Texas Express Rules: Updated 2017
Section 1: Object of the Game
1.1: Object of the Game
Nine-ball is played with a cue ball and nine numbered balls (1-9). The object of the
game is to legally pocket the 9 ball. On each shot, the cue ball must first contact the
lowest numbered object ball on the table. Any numbered ball pocketed as a result of a
legal shot, whatever its number, permits the player to continue. A 9-ball legally
pocketed at any time during the game results in a win for the player. A match ends when
one of the players has won the required number of games. If a player fails to legally
pocket a numbered ball, the incoming player must accept the positions of the cue ball
and object ball positions on the table. If the outgoing player has fouled, the incoming
player may place the cue ball (called "ball-in-hand") anywhere on the table (other than
variations during the break). Numbered balls do not have to be pocketed in numerical
order, provided the lowest numbered ball on the table is contacted first. There is no
requirement that any shot or pocket be declared prior to shooting. Each player
continues to play until he or she 1) fails to legally pocket a numbered ball, 2) fouls,
or 3) wins the game.
Section 2: Racking
The numbered balls are racked in a diamond shape with the one (1) ball (or substituted
lowest numbered ball) placed at the top of the diamond on the table's foot spot. The
nine (9) ball is placed in the center of the diamond. The remaining seven balls are
racked in random order surrounding the nine ball as tightly as possible. This tight
position is called "touching," or "frozen."
2.2: Opening Rack
The opening rack is determined by the outcome of the lag, with the winner of the lag
racking and breaking the numbered balls. The opponent has the right to inspect the
rack, but may not request that the numbered balls be arranged in any specific numerical
order or placement within the rack. The tournament director or appointed referee may
declare a rack acceptable for play at any time, reserves the right to rack at any time,
or to select either opponent to rack.
2.3: Ball Tapping During Racking
Attempting to freeze numbered balls in a particular position by tapping or striking
them with the cue ball, another ball, or any foreign object is called ball tapping, and
is not permitted at any time, including during practice on a tournament-designated
table. A player may or may not be issued a warning for ball tapping before the
infraction is declared a foul; if determined to be a foul, the penalty is the loss of
one game per incident. Only the tournament director reserves the right to tap numbered
Section 3: Breaking
3.1: Opening Break
Players determine the opening break by lagging. The winner of the lag retains the
option to break and rack.
3.2: Game Winner Breaks
The winner of each game breaks and racks the next game, unless stated otherwise prior
to the tournament.
3.3: Cue Ball Location During Breaking
The designated area for breaking and placement of the cue ball is anywhere behind the
head string, including being "frozen" to any rail within the head string area. The base
of the cue ball determines its accurate location within the head string. It is the
responsibility of the opponent to warn the player breaking (and the player must
acknowledge the warning) that the cue ball is past the head string prior to the break.
Breaking with the cue ball past the head string (after the warning and acknowledgement)
constitutes a foul. The penalty is cue ball-in-hand for the opponent (if a legal break
occurs, refer to rule 3.4); or a re-rack and break (if an illegal break occurs, refer
to rule 3.5), with the opponent receiving his or her inning at the table.
3.4: Legal Break
A legal break occurs when a) the one (1) ball (object ball, or substituted lowest ball
on the foot spot) is struck first by the cue ball and a minimum of four (4) numbered
balls driven to the rail, or b) a numbered ball is legally pocketed.
3.5: Illegal Break
Failure to execute a legal break (refer to rule 3.4) constitutes an illegal break. The
foul allows the incoming player to rack and break.
