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Whether you choose to call this game straight pool, 14.1 rack, or 14.1 continuous, one fact that remains true – it’s an exhilarating & riveting pool game.

It used to be popular in championship competitions until it became overshadowed by faster-playing games such as nine-ball and eight-ball.

In 1912, straight pool got adopted as the first official tournament game in the US. Further, it had a major resurgence following the release of the movie, “The Hustler”.

Away from the history class, let’s take a peek into how to play straight pool, rules and all the nitty gritty stuff.

Straight Pool Rules and Instructions – Walkthrough 2023

Objective of the Game

14.1 rack is a nomination game, which means that the player has to nominate a ball and a pocket.

For every ball correctly nominated and pocketed on a legal stroke, the player earns one point. And he/she can continue a turn until the player fails to pocket a nominated ball or commits a foul.

The player is allowed to pocket the 1st fourteen (14) balls.

However, before he/she does by shooting at the 15th (and last remaining) ball on the table to continue a turn, the 14 pocketed balls will be re-racked just as they were before, with the exception the apex space that’s left vacant.

Then, the player will try to pocket the 15th ball such that the racked balls get disturbed, and he can proceed with the run.

The player, who becomes the winner, is anyone that scores the pre-determined point total for a game, which is often 150 in major tournament play or any total agreed upon in casual play, before the opponent.

Rules and Instruction to Play Straight Pool

When there’s a legally pocketed ball, a shooter qualifies to continue to play at the table until he can’t pocket a called ball legally on a shot.

A player could shoot any ball. However, before taking the shot, he/she has to designate the called ball and called pocket.

There’s no need to indicate legal details like kisses, combinations, caroms, or cushions. The player earns one point for any additionally pocketed ball(s) on a legal stroke.

On every shot, a shooter has to make the cue ball touch an object ball and afterward pocket a numbered ball, or ensure the cue ball or any numbered ball touches a cushion.

If the player fails to satisfy these requirements, they’ve committed a foul.

Once the 14th ball of a rack gets pocketed, play will stop for some time, and the 15th ball will stay in position on the table.

Then, the 14 pocketed balls are racked, leaving the space that’s at the foot spot vacant in the triangle.

After that, the player will continue, with the 15th ball, which is alternatively called the “break” ball, pocketed normally in a bid to make the cue ball carom into the rack and distribute the balls to ensure the continuance of his/her run easier.

But the player isn’t under compulsion to shoot the 15th ball. He/she could shoot any ball he wants.

According to Wikipedia, the following rule applies if the 15th ball gets pocketed on the same stroke as the 14th ball.

  Cue ball stays    
15th ball stays In the Rack Not in the Rack and 
not on the Head Spot
On The Head Spot
In The Rack 15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in kitchen

15th ball: head spot
Cue Ball: in position 
15th ball: center spot
Cue Ball: in position 
Pocketed 15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in kitchen
15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in position 
15th ball: foot spot
Cue Ball: in position 
Behind Head String, 
But not on Head Spot
15th ball: in position 
Cue Ball: head spot 
Not behind Head String, 
and not in the Rack
15th ball: in position
Cue Ball: in kitchen
On Head Spot 15th ball: in position
Cue Ball: center spot 
  on spot means to interfere with 
spotting a ball on the head spot 

A player is allowed to call a safety instead of an object ball (with the aim to defend).

Though safety play is legal, it’s to be in accordance with every applicable rule.

When a safety is played, the player’s inning comes to an end, and no points are earned on pocketed balls. Any object ball that gets pocketed on a called safety is taken note of.

As a ball heads toward a pocket or the rack area on a shot, a player may not touch, catch, or interfere with it in any manner.

And this rule also prohibits catching a ball as it goes into a pocket by placing a hand in the ball as it makes its way into a pocket by putting a hand into this pocket.

If you do this, you’ll be committing a special “deliberate foul”. The penalty for this is that you’ll lose a point, in addition to an extra 15 point penalty, making 16 points in total.

Then, the incoming player can either accept the table in position having the cue ball in hand behind the head string or with all 15 balls racked again and needing the offending player to shoot, meeting the requirements of the opening break (to be explained below).

When a player is holding the cue ball in hand behind the head string (like we’ve after a scratch) with all the object balls lying behind the head string, the object ball that’s closest to the head string could be noted on request.

If 2 or more balls stay at an equal distance from the head string, the shooter could designate which of the equidistant balls they prefer to be noted.

