Rotation, sometimes called rotation pool or 61, is a pool game, played with a billiards table, , and triangular rack of fifteen billiard balls, in which the lowest-numbered on the table must be always struck by the cue ball first, to attempt to numbered balls for .
Some attractions of rotation include performing unconventional or difficult shots to reach the correct ball, and quite often making risky attempts to score higher numbers of points by performing advanced shots such as , , and .
The object of the game is to score the most points, by pocketing higher-scoring balls than the opponent(s). A (individual game) is won when a player or team reaches a number of points (usually 61) that makes it impossible for the opponent(s) to win. A may consist of multiple frames (e.g. a ), or in multiple of multiple frames (e.g. three rounds of best 2-out-of-three), as in other types of pool.
Points are scored by pocketing the object balls on the table; the number of points awarded is equal to the number printed on the ball pocketed; for example, pocketing the 4 ball scores the player 4 points. In a two-player or -team game, the frame is over when a player or team has 61 or more points, although frames tied (drawn) at 60 points can occur (in which case the player who last legally pocketed a ball is credited with a bonus point and declared the winner). More than two players or teams can play, with the winning score being recalculated (whatever number will mathematically eliminate other players from outscoring the leader). For example, the 61-point mark is determined by taking the sum of the values of all fifteen balls, 120, divided by number of players, 2, to yield 60, then adding 1 to ensure a definite winner (other than in the event of a tie at 60, for which see above).
At the beginning of each frame, the balls are in a triangle as in eight-ball and other games using fifteen object balls, but in particular with the 1 ball at the front (apex) of the rack, on the , the 2 ball on the right rear corner (from the vantage of the racker) and the 3 ball at the left rear corner (as in kelly pool), and the 15 ball – the one with the highest value – in the center; all other balls are placed randomly, and all balls must be touching. In informal British play, it is common to push the rack forward farther so that the 15 ball, still in the center of the rack, is resting on the foot spot. (See illustration at top of article.)
The primary rule of the game is that the lowest numbered object ball on the table at any time is the "" and must be struck first (including on the break shot – a side break is a foul), regardless of the player's intentions of which ball to actually pocket. Players may use the lowest numbered ball to pocket other (e.g. higher value) balls. Consequently, this not being a game, points are also counted if a ball is unintentionally but legally pocketed (a "" or ""). A player's turn at the table continues until a shot fails to legally pocket a ball, a foul is committed, or the frame concludes. Illegally pocketed balls are spotted.
play is rather strictly limited in rotation. If a player legally pockets a ball, that player must shoot again; unlike in many games, there is no provision for a called, intentional safety play that pockets a ball. Safeties that consist of simply using the cue ball to drive the ball-on to the closest , without contacting another object ball in the course of the shot, are limited to only two such shots per player per frame. Other safeties are unlimited, provided that the lowest numbered ball is of course struck first and either at least two object balls move in the course of the shot, or the ball-on is driven to a cushion that is not the closest to it.
If a is committed (other than a foul break or cue ball foul, as detailed below), the incoming opponent may either take the next shot or require the opponent to do so, with all balls as they lie in either case. If the exiting opponent's foul was the cue ball into a pocket or off the table, the incoming player's shot is necessarily ball-in-hand, and must be taken from behind the (in ), although the incoming player may optionally require the fouling opponent to shoot again instead, with ball-in-hand behind the headstring. Shots taken from behind the head string must cause the cue ball to cross the head string; however, if the ball-on is behind the head string, the player with ball in hand (including a fouling player who has been forced to take the shot by the opponent) may optionally have that ball spotted on the foot spot before shooting. There is no point penalty for fouls. Three consecutive fouls (i.e. on three consecutive turns at the table) by the same player is a loss of frame.
- Fouls include:
- Failure to hit the lowest-numbered object ball first (or at all)
- Failure to make an on the break shot (incoming player may either accept the object balls as they lie and take behind the headstring and shoot from there, or demand a and shoot a new break shot)
- Scratching the cue ball into a pocket or off the table (incoming player has ball-in-hand behind the headstring, though may force the fouling opponent to shoot)
- Failure to either legally pocket an object ball, or drive any ball to a
- Knocking an object ball off the table (it is spotted; balls legally pocketed on the shot are not)
- A third or subsequent one ball safety to the closest cushion (see above)
Two-player (or larger) teams compete by alternating teams and alternating players within each team. For example, if teams consist of players 1 and 2 versus players 3 and 4, and player 1 breaks, turns alternate in the pattern 1 (breaking), 3, 2, 4, 1, 3, 2, 4, etc. I.e., the ending of a player's turn at the table ends that team's turn at the table. As in individual competition, a player's turn at the table does not end until a foul is committed or the player fails to legally pocket an object ball (or the frame ends).
Three consecutive fouls by a team player disqualifies that player for the remainder of the frame (i.e., if player 3 were disqualified in the above example, then subsequent play order would be 4, 1, 2, 4, 1, 2, etc.) Balls that were legally pocketed by the disqualified player are not spotted.
Informally, team play can also be conducted in format. However, the disqualification rule does not apply, and three consecutive fouls by the team are a loss of frame (otherwise, the team with the hypothetically disqualified player would have an advantage, in no longer having to coordinate two players).
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Simple rotation is the most basic rotation game, being directly derived from basic pyramid pool. The object of simple rotation is to pocket the most balls while still shooting at the balls in order. The frame ends when one player has pocketed eight or more balls.
The major competitive game nine-ball and its variants (six-ball, seven-ball, and ten-ball) are rotation games but with a smaller ball set and without the point-based scoring. In these games only the namesake number of balls are used, and winning is dependent on being the player who pockets the highest ball in the set, even if it is pocketed before other balls or of the winner pockets no other balls.
In strict rotation, also called specific rotation, the balls must be pocketed sequentially, not the first contact on the table. If the lowest ball on the table is struck but a higher ball ends up being pocketed in a combination shot, then that higher ball must be back on the table after the shot; this is not a foul, but merely ends the shooter's turn as if it were a miss. If the lowest-numbered ball is hit first and is pocketed, but another ball also is pocketed, that other ball is spotted immediately, and the shooter's turn continues.