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BCA Billiard Referee Rules

The text you are about to read is a plain English version of the billiard referee instructions as maintained by the BCA, that is, the Billiard Congress of America. Feel free to visit their website for a full version of the current billiard referee's rules. These rules may also be referred to as pool referee rules or key sports referee rules. You'll find that most of the billiard referee rules are common sense. However, they are outlined here and on the BCA website as a means for dispute resolution in the event of a disagreement. They are also designed to help new billiard reveries become more familiar with how to call specific plays.

The BCA referee' responsibility is to ensure that there is a fair and level playing field for all competitors. This shall be accomplished through maintaining order, enforcing the rules of the game, and serving the needs of the players.

Billiard Referee Instructions and Rules

In league and tournament play, there will be issues that occur which require the expertise, judgment of a billiard referee. In order to make the best decisions and judgments, billiard referees have the following billiard referee instructions and Rules and guidelines to follow.

Billiard Tournament Officials and/or Referees

As mentioned above, much of the job of a billiard referee is subjective, and relies on the referees discretion and best judgment. These rules are meant to take this in to consideration. Additionally, since billiards is meant to be a gentleperson's sport, all tournament or league officials are also given discretion as secondary referees as appropriate.

Billiard Referee's Authority

The 2007 - 2008 Billiard Congress of America billiard referee rules go the extra step and better defined the authority of the BCA Pool league referee when it comes to matters of judgment. It notes the BCA Pool league referee are direct representatives of the BCA Pool league all matters concerning the conduct of the actual game on the table.

It's the BCA Pool league referee is in fact the final authority in all matters of judgment. The BCA takes the extra step to actually list out which situations involve matters of judgment. Matters of judgment include situations where it must be determined whether or not:

  • a player's conduct is unsportsmanlike;
  • a player meets the dress code requirements of the BCA;
  • an instance of coaching has occurred;
  • outside interference has occurred;
  • the rack or equipment is suitable for play;
  • the table was illegally marked;
  • conditions are suitable for play;
  • a shot was considered to be obvious within the constraints of rule 1.17;
  • opposition can be restored;
  • a ball is in a certain position with respect to any one such as in or out of the kitchen or rack;
  • a player has won or lost the lag;
  • an open break was attempted or actually occurred;
  • a ball is frozen to a cushion or another ball;
  • a ball did or did not contact cushion during the course of the shot;
  • a shot was illegal or legal;
  • a hit was legal or illegal;
  • a stroke was illegal or legal.

The BCA Pool league referee's authority extends throughout the entire billiard event venue at any time the referee is in uniform.

Part of the job of the referee under the billiard referee rules and instructions includes enforcing the rules of the game and maintaining order during the event. To facilitate this authority, billiard referees are placed in full charge of the match, and are given final judgment in all matters of fact. Should a situation arise where ball positions, rules interpretations, or other circumstances are not clear, the billiard referee may consult other officials but the final judgment on the matter remains his or hers. All judgments are considered final, and may not be appealed unless the billiard referee has made an error with regards to a rule and/or its application. If this appeal is necessary, it shall be taken to a higher tournament authority as explained several headings down this page.

Responsiveness of the Billiard Referee

A billiards referee is responsible to be completely and willingly responsive to objective-type inquiries by players. Objective inquiries include, but are not limited to the following:

  • what the count is at any given time during the match,
  • whether or not the inquiring player or his or her opponent are on a foul,
  • Whether or not a ball is in the kitchen,
  • which rule would apply if a particular shot is executed,
  • whether or not a ball will be in the rack,
  • and how many points are required for a victory.

When the billiard referee is asked to provide clarification on a rule, the referee shall explain the rule to the best of his or her ability. It should be noted that if a billiard referee makes an error or a mis-statement, the requesting player is not protected from subsequent enforcement of the correct or actual rule. When explaining a rule, or answering any other objective question, the billiard referee must remain 100% objective, and refrain from providing subjective advice that may affect strategy or play. This includes advice such as whether a combination shot can be made, the playing conditions of the billiard table, and whether or not a "good" hit can be made on a potential shot.

