How to play 8-ball Pool
A quick guide
Eight-Ball is a call-shot game played with a cue ball and 15 object balls, numbered one through to 15. One player must pocket balls of the group numbered 1 through 7 (solid colors), while the other player must pocket balls 9 through 15 (stripes). The player pocketing either group first, and then legally pocketing the 8-ball wins the game.
In Call-shot, modern rules do not force the player to call obvious shots, that is, balls very close to the pocket, straight onto a pocket. If it is not obvious players must announce the pockets into which they plan to sink balls, letting an opponent or referee know their intentions beforehand. For example “3-ball in the side pocket” is a call (announcement) of ball and intended target pocket.
The opponent has a right to ask which ball and pocket if he is unsure. Bank shots and combination shots are not considered obvious, and care should be taken in calling both the object ball and the intended pocket.
When calling the shot, it is never necessary to indicate details such as the number of cushions, banks, kisses, caroms, etc.
Any balls pocketed on a foul remain pocketed, regardless of whether they belong to the shooter or the opponent.
The opening break is not a “called shot.” Any player performing a break shot in 8-Ball may continue to shoot so long as any object ball is legally pocketed on the break.
Racking the balls
The balls are racked in a triangle at the foot of the table with the 8-ball in the center of the triangle, the first ball of the rack on the foot spot, a stripe ball in one corner of the rack and a solid ball in the other corner.
Each player takes a ball-in-hand. They should be balls of equal size and weight.
The players stand at the head rail, one on the left side of the table and the other on the right with the balls placed on the head string. The head string is the quarter of the table farthest from the rack, the players shoot their balls to the end of the table simultaneously. The balls must bounce off the foot rail (the far rail) and come back to the head rail. The player with the ball that stops closest to him or her at the head rail wins. The ball can either bounce off the head rail or just come to a halt after the bounce off the foot rail — it doesn’t matter. All that matters is how close the ball stops in relation to the head rail. The player who shot the ball that stops closest, wins the lag. The winner may then choose to break first or to have his or her opponent break first.
The winner of each game then breaks in the next game. The following are common options that may be designated by tournament officials in advance:
- Players alternate break.
- Loser breaks.
- Player trailing in game count breaks the next game.
Legal break shot
(Defined) To execute a legal break, the breaker (with the cue ball behind the head string) must either (1) pocket a ball, or (2) drive at least four numbered balls to the rail. When the breaker fails to make a legal break, it is a foul, and the incoming player has the option of (1) accepting the table in position and shooting, or (2) having the balls re-racked and having the option of shooting the opening break or allowing the offending player to re-break.
Scratch on a legal break
If a player scratches on a legal break shot, (1) all balls pocketed remain pocketed (exception, the 8-ball: see rule 4.8), (2) it is a foul, (3) the table is open. Please Note: The incoming player has cue ball in hand behind the head string and may not shoot an object ball that is behind the head string, unless he first shoots the cue ball past the head string and causes the cue ball to come back behind the head string and hit the object ball.
Object balls jump off table on the break
If a player jumps an object ball off the table on the break shot, it is a foul and the incoming player has the option of (1) accepting the table in position and shooting, or (2) taking cue ball in hand behind the head string and shooting.
8-ball pocketed on the break
If the 8-ball is pocketed on the break, breaker may ask for a re-rack or have the 8-ball spotted and continue shooting. If the breaker scratches while pocketing the 8-ball on the break, the incoming player has the option of a re-rack or having the 8-ball spotted and begin shooting with ball in hand behind the head string.
(Defined) The table is “open” when the choice of groups (stripes or solids) has not yet been determined. When the table is open, it is legal to hit a solid first to make a stripe or vice-versa. Note: The table is always open immediately after the break shot. When the table is open, it is legal to hit any solid or stripe first in the process of pocketing the called stripe or solid. However, when the table is open and the 8-ball is the first ball contacted, it is a foul and no stripe or solid may be scored in favor of the shooter. The shooter loses his turn; the incoming player is awarded cue ball in hand; any balls pocketed remain pocketed; and the incoming player addresses the balls with the table still open. On an open table, all illegally pocketed balls remain pocketed.
