Ninh explains the Rules of 8 Ball Pool
The object of the game is for you to win more
games than your opponent.
8 Ball Pool (not to be confused with 9 ball
pool) is a game that’s usually played between
two people, and to win a game, you must legally
hit the 8 ball into a pocket.
To get to the 8 ball, you must use a wooden
cue to hit a white ball (known as a cue ball),
into a numbered ball and for that ball to
go into any of the pockets on the table.
This is known as ‘potting’ or ‘sinking’
The table is roughly 9ft by 4.5ft (sometimes
7ft x 4 ft), and the object balls are numbered
1 to 15.
Balls 1-7 are solid colours, (sometimes known
as spots) and Balls 9 to 15 are striped.
The idea is to either sink all the spots,
or all the stripes to get to the 8 ball and
then to legally sink the 8 ball to win the
The game starts with a break.
Unlike in 9 Ball Pool, any ball can be hit
off the break.
For a break to be legal, at least 4 balls
have to hit the rails of the table and the
cue ball must not go into any pocket.
If you sink a ball, depending on whether the
ball is a ‘spot’ or a ‘stripe’, you
must then go for the same kinds of balls and
sink them into the pockets too.
Once all of your designated balls have been
sunk, you may aim to pot the 8-ball and you
have to declare which pocket to sink the 8
If you legally sink the 8 ball into the correct
pocket, you win.
Your opponent will be designated the other
kinds of balls.
And if at any point you fail to pot the relevant
ball, it is the end of your turn and your
opponent will be given the chance to aim for
their designated balls, so that they can get
to the 8 ball themselves.
There’s things can’t you do in 8 Ball
Pool, isn’t there?
You cannot touch any of the balls with anything
except your cue.
You cannot sink the cue-ball, accidentally
You cannot hit or sink one of your opponents
balls before your own.
You cannot fail to hit the object ball.
You cannot hit any of the balls off the table.
You cannot hit the cueball twice in one stroke.
And you cannot play a push shot.
These infractions result in a scratch (or
a foul), and your opponent will be awarded
the cue ball in his hand.
He can then place the cue ball anywhere on
the table and continue with his shot.
Competitive matches are usually played to
the best of 10, 15 or 20 games, and the player
who wins 6, 8 or 10 games faster than their
opponent – wins.
That’s basically the rules of 8 ball pool
in a nutshell, but there’s a few things
you’ll need to understand before playing
or watching a game.
Automatic Loss – There are ways in which
you can lose the game automatically, almost
all of them involving the black 8 ball. These
include hitting the black ball off the table,
sinking the black ball and the cue ball at
the same time, accidentally sinking the blackball
before you’ve cleared your designated balls
and sinking the black ball in the wrong pocket.
Call shot – In some variations of pool (and
in some tournaments) you may be required to
declare which ball you’re sinking into which
pocket. Potting the right ball into the wrong
pocket results in a foul.
Blackball – Blackball is a British variation
of these rules. Instead of having numbered
balls, the colours are red, yellow and black.
It’s played in almost the same way on a
smaller 7ft table, you have to either sink
all of the reds or all of the yellows, but
the main rule differences are that skill shots
are allowed and fouls are awarded with two
shots instead of having the ball in hand.
8 Ball Pool is the most common variety of
pool worldwide, and once you’ve played or
watched a few games, the rules will become
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Ninh Ly, @NinhLyUK, www.ninh.co.uk