Higher and Final Tournament Authority

The billiard referee rules and instructions outlined here will cover the majority of situations that will arise in tournament and other competitive play. There may be situations, however, where there will be a need to appeal to a higher authority for interpretation of the rules or when a referee has incorrectly applied a rule. The "Tournament Director" or equivalent official who assumes final responsibility for the operation of the tournament shall be the official who hears appeals and makes decisions on these uncommon situations. This official does not have authority over a billiard referee's judgment calls on non-rule situations. Any time a director makes a decision on a rule or its's application to a situation, their decision is final, and may not be challenged or appealed.

Billiard Referee and Gambling

As in any other professional sport, referees and other tournament officials are strictly prohibited from gambling, wagering, betting, or offering advice to any entity involved in such activities with regards to games, matches, players, or tournaments. This includes commenting on play in one tournament with regards to performance in a future tournament. Any referee or other tournament official found to be involved in any of the aforementioned activities shall be immediately dismissed. In addition to dismissal, all financial compensation due to the referee or official for their duties in the tournament, regardless of time already worked, shall be forfeited.

Preparation of Equipment by Billiard Referees

Generally speaking, the billiard referee is responsible for the cleaning of the tables and balls, or of requesting that it be done if there are designated cleaners at an event. The billiard referee must also ensure that mechanical bridges, chalk, and powder are available. They shall also have marked, or mark, the spots, the long string, the head string, and the outer edge of the triangle, directly on the playing surface according to specific billiard game rules.

Billiard Referee Racking

The referee shall rack the balls prior to each game. When this task is complete, the players may review and examime the balls as they are racked before beginning play, but they may not request a re-rack. The billiards referee is the final authority regarding a rack's suitability for play.

Shot Calling and Billiard Referees

There may be instances where a referee makes an incorrect call on a shot. Depending on the specific game's rules, a player must ask for the correction before executing his or her next shot. When a referee call has been made against a shot and then it is determined that the call was incorrect, the shot is to be credited. Again, this is done only when the referee judges their call to be incorrect and the affected shot to be legally executed.

Billiard Referee and Calling Fouls

Billiard referees must call out fouls as soon after they occur as possible. Once a foul is called, play must cease until a final decision on the foul has been rendered by the referee and both players or teams have been adequately informed. Included in the notice of foul should be an indication to the incoming player, where specific game rules apply, whether or not ball-in-hand occurs. The referee should also retrieve the cue ball and hand it to the incoming player. The ball-in-hand announcement may be a simple declaration of the words "ball-in-hand" to the players or teams. Should the offending player continue play after the initial call of a foul, his or her conduct may be considered unsportsmanlike by the referee, and a loss of game may be handed down. In games of 14.1 Continuous, a 15 point penalty is assessed as opposed to a loss of game.

Split Hit Situations and Billiard Referees

In situations where it is observed that the cue ball strikes a legal object ball as well as a non legal object ball at the same instant, it shall be considered a split hit. In a split hit, it can not be humanly determined which ball was hit first, and judgment shall be dealt in favor of the shooting player or team.

Billiard Referees Pocket Clearing

The billiard referee is responsible for ensuring that all pockets have remaining capacity. This comes in to play on tables which do not have ball return systems. It is the shooting player's responsibility to ensure that this task is performed when needed. Since the onus is on the player, he or she has no recourse should a ball rebound from a full pocket. This rule applies to pockets that are "nearly full" or "full."

Cleaning of Balls by Billiard Referees

The players have the right to request a cleaning of one or more visibly soiled balls during a game. If such a request is made, the billiard referee will perform the task.

Spotting of Balls by the Referee

As needed throughout the tournament, the billiard referee shall spot balls according to game rules. The proper way to spot of all is to spot the ball with the number facing upward. This type of placement gives the player maximum visibility and ensures that the player will rely as little as possible on the referee for guidance.

Solicitation of Information

Billiard fouls and other plays can be assessed differently from different vantage point throughout the tournament floor. As such the billiard referee may not have as clear a view as possible, while foul or other play. The BCA billiard referee rules grant the referee the ability to solicit information in effort to form a decision.

