To determine the order of play, players (representing only themselves, or teams) each simultaneously shoot a ball from the kitchen (or in British games, from the baulk line ) to the end rail and back toward the bottom rail . Whichever shooter's ball comes to rest closest to the bottom rail gets to choose who breaks the rack . It is permissible but not required for the lagged ball to touch or rebound from the bottom rail , but not to touch the side rails. Lagging is usually a two-party activity, though there are games such as cutthroat in which three players might lag . In the case of a tie, the tying shooters re- lag . The lag is most often used in tournament play or other competitions. In hard- break games like nine-ball and eight-ball the winner of the lag would normally take the break , while in soft- break games like straight pool would likely require the loser of the lag to break , since breaking would be a disadvantage. See also string-off .