What are House Rules?

House rules in pool refer to specific regulations and variations established by the owner of a pool hall, bar, or even a private game room. These rules can vary widely and are often designed to enhance the enjoyment of the game, accommodate local traditions, or simplify complex official rules for casual players.

Common House Rules Variations

Table and Equipment
  • Cue Restrictions: Some venues may have restrictions on using personal cue sticks, requiring players to use house-provided cues.
  • Table Size and Pockets: Differences in table sizes and pocket dimensions can be specified, affecting game play.
Game Rules
  • Racking Rules: House rules might dictate specific ways to rack the balls, differing from official regulations.
  • Breaking Rules: Custom rules for breaking, such as stipulating that the 8-ball cannot be pocketed on the break in 8-ball games, or requiring a certain number of balls to hit the rails.
  • Foul Rules: Modifications to foul rules, such as no ball-in-hand penalties or allowing leniency on minor fouls.
Scoring and Gameplay
  • Winning Conditions: Changes to how games are won, like requiring a certain number of points or altering the sequence of ball pocketing.
  • Call Shot: Implementing or ignoring the call shot rule to suit the skill levels of players.
  • Safety Shots: Defining what constitutes a legal safety shot.

Why House Rules Matter

House rules ensure that the game remains enjoyable and accessible to all players, particularly in casual settings. They can also help in maintaining order and fairness, preventing disputes among players. Understanding and adhering to house rules is crucial when playing in a new venue to avoid misunderstandings and ensure a smooth game.

Examples of Popular House Rules

8-Ball House Rules
  • Breaking: The player who wins the lag breaks first, and breaking alternates thereafter.
  • 8-Ball on Break: If the 8-ball is pocketed on the break, some house rules declare an automatic win, while others require it to be re-spotted and the game continued.
  • Scratch on 8-Ball: If a player scratches while shooting the 8-ball, it typically results in an automatic loss.
9-Ball House Rules
  • Three Foul Rule: Some places may not enforce the three-foul rule to keep the game simpler and faster.
  • Slop Shots: Allowing or disallowing slop shots (unintended but legally pocketed balls) can vary by venue.


House rules play a significant role in shaping the experience of playing pool in different locations. They can make the game more approachable for newcomers and keep it fresh and interesting for seasoned players. When visiting a new pool hall or bar, always check the house rules to ensure you play by the venue’s specific guidelines and enjoy a fair and fun game.

By understanding and respecting house rules, players can enjoy the game of pool in various settings, each with its unique twist on the traditional rules. This adaptability is part of what makes pool such a universally loved game.