Inappropriate Use of Equipment

The billiard referee scope. With regards to the inappropriate use of equipment shall be based upon the definitions of appropriate equipment under the BCA equipment specifications document. The billiard referee should be on the lookout at all times for use of the legal equipment. In addition, the billiard referee must watch for the use of equipment or accessories in a manner which they were not intended. In most used for games, there is typically no penalty applied for inappropriate use of equipment. However, if a player persists in their use of inappropriate equipment, after having been advised that such activity is not permissible, the referee may deem this action as unsportsmanlike conduct or insubordination. In such cases, the billiard referee or higher tournament official may take action against the player as appropriate.

Mandatory Referee Warnings

In most used word games, the billiard referee is responsible for warning the shooting player when they are about to commit a serious foul. Serious fouls include a player's continuous shooting after a foul has been called, a three consecutive foul situation, or the request of coaching assistance. It is noted that this rule shall only apply in circumstances where the referee has the time to call the foul. If the referee does not have time to warn the player of a serious foul the foul shall be considered a standard foul. A perfect example of this would be with the three consecutive foul rule. If the player has already had two consecutive fouls in the referee can not warn the player of the third consecutive foul on the horizon, the player shall be fouled as though they had only one consecutive foul and not two. Any warning issued by the billiard referee during the stroke or immediately before the stroke shall not be considered an appropriate warning. In such instances the warning will be considered not to have been issued. Finally it is mandatory that the billiard referee notify the player when the ball is considered to be touching the rail. It's as warning is not given any contact on that ball during the shot will be considered to have driven that ball to the rail.

Restoring a Position - Billiard Referee Rules

Is the billiard referee's responsibility to return balls to their original spot on the table after cleaning or restoration, to the best of his or her ability. Although the billiard referee may request information for this purpose from whichever source he or she may deem appropriate, it is his or her final decision and players must accept the referee's judgment with regards to the placement.

Rulings Regarding Outside Interference

Billiard referees must be aware of outside interference occurring during the execution of the shot. When such interference occurs as the billiard referee's responsibility to restore all affected balls to the positions they had before the shot began. The player is to then replay the shot. For cases where the disturbed balls have no reference with regards to the shot to be executed referees shall simply restore the disturbed balls before play continues. If for some reason the referee is unable to return to affected balls to their original placement, the game shall be restarted with the original breaking player breaking.

Illegal Causes of Ball Movement

The BCA has given the referee much discretion when it comes to this rule. If unintentional ball movement is caused by the player in an illegal manner in the referee's judgment, a player shall lose the game and or forfeit the match. Pumping were slapping the table were pushing on the cloth are examples of illegally causing ball movement. The referee need not give the player any prior warning in such cases as this falls under the judgment and discretion of the referee under the unsportsmanlike conduct rule.

Billiard Referee and Judging Double Hits

As defined in the billiard terms directory a double hit is an illegal shot whereby the cue stick's tip strikes the cue ball twice in the same stroke. In order to fairly judge such situations special care is required of the billiard referee. The general referee guidance in such a situation is that if the cue ball follows through the object ball more than a distance of one half of the length of a ball, it shall be considered a double hit foul.

Out of Head String Warnings

Some ball in hand situations require the player shoot from behind the head string. Is the billiard referee's responsibility to warn the player before he or she shoots the referee determines that the cue ball has been placed on or within one half of a ball's width outside of the head string. If after the warning the shooting player decides to execute a shot anyway a foul shall be assessed. If the shooter places the cue ball outside of the head string beyond the specified limit as noted above, no warning is required and the stroke is considered a foul. Penalties for this type of infraction vary by rule type.

Remaining in Player's Chair

In order to prevent interference during play, players are to remain in their designated chair while their opponent is at the table. Referee permission must be requested and received if the CD player must leave the playing area during a match. Should a player leave the playing area during the match without the permission of the billiard referee, the act of leaving shall be considered a concession and thus a loss of game. For any granted instances of leave from a match the billiard referee shall take all reasonable precaution to ensure that player is not abusing the privilege. This serves to prevent the abuse of a leave in order to unsettle an opponent.