How to Play

Opening Break

The starting player has to either designate a ball and a pocket that the ball will be put into and make the shot, or make the cue ball touch a ball and a cushion and also make the 2 object balls to touch a cushion.

If you fail to satisfy one of the requirements above (at least), it leads to a breaking violation.

For each breaking violation, the offender will be penalized by deducting 2 points from his/her score.

Apart from that, the opponent can either accept the table in position or rack the balls again, which would require the offending player to take the opening break once more.

That choice goes on either until the opening break isn’t a breaking violation, or until the opposing player accepts the table in position.

The Balls Used to Play the Game

These are the standard set of object balls with numbers 1 to 15, along with the cue ball.

The Rack

This is the standard triangle rack where the apex ball lies on the foot spot, 1-ball on the right corner of the racker, 5-ball on its left corner. Other balls can be found at random and have to be in contact with their neighbors.

How to Score

Any ball that gets pocketed legally gives one point to the shooter.

Dealing with Successive Foul Penalties

When you commit a foul, this attracts a penalty of one point (or more depending on the specific situation). And it’ll be declared by the scorer that the player is “on a foul”.

That player will stay “on a foul” until the next shot attempt. Then, the foul could be discarded by pocketing a called ball successfully, or by performing a legal safety.

Failure to meet the requirements on the next turn at the table, that player will attract a penalty of one point.

And the declaration will be changed to “on two fouls”.

Failure to meet the requirements of pocketing a called ball successfully or performing a legal safety on the 3rd consecutive turn at the table, the player will be penalized with one-point deduction. And an extra penalty of 15 points is given.

This makes 18 points in total for 3 consecutive fouls.

Committing a 3rd successive foul automatically removes the record of fouls of the offender.

The incoming player can choose to either accept the balls in position, or try to rack all 15 balls again, which will require that the offending player shoots under the conditions of the opening break.

The rules for the opening break are valid here.

Note that successive fouls have to be committed in successive turns (or successive playing attempts), not just in successive innings.

For instance, if a shooter ends inning 6 with a foul, moves to the table for inning 7 & fouls (he has 2 fouls already), and then begins inning 8 using a legally pocketed ball before he scratches on his 2nd shot attempt of the inning, he/she hasn’t committed 3 successive fouls.

And that’s regardless of the fact there were fouls in 3 successive innings.

Once the player pockets the ball legally to begin inning 8, he/she has cleared the 2 fouls. And yes, he/she is “on one foul” on playing the 1st stroke attempt of inning 9.

Things to Note about Scoring

When penalty points are deducted from a player’s scores, it can lead to negative scores.

A running score can look like this: “minus one”, “minus two”, “minus 15”, and so.

Furthermore, a player can become the winner of a game by earning a score of 150, whereas the opposing player has scored minus 2 but committed two fouls.

Thus, the final score will read 150 to -2.

If a player commits a foul on a shot, which hasn’t pocketed a ball, when the previous inning comes to an end, the point penalty will be deducted from his/her score.

Also, if a player commits a foul and pockets a ball on the same shot, the ball gets noted (it’s not scored), and the point penalty will be removed from his/her score when the previous inning comes to an end.

Dealing with Stalemate

Should the referee feels neither player is trying to win from the current position, he/she announces his decision.

Then, each of players in the game will be given 3 more turns at the table.

After those turns, if the referee still believes no progress was made towards a conclusion, he/she will announce a stalemate. Then, the original breaker when that game started has to take a new break shot.

Frequently Asked Questions about How to Play Straight Pool

How Are Illegally Pocketed Balls to Be Handled?

All of them will be spotted, and no penalty is awarded.

What about Object Balls That Jumped Off The Table?

The stroke will be considered a foul, and any jumped ball(s) will be spotted after the balls have come to rest.

What Are Scratches?

Like modern 8-ball or 9-ball, we’ve scratches when the cue ball is pocketed.

Also, we’ve them when the cue-ball doesn’t strike another ball, or after it has struck another ball and doesn’t strike a rail.

In a Nutshell

Straight pool used to be popularly played in championship competitions until it got overshadowed by nine-ball and eight-ball, which are faster-playing games.

In 1912, straight pool became the 1st official tournament game in the United States. Apart from that, it made a huge comeback after the release “The Hustler” — a popular pool movie.

To learn how to play straight pool, the tips given in this write-up will be helpful.

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