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2 Ball Billiards Rules

Below are the rules for American 2-Ball Billiards. These rules are adapted to the currently-common pool tables from popular billiards games in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Section 1 - 2 Ball Equipment

2 Ball Pool can be played on any pocket billiards table, including snooker. There are two balls (2-1/4"), white cue ball and any solid colored ball (1-8). One side will use the cue ball and other side will use the other ball.

  • One ball is placed on the foot spot
  • One ball is placed on the head spot.

Section 2 - Definitions

A game begins with an opening stroke by the first shooter and ends when an agreed score is reached. An average game is 50 points. If agreed between opponents, the winning score can be any other number.

A match is an agreed number of games. The winner is the first player to win that number of games. For example, a match to five is completed when one player wins five games.

Lagging determines which player is the first shooter at the beginning of a game. The normal lag process for standard pool games is used. From the "kitchen", shoot to the foot rail. The shooter's ball that comes closest to the head rail (without touching the long rails or going into a pocket) is the winner. The winner may decide whether to shoot or defer to the other player (who cannot refuse). Upon agreement between the shooters, an alternative can be to flip a coin.

The person playing a turn is the shooter and remains the shooter until a miss occurs or the score reaches the winning amount. A player continues a turn as long as a stroke scores points. When no points are scored on a shot or a foul occurs, the turn is over.

A stroke is made when the cue ball is contacted by the tip of the cue. A stroke is legal when no other foul occurs. A stroke is complete when all balls on the table come to a complete stop.

Points are awarded for:

  • 1 point - pocket score (sink the object ball).
  • 1 point - scratch score (sink the shooter's cue ball).
  • 3 points - pocket score and scratch score (both balls are pocketed).

Balls are spotted before the next shot can take place. Before making a stroke, the shooter must call at least one of the intended scores:

  • Scratch score
  • Pocket score

If the called shot is unsuccessful it is considered a miss and any other point on the stroke are not counted. This requirement can be waived upon agreement between the shooters.

A player completes a turn when a stroke is made that does not score any points - a miss.

An inning occurs when the first player and the second player have completed turns at the table.

The balls are in play when both balls are on the table and ready to the shooter to make a stroke.

Section 3 - Playing the Game of 2 Ball Billiards

The game is played by two persons or sides.

  • Two pool balls are used - cue ball and any other solid ball.
  • A player attempts to score points on each stroke. If no score is made on the stroke, it is a miss and the turn is over. The opposing player comes to the table.
  • Scores made during a player's turn are tracked separately until the turn is over, after which the turn's total points are added to the shooter's total score.
  • Penalty points are applied when fouls occur and are added to the opponent's score.
  • Game winner is determined by when one side reaches the agreed number of points.
  • The game can be played by two individual competitors or partners (2 players on each side,

Start of Game

  • The choice of starting player (and which cue ball) is determined by lag or any other agreed upon process (i.e., coin toss).
  • Once the order of playing is determined it shall not change for that game.
  • One player's cue ball is placed on the foot spot. The other player's cue ball is played on the head spot.
  • Once the game has started, the shooter is responsible for playing the correct cue ball.

The players alternately take turns at the table. A turn continues until a miss or foul occurs. As long as a score is made on the stroke, the shooter can play another stroke.

The incoming player must play the balls as they lay or on their spot (if pocketed on the previous stroke).

The game is over when one player reaches the required number of points. If the winning score goes beyond the number, there is no penalty.


When a foul is committed, it shall be immediately called by the opponent if the shooter does not self-announce the foul. The following acts are fouls:

  • Illegal shot (jump shot, scoop shot, push shot, double-hit)
  • Cue ball not contacting object ball.
  • Anything touching or moving any of the balls in play except the cue tip stroke to the shooter's cue ball and the cue ball contacting object balls. (This includes ancillary equipment touching any ball.)
  • Stroking a shot with both feet off the floor.
  • Playing out of turn.
  • Making a stroke when any ball is still moving.
  • Forcing any ball off the playing area.

Note: there is no foul for a stroke where no ball touches a rail or is pocketed. A legal shot is made when the shooter's cue ball touches an object ball.

Foul Penalties

  • Loss of turn. The shooter's turn ends when a foul occurs.
  • Any points before the stroke are counted.
  • No points can be scored on the stroke that the foul was made.
  • A penalty of two points is awarded the opponent, even if more than one foul occurred on the stroke.
  • The incoming player can play the table as is or replace all balls in the starting position (cue ball in "D", red object ball on foot spot and white object ball on center spot).

Section 4 - Miscellaneous

General courtesy is required by players. There shall be no unfair conduct, such as standing or moving on the shooter's line of sight or other activities that are commonly considered to be "sharking".

On keeping track of scores, the opposing player (or another person watching the game) shall be the recorder and keep track of the points made by the shooter during a turn. When the turn is complete, the player is informed by the recorder of the points scored in that turn and the shooter updates the game score accordingly.

If a ball falls into a pocket without contact within 5 seconds of all balls coming to a halt on the table, the points shall count and the turn continues. If after the 5 second limit, it shall be placed as closely as possible to its original position and play continues.


When two players are of unequal skill, handicaps can be applied as agreed upon. Here are several handicapping options:

  • Higher skilled player goes to a higher score; the lower skilled player goes to a lower score (agreed upon before the game starts).
  • Higher skilled player uses regular scoring, the lower skilled player receives double-points or triple-points.
  • Lower skilled player receives cue ball in-hand anyplace on the table.

Section 5 - Game Variations

There are several variations of this game that can be played upon agreement between the players.

  • Points awarded for pocket scores only. Any scratch is considered a penalty of 2 points, awarded to the opposing player.
  • Points awarded for scratch scores only. Pocketing the other ball is a penalty of 2 points, awarded to the opponent.

2 Ball Billiards Rules

If you have any questions about 2 Ball Billiards Rules, please post them in the pool rules forum.

...or view existing 2 Ball Billiards Rules questions in the forum.

2 Ball Billiards Rules History

These rules were adapted from popular billiards games in the 19th and early 20th centuries by Allan P. Sand. These are adapted to the currently common pool tables. Copyright 2011 by Allan P. Sand

The official 2 Ball Billiards Rules are predominently observed in United States.

How to Play 2 Ball Billiards

  • Title: 2 Ball Billiards Rules
  • Author: (Allan Sand)
  • Published: 5/5/2013 8:20:54 AM
  • Source: Submitted by a Billiards Forum Member

2 Ball Billiards Rules

The 2 Ball Billiards 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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