Blackball (sometimes written black ball or black-ball) is a pool (pocket billiards) game that is popular in the United Kingdom, Ireland, several Western European nations, Australia and some other countries. In the UK and Ireland it is usually called simply "pool". The game is played with sixteen balls (a cue ball and fifteen object balls) on a small (6 ft x 3 ft or 7 ft x 4 ft) pool table with six pockets. Blackball is an internationally standardised variation of the popular bar and club game eight-ball pool (a.k.a. 8-ball pool or eightball pool), closely related to the originally American and now professionally internationalised game eight-ball. The two main sets of playing rules are those of the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA, the International Olympic Committee-recognised governing body of pool) and its affiliate the European Blackball Association (EBA), known as "blackball rules", and the older code of the World Eightball Pool Federation (WEPF), often referred to as "world rules".
Eight-ball pool (and thus its standardised form blackball), like international-style eight-ball, is derived from an earlier game invented around 1900 and first popularized in 1925 under the name B.B.C. Co. Pool by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. Like blackball and eight-ball pool today, this forerunner game was played with seven yellow and seven red balls, unnumbered (in contrast to the international-style numbered stripes and solids, sometimes called kelly pool balls in the UK), a black ball, and the cue ball. The game had relatively simple rules compared to the modern game.
The ball sets typically range from 2 inches (51 mm) up to 2 3⁄16 inch (56 mm), often with a slightly smaller cue ball, e.g. 1 7⁄8 inches (4.76 cm) for a 2 inch set. The most common sized sets on the market are 2 inch and 21⁄8 inch (54 mm). Along with the single white cue ball, plain unnumbered red (or sometimes blue) and yellow colour balls, seven of each color, are used in lieu of the numbered solids and stripes common to international eight-ball and other pool games (which in the UK are usually called kelly pool balls). Many suppliers refer to the yellows-and-reds sets as "casino" balls, whether UK- or US-sized, because they were formerly used in US casino-hosted, televised, modified-rules eight-ball tournaments popular in the 1970s; the coloured rather than numbered sets were selected for their distinguishability on TV. The black ball, however, still typically bears a number "8" (a holdover from kelly pool), though numberless variants are not unknown.
British pool tables come in 6 x 3 foot (1.8 x 0.9 m) or 7 x 3.5 ft (2.12 x 1.06 m) varieties, with 7 ft being the regulation size for league play. The table has pockets just larger than the balls and rounded, as in the game of snooker, whereas the international-style (or "American-style") table has pockets significantly wider, with pointed knuckles.
Tournament rules may require the presence of more than one type of rest (mechanical bridge), as in snooker.
There are two competing standards bodies that have issued international rules. The older, and currently dominant, of the two sets in British-style pool are the World Eight-ball Pool Federation (WEPF) rules (often called "World Rules"). The majority of WEPF members come from the UK and Ireland, and from current and former Commonwealth of Nations countries, plus Belgium.
A competing but very similar set of rules has been promulgated by the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), under the game name "blackball" to better distinguish it from the American-style game (for which WPA also promulgates rules),. It was intended that "blackball" would unify the various existing British-style rulesets (presumably also including the WEPF rules) although this has not yet happened. The self-described "governing body" for WPA blackball in Europe, with numerous national and local affiliate groups, is the European Blackball Association (EBA).
In countries where pay-to-play pool tables with automatic ball-return devices are common, only the cue ball is returned to the players after potting. This means that if the black is potted from the break the game cannot continue without paying for a second game. It is not uncommon in the UK for 1 pound sterling (approximately 1.30 euros) to be the price of a game. Players may agree to play on without a black rather than lose the cost of a game for a single shot.
WEPF World Rules
The older World Eight-ball Pool Federation rules pre-date the WPA blackball rules, and remain popular as amateur league and even professional tournament rules in the UK, Ireland, Australia, some other Commonwealth countries, and a few European nations. Locally the WEPf rules (or minor variants thereof) are sometimes referred to as "British standard pool", "Irish standard pool", etc.
The balls are racked with the black (the 8 ball) on the foot spot (or "black spot"), in contrast with US-style eight-ball, nine-ball and most other pool games, in which the apex ball is placed on the foot spot. A "fair break" is one in which an object ball is potted, and/or at least 4 object balls contact the cushion. If the black is potted, the game is restarted with a re-rack, broken by the original breaker. If the cue ball is potted on an otherwise fair break, it is a "non-standard" fault (foul) that simply ends the breaker's turn, with no further penalties. If it is a foul (non-fair) break, the incoming player gets two visits as with other "standard fouls" (see below), and gets to break, after a re-rack, without the option to instead play the balls as they lie. Openness of the table (unlike in the American-style game) does not last long, in that if the breaker pots a ball on the break from one group, and elects to continue shooting that group, then that group are his/her balls-on, even if the post-break followup shot is missed, while if the group chosen did not have any balls potted on the break, the table remains open until a ball is legally potted. If no balls were potted on the break, the table remains open. The shooter must nominate what group they are shooting for on the shot following the break if they had potted a ball off the break.
