Blackball Pool Rules Summarised

Blackball as played in Scotland (and indeed throughout the world) has it's origins in 8ball pool popularised in the USA early in the last century.
A modified version of that game found its way to the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and has since become increasingly popular.
There have been two major influences on the development of 8ball rules in the UK and its transition to the game we now call blackball.
The first was the necessity to play on small, coin-operated tables suitable for use in pubs and clubs. Mechanised tables do not allow the return of potted balls to players, other than the white.
The second has been a trend to introduce rules which speed up play and reduce the duration of the game.

In Scotland the rules evolved and became formalised as more and more people took up the game. Local pool leagues were created and then national organisations established to administer the sport.
The Scottish Pool Association (SPA) is now the official governing body for the sport and there's a good deal of information about that organisation and an overview of the development of 8ball in Scotland on this website.

The need for standardisation of pool rules culminated in a World Pool Association (WPA) meeting in London in September 2004.
That meeting is regarded as the first step in the unification process. Representatives from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were present.
The WPA sanctioned blackball as the official international rule-set for the small-table game and these are now the dominant rules worldwide.

The immediate impact of that inaugural meeting was that in Scotland all SPA administered pool events were subsequently played to blackball rules. And now all pool leagues which affiliate to the SPA must play their league's competitions to those rules.
Throughout the world the game of blackball is well-established and those few remaining organisations which continue to support and promote outdated versions of the game face the prospect of becoming increasingly marginalised.

Blackball pool is played with a white ball (cue-ball), two groups of object balls consisting of seven red and seven yellow balls, plus the black ball (8ball).
The object of the game has remained unchanged since its origins. The winning player being the first to pot the black ball after pocketing his/her group of object balls (reds or yellows).
A blackball rules poster has been prepared which provides comprehensive instructions for playing the game. It includes some guidance for referees.

The rules sheets are priced at 99p each and can be purchased on this linked eBay page.

Those previously familiar with pub pool rules and older versions of 8ball will appreciate that the move to blackball has enhanced the game. In particular the introduction of these rules has had a big impact...
  • "A player may pot the ball or balls of an opponent's group provided at least one of his own balls is potted legally in the same shot and a ball from his/her own group is struck initially."  ....Legally being able to pot both red and yellow balls in a 'combination shot' contributes to a faster, open game.
  • "To play a legal shot a player must first contact a ball in his or her own group and, if no ball is potted, cause the cue ball or any other ball to contact a cushion."  ....The requirement to strike a cushion when no balls are potted on a shot deters negative, defensive play.
The diagram opposite shows how, by using a combination shot, a player may legally pot balls from both red and yellow groups and so remove an opponent's ball blocking access to a pocket.

There can be no doubt that blackball rules have made the game more enjoyable for players and attractive to spectators. This is one of the reasons why the World Blackball Championships, held in Scotland in 2014, was recorded and screened by Sky television. Live video streaming of blackball events at all levels is gaining ever increasing popularity.
Here's a useful overview of Blackball History and Rules which takes the form of an eBay guide.

There is a campaign on Twitter with the aim of promoting World Pool Association blackball pool and continuing to encourage unification of the "small table" pool game worldwide.
Twitter and Facebook users can support the "Blackball Pool" campaign by adding a banner to their profile picture.
Examples of twitter accounts displaying blackball banners include Scottish Pool, Scottish Blackball and European Blackball.
It's easy and it's free to show support for the sport!

Here's a video which demonstrates the 'combination shot'.
In these exercises two object balls are potted in the same pocket. Such shots are not unusual for those who play pool to blackball rules and have helped combat slow, negative tactics....


  1. Here's a short video showing 'combination shots' in which both object balls are potted in the same pocket...

  2. Thank you 'anonymous' for the link... Combination Shot
    Such shots are not unusual for those who play pool to blackball rules and have helped combat slow, negative tactics.