8-Ball Pool Rules: The Simple Version

8-Ball Pool Rules The Simple Version

When playing 8-ball pool, it’s often difficult to know which set of rules to play by, considering there are so many different variations of the popular game.

As a result, players often find themselves in disagreements with an opponent midway through a game when a certain rule pauses the play and leads to controversy.

The best thing to do in situations like this when you can’t come to an agreement is to revert back to the basic, fundamental rules of the game.

While these are slightly different from the set of rules that professional players follow, they’re perfect for players keen to avoid disagreements and looking to play the game for fun.

With this in mind, our guide will take an in-depth look at some of the most basic and important rules that every 8-ball pool player needs to know. We’ll also look to answer a number of the frequently asked questions.


The first step of playing 8-ball pool correctly is learning how to rack the balls at the start of a game. It’s important that both you and your opponent agree on the rack formation, especially the placement of certain balls.

For example, the 8 ball should always be positioned in the center of the rack – two rows from the top of the triangle and two rows from the bottom.

This placement of the 8 ball is widely agreed upon by most 8-ball pool players.

In terms of positioning the solids and stripes, the order can be random – except for the two corner balls at the bottom of the triangle. One of these needs to be solid, and the other a stripe.

It’s also best practice to have the number “1” ball at the top of the triangle.



Deciding which player or team breaks should initially be determined by the toss of a coin.

Once the first game has been played, the person or team who breaks next can either be determined by who lost the previous game or if you’d prefer, you can simply take it in turns.

Some people follow the winners rack and losers break a rule, while others prefer losers rack and winners break.

If you’re unable to agree on which route to take, a coin toss is a good option for every break situation.

When placing the cue ball for a break, you can position it anywhere behind the head string. The is denoted by a line between the second markings at the head end of the table.

It’s worth noting that this line is usually imaginary on most recreational tables, however, it can easily be determined by looking along the sides of the table for the diamonds and markings.

To perform a legal break, at least four balls need to hit the cushions. It doesn’t matter which cushions or which balls, as long as four different balls make contact. If this doesn’t happen, the opponent can either ask for a re-break or play the table as it is.

If the cue ball is potted, the opposing player is free to retrieve the cue ball and place it anywhere behind the head string for their next shot. They also have the right to ask for either a re-break or re-rack.

The opponent can similarly request a re-break or re-back if the 8-ball goes into the pocket on the break. Another option is to re-spot the black ball on the table and let play continue.

Assigning The Balls

Once the break has been taken in a legal fashion, the next important rule to take into account concerns assigning each player either solids or stripes.

Before this happens, the table is effectively considered “open”, where either player can pot a solid or striped ball.

If the player taking the break pots one or more of the object balls, they can continue to shoot until they miss. The next ball they pot after the break determines who’s solids and who’s stripes.

For example, if you pot both a solid and a stripe on a legal break, and then go onto pot a stripe on the next shot, you’ll be potting stripes for the remainder of the game and your opponent will be assigned solids.

However, if you fail to pot a ball with your second shot, the table is considered “open” for your opponent, meaning they can choose to pot whichever object ball they want without giving away a foul.

To put it simply, the table is “open” until either one of the players legally pots an object ball after the initial break-off shot.

A player continues their turn at the table until they either miss or foul. For skilled professional players, it’s not uncommon for them to only need a couple of turns at the table per game, as they rarely miss or foul.

However, games between amateur players tend to last considerably longer with many turns each, as fouls and misses are much more common when first learning to play the game.



A game of 8-ball pool is won when a player pots all of their assigned object balls and then legally pots the 8-ball (black).

To legally pot the 8-ball, you have to call which pocket you’re aiming for and then successfully sink it into that pocket.

If the shot misses your nominated pocket, it’s then the opponent’s turn to shoot until they miss or perform a foul themselves.

What’s more, if you pot the 8-ball into a pocket different from the one you nominated, the opponent instantly wins the game. They also win the game if the cue ball is potted along with the 8-ball in the same shot.

It’s important to keep in mind that even if you pot the 8-ball into the pocket you’ve nominated, it’s imperative that the cue ball also stays on the table in order for the 8-ball shot to be legal.

All The Fouls Explained

There are some fouls in recreational 8-ball that are significantly more common than others.

When any type of foul occurs, play passes to the opponent who gains control of the cue ball. Listed below are some of the most common fouls in 8-ball pool to keep an eye out for.

