Why Are Scoop Shots Illegal in Pool?

Scoop shots, which are a kind of jump shot, might look pretty cool, but they’re going to impress any experienced pool players because they are illegal according to official pool rules and many house rules.

But why are scoop shots illegal in pool? Scoop shots are illegal (in all Billiard leagues) because they may bounce off the ferrule, not the tip. A double hit may also occur as the cue hits the ball, the felt, then the ball again (or at the same time). Scooping is also damaging to the felt.

However, if you are playing a casual game by “Bar Rules” or “House Rules”, it is often allowed. Best to clarify with your opponent before the game starts. While there is no official reason why the scoop shot is illegal, there are some pretty compelling reasons why it should be. Let’s take a look at what the scoop shot is, what makes it different from other shots, and an alternative you could learn instead.

What is a Scoop Shot?

To really understand why a scoop shot is illegal, you need to know what a scoop shot is. When a player employs the scoop shot, they hit the ball right at the point where it meets the table. They actually hit the table at the same moment they hit the ball, or even just before. The cue tip hits under the ball and causes the ball to pop up.

How is a Scoop Shot Different from a Normal Shot?

There are three ways that the scoop shots are different from regular shots.

  • During a normal shot, the cue tip hits the ball straight on. Even if you’re aiming to one side, the center of the tip makes contact with the ball. During a scoop shot, the upper edge of the tip, and sometimes even the ferrule, makes contact with the ball.
  • The scoop shot requires that the pool cue makes contact with the bed of the table.
  • Obviously, a scoop shot already means that the ball needs to leave the bed of the table, which is not typical, but jump shots aren’t illegal, only scoop shots. Generally, a scoop shot results in a more vertical jump than a legal jump shot.

If want to learn more about the rules of pool, check out our posts What Happens When a Pool Ball goes off the Table? and What happens when the 8-ball goes in on the break?

So What Exactly Makes a Scoop Shot Illegal?

The WPA doesn’t explicitly state why the scoop shot is illegal, but it can be assumed that part of the reason is that it can cause damage to the pool table in the middle of the game, which could seriously impact gameplay.

However, the fact remains that a scoop shot is very similar to a miscue in that the tip of the cue doesn’t hit the ball as it should.

What Happens if You Do a Scoop Shot?

According to the WPA, a scoop shot is treated like a miscue. If done unintentionally, you’re already suffering the consequences, so you’re not fouled for it. But if it is done intentionally, then you are fouled for unsportsmanlike conduct, which is a serious foul.

Make scoop shots often enough at a pool hall or bar will likely earn you the ill will of the owner who isn’t looking forward to replacing the pool felt.

An Alternative to the Scoop Shot: The Legal Jump Shot

Jump shots aren’t illegal in American pool, but to be legal, you need to approach the shot from a high angle and hit the ball down into the felt causing it to pop back up and over the ball you’re trying to jump. Many players employ a jump cue like the Rage Jump Cue to make this easier.

Here is a great video on how to jump a ball, the legal way.

It isn’t an easy shot by any means and is far more challenging than a scoop shot. If you’re just learning, you should check out the McDermott Jump Training Ball.

If you’re playing English pool, even these jump shots aren’t allowed.

Scoop Shots are Illegal

Although many people would argue that a scoop shot isn’t so different from a normal shot that it should be made illegal, the fact remains that they are. Outside of the felt damage and distinct differences between a normal shot and a scoop shot, many see them as a cheap trick.

So instead of lamenting the loss of a scoop shot, start practicing your legal jump shots, and then you’ll really be impressing people!


Benny is the owner of Supreme Billiards and has been shooting pool and teaching people how to shoot pool for a few years now. He enjoys showing new players techniques and drills to improve their pool game.

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