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Question
The rule book seems to read that you must hit your object ball first.  Obviously if you hit the other players object ball first
it is a foul and they have ball in hand.

What is the rule if you hit your object ball and the other players object ball at the same time.  Is that a good hit or is it a foul.

Answer
Hey Ben

You sound like you're not completely sure so I just wanted to tell you up front that your premise is correct: if you strike one of your opponent's balls first it is an immediate foul and ball in hand.

Your question is a difficult one because the rule has (and continues to) vary. So, whether a simultaneous hit (or "split hit") is good or bad depends on the particular rules of the game and sometimes on the referee presiding. If you want a definitive answer, the best I can say is that the BCAPL is the best, most nuanced, most logical rule set out there--the gold standard, followed by or mostly incorporated in but dumbed down for many other rule sets--and in it, a simultaneous hit is legal and your inning continues.

BCAPL:
"1-19 Legal Shot (AR p. 81)
1. For a shot to be legal, the first ball contacted by the cue ball must be a legal object
ball, or simultaneous contact with a legal and illegal object ball may occur."

As I said, many other semi-authoritative league rules follow suit. For example TAP provides:
“Split Hits” - When a player contacts the lowest numbered ball on the table and another ball at the same time, this does not constitute a foul.

NAPL says:
A simultaneous hit of a ball from both the shooter’s designated group and the opponent’s designated group and/or the 8-ball is considered a legal shot so long as one of the balls struck was from the shooter’s designated group and the hit happened simultaneously.

But this is usually considered a foul in APA, and with the World Rules, it's anyone's guess because it can be technically interpreted either way (though usually it's interpreted as a foul):

"6.2 Wrong Ball First
In those games which require the first object ball struck to be a particular ball or one of a
group of balls, it is a foul for the cue ball to first contact any other ball."

There's no interpretation provided so what is meant by "first" and does simultaneity violate the concept of "first" here (as to both of its mentions in the rule)?

Anyway, if you are playing that it's a bad hit, always call over a (hopefully unbiased) third party to watch the hit. Over the years (playing that it was a bad hit), I'd often see arguments over it, even when a third party made the call. I suspect that's why the BCAPL drafted the express rule and deemed it a good hit. With it this way, it's much easier to judge, when the only option for it to be a foul is if the other ball is struck first.

I do have one tip for when these types of shots need to be judged. Not always, but often, you can tell from the position of the object ball and non-object ball that their trajectories will be quite different on a bad hit verses a good hit. Analyze that, explain what those divergent paths will be to the opponent or to the referee/third party and it will be much clearer and easier for everyone.

Best regards,

Pool Teacher

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I have wide ranging knowledge of all the cue sports, with the exception of snooker. I can answer most questions related to playing any of the standard games such as straight pool (14.1 continuous) eight-ball, nine-ball, one-pocket and 3-cushion billiards and the variations on these games. Questions welcomed regarding technique, strategy and rules, history of the sport, trick shots, the mental game, practice, practice drills, pool/billiards publications, and so on. I DO NOT DO CUE OR TABLE APPRAISALS OR IDENTIFICATION. See below.

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I have been a dedicated player of pool and 3-cushion Billiards for many years. I have given lessons professionally and have run and participated in too many tournaments to name, including professional events such as the U.S. Open. I am also a cue collector and student of all aspects of the game. Note: I was starting to get far too many questions about pool cue (and pool table) valuation and identification and will no longer take these questions, sorry. I am a player and historian of the sport and the heart of my expertise is not product comparison or appraisal.

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