Blackball Rules

This post is something of a sequel to ‘Which Rules Do You Play?’ – during which I covered the basics of 2 of the most popular Pool Rule Sets; World Rules and Pub (EPA) Rules. Whilst reading that article many of you may have been thinking “What about Blackball Rules?”. No need to worry ’cause this one’s for you!


World Rules were previously known as the most attacking 8-ball rule-set. That was, until the emergence of Blackball rules around 2004 when the WPA (World Pool & Billiards Association) aimed to become the standalone game in 8-ball. Blackball Rules are yet to become the undisputed No.1 just yet but they have displaced World Rules as the “most attacking” game.

Blackball Rules are somewhat an amalgamation of Pub Rules (EPA) and World Rules (WEPF), with one huge revolutionary TWIST!


  • If a player goes in-off on the break (pots the white ball) their opponent gets two visits, as opposed to just the one-visit in World Rules. However, these 2 visits don’t carry like in old EPA. The first visit is for developing a bad ball, before continuing onto the 2nd visit. As a result, following a foul in Blackball the referee will declare: “One shot, One visit”.
  • After a foul shot, the recipient may have ball-in-hand and play their first shot from behind the baulk line.


  • Blackball adopted World Rules most evolutionary rule. Which was of course that any ball must hit a cushion after cueball contacts the object ball on each shot – unless a ball is potted.


Blackball’s Revolutionary twist is the Skill shot, also known as the combination shot. The Skill shot is the ingredient that makes Blackball even more attacking than World Rules. The rule enables a player to legally pot their opponents ball, providing they also pot one of their own in the same shot. The order in which the balls are potted is irrelevant.

  • Example: Player “A” cuts his red into the centre pocket, the cue ball runs down the table and knocks in a yellow ball that was sitting over the corner pocket. 

This rule enables the player at the table to attack the game regardless of an opponent having control of particular pockets, because the pocket can be freed up without the need for 2 visits (Pub/Old rules). You can only play the skill shot on the black ball if you pot your penultimate ball (last red or yellow) on the same shot as the black. Otherwise, as in other rules, potting the blackball prematurely will result in loss of frame.


Blackball is certainly progress within the evolution of 8-Ball because it creates the conditions for a more attacking and fast-paced game. Which in my humble opinion should be the goal for both competitors and viewers alike. In an era where everything is based around convenience and fast-living, Blackball rules certainly make the sport more exciting, engaging and accessible to the a bigger audience.


The WPA have improved the game with their version of 8-Ball Pool. They’ve taken some of the best rules from the previous sets as well as adding their own ingredients to make the game even more exciting. On the other hand, there’s always room for improvement. I can improve, you can improve and so can Blackball.  

  • The rule of 2 shots (One shot, One visit) after an in-off on the break is harsh. Given that we are encouraging players to attack and play exciting pool. This penalty means that any players of a high standard will automatically lose a large percentage of frames after potting the cueball off the break. World Rules are the preference in this instance – one visit, ball-in-hand.
  • Another aspect that can be frustrating in Blackball is in a situation whereby a player accidentally pots an opponents ball. It’s deemed a skill shot and is therefore legal. There’s no skill involved in a fluke.
  • Everyone wants to play and watch fast-paced and thrilling 8 Ball pool. On the other hand, we want the game to remain skilful. The “Skill shot” when executed with purpose and precision is undoubtedly a skill. However, if executed accidentally the Skill shot can also reward a player’s mistake.

If the player at the table had to nominate a specific ball for their Skill shot, then this element of luck would be removed. If the player “in play” pots a ball other than the one nominated, the shot should be deemed a foul shot.


Controversially, there is also a case for a failed Skill shot to be called a foul. When a player pots their ball but fails to deliver their intent by potting the nominated ball also. Whilst this would undoubtedly add a layer of risk to playing a Skill shot, it would also lead players to focus on perfecting the art of the skill shot. The skillshot at present carries no risk and in some instances rewards mistakes. The above proposal would reward nothing except for the perfect execution of an artistic shot. 🎨


Picture a game of football… It’s the semi-finals of the World Cup and it’s a 0-0 stalemate. Nothing to choose between the two teams. The players are exhausted, collapsed on the turf with cramp, nothing left in the tank. Still, one of these two teams has to make the final, there has to be a winner! So we go to a Penalty Shootout… ⚽

After 10 penalties have been taken, the score is 3-3 and we move into sudden death. At this point; the players, the coaches, the crowd and all the viewers at home feel tense and nervous – win or lose on one kick of a ball!

The drama detailed above is an example of why people become so emotionally invested in sport. To add a layer of risk/reward to the game of Blackball would add extra excitement and help progress the game to the next level!

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to Blackball and my thoughts on the future of the game. Since this post was written a new set of attacking rules has entered the scene. You can find out more about the new set on the block here.

Hope this helps to Raise Your Game until next time!


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23 thoughts on “Blackball Rules

  1. Hi be greatful if you van answer this
    Referee looks at table as it looks like a full ball to him did not do anything just looked ..opposition called foul as he did not ask the referee to look ..is this right can you you claim a foul off the the ref..tia

  2. If I am on unders. I sink my last ball and then black goes down after in the same shot. Do I won?

  3. Hi Richard, Striking both your ball and your opponent’s ball simultaneously would be deemed legal in most rule sets and therefore not deemed a foul stroke. However, you are leaving it open to referee interpretation if the call is this close… meaning that if the ref sees it as striking opponent’s ball first – they may call a foul. Hope this helps.