3.6: Fouls Prior, During, or After the Break
Once the cue ball has been driven or accidentally bumped past the head string by the
chalked area of the cue stick tip (with the player in the bridge and stance position),
it will be considered an attempt to break. If a foul occurs during any legal break or
break attempt, then the incoming player has cue ball-in-hand. If a foul occurs during
any illegal break or break attempt, then the incoming player racks and breaks. Any
attempt by the player to interfere with the path of the cue ball during a break is a
foul, even within the head string area; if any interference occurs during a legal
break, the opponent receives cue ball-in-hand; if any interference occurs during an
illegal break, the opponent racks and breaks. If, during any attempt to break the
player hits the cue ball more than once, the penalty is a foul, even if the
interference occurs within the head string area. If the interference occurs during a
legal break, the opponent receives cue ball-in-hand; if the interference occurs during
an illegal break, the opponent racks and breaks. Any numbered ball driven off the table
(off the playing surface and not pocketed) constitutes a foul. If a ball is driven off
the playing surface during a legal break, the opponent receives cue ball-in-hand; if
the ball is driven off during an illegal break, opponent racks and breaks. Any attempt
resulting in the cue ball being pocketed or driven off the table and not striking the
rack is a foul, giving the opponent the break. If the cue ball leaves the table in an
otherwise legal break, the opponent receives the cue ball-in-hand. If the cue ball
leaves the table on an illegal break, the opponent racks and breaks. All numbered balls
that are driven off the table are considered out of play and will be placed in a pocket
(manually pocketed) and any numbered balls pocketed remain in the pocket. The only
numbered ball to be spotted is the nine (9) ball. If the foot spot is being occupied by
a numbered ball, the nine (9) ball will be spotted in the next closest area behind the
foot spot on a line (the long string) from the center of the foot spot to the foot
rail. Any attempt to break that results in the cue ball's striking a rail before it
strikes the rack constitutes a foul; if during a legal break, opponent receives cue
ball-in-hand; if during an illegal break, the opponent racks and breaks. Any foul
occurring prior, during, or after the break is included in the three (3) foul rule and
is considered the first foul.
Section 4: Push Out
4.1: Push Out Option After the Break (Also referred to as a Roll Out)
The player who executes a legal break and pockets a numbered ball has the option to
push out (shoot the cue ball) on the first shot after the legal break. If no balls are
legally pocketed on the break, the incoming player retains the option to push out.
After a legal push out, the incoming player has the option to accept the position of
the cue ball and execute a shot, or pass
(non-execute) the shot attempt and allow the opponent to shoot. During a push out, the
player may shoot the cue ball to any area on the table by executing a legally attempted
shot. There is no requirement for the cue ball to strike a numbered ball or rail or to
drive any ball to a rail, and any numbered ball that is pocketed stays down. The only
numbered ball to be spotted is the nine (9) ball. A push out must be executed by means
of a legally stroked shot. There is no requirement for any ball to strike a rail during
a push out. Any illegal shot results in a foul, giving the incoming player cue ball-inhand. The push out must be declared, and the player attempting the push out must
receive acknowledgement from the opponent. If the player receives an acknowledgement
from the opponent and executes the shot, it will be considered a legal shot. All rules
pertaining to fouls shall apply, regardless of intent, final placement or path of the
cue ball or struck numbered balls.
Section 5: Legal Shots
5.1: Legal Shot and Continuing Play
The cue ball must strike the lowest numbered object ball on the table first, followed
by either the cue ball or any other legally struck numbered ball striking a rail. A
numbered ball must be pocketed for the shooter to continue play.
5.2: Legal Frozen Shot
When the cue ball and lowest numbered ball are frozen together, the player may shoot
directly through the cue ball with a normal stroke (the normal momentary time
commensurate with a stroked shot). The frozen balls must be declared and the opponent
must acknowledge the declaration prior to the shot. If the player shoots without
declaring and receiving acknowledgement, the shot will be considered an illegal push
5.3: Illegal Push Shot and Double Hit
When the cue ball and the lowest numbered ball are barely separated, the player may not
shoot directly through the shot if the action causes a push shot or a double hit. (The
players should have the tournament director observe any shot where the cue ball and
lowest numbered ball are barely separated.) There is no requirement that the cue stick
be elevated in an attempt to eliminate the possibility of a push shot or double hit.
