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Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules

Counter Rotation is an alternative billiard game developed by Kevin Anglin.

General Counter Rotation Billiard Rules

Counter-Rotation billiards is a game similar to Nine Ball or Rotation, though there are several key differences as to how the balls are played and scored. In Counter-Rotation all fifteen balls plus the cue ball are used. The small numbered balls ( 1 -7 ) are set up for break on one end of the table, and the striped balls ( 9-15 ) are arranged on the other end of the table. This arrangement assures a wide distribution of the balls throughout the surface of the table after the break stages are completed. Counter-Rotation uses the same break area as Matchbox, Counterpoint, and Cascade, and follows the same one ball out rule when breaking.

Once the break stage is completed balls must be struck according to their color, ( 1 and 9; 2 and 10; 3 and 11; etc ) and there is no requirement to hit the 1 before the 9, for example, just as long as the color order is followed. Each color must be completed before moving on to the next color. If a ball is struck first before it is up in the rotation, it is a foul and the opposing player gets a ball in hand to begin their own turn. The 8 ball is the last ball to be pocketed, after both brown balls ( 7and 15) have been pocketed.

Points are scored in Counter-Rotation, according to the number value on the ball which is pocketed - with two key requirements. First, balls which are pocketed for points must be called, ( ball and pocket ) and when pocketing a ball for a score a player must call the ball and pocket, and point to the pocket while calling the ball he or she would like to score. But after calling a pocket in any case the player who calls for a score must turn over the next shot to the opposing player. An example of calling a scoring shot would be “ 7 in the side pocket,” while pointing to the pocket. If the ball goes into that pocket the scoring player sets the 7 ball aside as one of his or her point scoring balls. The catch is, that none of the scored balls count toward the game score unless the player who scores them wins the game by legally sinking the eight ball ( the last ball after the brown balls, 7&15 ) in which case all the balls they have scored during the round are added and listed to their game score. Obviously a number of rounds should be played (two or more; ideally four or more).

Break Stage

During the break stage the player to break second arranges the little balls ( 1-7 ) in the break area opposite from where the first player to break will take his shot, ( from behind the normal head-string/foot-string line ) The first player to arrange the little balls ( 1-7 ) has the option of including the 8 ball on his or her side of the table, or sending the 8 ball over to the other side of the table for the first person to break to include in the striped 9-15 arrangement. Both ball sets must be within the break area. Strategic placement of the balls is a matter of choice, but when breaking the balls, one ball must end up all the way out of the break area to be legal. If not legal, a fifteen point deduction is applied to the guilty player’s total game score. If they have zero points they should be given a score of -15, and the balls will be re-racked for another break stage.

Whichever player pockets the most balls on break has the option of going first or second to begin regular play. Point values on the balls do not count to determine this, only the number of balls pocketed. In the case of a tie, the first player to break is the default player to go first to begin regular play. But if both players have pocketed an equal number of balls the first player to break must go first and has no option to go second. If either player scratches the cue ball while breaking their opponent will be given the option to go first or second to begin regular play regardless of how many balls are pocketed. If both players scratch on break, the first player to break must go first to begin regular play.

When breaking each player is given a chance to call one ball into a specific pocket. If the ball is pocketed in the appropriate pocket that player can add the amount on the ball to his or her possible points and set the ball aside in case they win the round later. However, these balls pocketed on break are counted no different than the others when counting who has pocketed the most balls on break.

Each break shot must travel over the mid point of the table before striking any ball while breaking. Otherwise the normal 15 point penalty will be deducted for illegal breaking action.

If the 8 ball goes in on break the round is over; but if neither player has scored any points beforehand, it is basically a draw that sends the game to the next round of play. Unless, of course, the 8 ball was called to a specific pocket beforehand, in which case that player’s score of +8 is added to their total game score and the balls will be rearranged for the next round of play. If a player scratches the cue ball during a break attempt and the other player does not, the player who scratches cannot claim a ball advantage for pocketing other balls or pocketing a called ball; but the other player who did not scratch is given the option to go first or second to begin regular play. If the scratch occurs on the second break, the player that did not scratch must take the opening shot from behind the normal head-string line, and cannot take a shot at a ball unless it is at least past the center point of the table on the opposite side of the table. Or the player may decide to award the option to the player which has scratched if they feel the shot options are not ideal.

Break shots must travel at least beyond the mid point of the table before making contact with any ball, otherwise an illegal break penalty will be assessed. Any ball may be contacted first, however, and if the second player to break has one of their assigned balls already out of their break area they may make first contact with any ball that is beyond the mid point of the table.

Shot Rules

All shots must go in rotational order, and if at any point contact is not made from the cue ball to the target ball which is of a color that is next in rotation, it is a foul, and a ball in hand for the other player when they begin their next turn. If initial contact is made with a ball that is not next in rotation and any ball is pocketed as a result, the value of the pocketed ball is subtracted from that player’s game score. Not to be confused with a tentative round score, ( called a ‘round total’ ) which only is added to the game score if the round is won. The above penalty subtracts from the official total game score. If the 8 ball is pocketed directly, or off an illegal ball not being of the proper rotation, the penalty is most severe. All game points will be lost, and all of their opponent’s ( non-guilty player’s ) round totals will be added to their own total game score, ( how ever many they have managed to score before the 8 ball penalty ) and the next round will then continue as normal. If the guilty player has negative points already, they will simply keep those negative points minus or ( -8 ) for the illegally pocketed 8 ball. Anytime this most severe penalty occurs the guilty player must at least receive an 8 point difference lower than the non-guilty opponent, assuming the non-guilty opponent has a negative total game score themselves, or have not yet pocketed any round points.

Scratches of the cue ball are ball in hand penalties, and whether a scored ball goes into a pocket before or after the cue ball scratches, the scored ball will not count and the result will be ball in hand for the opposing player.

