pub Rules had many variables. These seemingly unfixed rules are the ones we’ve all no doubt come across at some point.


  • “You can’t shoot back”
  • “2 visits don’t carry”
  • “You only get one shot on the black”

I used to wonder why it couldn’t just be one set of rules for everyone. As a 10 year-old it was confusing. I didn’t yet realise what was to come…

A few years later I joined my local Staffordshire County side and with this – a whole new rule-set! Welcome to World Rules or as they were commonly known as back then; New Rules.



  • World Rules were always regarded as “more attacking”. The biggest reason for this is that on each shot when a ball isn’t potted, any ball must hit a cushion after the cue ball strikes the object ball (except for in the case of a “Total Snooker”).


A Total Snooker is when the cue ball doesn’t have a direct pathway to an extreme edge of any of your remaining balls – for example there are opponents balls obstructing your path.  In this scenario you will likely hit one cushion (or more) before the cue ball makes contact with your object ball and it is not necessary for a ball to make contact with a cushion afterwards too.


In the Old (Pub) Rules, players used to stifle their opponents by rolling the cue-ball up behind one of their colours. The objective behind this is to snooker the opponent. Once snookered it becomes a challenge for the opponent to hit their colour and therefore much less likely to complete a clearance. These defensive shots somewhat levelled the playing field between 2 players of differing abilities due to the overall simplicity of rolling in behind a ball. Consequently, this would often result in long, drawn-out, time consuming frames. This tactic didn’t require much of an intelligent strategy – it was basic on all fronts.

  • In Old rules if your opponent fouls you can then to pick up the cue ball and place it anywhere behind the line (within the first 20 or 25% of the table). However, this isn’t the case in World Rules. whereby a foul shot doesn’t enable your opponent to move the white ball, unless there is a “Foul Snooker” scenario.


A Foul Snooker occurs if Player A fouls, and subsequently Player B is in a situation whereby he/she cannot strike both extreme edges of any of their remaining colours. In this scenario Player B may call “Foul Snooker” and after referee confirmation will have the following 2 options:

  1. A Free Ball. Clearly nominate one of their opponents balls. Nominating a ball results in that ball becoming one of their set for that shot only. This allows them to both strike it and/or pot it (unless in the case of the black ball – in which potting prematurely will result in loss of frame).
  2. Ball in Hand. Ask the referee for the “Ball in Hand”. The referee will then place the white on the baulk cushion. Following this action Player B can then place the cue ball anywhere behind the baulk (20-25%) line.

Using both options. If after ball in hand, they are still in a Foul Snooker, they may then also clearly nominate one of their opponents balls.

Another big change that World Rules created was the rule that any player may play a deliberate foul for tactical reasons. For example, to remove an opponent’s colour that is blocking a pocket to gain advantage. In any other rule-set, such a direct shot would result in a loss of frame.


In Pub Rules a foul shot allows the opponent to move the white ball behind the line and play any ball on the table on the first visit, making things a lot more simple. The above highlighted rules mean that World Rules require much more strategy and and can become more complex depending on the circumstances of the game. Old rules require strategic thinking too but to a lesser extent. A tactical battle in World Rules is comparable to a game of chess, with each move aiming to outwit the opponent. However, between 2 attack-minded players such tactical frames are few and far between.

I hope this all makes sense and helps clear things for you about 2 of the most popular sets of Eightball rules. However, I understand it may also leave some of your questions unanswered such as:


  • Can you Shoot back?
  • Do 2 visits carry?
  • Is it only one shot on the black?

There is nothing in the standard Pub Pool Rule sheet that indicates any of the above statements. However, the one rule that always stands in any 8-Ball game is; The first player to Pot all 7 colours followed by the black ball – WINS.

With that in mind, throughout the past 20 years when asked “What rules do you play?” I simply reply: “Whatever Rules you play?”

My advice is to be courteous and let the opposition choose the rules. If there’s a small wager riding on the outcome, be sure that all players are clear on the rules before the start of the first frame.

Final thoughts.

In the UK; tournaments, tours or competitions largely use World Rules or BB disciplines. Although not only both standardised rule sets, they are both also progressed from the murky waters of the old pub rules that the wider public are more familiar with.

If you’d like to receive a FREE COPY of either World Rules or EPA ‘Pub’ Rules get in touch!

For more Information on Rules, stay tuned.

Hope this helps,


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