Refer to rule 5.4 (Push Shot Definition) and rule 5.5 (Double Hit Definition) for
5.4: Push Shot Definition
A push shot may occur when the action of shooting causes the cue ball and the numbered
ball being struck by the cue ball to travel at generally the same speed and distance. A
normal stroke is defined by the action of the cue tip striking and not pushing the cue
ball. A normal stroke is determined by the time and distance the tip remains on the cue
ball, commensurate with a normally executed shot. A push shot constitutes a cue ballin-hand foul.
5.5: Double Hit Definition
A double hit occurs when the action of shooting causes the cue ball to be struck twice
(or more) by the cue tip during a single shot. A double hit constitutes a cue ball-inhand foul. A double hit is usually caused by the cue ball rebounding off the object
ball being struck, causing the cue ball to hit the cue stick tip (or ferrule or shaft)
more than once.
Section 6: Cue Ball-in-Hand
6.1: Cue Ball-in-Hand Fouls
When a player commits a foul, the opponent shall receive an inning at the table with
the cue ball-in-hand (anywhere on the table). All pocketed balls stay down, except the
nine (9) ball. All fouls must be declared and acknowledged before the next shot is
taken. Foul calls that are not observed by the tournament director are usually decided
in favor of the shooter. Players should request that the tournament director observe
all potential foul situations. The tournament director reserves the right to resolve
any foul situations by any means necessary and may call for a replay of the game,
giving the original breaker the option to rack and break.
Pocketing the cue ball, illegally pocketing numbered balls, or driving either the cue
ball or numbered balls off the table constitutes a cue ball-in-hand foul. A cue ball
scratch on the break (rack not disturbed) is not a ball-in-hand foul (refer to 3.6).
6.3: Bad Hit
If the first ball struck by the cue ball is not the lowest numbered object ball on the
table, it will be considered a cue ball-in-hand foul (except for variations on the
break; refer to 3.6). In the case of a split hit, the judgment favors the shooter.
6.4: No Rail
When a cue ball or any other legally struck ball fails to hit the rail (except during
the push out or if a numbered ball is legally pocketed), a cue ball-in-hand foul is
declared, favoring the opponent. A ball is driven to the rail if it touches the cloth
on the rail, a pocket facing, or pocket liner.
6.5: Object Ball Frozen to a Rail
If the lowest numbered object ball is frozen to a rail, the player must 1) drive that
object ball to another rail, or 2) drive another numbered ball to the rail resulting
from a hit initiated by the lowest numbered ball struck, or 3) drive the cue ball to
another rail, or 4) legally pocket a numbered ball. Failure to do any of these
resulting from an object ball being frozen to the rail results in a cue ball-in- hand
foul. The frozen object ball must be declared and the opponent must acknowledge prior
to the shot.
6.6: Balls Off the Table
Any action aside from an illegal break that causes any numbered ball to leave the
playing surface (excluding legally pocketed balls) results in a cue ball-in-hand foul.
All numbered balls stay down except the 9 ball, which is the only ball to be spotted.
Any action (accidental or intentional movement other than a legal shot) causing a
numbered ball to be pocketed results in a cue ball-in-hand foul. Numbered ball or balls
are not spotted. Intentional movement may be a flagrant foul. If during the course of a
legal shot a numbered ball is determined to have fallen into a pocket "by itself," it
will be replaced in its original position. If that ball is the lowest numbered ball, it
will be re-spotted in its original position and all other disturbed numbered balls will
be returned to their original positions by the tournament director. If the numbered
balls cannot be repositioned by the tournament director, the numbered balls will be reracked and the game will be replayed, giving the original breaker the right to re-rack
Any time the cue ball is driven off the table (except during an illegal break), the
opponent receives cue ball-in-hand. Any action that causes a ball to strike a foreign
object (light, bridge, chalk, cue, etc.), even if the ball comes to rest on the playing
surface, results in a cue ball-in-hand foul.
