8 Ball Pool – How to Play
There are a wide range of different games that one can play on a pocket billiard table. Deciding on what to play – or even how to play – can be a difficult task as there are many variations and different sets of “house rules”. One of the most popular games that most people know how to play is 8 Ball Pool. Below is a guide on the most common way to play the game to help you become knowledgeable about how the game works!
1. Object balls: These are the numbered balls (1-15) that you are trying to knock into the pockets through the duration of the game. The cue ball is not an object ball.
2. Pocket: The six baskets along the edge of the table. There is one at each corner and one on each rail in the middle.
3. Rail: The edge of the playfield
4. Headstring: The imaginary line, usually marked by a dot or diamond, that cuts the board at its quarter mark. The cue ball is placed on the middle of the headstring when breaking.
5. Footstring: Similar to the Headstring, this imaginary line cuts the board at its ¾ mark. This is where the front ball within the rack is placed before breaking.
6. Scratch: When a player knocks the cue ball into a pocket. If you scratch, remove one of your sunk balls from a pocket and place it back in the center of the table and your opponent now has the chance to shoot from his or her chosen spot above the headstring.
7. Open table: When “stripes” or “solids” has not yet been determined. When the table is open, players can hit any object ball (other than the 8 Ball) into a pocket.
8. Foul penalty: Opposing player gets the cue ball in hand. This means that the player can place the cue ball anywhere on the table to take his or her next shot.
In a standard game of 8 Ball, there are 15 billiard balls and they are as follows:
- Seven solid colored balls ranging from 1-7
- Seven striped colored balls ranging from 9-15
- One solid black “8-Ball” (not considered a “solid”)
- One solid white “Cue Ball”
How to Play
1. The first step is to rack the balls. To do this, place the rack on the table with one point one the footstring and adjust the rack so it is centered. Then place the 1-ball at the point on the footstring, a solid ball in one corner, a striped ball in the other corner, and the 8-ball in the center. Remove the rack and then place the cue ball at the center of the headstring.
2. The next step is to break the rack by shooting the cue ball at it with force. To do this legally, the person breaking must either pocket an object ball or drive at least four object balls to the rail.
- If the breaker does not legally break the rack, it is a foul and the incoming player can either accept the table as is and take the next shot, or re-rack and re-break.
- If the breaker scratches on the break, all balls that were pocketed remain, the shot is a foul, and the table is open.
- If the breaker jumps an object ball off the table, the incoming player can either accept the table position and continue the game or ask for a re-rack and re-break.
- If the breaker pockets the 8-ball on the break, the incoming player can either place the 8-ball in the middle of the table and continue to play or ask for a re-rack and re-break.
3. After the break, the table is open and players must then decide their group – solids or stripes. This is decided when a player sinks one of the object balls of that group. For example, after Player 1 breaks, Player 2 sinks the 2-ball and is now aiming for solids and Player 1 is now aiming for stripes.
- Note: if the breaker sinks any balls during the break, groups are not yet decided and the table is still open. Groups are only decided on the shots after the break.
4. Players then take alternating turns trying to get their designated object balls into the pockets. If a player legally sinks one of their object balls, their turn continues until they either do not sink one of their object balls or they foul or scratch. Once a player has sunk all of their object balls, they then have to shoot the 8-ball into a pocket to win the game. When trying to sink the 8-ball, players must call the ball and the corner in which they are aiming.
- Note: in a professional setting or when playing for money, players must call their shot on every turn. This means that they must call the object ball that they are targeting and which pocket they are aiming for.
Players automatically lose the game when:
1. They pocket the 8-ball at any point after the break
2. They pocket the 8-ball on the same stroke as the last of his/her group of balls
3. They jump the 8-ball off the table at any time after the break
4. They pocket the 8-ball in a pocket other than the one he/she has called
5. They pocket the 8-ball when it is not the legal “object ball.”
That is how you play 8 Ball Pool! Keep in mind that there are many different “house rules” that may be employed as everyone plays the game a little differently. This is merely a basic guide to give players a basic understanding of how to play and enjoy the game!