For the Dan Clowes' comic, see Eightball

Eight ball is a billiards game played with a cue ball and 15 billiard balls on a pool table with 6 pockets. There are seven solid-colored balls numbered 1 through 7, a single black ball numbered 8, and seven striped balls numbered 9 through 15. The cue ball is solid white. Two persons or two teams play against each other. One plays the solid balls, the other the striped ones. They hit the cue ball in order to hit one of their balls and to sink one of their balls in a pocket of the table. If they succeed, or if at least one ball hits the side of the table, they may play again. If a player has sunk all his balls, he has to sink the black 8 in order to win the game. If he sinks the black 8 earlier, he loses.

Table of contents
1 Lines and points on the table
2 Start of the game
3 Break
4 Turns
5 Faults
6 Possible set of rules
7 Differences between UK and US

Lines and points on the table

Imagine the pool table divided into two equal halves the long way by an imaginary line (called the "long string"). Also imagine two lines crossways to the long string one quarter of the way from each end. These are called the "head string" and "foot string". The intersection of the long and head strings is called the "head spot", and the intersection of the long and foot strings is called the "foot spot".

Start of the game

To start the game, the colored balls are placed in a triangle. The base of the triangle is parallel to the short end of the pool table, the ball in the tip of the triangle is placed on the head spot. The balls in the triangle are pressed into contact with the head ball, and remain in contact after the triangle is removed. The cue ball is placed anywhere the player to break desires in the "kitchen": the "kitchen" is the area between the foot string and its nearest short side (that is, the quarter of the table farthest from the rack).


One person is chosen to shoot first ("break" the balls apart; note that this is a different definition of the word "break" than in other billiards games, notably snooker) by any number of methods: flip of a coin, loser of last game breaks, winner of last game breaks, "lag", etc. If the shooter who breaks fails to make a legal break (usually defined as at least four balls hitting cushions) then the opponent can either re-rack and break, or play from the current position.

If the breaker pockets a ball, it is still his turn. Area of substantial disagreement in rules: say the breaker pockets the seven ball (a solid). Some people play that the breaker now has solids as his group. Others (including the BCA) say that the table is still "open" until someone legally pockets a ball.


The players now take turns. The turn is over if a player makes a fault or fails to pocket one of the object balls.


When one player commits a fault, the other player gets "ball in hand", that is, may place the cue ball. Area of substantial disagreement in rules: some (including the BCA) play that (after the break) the cueball may be placed anywhere, and shoot at anything. Others play that the person with ball in hand may only place the cue ball in the "kitchen", and must shoot out of the "kitchen" before hitting any ball (that is, they may not shoot at a ball inside the "kitchen" directly). However, if all their balls are inside the "kitchen", they can request that the one closest to the head string be placed on the head spot. Under BCA rules, if the cue ball is pocketed on the break, the cue ball must be placed in the "kitchen" and shot out.

Other areas of substantial disagreement in rules:

  • Whether (and how) jumping the cue ball is a fault
  • Whether you lose if you:
    • Shoot at the eight ball and miss
    • Shoot at the eight ball, pocket the cue ball, but don't pocket the eight ball
  • Whether the players have to announce ball and pocket
  • Whether pocketing the eight ball on the break is a win (common rule in the US) or a loss (common rule in the UK and elsewhere)

Possible set of rules

Note: The rules for this game may be the most contested of any billiard game; MAKE SURE that you and your opponent agree on the rules before playing. Many people and leagues in the USA use the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) rules as their standard. The place where you are playing may also have their own house rules, though you should still consult your opponent on whether or not to play by them.

One possible set of rules follows, but it doesn't exactly match the BCA rules:

Winning situation:

  • the player has legally pocketed the eight ball

Losing situations:
  • the player plays the eight ball in a fault situation.
  • the player pockets the eight ball while he still has object balls in his group on the table
  • the player pockets the eight ball in the same shot as the last object ball in his group
  • the player has jumped the eight ball off the table

Possible fault situations:
  • the player does not execute a legal stroke
  • the player pockets the cue ball
  • the player does not have at least one foot on the floor
  • the player shoots the cue ball before all other balls have come to a complete stop
  • the player hits the cue ball more than once during a shot
  • the player touches the cue ball with something other than the tip of his cue
  • the player touches any other ball

A legal stroke is defined as:
  • the player hits the cue ball, then the cue ball hits one of the balls of that player's group of balls, then either the player pockets one of his own balls (not necessarily the one hit) or any ball hits a cushion.

Differences between UK and US

In the UK, plain unnumbered red balls and yellow balls often replace the solid and striped balls. The black ball, however, still bears a number eight. Another difference is that the UK table has pockets just larger than the balls, whereas the American table has pockets significantly larger.

After a foul stroke in the UK, the offending player will miss his next turn - known as the "two shots" rule. A common exception to this is "one shot on the black", that is a player who has only the black left to pot does not get this advantage.