6.7: Table Scratch
A table scratch occurs when the cue ball fails to contact any ball during the course of
a shot, and results in a cue ball-in-hand foul (except during a push out or on the
6.8: One Foot on the Floor
The player must keep at least one foot on the floor while shooting; failure to keep at
least one foot on the floor constitutes a cue ball-in-hand foul.
6.9: Illegal Jump Shot
An illegal jump shot occurs when the cue ball is struck below the centerline by the cue
stick tip, causing the cue ball to jump or lift above the playing surface (also
referred to as scooping or digging under the cue ball). The penalty is cue ball-in-hand
for the opponent.
A miscue is a foul (on any shot) if any part of the cue stick other than the chalked
tip comes into contact with the cue ball. If determined to be a foul, opponent receives
6.11: Moving Ball
Shooting while any ball is moving or spinning is a foul. If a foul occurs, opponent
receives cue ball-in-hand. A ball inadvertently settling "by itself" is not considered
a moving ball.
6.12: The Cue Ball in Motion
The cue ball may not be touched or picked up until all balls have come to rest or have
been pocketed. If the cue ball is picked up or touched while it is in motion,
regardless of the intent by the player or the path of the cue ball, the penalty is cue
ball-in-hand for the opponent.
6.13: Touching the Cue Ball
Touching by any means or causing the cue ball to move, (other than by means of a
legally struck shot) is a foul. If a foul occurs, the opponent receives cue ball-inhand.
6.14: Touching Moving Balls
It is a foul to touch any moving ball, or to allow ball or balls to strike any foreign
object. If a foul occurs, opponent receives cue ball-in-hand.
6.15: Touching or Moving Numbered Balls at Rest (Prior to a Shot)
It is not a foul to accidentally move or touch a single numbered ball other than the
lowest numbered ball on the table. A foul results any time the lowest numbered ball is
touched in any way. Any time a player places the cue ball on the table (cue ball-inhand), the cue ball may not contact any numbered ball, or a foul results. If a single
numbered ball is moved prior to the shot, it may be replaced in its original position
only by the opponent; the opponent may leave the ball in the moved position (leave
lie). Any time two or more numbered balls are moved prior to the shot, an automatic
foul results giving the opponent the option to reposition any or all of the moved balls
to their original places, or to leave them as-is (leave lie). The balls may never be
replaced by the shooter without permission from the opponent, or a foul results. If a
foul occurs, opponent receives cue ball-in-hand.
6.16: Touching or Moving Numbered Balls During the Shot
Moving a single numbered ball during a shot, causing the numbered ball to interfere
with a legally struck numbered ball or cue ball results in a foul. If the general area
vacated by the moved numbered ball may have affected a shot (by a legally struck
numbered ball, the cue ball, or the path of either or both), a foul results. The
opponent has the option to replace the moved numbered ball to its original position or
leave in the moved position (leave lie). If two or more numbered balls are moved during
the shot (or if the single numbered ball that was moved contacts another numbered
ball), a foul results. The opponent has the option to reposition only the moved balls
to their original places, or leave in the moved position (leave lie). The balls may
never be replaced by the shooter without permission from the opponent, or a foul
results. If a foul occurs, opponent receives cue ball-in-hand.
6.17: Strategic Intentional Foul
A player has the option to intentionally foul by shooting the cue ball into any
numbered ball on the table and into any area of the table to strategically tie up other
numbered balls. The only ball to be spotted, if pocketed, is the 9 ball. The player
must shoot using a normal stroke. If a foul occurs, opponent receives cue ball-in-hand.
6.18: Cue Ball-in-Hand Placement
Touching any numbered ball while placing the cue ball on the table (cue ball-in-hand)
constitutes a foul. If a foul occurs, opponent receives cue ball-in-hand.