No Rail Contact – if you fail to pot a ball on your turn, it’s imperative that either the cue ball or any object ball makes contact with a rail after the initial object ball has been struck.

If this doesn’t happen, your shot is considered a foul.

Hitting An Opponent’s Object Ball – once your assigned object balls have been determined, each one of your shots must first make contact with one of your object balls.

If the cue ball first hits an opponent’s object ball, it’s considered a foul. If two balls (one solid and one stripe) are struck at the same time, this is known as a “split shot”, which is generally seen as legal.

No Contact With Any Balls – if the cue ball fails to make contact with any other ball on the table, the shot is classed as a foul, and play passes to the opponent.

Cue Ball Scratch – if the cue ball is either pocketed or sent off the table, this is known as a “scratch”, which counts as a foul.

Knocking A Ball Off The Table – when a player’s shot results in one or more of the balls being knocked off the surface of the table, a foul is called and play passes to the opposing player.

Touching A Ball Illegally – if a player makes contact with a ball on the table outside of a legal shot this is called a foul. This includes hands, arms, clothing, and cue sticks.

Playing Out Of Turn – if a player comes to the table and takes a shot out of turn, a foul is immediately called. After the mistaken shot, the balls should be left as they are, ready for play to continue.

Incorrect Cueing – a foul occurs when a player uses the cue stick to push through the cue ball for longer than what’s considered normal for a fair shot.

More than one hit on the cue ball in the same shot is also deemed worthy of foul play.

Both Feet Off The Floor – unless the player has a valid reason such as a disability preventing them from doing so, it’s imperative that they keep at least one foot on the floor during any given shot in order to avoid a foul.

Playing With The Balls In Motion – if a player takes their turn before the balls have stopped moving from the previous shot, it’s a foul.

What About Ball In Hand Fouls?

There are some rules which state all fouls should result in the opponent having free placement of the cue ball anywhere on the table. However, there are other schools of thought which suggest the free placement should be restricted to anywhere behind the head string instead.

Deciding which rules you follow should be informed by the respective skill levels of the two players or teams. But, to make sure the game is entirely fair, the rules should be agreed upon before the match by all parties.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Pool A Sport Or A Game?

Pool is classed as a sport and has many different variations, including 8-ball, 9-ball, and 10-ball. In fact, cue sports are recognized at an international level and even have their own governing bodies.

Take the World Confederation of Billiards Sports for example.

Is Pool An Olympic Sport?

Despite the fact that many new sports have been added to the Olympics in recent years, pool isn’t currently one of the sports involved in the Games. Nevertheless, professional pool players are still seen as elite-level athletes.

Can You Play Pool On A Snooker Table?

While it’s perfectly possible to play pool on a snooker table, it’s much better to play pool on a pool table and snooker on a snooker table.

This is mainly due to the fact that the table and cue balls are different sizes for each game.

Therefore, in order to enjoy pool in its most natural form, playing the game on a specially-designed pool table with the ideal measurements is a much better idea.

Can You Snooker Someone In A Game Of Pool?

Yes, you can block an opponent’s path to one of their assigned object balls by leaving the cue ball tucked behind one of your own balls.

This usually means that they’ll have to rebound the cue ball off one or more of the rails in order to make contact with their object ball – not an easy task.

What’s The Difference Between A Game Of 9-Ball Pool And A Game Of 10-Ball Pool?

10-ball pool is a modern rotation game that’s incredibly similar to 9-ball pool, but a little more challenging.

As the name of the game suggests, it uses one more ball than a game of 9-ball pool, and also has the 10 ball instead of the 9 ball as the “money ball”.

Why Do Pool Balls Often Turn Yellow?

The vast majority of pool and billiards balls are made of hard plastic materials that are resistant to both chipping and cracking.

However, as is often the case with plastics, a combination of UV light exposure and exposure to heat and oxygen can cause photodegradation.

The Bottom Line

Whether you decide to follow the rules above or not, all that really matters is everyone agrees on the set of rules you play by. This ensures that each player is on the same page and has a fair opportunity to win the game.

Ultimately, the game of 8-ball pool is meant to be fun, so getting caught up in the different variations and intricacies of the rules can become rather tiresome.

Therefore, if you’re really struggling to agree upon a set of rules, take the simplified rules detailed in this guide and try them out!

Dave White