Can You Move the White Ball in Pool


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What a treat it is to get a ball-in-hand in pool. That means you can simply pick the cue ball up in your hand, and place it wherever you like. When we say “moving” a ball here, we mean moving it by hand and not with the cue stick of course. The cue stick is meant to hit the cue ball at every shot!

Can you move the white ball in pool? On a normal shot, no way! It would be considered a foul. However, if the ball is in hand, after a foul for example, then you are allowed to move the white ball and place it wherever you like.

The “white” ball, usually called the cue ball, is the ball used to play. A player cannot hit an object ball directly, he can only strike the cue ball with the cue stick and the cue ball in turn has to hit one or more object balls. Like any other ball, you cannot touch it or place it just anywhere during most part of the game.

But there are some situations where you’re allowed to.

What are the general rules for touching a ball?

Touching a ball in pool is generally a foul. By any rulebook or standard. Here are a couple of rules to remember:

  • You cannot touch, move or impact an object ball in any way except by the legal ball-to-ball contact.
  • Similarly, you cannot touch or move the cue ball either, except by the cue tip striking it, unless a ball-in-hand was called.

When is the white ball in hand?

Broadly speaking, there are only two cases when you get the ball in hand:

1. On the break shot, that is the beginning of the game. It is only on the break shot that you are allowed to pick the cue ball and place it anywhere inside the “kitchen” i.e. the area behind the head string. And only the player who is breaking gets to do this before he breaks.

2. On your opponent’s foul. If your opponent commits a scratch or foul, then you get the ball in hand. You can pick and place it where you like. Exactly how much freedom you have in where to place the ball is dictated by the kind of league or version of pool that you are playing.

In “bar” rules or informal leagues, you only get to place the ball anywhere inside the kitchen. In professional leagues however, you have a complete ball-in-hand and you can place the ball anywhere on the table.

What is a foul?

Well, we’ve talked about getting a ball in hand on a foul, but let’s also explain when exactly a foul occurs. There are many kinds of fouls and you’ll find them outlined in a lot of detail in the game rules. But some main ones are:

  • Pocketing the cue ball (or the cue ball touching a ball that was pocketed)
  • Driving the cue ball off the table
  • The cue ball not striking any object ball
  • The cue ball does strike an object ball but the object ball neither goes into a pocket nor does either ball at least hit a rail

All these standard scratches or fouls mean a ball-in-hand for the opposing player.

There are a lot more situations which are considered a foul, but we don’t go into the details in this article.

Then there are other kinds of illegal actions too, like knocking the 8-ball off the table or pocketing it when it isn’t the legal ball, but these are way more dangerous. If you do this, you don’t just earn the other player a ball in hand…you lose the game!

So, in short, we’ve established that during regular, fair play, you cannot move or even touch the white (cue) ball. If you do, that’s a foul in itself and will get the other player a ball-in-hand (ironically). But, you can move the white ball when you are breaking or when the other player commits a foul and earns you a ball-in-hand.

Related Questions

Can you place the white ball anywhere in pool?

If you are breaking, you can place the ball anywhere behind the head string. Or, if you’ve got a ball-in-hand because of your opponent’s foul, then you can place the ball anywhere on the table. Otherwise, you can’t place the ball anywhere- you don’t even touch the ball mid-game.

What happens if you move a ball in pool?

It is considered a foul. Most standard fouls result in a ball-in-hand for the next player, although the rules can vary a bit between different leagues and formats. And if you do it deliberately, then it’s considered un-sportsman-like behavior and has much more severe consequences!

Can you jump the white ball in pool?

No! Jumping the white ball is a foul (in American-style pool). The ball is supposed to roll over on the table and not lose contact. If it is lifted off the table, it’s illegal.

Can you put the cue ball anywhere after a scratch?

Yes. If your opponent scratches, it’s a ball-in-hand for you. So you get to place the cue ball anywhere you like on the table.

Can you hit someone else’s ball in pool?

No. You cannot hit them first, to be exact. The first ball that your cue balls strikes should be one of your own, else it’s a scratch.

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