Is There a Time Limit in Pool? Read this First!


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Doesn’t it get frustrating when pool players take so long to plan out their shots and the match is going at a snail’s pace? This can often put off the other players and the audience; the audience might even start thinning if the match gets too long-drawn-out!

Is there a time limit in pool? Well, by professional rules, no, not strictly. There are recommended timing guidelines but a referee may also impose a timer if he feels the game is dragging too much. Slow play in pool is considered unsportsmanlike behavior if a player keeps doing it.

We’ll discuss timing guidelines using WPA (World Pool-Billiard Association) and APA (American Poolplayers Association) as a reference, because WPA is the professional standard, while APA is the largest amateur pool league in the world.

There is no strict time limit by either of the two standards because usually, unless the players are complete novices or just not trying, one frame of pool just doesn’t take that long! There are guidelines though.

Some general WPA standards

For 8-ball, individual matches should take 7-10 minutes per rack, on average. Professionals usually don’t even take that long and get it over in 5-7 minutes. 15 minutes is considered bad and going over 30 is a big no!

Individual shots on the other hand should be over within 20 seconds ideally, or 30-35 at maximum. Going up to a minute (or more!) is very uncool and you usually are only allowed that much extension once or twice per rack.

If you keep going over the recommended time limit, the referee (and even the other player) has the right to and will usually call to impose a timer. The tournament directors and officials decide whether to use a shot clock or let it go. They can even impose one by default since the beginning of the match.

Each player is allowed to request a 5-minute time-out once during a longer match.

Lastly, the “late start” rule says that if a player does not show up within 15 minutes of starting time, he will automatically lose.

APA timing guidelines

APA also has pretty similar guidelines. As mentioned above, exceeding these limits will not be a foul normally, but it can be considered unsportsmanlike behavior and the penalty is at the discretion of the referee or director.

  • A regular shot is supposed to take no more than 20 seconds but a special situation or tough shot or safety shot can take 45 seconds.
  • An 8-ball team match should take 8-10 minutes per rack, and a complete match should take less than 4 hours.
  • A 9-ball individual match should take 30-40 minutes, and a complete game should not exceed 3.5 hours.
  • A Masters individual match should take around 45-60 minutes, and 3 hours for the whole game.
  • For a Doubles match, the timings per rack for 8-ball and 9-ball formats are the same as given above. A Doubles match should take about 45 minutes, and a team match should not exceed 2 hours.

There are also a few other quick guidelines, for example, a time-out requested by a player should last 1 minute and new player selection should also take just 1 minute. Moreover, like WPA, a match will be forfeited if a player is not ready at the table within 15 minutes of the decided start time.

What is a shot clock?

Can slow play actually result in a foul? Sometimes, yes!

If the presiding referee feels a player is being sluggish, he’ll first issue the player a warning. If he continues to lag, the referee will impose a shot clock which is a timer which both players will have to follow then.

A shot clock can be requested at any time by the referee, another official person, or even a player himself. Once the shot clock is brought in, both players will be timed. A timekeeper is appointed for this.

The exact time limit is decided by the officials, but usually it is 30-35 seconds per shot with a warning issued when 10 seconds are left. A player is allowed to ask for one 25-second extension per rack.

The shot clock is started when all balls have stopped moving from the previous shot, and stopped when the new player strikes the cue ball with his cue (or the timer runs out!). If the shot clock expires and the player has not made his move, it will be a standard foul. The penalty for a standard foul is usually a ball-in-hand for the upcoming player.

Bottom line

The timing guidelines for pool are completely fair and have been decided and proven after years of analysis. They also take into account varying skill and experience levels. Unless players are just not trying their best, it is very easy to keep up with these guidelines.

Usually professional players don’t need any time limit reminders, because they have already played every kind of shot and situation so many times before that they instinctively know what they have to do!

Related Questions

Is rest allowed in pool?

By WPA rules, if the matches are short, the players are not allowed any rest. However, if the matches are longer than 9 games (for 8-ball) and 13 games (for 9-ball), then one 5-minute time-out is allowed to each player. In APA, players can call for time-outs but they shouldn’t exceed 1 minute.

How long does a game of pool usually last?

A reasonable game of pool should not last more than 4 hours, although it can vary depending on the format being used.

See Also:
How Much Do APA League Operators Make?
Can Kids Play Billiards
How Long Does It Take To Learn To Play Pool

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