Where is the Cue Ball?

Some time ago I was asked for a ruling on a situation which occurred during a match where a player had fouled by pocketing the cue ball. It was understood that the cue ball was now in hand as stated in rule 9. The difficulty came when the cue ball was placed to his satisfaction in the ‘D’ by the incoming striker. Before he could play a stroke he inadvertently moved an object ball with his sleeve.

I asked the striker and the acting referee who had both posed the question, if they knew when the cue ball was in hand and when it was in play, as the answer if known, would provide a solution to the quandary.

The cue ball is in hand

1. At the start of the frame.

2. When it has been pocketed.

3. When it has been forced off the table, and

4. When the final Black is potted resulting in a tied score.

It is in play

1. When it is played legally from in hand, or

2. A foul is committed involving the cue-ball whilst it’s on the playing surface.

So, the answer is plain to see. The cue ball was then in play as a foul was committed with the ball on the table. It must then remain in its place and played in the normal way by the new incoming striker (unless exercising the right to have the offender play again) without being repositioned, whether in the ‘D’ or not.

Now it must be said that this incident happened years before the 2019 update which changed this rule significantly and whereas the ruling was correct at the time it would now be uncertain. This is because it could not be known from this explanation whether or not the cue-ball was involved in the foul. If it was and the rules, as they are now, were in place then, it would be in play. However, if the cue-ball was not involved in the foul and again if the 2019 updated rules had been in place, then it would still be in hand. This is now the interpretation all referees must apply to like situations.

So, to analyse all the different points.

The cue ball being in hand at the start of the frame also means at the end of a frame where another is to be played. It is good practice for the referee to keep the cue ball, literally in hand, until satisfied and ready for the next frame to commence. Do not let the players start a frame if any balls still need spotting, or the score board needs adjustment, or scores need to be recorded.

When it has been pocketed, obviously needs no explanation.

When it has been forced off the table means where it comes to rest. If it jumps onto the top of a rail and runs along it, it is not considered forced off the table if it subsequently falls off the rail back onto the bed of the table where it comes to a standstill. An object ball is also not forced off when it jumps onto a rail and then rolls into a pocket, if it is a ball on, points are scored in the normal way and if it is a ball not on, then the foul is causing a ball not on to enter a pocket, not that it has been forced from the table. Only if it falls off the table to the floor or stays on top of the rail, is it ruled to have been forced off. Picking a ball up or even just moving one deliberately by hand is also ruled to be forcing the ball off the table.

When the final Black has been potted means exactly that. As soon as the Black has been potted resulting in a tied score the cue ball is in hand and must be played from the confines of the ‘D’ after the referee has determined which of the players will be the striker and the Black has been spotted. Before the Black is placed on the spot to complete the frame it is advisable for the referee to keep hold of the cue ball as at the end of a frame that has been completed without a re-spotted Black.

It is in play when it is played legally from in hand. Legally from in hand in this instance does not mean without committing a foul, it just means striking the cue ball with the tip of the cue whilst it is at rest, within or on the lines of the ‘D’. In other word, when a stroke, fair or foul, has been played.

‘On the lines of’ means that the point of contact of the cue ball with the table must not be outside of the drawn lines. It is not a requirement that the full circumference or the greater part of the ball be in bounds.

Once the cue ball has been placed from in-hand anywhere on the table, any foul involving that ball immediately brings it in to play. It must then be played as if a stroke had just been completed and all balls had come to rest, regardless of its position. The 2019 update now clarifies that in any instance when the cue-ball is in-hand and a foul is committed without its involvement, then it stays in-hand.

Rule 10 goes on to describe when a ball is in play. Firstly, the cue ball which we have covered, then the object balls of which the reds are in play from the start of the frame until pocketed or forced off the table and the six colours until potted in the final sequence. Object balls are never in hand, the reds must stay in a pocket or be placed in a pocket if potted or forced off the table except in a few very special and prescribed situations. The colours are always spotted after leaving the bed of the table in any way, whether ending up in a pocket by fair means or foul, or on a rail or on the floor, or anywhere else off the playing surface, except if they are potted in the correct order during the final sequence.

Finally, the answer to the question posed in the title of this blog. The cue-ball is either in-hand or it is in play.

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