Referee Prohibiting Outside Assistance

Under BCA rules for most games it is illegal for a player to accept any type of plane advice during a particular match. This includes both nonverbal and verbal communication with anyone other than the referee, the tournament official, or the opponent during play or during timeout periods. Any required communication such as the requesting of food or drink must be communicated through a tournament official. Alternatively the billiard referee may all allow direct communication under their observation. When any player violates these rules, the unsportsmanlike rules shall apply to any situation where the referee deems the player knowingly accepted outside assistance in any form regarding play of the game or match. These rules may be altered for doubles play as deemed appropriate according to the organization's administrative discretion.

Non-Player Harassment and interference

The referee must be prepared for interference by non-players during a match. Should such interference occur is referees responsibility to request that the interfering individuals be removed from the playing area by tournament security.

Slow Play Regulations

The BCA devises billiard referees to refer to rule 1.11 when it comes to matters regarding slowness of play.

Referee Actions During Protest

Turn the players have the right to request the interpretation of a rule or to protest a referee's failure to call a foul. The protest shall be made to the appropriate tournament authority however the protest must be made immediately and before the next shot is executed. If this is not done the request will not be entertained, and the foul is considered not to have occurred. Since this is considered a matter of fact the referee has final say in all matters such as these. If however one or both of the billiard players feels that an incorrect application of the rules has occurred the referee must escalate the protest to that tournament director. Play is typically stopped until the dispute is resolved and once a final decision has been handed down from the tournament director, that decision is final. If either player fails to observe the halted play they shall be disqualified or forced to forfeit the game or match due to the exhibition of unsportsmanlike conduct.

Suspension of Play

The billiard referees given full control at all times during the match to suspend play where it may be deemed necessary. Some examples of situations where it may be necessary for the referee to suspend play include the interruption of the game or interference by an unruly spectator. It may be necessary to suspend the game while the unruly spectator is removed from the premises.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The billiard Congress of America demands that its referees ensure that all matches are free of unsportsmanlike conduct. Unsportsmanlike conduct includes behavior which is disruptive embarrassing or detrimental to the other players and officials the sport in general or other hosts. Players deemed to have engaged in unsportsmanlike conduct may be penalized or disqualified by the billiard referee without advance warning.

BCA Billiard Referee Rules

If you have any questions about BCA Billiard Referee Rules, please post them in the pool rules forum.

...or view existing BCA Billiard Referee Rules questions in the forum.

BCA Billiard Referee Rules History

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The official BCA Billiard Referee Rules are predominently observed in North America.

The official governing body for BCA Billiard Referee Rules is the Billiard Congress of America.

How to Play BCA Billiard Referee

Questions about BCA Billiard Referee Rules:

  • Title: BCA Billiard Referee Rules
  • Author: (Billiards Forum)
  • Published: 4/2/2008 6:58:01 AM
  • Source: BCA

BCA Billiard Referee Rules

The BCA Billiard Referee Rules article belongs to the Miscellaneous Billiard Game Rules category. The miscellaneous billiards class of cue sport games includes games that are not technically members of the traditional five classes of billiard games.

BCA Billiard Referee Rules Comments

  1. muhaimin hussainmuhaimin hussain from Maldives on 1/31/2008 3:59:30 AM

    The Maldives Pool-Billiard Association is looking for a **billiard referee trainer**. If anyone can help is to find a billiards referee trainer, I would be appreciative. Thanks, Muhaimin

  2. colen35colen35 from Tavares, FL on 7/20/2009 12:43:08 PM

    In reference to these rules for referees for billiards, can you provide a link to the BCA website that contains these rules?

    I was unable to find them on that website.

  3. billiardsforumbilliardsforum from Halifax, NS on 1/15/2019 4:04:14 AM

    @colen35 - The billiard referee rules aren't posted directly on the BCA site for all to see.

    You had to buy the full print-edition of the BCA rule book if you wanted the BCA's original billiard referee handbook/rulebook (which is/was available for purchase on the BCA-Pool website.

    I am not sure they even publish these rules anymore, as their governance falls under other organizations e.g. World Pool-Billiard Association in most cases.

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