When using a shot clock, violations are ball in hand penalties. If any balls are disturbed in the process, they may be repositioned or taken as are by the non-guilty player.

On the final ball, ( 8 ball ) the eight ball may go into any pocket if not called for a point score; but if called the 8 ball must go into the called pocket, or it is a round win for the opposite player, and all round points scored by the opposite player will be added to their total game score.

Combination shots are legal, so long as a proper ball that is up in rotation is struck first; and combination shots can be called so long as the pocket is called and contact with a legal ball is first made. But as always, any time a player calls a ball to be scored they may not go again. If the cue ball scratches on the final ball ( 8 ball ) the round win goes to the opposite player. Any combination off a legal ball that is up in rotation that leads to the 8 ball being pocketed will end the round, the pocket the 8 ball goes into does not need to be called.

Scratches on the final ball, (8 ball) in which the 8 ball is pocketed, result in a round win for the player that did not scratch, and all round points scored will be added to their total game score.

General Penalties

Any time a general penalty occurs, any points that are scored by the guilty player are not counted, and the non-guilty opponent receives ball in hand. Penalties involving the 8 ball result in the loss of the round.

When the eight ball is knocked in out of order and illegally, all points scored by the player to that point will be taken away and a new round will begin. In the same case, all tentative points scored by the non-guilty player during the round will be added to their total game score no differently than if they had won the round and cashed their tentative ‘round total’ points into game points. If the non-guilty player has a negative total game score the penalty will simply take the guilty player back down to that player’s level and game play will continue for another round or rounds as the case may be, with the guilty player assessed an additional 8 point negative score ( 8 lower than their opponent ) for the illegal pocketing of the 8 ball.

When other balls are knocked in illegally ( without hitting the ball that is up in rotation first ) the value of the ball will be subtracted from the guilty player’s total game score - not the tentative "round total."

In Counter-Rotation it is necessary for either the cue ball or a ball being acted upon by the cue ball to make contact with either a rail or be pocketed. For example, if a player is shooting at a 3 ball and the cue ball makes contact with the 3, which contacts the 12, and the 12 then hit’s a rail and the 3 does not: it is a legal play. If the cue ball makes first makes contact with a rail and then hit’s the 3, which does not cause any ball to hit a rail: it is still a legal play. However, if the cue inches up to the 3, and none of the balls hit a rail: it is a penalty - ball in hand for opposing player.

Counter Rotation Strategy

When playing Counter-Rotation there is a tradeoff between keeping control of the game and scoring points to carry over to the next round. After all, the most points scored will win the game, but if rounds are not won there will be no points scored at all. An amateur player will undoubtedly tend to score higher totals from round to round, for example, if they were matched against a player with superior talent. However, they would of course not win as many rounds. This allows for a very interesting tradeoff, which I feel evens the playing field considerably. In most pocket billiard games the name of the game is to make shots, and leave yourself good position to make the shot to follow. In Counter-Rotation it is important to score balls with high point values and after doing so hide the cue ball so well that his or her opponent’s shots are limited if they would like to reestablish control of the table. In Counter-Rotation scoring points that also result in good safety plays are key; but it is also key to run out the table when it feels right to do so.

Counter Rotation can be handicapped for tournament purposes. Counter-Rotation billiards is handicapped by color. There are eight colors available, the eight ball being the eighth. If a full handicap is allowed to call each of the colored balls, and a class A player is allowed to call only one color for potential round scoring, the odds may yet remain 50/50 depending on the skill level of each player. Obviously a professional with only one color available will still win out most often against a player just learning to play billiards, the color handicapping option, or even single ball handicapping, is still a fascinating possibility for Counter-Rotation.

Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules

If you have any questions about Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules, please post them in the pool rules forum.

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Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules History

The counter rotation billiard game rules were created by Alternative Billiards', Kevin Anglin. Counter rotation billiards is entertaining, educational, and especially enjoyable for strategic-minded players. I am not a fan of any billiard match that doesn't involve a clock; yet there must be time limits in place to play the game rules described here correctly; otherwise, there will always be those willing to draw out their turns beyond all acceptable limits. Counter-Rotation came about as a natural upgrade to the style of billiards I’ve often noticed people play, which involves scoring each ball individually according to its number value in route to the nine ball. I don’t know if these styles of play were ever named, but are obviously a combination of Nine Ball and Rotation; sometimes the nine ball is the ball that finalizes the previously scored balls into a running total, without any scoring allowed without also pocketing the nine ball; sometimes each ball is simply scored regardless of whether or not they happen to pocket the nine ball; generally such games are played, scoring balls according to their value, and strictly in numerical order, no matter how many balls are included in such games. In Counter-Rotation, I simply allowed for all fifteen balls to be used, having opponents break from opposite ends of the table, which assures an excellent ball distribution which is often not possible when using a standard pool rack placed on one side of the table only. The color order allows for two balls to be available during each, or I should say, most plays, which often makes continuing a long run a little easier than in standard Rotation or Nine Ball. Ending each turn with a called ball, or potential point scoring ball, allowed that great cue ball trapping possibilities were also a key feature of strategy. Overall I felt the game format offered the best combination of what makes traditional and popular pocket billiard games interesting and challenging, so I felt a strong desire to write out the rules for Counter-Rotation.

The official Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules are predominently observed in North America.

How to Play Counter-Rotation Billiard

  • Title: Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules
  • Author:
  • Published: 4/13/2009 6:42:00 AM
  • Last Updated: 4/18/2009 11:03:00 AM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum (Billiards Forum)

Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules

The Counter-Rotation Billiard Rules article belongs to the Pocket Billiards Rules category. Pocket billiards is a class of cue sport game commonly referred to as pool.

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