Pool/Billiards/safety in 8 ball


I am an American working in Indonesia, I play a lot of 8 ball in leagues and for fun. In indonesia they play International rules for 8 ball. Recently I was in a fun game of 8 ball when the person I was playing called a safety..not attempting a shot and sat down allowing me to have the next shot... is this a legal move.
Being from America and in the past mostly playing bar style 8 ball rules I am not familiar with the safety call.
Please explain the safety for international rules.

He Geary

Yes, it's legal, except that it really only makes sense if you are playing with all other authoritative rules in place and notice I did not say "international rules," because this is the rule played in the U.S. but not generally by "bar players".

There are two meanings of the word safety. It usually simply means any shot where you are engaging in defensive play and intentionally not pocketing one of your own balls to continue your inning. You never need to call this type of safety. The second kind is a called safety which has a defined meaning in eight ball.

The rub on defensive play is that you must complete a legal shot, and without the essential rule defining what a legal shot is (and the penalty for failure to comply) the game becomes very illogical and unfair. This is why safeties have a reputation and are called "dirty pool" by so many amateurs, when safety play is such a integral part of the game.

The most critical rule that bar players generally don't know, without which safety play cannot be fair or logical is what is required to complete a legal shot and the penalty if you do not. On every shot after choice of group is determined, the cue ball must contact one of a player's object balls first (a ball of your group, or the eight ball if all of your group is down), and then some ball (including the cue ball) must strike a rail or be pocketed.

Failure to meet this rule is a foul, with ball in hand for the opponent (i.e., they may pick up the cue ball and place it anywhere on the table--not behind the line, as is often played in informal rules).

Anyway, the called safety in eight ball is used when you want to pocket one of your own balls but don't wish to go again. It is a relatively rare shot used for strategic advantage in such situations as when you have a ball in the jaws of a pocket but there's no way to play position on the next ball, and if you sink your ball you will normally be required to continue your inning.

If you call a safety, you can pocket your ball and not go again, thus leaving the cue ball right there, having already seen that the opponent will be snookered by that position, and you might get ball in hand on the next shot. If the opponent then fails to touch one of his own balls and thereafter get a rail or pocket it, you will get the opportunity to run out or advance your position on his foul. Note that you cannot choose to go again after calling a safety and sinking your ball, say because you messed up the position and realize not going again is to your disadvantage. Lastly, calling a safety does not mean you get to do anything illegal. If you fail to get a ball and rail, or scratch and so on, a foul still results.

There are numerous other difference between what is commonly played in bars and authoritative rules.

I invite you to read the BCAPL (Official Rules of the Billiard Congress of America Pool League), the best most logical and nuanced ruleset there is: http://www.playbca.com/downloads/rulebook/completerulebook.aspx

Once you come into the fold and start playing by these rules, you will begin to see that you were playing some form of checkers when chess was always available.

Best of luck,

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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