The Rules

All the general rules you previously learned apply to this game, as is true for most pool games. While the object of this game is to pocket as many balls as possible, the trick is to keep control of the table. If you miss a shot, your opponent takes the table (in other words, it becomes your opponent's inning).

If you haven't learned the general rules of pool, and you are just skipping ahead to get to the games themselves, go back and learn them now before you plunge into this chapter any further. You will need to become familiar with both the general rules and the rules that pertain specifically to straight pool in order to play the game. Sure, it's a great practice game, but you have to remember that you're not just shooting for fun; you're shooting to win.

Pocketing the Object Balls

After a break, you keep playing until fourteen balls are pocketed. When there is just one ball left on the table (the fifteenth object ball), all the pocketed balls are reracked (with the apex vacant) and the play continues until you've reached the designated amount of points set by the players before the game began. The first player to reach the point goal is the winner.

Some people will play “the best out of” — meaning, for example, “the best out of fifteen games.” In this case, it means that the first player to win eight games is the winner. But keep in mind that if you are going to play this way, you may want to consider playing to 50 points instead of 150 points unless you want to watch the sun rise and set during the same match. Usually, beginning players will play 50-point games and intermediate players will play 75- or 100-point games.

Straight pool was developed in 1910, and, even though nine ball is the game typically played in most championship tournaments, straight pool is still played in competition.

Call Shots

Although it is necessary to say which ball you will pocket into a specific pocket, it is not necessary to say how you will pocket the balls. You can shoot any ball you want as a carom, combination with English, or off the cushion — it's up to you. If you hit two object balls into a pocket, you will score 2 points as long as one of the object balls is the ball you called before your shot.

When calling a shot, you just have to announce the shot you're going to make on the object ball you intend to pocket. If you strike any other object balls on the way to the pocket, it doesn't work against you — in other words, you don't have to call all the object balls that you strike. You only have to call the object ball and the pocket.

You may also call a safety when you know you won't be able to pocket an object ball — this is a defensive move. A safety play is legal. You won't score any points and your inning (or turn) ends, but you may be back pretty quickly if your safety shot is a good one and your opponent can't legally pocket any balls. If an object ball does wind up landing in a pocket and you've called a safety, you'll have to retrieve the ball from the pocket or ball-return bin and place it on the foot spot before you leave the table.

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