We started playing 10-ball with a local group and it was confusing because different players had played with different rules and it got pretty ugly. There are a lot of different ways to play this great game of pocket billiards, and there should be different options designed for different leagues. I guess I looked at 40 different pages on different pool sites and I got the motivation to create a single set that combined the most logical rules but also shares some different options.
I will post the rules here in text but also include a word document that you can modify to suit your own needs, pointing out some different possibilities. Should you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments and I will try to clarify as best as I can.
I will also share Rob’s Rule Number One for the benefit of readers: “Make your shot.”
Following the above, you will find that this speeds play and eliminates some of the controversy.
Here are the general rules and options for playing 10-ball that mesh with CSA, BCA and APA rules for the game:
Ten Ball Rules and Options
By Scott Simmerman
10-ball is a rotation game like 9-ball, where the lowest ball on the table is struck first. One key difference is that all shots are called shots. Making the 10-ball as a called shot in the called pocket wins the game.
There are any number of options as to how to structure your rules, focusing on whether unintended balls pocketed stay down or get pocketed, whether an intended ball plus the called 10-ball can both be called on a single shot, whether the 3-foul rule is utilized, or whether a player can simply allow his opponent to keep shooting in the event of making an unintended shot and even how the 2 and 3 balls are racked.
This document covers many rules of play for 10-Ball games for the average-skilled player and is meant to be an overall compendium of rules of this game with options. You can download and modify these, making your desired changes for your local rules. Please attribute the general information to me.
1.0 – Play – General Rules
1.1 – Ten-ball is a rotation game like 9-ball. A “good hit” is when the player first connects with the lowest-numbered ball on the table and drives any ball to a rail. Failure to contact the lowest-numbered ball or to contact a rail is a foul and results in ball-in-hand anywhere on the table for the opponent.
1.2 – Balls do not have to be pocketed in order since combinations and caroms off the lowest ball are legal shots, if called. A ball pocketed counts as a ball hitting a rail.
1.3 – A “bad hit” occurs when any ball not the lowest numbered is contacted first. This results in ball-in-hand for the opponent. Ball-in-hand is always “anywhere on the table.”
1.4 – When placing the cue ball in a ball-in-hand situation, contact with another ball is considered a foul and the other player gets ball-in-hand. A player can move the cue ball around until satisfied of its position, but they cannot contact the ball with the tip of their cue.
1.5 – If a player makes a legal shot, they continue play until missing, committing a foul, playing a safety or winning the game. After a miss, the incoming player must shoot from the position of the cue ball left by the opponent. A foul gives the opponent ball-in-hand from any location on the table.
1.6 – (Fouls are the standard fouls depending on local rules, which sometimes allow casual inadvertent contact with object balls on the table by clothing or hands or from side-hits from cue sticks. Generally, any bridge contact with a ball is a foul. Double-hit fouls on the cue ball can be called to league preferences.)
1.7 – Any called shot must be clearly understood as such by the opponent or a referee. It is the responsibility of the player to clarify the shot to the opponent before shooting. Obvious shots need not be called.
1.8 – Most of the same rules apply as in 9-ball. This means that in order to establish a legal hit, the cue ball must contact the lowest numbered ball first, and at least one ball must then hit any rail or be pocketed.
1.9 – A scratch is when the cue ball is pocketed and results in ball-in-hand anywhere on the table.
1.10 – Shots have to be called, which means that the player must call a ball and the pocket in which to make the ball. It must be clear to the other player which shot is being called. You are calling only the ball and the pocket, and not the ball’s journey into that pocket; the details of that called shot are not important.
1.11 – Combinations or carom shots may be called to pocket a ball other than the lowest numbered ball.
2.0 – Breaking –
2.1 – Breaking first may be decided by a lag, coin-flip or league rules. Generally, players alternate breaks although local rules could allow for winner breaks if desired.
2.2 – The 10 balls are racked in a triangle as in the game of 8-ball but using balls 1 through 10 as object balls, with the 1-ball positioned on the foot spot, and the 2- and 3-balls placed on the bottom corners of the triangle (non-specific). The 10-ball is positioned in the third row, middle of the rack and other balls are placed randomly.