A legal (non-break) shot is one where the cue ball first hits a "ball-on" (one of the balls in the player's own group), and does not pot the cue ball, the black or any of the balls in the opponent's group, and either one of the shooter's balls-on is pocketed, or a (any) ball contacts a cushion after the cue ball contacts the (first) ball-on. I.e., it is the same as in American-style, but with the additional requirement that one not sink an opponent's ball (doing so is a fault), and lacking the requirement that ball and pocket have to be called (i.e. slop shots are perfectly valid, even on the black.) There are other forms of fault, generally the same as in other pool games, such as potting the cue ball (except on the break, as noted above), knocking balls off the table, moving balls accidentally, double-hits and pushes (though the standards are weaker than in American-style rules), unsportsmanlike conduct, etc. There are also other unique fouls such as the requirement (borrowed from snooker) to shoot away from any ball that the cue ball is frozen to, without moving it (however if the frozen ball is the shooter's own, it counts as contacting a ball-on, and only a (any) ball must reach a rail for it to be a legal shot. As in informal American bar pool, but not WPA/BCA/IPT standardized American-style rules, players are sometimes required to take certain shots (besides the break shot) from baulk or "the kitchen", i.e. from behind the baulk line (head string). Also, all deliberate jump shots that result in missing an intervening ball are faults.
After a fault, the offending player will effectively miss a turn and give the opponent two visits. These free shots must be taken from where the cue ball finished after their opponents foul, with two exceptions: the cue ball was potted, in which case the incoming player must take their shot from baulk; or the incoming player has been left in a foul snooker, in which case they may nominate a free ball, move the cue ball to baulk and play from there or indeed carry on as normal (i.e. shoot at one of their own balls).
There are other unique rules, such as a relaxation of the legal shot requirements when the shooter is "totally snookered" (i.e. the shooter no longer has to have a ball contact a rail after they have contacted their "ball-on").
It is a loss of frame (game) to fault in any way while actually potting (but not just shooting at) the black.
WPA Blackball World Standardised Rules
|This section requires expansion. (October 2011)|
Blackball rules are very similar to the WEPF World Rules. One notable difference is that after a fault, the incoming player has a free shot (i.e., may take the cue ball in position or in-hand in baulk; the "wrong ball first" rule is suspended) and also has next visit (continues playing even if no ball or opponent's ball is potted on the free shot). Also, if player A has any number of his or her own coloured balls left and player B has only the black ball left to pot. If, on player A's go, they deliberately attempt to move the black ball by shooting at, and hitting, it before touching their own colour ball. The person on the black has 2 shots to take. This is the only situation where a player on the black has 2 shots, for every other foul committed by the opposing player, the player with only the black to go gets only 1 shot.
Both the World Pool-Billiard Association (with PPPO and EBA) and the World Eight-ball Pool Federation currently sanction a World Championship, the WPA version is held every other year. The 2012 WPA World Blackball Champion is Gavin Phillips from Scotland and the 2013 WEPF Eight-ball Pool World Champion is Tom Cousins from Wales.
For more information see: List of Blackball and "British-style" eight-ball pool champions
- Shamos, Michael Ian (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford. p. 85. ISBN 1-55821-219-1.
- Jewett, Bob (February 2002). "8-Ball Rules: The many different versions of one of today's most common games". Billiards Digest Magazine: Page 22–23.
- Hickok, Ralph (2001). "Sports History: Pocket Billiards". HickokSports.com: Everything You Wanted to Know About Sports. New Bedford, MA, USA: self-published. Retrieved 13 December 2006.
- Shamos, Mike (1995–2005). "A Brief History of the Noble Game of Billiards". Broomfield, CO, USA: Billiard Congress of America. Retrieved 13 December 2006.
- "World Pool Association [sic] Blackball Rules", World Pool-Billiard Association, 2005.
- "British vs. American Pool". Liberty Games. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
- "World Eight-ball Pool Federation Eight-ball Rules", 2004, Perth, WA, Australia
- World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) — world governing body for numerous versions of pool, including "blackball rules"
- Blackball Rules for mobile devices Official WPA blackball pool rules listed
- European Blackball Association (EBA) — Europe's WPA-affiliate organisation for blackball
- Associació de Blackball Catalunya — Catalonian organisation for blackball
- World Eightball Pool Federation (WEPF) — international governing body for "world rules"
- Welsh Pool Association (WPA) — international governing body for pool in Wales.