Choice of group
The choice of stripes or solids is not determined on the break even if balls are made from only one or both groups, because the table is always open immediately after the break shot. The choice of group is determined only when a player legally pockets a called object ball after the break shot.
If the groups have been determined and the player mistakenly shoots at and pockets a ball of the opposing group, the opponent must call a foul on him before he takes his next shot. If the opponent fails to do so, the player automatically takes over the group of balls (solids or stripes) at which he has been shooting during this inning.
(Defined) On all shots (except on the break and when the table is open), the shooter must hit one of his group of balls first and (1) pocket a numbered ball, or (2) cause the cue ball or any numbered ball to contact a rail. Please Note: It is permissible for the shooter to bank the cue ball off a rail before contacting the object ball; however, after contact with the object ball, an object ball must be pocketed, or the cue ball or any numbered ball must contact a rail. Failure to meet these requirements is a foul.
For tactical reasons, a player may choose to pocket an obvious object ball and also discontinue a turn at the table by declaring “safety” in advance. A safety shot is defined as a legal shot. If the shooting player intends to play safe by pocketing an obvious object ball, then prior to the shot, the shooter must declare a “safety” to the opponent. It is the shooter’s responsibility to make the opponent aware of the intended safety shot. If this is not done, and one of the shooter’s object balls is pocketed, the shooter will be required to shoot again. Any ball pocketed on a safety shot remains pocketed.
A player is entitled to continue shooting until failing to legally pocket a ball of his group. After a player has legally pocketed all of his group of balls, he shoots to pocket the 8-ball.
Opposing player gets cue ball in hand. This means that the player can place the cue ball anywhere on the table (does not have to be behind the headstring except on opening break). This rule prevents a player from making intentional fouls which would put an opponent at a disadvantage. With “cue ball in hand,” the player may use a hand or any part of a cue (including the tip) to position the cue ball. When placing the cue ball in position, any forward stroke motion contacting the cue ball will be a foul, if not a legal shot.
Combination shots are allowed; however, the 8-ball can’t be used as a first ball in the combination unless it is the shooter’s only remaining legal object ball on the table. Otherwise, should such contact occur on the 8-ball, it is a foul.
Illegally Potted Balls
An object ball is considered to be illegally pocketed when (1) that object ball is pocketed on the same shot a foul is committed, or (2) the called ball did not go in the designated pocket, or (3) a safety is called prior to the shot. Illegally pocketed balls remain pocketed and are scored in favor of the shooter controlling that specific group of balls, solids or stripes.
Object Ball Jumps off the Table
If any object ball is jumped off the table, it is a foul and loss of turn, unless it is the 8-ball, which is a loss of game. Any jumped object balls are not re-spotted.
jump and massé foul shot
While “cue ball fouls only” is the rule of play when a match is not presided over by a referee, a player should be aware that it will be considered a cue ball foul if during an attempt to jump, curve or massé the cue ball over or around an impeding numbered ball that is not a legal object ball, the impeding ball moves (regardless of whether it was moved by a hand, cue stick follow-through or bridge).
Playing the 8-Ball
When the 8-ball is the legal object ball, a scratch or foul is not loss of game if the 8-ball is not pocketed or jumped from the table. Incoming player has cue ball in hand. Note: A combination shot can never be used to legally pocket the 8-ball, except when the 8-ball is the first ball contacted in the shot sequence.
Loss of Game
A player loses the game by committing any of the following infractions:
- Fouls when pocketing the 8-ball (exception: see 8-Ball Pocketed On The Break).
- Pockets the 8-ball on the same stroke as the last of his group of balls.
- Jumps the 8-ball off the table at any time.
- Pockets the 8-ball in a pocket other than the one designated.
- Pockets the 8-ball when it is not the legal object ball.
Note: All infractions must be called before another shot is taken, or else it will be deemed that no infraction occurred.
If, after 3 consecutive turns at the table by each player (6 turns total), the referee judges that attempting to pocket or move an object ball will result in loss of game, the balls will be re-racked with the original breaker of the stalemated game breaking again. The stalemate rule may be applied regardless of the number of balls on the table. Please Note: Three consecutive fouls by one player in 8-ball is not a loss of game.
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