How do you play the pool game 8-ball?

Eight-ball (8-ball) is a pool game played with all 15 balls racked in a triangle pattern, where the objective is to pocket the 8-ball after pocketing all seven of your designated balls (stripes or solids). Here’s a concise rules summary for 8-ball and 9-ball (based on the WPA World Standardized Rules), and here’s an even-shorter 1-page summary for 8-ball (PDF versioneditable Word version), suitable for posting in a bar (created by Nathan Rhoades, Newport RI).

Here are some useful resources related to 8-ball:

“Bar rules” can vary significantly among people, bars, and regions, but the main differences from standard 8-ball rules are:

  • the are no fouls (except scratches).
  • a scratch on any shot results in ball-in-hand in the “kitchen” (behind the head string), and you must shoot the CB out of the kitchen before contact with a ball or cushion.
  • if a shot is not obvious or if non-obvious ball or cushion contacts might occur, you need to call exactly how it will be pocketed (e.g., off a ball vs. clean).
  • if you pocket one or more balls on the break, the group with the largest number of balls down becomes your group (i.e., the table is not open).
  • if the 8-ball is pocketed on the break, you win (unless you scratch, in which case you lose).
  • safeties are considered “dirty pool.”

A good variation on 8-ball for advanced players is rotation 8-ball, where each person must always contact the lowest-numbered ball in thier group first.

When one player is much better than the other, possible ways to handicap the game include:

  • require that the ball group be pocketed with standard rotation rules (balls shot in order).
  • require that the 8-ball be pocketed in the pocket in which the last OB was pocketed (i.e., “last pocket”).
  • disallow pocketing balls in the side pockets (or required that all balls be pocketed in the side pockets).
  • require that every shot be a caroms, kiss, banks, or kick
  • allow the less capable player two misses with each inning.
  • etc.

Any or all of these handicaps can be applied depending on the “weight” required.

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