6.19: Practice During the Match
Shooting on another table while your opponent is in play in a tournament inning at the
designated table constitutes a foul. The tournament director reserves the right to
impose a penalty with or without warning. The penalty is cue ball-in-hand for the
6.20: Implementing the Shot Clock
If the shot clock is used, exceeding the time limit for shooting constitutes a foul.
Opponent receives ball-in-hand.
6.21: Opponent or Spectator Interference
Failure to remain seated and quiet while the opponent is at the table may constitute an
interference foul, with or without warning from the tournament director. Shooting out
of turn, moving any ball out of turn, or interfering with the opponent in any manner
constitutes a foul. Any of these infractions permit the opponent to take cue ball-inhand. If interference is caused by a spectator or others, the tournament director may
have those interfering removed from the tournament premises. If the player is
accidentally "bumped" by anyone other than his opponent and as a result, any balls are
moved, all balls may be repositioned in their original places by the tournament
director. If the balls cannot be replaced, the player who was interfered with will rack
and break and replay the game.
6.22: Marking the Table or Use of Foreign Objects
To mark the table or rail, or to place a foreign object on the table or rail (such as a
cue stick, bridge, or foreign object) to provide a player an advantage in executing a
shot (unless marks or objects are removed prior to the shot to the satisfaction of the
opponent and/or tournament director), or to release an object onto the table
constitutes a foul. A player may place a cue stick or a bridge on the playing surface
at any time during his or her inning to take a break. To place an object on the surface
for this purpose does not constitute a foul. A player may not use any object to
determine "clearance" or "gaps" between balls or rails, unless it is with the cue ball,
when the player has cue ball-in-hand, or a cue stick or bridge, provided it is being
held by the player. Numbered balls that are pocketed out of play may never be used to
determine angles, clearances, or gaps, or be spotted. To do so constitutes a foul,
giving the opponent cue ball-in-hand.
Players soliciting and/or receiving intentional coaching may or may not be warned prior
to being issued a foul. The penalty results in cue ball-in-hand for the opponent. Any
spectator who spontaneously offers advice to a player is subject to removal from the
tournament area. If a player calls a foul as a result of being prompted to do so by any
others, the tournament director may determine to disallow the foul call. The decision
of the tournament director is final.
6.24: Masse or Jump Shot Interference
If a player executes a jump or masse shot to avoid hitting any numbered ball that
obstructs the path to the lowest numbered ball, and as a result moves any numbered ball
due to the follow-through of the shot, a foul occurs. The penalty is cue ball-in-hand
for the opponent.
6.25: Numbered Balls Struck by the Cue Stick
Striking a numbered ball with the chalked area of tip of the cue stick prior to or at
the same time as striking the cue ball constitutes a foul. It is possible to strike the
cue ball and have the ferrule or shaft contact a numbered ball at the same time and not
result in a foul (for instance, when a player must elevate the cue by hand or bridge
over a numbered ball in order to strike the cue ball). If a single numbered ball is
moved in this manner and has no outcome on the shot, it may be placed in the original
position by the opponent or leave lie.
6.26: Adjustment to the Cue Ball
If the player uses the chalked area of the cue tip while in the bridge and stance
position to push the cue ball into position, and it is determined to be an attempt to
shoot, a foul results. Opponent receives cue ball-in-hand.
6.27: Cue Tip on the Cue Ball
When the cue tip remains on the cue ball past the momentary time commensurate with a
legally struck shot, a foul results (refer to 5.4 and 5.5). If a foul occurs, opponent
receives cue ball-in-hand.
6.28: Multiple Safes
After four (4) consecutive safes are executed (two by each player), where the object
ball is being bumped to the same rail and the cue ball strikes no rail after contact
with the object ball in each safe, on the next shot (fifth), the object ball or legally
struck numbered ball must be driven to another rail or the cue ball must contact a rail
after contact with the object ball. Failure to execute the described legal shot on the
fifth attempt will constitute a foul. The opponent must declare to the player at the
table that he or she has executed four consecutive safes and the player must
acknowledge. If a foul occurs, opponent receives cue ball-in-hand.
