Pool Rules: How and Where to Play Classic 8 Ball

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In most parts of the world, 8-ball is considered a classic pool game. Whether you’re in a smoky bar or playing at home in the basement, there’s something about sinking balls into pockets that never gets old. But if you’ve never played before, the rules might seem confusing. Here’s a breakdown of how to play 8 ball, 8 ball pool rules and where you can find some friendly competition.

Objective of the Game

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A classic 8-ball game involves playing with 15 balls, numbered 1 to 15, and a cue ball. Using the cue ball to hit the numbered balls, a player can win the game by being the first to pocket their assigned balls (either stripes or solids) and then the black 8 ball before the other player pockets theirs. 

Getting Started

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To start a game of 8-ball pool, you need a cue ball and 15 object balls – seven striped balls, seven solid balls, and the black 8 ball. 

The object balls are placed in a triangle at the back of the pool table, with the 8 ball in the middle. This is called the “rack,” and the player who sets up the game is told to “rack them up.” When the triangle of balls is in the correct position, the triangle rack is removed.

The cue ball is placed anywhere behind the head string (the line closest to the end rail opposite the rack of balls). The player can then hit the cue ball to “break” the triangular formation of balls.

To start the break, the first player knocks the triangle of balls with the cue ball for the 8-ball break. For a legal break shot to happen, the player must either pocket the object ball or displace at least four numbered balls to the rail. If a legal break shot occurs, then that player continues, now with the goal of calling a ball before pocketing it. This is how a player will be assigned solid or striped balls (based on the ball that they call and successfully pocket). If no object ball is pocketed during the break, the players will take turns until one pockets an object ball. 

Break fouls or illegal breaks can happen too. When the cue ball is scratched (hit into a pocket) on the break, the opponent player gets the chance to move the cue ball anywhere they want behind the head string or break again.

Break fouls happen when the cue ball is knocked off the table or pocketed and when the numbered balls are driven off the table or rest on top of the rail. When the cue ball also fails to reach the triangle of balls, it’s referred to as an illegal break.

Taking Turns

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After the break, the player who pocketed a ball will continue shooting until they miss, foul, or clear their group. When it is the other player’s turn, they can shoot anywhere on the table.

If you scratch, your opponent can place the cue ball anywhere on the table for their shot. If you foul, your opponent can either take the cue ball in hand behind the head string or have the cue ball placed anywhere on the table for their shot. Fouls and scratches will be discussed in detail in the next section. 

Players will continue to shoot, taking turns only when they fail to pocket the called object ball.

Scratches and Fouls

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A scratch occurs when the cue ball is pocketed or knocked off the table. If this happens, your opponent can place the cue ball anywhere on the table for their shot. Scratches also happen when the cue ball touches one of the object balls in the pocket when full. This is because the cue ball would have been pocketed if the pocket wasn’t full already. There are several examples of scratches in 8 ball:

Break Scratch

A break scratch occurs during a break. Pocketed object balls remain in the pocket when the cue ball is recovered, and the player loses their turn to the opposition player. The opponent can then shoot from anywhere while the table remains open (meaning that stripes and solids have not yet been assigned to each player).


Gameplay Scratch

A gameplay scratch happens when pocketing or throwing a cue ball off the table. It also occurs when a cue ball comes into contact with the object balls in a full pocket. The player then forfeits their turn to the opponent, who can shoot from anywhere and in any direction.


8-Ball Scratch

An 8-ball scratch occurs when the player scratches the 8-ball but fails to pocket it. The opposing player takes over at this point, playing from anywhere on the table. However, if the player scratches the cue ball, pockets the 8-ball, or throws it off the table, the opposing player wins.


Table Scratch

A table scratch happens when the cue ball fails to hit any object balls. This also takes place when object balls fail to be pocketed or touch a cushion.


Fouls often occur throughout the game, and there are many types of 8-ball fouls that can be called out depending on the 8-ball pool rules. Some common fouls include:

Bad Hit

A bad hit occurs when the first object ball hit by the cue ball isn’t numbered from the players’ assigned object balls.


Balls of the Table

This foul happens when the player hits the object balls off the table.


Double Hit

A double hit happens when a player hits the cue ball twice while taking a single shot.



Interference occurs when the player moves the balls except during their turn or shoots when it’s not their turn.


Winning the Game

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To win a game, players must pocket all their assigned object balls and, finally, the 8-ball. A player will also win when the opponent pockets the 8-ball without pocketing their designated object balls or throws the 8-ball off the table.

Winning an 8-ball pool game requires tricks and skills to become a master of this game and practice makes perfect. Therefore, you can sharpen your skills by trying your hand at some of these online games that also give information about 8-ball pool.

Try Your Hand

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Now that you know the 8-ball pool rules, why not try your hand at the game? There are many websites where you can play 8-ball pool online for free. Check out:

Who knows, you might even become a pro! 8 Ball Pool is a classic game that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. So what are you waiting for? Grab a cue and start playing!