  4. Hi,
    Is a split ball a foul?
    I.e. On a legal visit (not a free shot) one hits a ball of each colour simultaneously. Is this a foul?
    Kindest Regards

  5. Hi Bob, a rule such as this one in Blackball is always going to have a degree of subjectivity. Which means that ultimately it will come down to the referee’s decision. In most cases the referee will likely go on whether the foul shot has a very obvious advantage for the player that plays it. However, given that it’s difficult to give these decisions based on ‘Fact’, then you’ll often find that these ‘loss of frame’ fouls will very rarely be called.
    If your worry is that one will be called on you in the event of a genuine mistake, I would say this is extremely unlikely, unless your league is full of unsporting opponents trying to take advantage of the rules.

    I hope that helps. If not, drop me a message and I’ll try and clarify further.

  6. hi, Our league has adopted Black Ball Rules for the new season and there is one situation I need clarifying.
    The rule as I read it states that if there has not been at attempt to hit your own ball then that is loss of frame. so how can a referee be sure that there’s been no attempt rather than a miss cue or similar error?
    obviously we have all standards of players and errors when bridging over a ball or off the cushion are not uncommon.

  7. I wonder can you help clarify?. With blackball rules if player 1 has two balls left plus black : 1 ball is snookered and cannot be hit directly and the other ball is so close to his opponents ball, for him or her to hit it, would inevitably cause an opponents ball to pocket and therefore give away a foul. Can that player go off the cushion and try to hit his snookered ball and if he misses is it a deliberate foul or a standard foul?
    Thank you Charlie

  8. It seems to me that Blackball takes away from what makes 8 ball a great game compared to 9 ball; the strategic choice to play defensively to mitigate the risk of the run out. A game is more interesting when there’s a stragetic choice to be made as opposed to everyone adopting the same strategy and lets see who gets a good break, or who can capitalise on a bad shot, first. I hate this current trend in sports that “defensive/negative play is for pussies, theres more “honour” in being attacking”. A game where there is the strategic choice between defense and attacking play, alongside the tactical aspect of how to most effectively score, is by definition more complex, and so more interesting, than games that encourage both players to adopt identical strategies and only differ in tactics (which are often dictated to them by the table situation).

    Also, the American version of 8 ball seems to have that “excitement” and “attacking” nature, due to the bigger pockets and the ability to chip the ball, as well as having more space to swerve the cue ball around obstacles. English 8 ball has developed into its own thing, with its tighter table and more claustrophobic feel, and blackball seems to me to straddle the divide between the two, but being the worst of both worlds.

  9. Like many things 8-ball is subjective. Not having to play balls in a numbered order as per 9-ball for example doesn’t make our game any easier. It then leaves the player to map their own route and to make best decisions to clear the table.

    The only downside to BB would be that in a sticky situation… a player could just thrash the balls around the table in the hope of getting lucky – with minimal risk of fouling as they are able to pot any opponents ball without calling it.

    Hope that helps.

  10. Thanks for your comment Martin.

    I value your thoughts on the semantics. I try to write in such a way that things become clearer for the majority of players that are subscribed to the page. Unfortunately, this will always be to the detriment of a small percentage of others.

    The link you posted was invalid when I clicked it but for clarification, the EPA and WEPF now use the same sets of rules. It’s for this reason that in the post the ‘Pub Rules’ were referred to as ‘Old’ EPA.

    I would also like to add that I envisage a complete overhaul of the rules of the WEPF in the near future.

    Hope that helps.

  11. You stated in the “Which Rules Do You Play” article that no rules mention that “2 visits carry”.

    First let me point out the semantic redundancy, because if they didn’t “carry” they wouldn’t be two visits (but one visit and something else).

    Secondly, I have come across these rules:

    which state that,

    “K. Standard Fouls
    Are to be called by the referee as soon as they occur and the fouled
    player is in control, until all balls from that shot come to rest. The
    referee then awards two visits to the opponent.”

    These are from the EPA website and they show both the WEPF and the EPA label, suggesting that both as of 2019 use the same set of rules.

    Could you clarify on that? Thanks a lot!

  12. Hi, why would you advocate for more skill and fewer flukes when you play a version of the game where you don’t call shots?

  13. Thanks for all this content 👍I played pool a lot when I was younger but then I started to play snooker for years on and off. I am now watching loads of pool and love the attacking style.
    I like to think I have a good mastery of the cue ball and the patterns involved….the skill of trying not to do anything ‘to fancy ‘ when getting position. ..more difficult to judge.
    No one likes to lose to a fluke and I think it would be a good idea to nominate combination shots.
    It’s funny…but I remember reading years ago. ..the old Australian snooker pro Eddie Charlton tried to implement this in a competition he organised down under ha ha it never took off…steady Eddie despised flukes…unless he got one ha ha
    I digress. Yes I’m just brushing up on the different rules…then am gonna start havin’ a dabble..the aim: to win a few quid. I’m in the Blackpool area.
    Best regards
    Mike Cousins

  14. Of a player takes the cue ball(instead of the referee) for the next player to play, is it (a) a foul&2 visits, or is it loss of frame? Secondly ,when you rack the balls ready for play does it make any difference whether it’s 2 reds, or 2 yellows at the top of the triangle. Thank you.

  15. I played World Rules in a pub league for 6 years. I have recently moved county and am now playing Blackball. I feel that the attacking element of Blackball has lifted my game. It also rewards the ‘better’ player at the table (in my humble opinion).
    I liked a tactical tussle in World Rules but if a player takes 2 corner pockets (especially if 1 is the ‘black’ pocket) it can be nearly impossible to mount any attack or defence against the situation without a deliberate foul (in the process giving them 2 shots).
    Also the deliberate foul Rule allows players to get out of jail free on occasions or play the rules to win instead of using skill.

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