Section 7: Loss of Game - Concession - Loss of Match
7.1: Three Consecutive Fouls
Three fouls in a row by the same player in a single game results in a win for his or
her opponent. The opponent must warn the player when he or she has fouled twice, and
the player must acknowledge the warning. If the opponent has not warned the player and
received acknowledgement for the two fouls, and the player fouls a third time, then the
player will begin his or her next inning in the same game with two fouls.
7.2: Game Concession
A player may not concede a shot or game at any time. If a player concedes a shot or
game, the penalty is loss of that rack and the loss of an additional game (the next
rack). If an opponent begins or completes the act of breaking down their cue stick
while the player at the table is on the hill (potential final game of the match for
player shooting), it will be considered a concession by the opponent and a loss of the
game and/or match. Any other action by the opponent that is determined to be a
concession (while on hill game) will result in a loss of game/match.
7.3: Cease Play Request--Shot Observance
A player may make a request to the opponent to cease play and the opponent must
acknowledge the request to have the tournament director observe a shot. The opponent is
required to wait until the tournament director is in position and ready to observe the
shot. If the player shoots prior to the tournament director's declaration that he or
she is in position, the player loses the game.
7.4: Flagrant Fouls
If a player moves or pockets any balls illegally by any means such as slapping the
table, throwing balls or equipment, pushing on the cloth, striking the balls with the
cue or other object illegally, impeding the path of balls, or any action deemed
unsuitable by the tournament director, the player loses the game and/or match. A severe
and/or second violation may cause the tournament director to impose a suspension and/or
expulsion from the tournament. The decision of the tournament director is final.
7.5: Scheduled Match Forfeit
Any player who appears for their match later than fifteen (15) minutes beyond the
scheduled start time and/or announcement of the match shall forfeit the match. A player
should be at the assigned table and ready for play at the scheduled match time. It is
mandatory that the player be at the table at the final announcement by the tournament
director and/or consistent with the 15 minute grace period for the scheduled match
time. A player who is late for more than one match (past the scheduled time or the
first announcement of the match) may be subjected to sanctions by the tournament
director, including but not limited to a loss of one game foul and/or match forfeit.
7.6: Dress Code Infraction
Any player observed by the opponent or tournament director to be in violation of the
dress code shall receive a single warning from the tournament director to comply and
will be granted no more than fifteen minutes to correct the infraction and return to
the assigned table, ready for play. A second violation will result in a loss of game or
7.7: Ball Tapping
Ball tapping during racking, in either a match or practice on an assigned tournament
table is forbidden. The penalty is loss of the game for each infraction; the tournament
director may impose the penalty with or without warning. (See rule 2.3)
7.8: The Silent Match
Any player or observer who disturbs or disrupts an opponent or other players during a
match may be subject to the "Silent Match" rule. Once the tournament director imposes
the rule, the player may not speak to anyone and the match will be overseen by the
tournament director or assigned match referee. If an infraction occurs after the rule
is imposed, the player shall lose one game per infraction and/or a loss of match,
suspension and/or expulsion from the tournament. If the player is an observer, the
tournament director may impose the silent rule and/or have the player or others removed
from the playing area. The decision of the tournament director is final.
7.9: Unsportsmanlike Conduct
Any player observed by the tournament director exhibiting unsportsmanlike conduct may
be penalized with the loss of a game, suspension, or expulsion from the tournament,
with or without warning. The decision of the tournament director is final.
7.10: Suspending Play
The tournament director has the authority to suspend play during any type of disruption
by participants, or when conditions are unsuitable for play. Any player who continues
play after the suspension of play has been announced shall be penalized with the loss
of the game and/or match, with or without warning.