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Pool is one of the most popular games in the world. Despite this, there are still a few people that are unfamiliar with the rules. This is likely down to the fact that most people play pool for ‘fun’ as opposed to a competition standard. This is why our experts want to help answer a question many new pool players have; do you need to hit the rail with a ball?
So, does a ball have to hit a rail in pool? Most of the time, yes. If a ball does not hit the rail, then you will need to have pocketed a ball. If either of these fails to happen, then a penalty will be issued against you and the opposing player will be allowed to place the cue ball wherever they wish on the table.
Of course, things are a little bit more complicated than this. Let our experts run you through everything you need to know about this rule so you know exactly what is expected of you when playing pool in a competition.
Does a Ball Have to Hit a Rail in Pool?
This will be dependent on the rules of the game. In most variants of pool, one of two things must happen:
- A ball must hit the rail
- A ball must be pocketed
For most shots, the first is the most-likely to happen. It does not matter which ball hits the rail. It could be the cue ball or another ball on the table. It doesn’t even matter how hard the ball touches the rail, it just has to touch the rail. If a ball doesn’t touch the rail, then most of the time it will be deemed a foul shot.
The one exception to this rule is if you pocket a ball, assuming it isn’t the cue ball. If the cue ball hits a ball and that ball, or another one on the table, goes into the pocket, then it is classed as having touched the rail.
There are some rules for pool that do not require the ball to hit the rail. However, this is something that mostly takes place at the amateur levels of the game. Honestly, if you are just playing pool for ‘fun’ without any sort of competition behind it, then you can run with the rules that are better for your skill level.
What Happens if a Ball Doesn’t Hit a Rail in Pool?
The exact penalty will be dependent on the rules being followed, plus the level that the game of pool is being played at. However, in most cases, the penalty will be ‘ball in hand’.
When a ‘ball in hand’ call is issued, the person that was fouled against is allowed to pick the cue ball up. Once they have done so, they have the right to place it wherever they wish on the table in order to make the shot. Of course, the player is likely to place it in the most adventurous position for them, and thus ‘ball in hand’ penalties could easily cost somebody the match.
At amateur levels of pool, you may find a small penalty variant. Rather than a ‘ball in hand’ penalty being issued, the opposing player will simply take two shots instead of one.
What Happens When a Player Has No Choice But to Make a Foul Shot?
When playing pool, there will inevitably come a time where the player is placed in a position that no matter what they do, they are going to end up making a foul shot. Even if the foul shot is guaranteed, it will still result in a ‘ball in hand’ penalty.
The one ‘exception’ to this rule is in the case of a ‘snooker’. This occurs when it is impossible for the incoming player to hit any of their own color balls. If this happens, the referee will likely allow the player to move the cue ball to a position where the shot can be made. It is likely the referee will require this shot to be made from the balk.
How Can You Increase the Chances of the Ball Hitting the Rail?
If you cannot guarantee that you will pocket the ball with your shot, then your best bet is to try a ‘trick shot’ off of the rail. Hit the cue ball towards the target ball. Try to angle it in such a way that it will bounce off of the closest rail and get nearer to the pocket.
Due to the ‘foul shot’ rule, it is in your best interests to always aim for the rail. As you play more and more pool, you will start to notice which shots are a ‘guaranteed’ pocket and which ones you need to play a bit safer on.
Can you place the ball wherever you want on the table with a ‘ball in hand’ penalty?
Yes. If the referee of the pool game calls a foul, then the opposite player is allowed to pick up the ball and place it wherever they wish on the table.
What does it mean when a player has been ‘snookered’ in pool?
If a player has been snookered, it means that a player cannot hit one of their own balls from the position where the cue ball currently is. It is an ‘impossible shot’. It is up to the referee to decide whether the player has actually been snookered, as well as determine the best way to deal with the problem.