2.3 – If the 10-ball is pocketed on the break, it is spotted and the player will continue his inning. One cannot win the game with a 10-ball made on the break. Object balls made on the break remain pocketed, even when the shooter scratches and opposing player gets ball-in-hand.
2.4 – Balls knocked off the table on the break are spotted.
2.5 – If the player pockets one or more balls on a legal break, he continues to shoot. The game ends when the 10-ball is pocketed on a called, legal shot.
2.6 – As in 9-ball, the player breaking must hit the 1-ball first (the head ball in the rack) and cannot do a second-row break or other alternative. The cue ball must be struck from anywhere behind the head-line of the table. At least 4 balls must be driven to a rail or the other player has the option of shooting from the current cue ball position or asking for a re-break by the first player.
2.7 – If a ball is driven off the table, it is spotted and the opponent now shoots from the current position of the cue ball. If the cue ball is driven off the table, it is ball-in-hand for the opponent.
2.8 – For balls that are close together, a player from another team can be asked to view or film the hit or to call potential double-hit cue stick fouls.
2.9 – Players should mutually agree that a ball is frozen to a rail when that situation arises. If an object ball is frozen, the cue ball must hit the rail in such situations or the object ball hits another rail. It is a ball-in-hand foul if either does not occur. A double-hit on the cue and object ball counts as a legal hit if the rail is struck by one of the balls.
2.10 – If any ball hangs in a pocket, the ball is considered to be pocketed if it drops in 5 seconds or less after coming to complete rest. If a hanging ball drops in the pocket after being at rest for 5 seconds or more, the ball is returned to the original position and the incoming player may begin their inning.
3.0 – The Push Out –
3.1 – The player who shoots immediately after a legal break may “push out” to move the cue ball into a different position. The cue ball is not required to contact any object ball nor any rail but it can. The player must clearly announce the intention of playing a push out before the shot, or the shot is considered to be a normal shot requiring contact with the lowest numbered ball and a rail or it is a ball-in-hand foul.
3.2 – Any ball pocketed on a push out does not count – local rules say it could be spotted or it could remain pocketed (except the 10-ball, which is spotted).
3.3 – Following a legal push out, the incoming player is permitted to shoot from the current cue ball position or to pass the shot back to the player who pushed out. Rules can spot any made ball or leave it in the pocket.
3.4 – A push out is not considered to be a foul as long as no rule is violated. After a player scratches on a break shot, the incoming player cannot play a push out.
4.0 – Safety Shots –
4.1 – A safety shot includes a legal hit on the object ball.
4.2 – Any un-called ball made on a safety is spotted and the opponent begins play with the cue ball in its current location. A called ball on a safety causes the object ball to remain pocketed with the opponent shooting from the current location of the cue ball.
4.3 – A player can call a safety and make a called legal shot but they do not continue shooting. The ball remains pocketed and the opponent must shoot from the location of the cue ball. A safety does not have to be called but there must be a legal hit on an object ball. (You can require safeties to be called if your scoring system – as in APA rules — records each shot taken and each inning played for handicap generation purposes.)
5.0 – Options and Local Rules:
5.1 – If a player pockets only the wrong ball, or pockets the nominated ball in the wrong pocket, the ball might stay down or might be spotted on the foot spot. The player loses their turn and the opponent now shoots. (An alternative is that the opponent then has the choice of taking the shot or handing it back.)
5.2 – Pocketing a called shot and another ball results in both balls remaining pocketed. (Local rules allow for that second ball to be spotted but play is faster if both balls remain pocketed.)
5.3 – Balls inadvertently moved can be moved back to its original position or left in their new location – the choice is made by permission of the opponent. If replaced, balls should be placed back to their original position as closely as possible, as agreed by the players or referee.
5.4 – If the 10-ball is pocketed by a player’s hand or cue, it is a ball-in-hand foul and the opponent has the option of placing the 10-ball back to its original position or having it placed on the foot spot. Opponent shall continue with ball-in-hand.
5.5 – You can play “rack your own” or allow the opponent to rack.
5.6 – A player mis-cueing on the break can re-break and not forfeit the break to the opponent. (I mean, if the player miscues 3 or 4 times, get real and let the other player break! Enough is enough and breaking in 10-ball for average players is no real advantage.)
6.0 – Shots on the 10-ball:
6.1 – There are two different rules for this situation and you will need to clarify this for your local 10-ball rules. Some leagues play where only one ball may be called per shot. Thus, a player cannot call a ball and simultaneously call a 10-ball carom or combination – they can only call the intended ball or the 10-ball. In the one-called-ball scenario, missing the 10-ball while pocketing a legally-hit ball is a miss and the other player now shoots. Any ball pocketed this way is spotted and the game continues.
6.2 – A better option is that a player making a called object ball and a called 10-ball can to continue to shoot if pocketing the called ball – they should not be penalized for attempting to win the game.
6.3 – Rules should allow a player to call a shot and also call an attempt on the 10-ball in a kick, carom or combination. If the player makes the called shot but misses the 10-ball attempt, they continue shooting and the ball remains pocketed. Making a called shot on the 10-ball ends that game. Many players are experts at playing multi-way shots where they may be attempting to pocket more than one ball on a given shot, so allowing two called shots is acceptable.
6.4 – The object ball need not be made if the 10-ball is called and pocketed, since the game is over.
6.5 – Jump shots and/or Masse shots are allowable, depending on local rules. Rules about allowable jump cues should be local decisions or venue decisions.
6.6 – If a called shot is made, any additional unintended ball remains down. Should the called shot be missed, any unintended ball pocketed is spotted. Or, local rules can allow for that other ball to remain potted. Play is faster if such unintended balls remain pocketed.
6.7 – Fouls and other problems may only be called between the two players and not by team members or observers. (Or not. It depends somewhat on the skill levels of the players and the nature of the culture of the league.)
6.8 – A player attempting a shot on the 4-ball when the 3-ball is still on the table might be warned by his teammates. (Or not.)
6.9 – League etiquette should suggest that a player committing a foul calling that foul on themselves even if that was not noticed by the opponent, or warning an opponent when they are about to commit an inadvertent foul on a numbered-ball. Local rules could allow observers to make such comments.
6.10 – Breaking down the playing cue-stick or putting on a jacket or engaging in other actions (including comments or remarks) suggesting that the game is over is generally the sign of resignation or concession of the game or match. (A player should verify that resignation before continuing play.) Conceding a game is never encouraged.
6.11 – If players are highly skilled, the Three Foul Rule may be used. A player fouling three consecutive times on three successive shots without making an intervening legal shot causes that player to lose the game. The opponent must give a warning of this situation between the second and third fouls. A player’s inning begins when it is legal to take a shot and ends at the end of a shot on which he misses, fouls or wins, or when he fouls between shots.
7.0 – Coaching and Time-Outs –
7.1 – Generally, either the player or the team captain can call one time-out per game. If the player is a novice, two time-outs per game can be allowed by league rules. The goal of the time out should be to briefly discuss shooting options and a reasonable limit on time is appropriate. (Two minutes can seem like a very long time!)
7.2 – The coach cannot place the cue ball for the player but can indicate where it can be placed.
7.3 – A team captain can refuse to allow a player-called time out if they desire, with no penalty.
7.4 – A coach can “mark” the table with chalk or a coin or similar to show the shot, so long as that mark is removed prior to the player shooting.
7.5 – Coaching is a behavior that should be encouraged in league play because coaching can improve the skills and knowledge of the players. Generally, taking time to coach will speed play over time by shortening a game or shortening games because of improved play.
ALL of us can help improve the skill levels and understanding of the wonderful game of pool if we work to support others with technique, strategy and overview.
I hope that you find these rules to be of help and that they are adaptable to your league play. There are options for how the 10-ball game is played and my search for one complete set of rules was not successful.
Thanks to all the people who have posted 10-ball rules online and I trust that this compendium of possibilities is useful to everyone playing this fine game.
For the FUN of It!
Scott J. Simmerman, Ph.D. CPF CPT, from Cuenca, Ecuador
Scott Simmerman’s 10-Ball Rules and Options – downloadable Word docx file
Thanks to Brian and Diane Brown for their editing and comments about this document.
June 13, 2021
Also published on Medium.