Pool Game: Eight Ball

Learn the rules for playing and scoring the pool game called Eight Ball.
How to Play 8-Ball

Eight Ball is a Billiard game played with a total of 15 object balls numbered 1 through 15. The goal of each player is to pocket all of his or her group of object balls 1 through 7 (or 9 through 15) and win the game.

You will either play the solid-color balls or the striped balls. You'll establish who plays which at the beginning of the game after the break.

You don't pocket the 8-ball until the end of the game. When you have pocketed all your balls, you take aim at the 8-ball. The first player to pocket all his or her balls and then pocket the 8-ball is the winner.

If you're making a “bank shot” or “combination shot”—two types of call shots—you should inform your opponents of your intended shot because those shots are not considered obvious. Name the ball and pocket for which you intend to aim. You don't have to give any more detail than the object ball and the intended pocket.

Calling the Shots

Eight Ball is generally played as a call shot game, which means that before you hit a ball, you must call the shot. First you pick your shot, then you say it aloud so your opponent can hear you: “Five ball in the corner pocket” or whatever the shot is that you're about to make.

If the shot is obvious, you don't have to call it, but your opponent is entitled to ask if he or she is not sure. If you pot a ball that you did not call (called “slopping”), official rules say to leave the ball in the pocket. However, many people prefer to return the slopped ball to the footspot. One way or another, your turn is forfeited to the next player.

The Rules

Here are some general Eight Ball rules:

  • The opening break is never a called shot.
  • If you are making the break, you may make another shot as long as at least one ball on the break was legally pocketed.
  • If you fail to make a legal break (no ball is pocketed), then your opponent may decide to shoot the balls as they rest on the table after the break, or the opponent may choose to rebreak.
  • If you pot the 8-ball on a break shot, all the balls stay potted except the 8-ball, which is returned to the table. The opponent can rebreak if the 8-ball is pocketed or can spot the 8-ball on the table on the footspot.
  • If you shoot a ball off the table during an opening break, you forfeit your turn. Your opponent then takes position at the table and may continue shooting or take the cue ball in hand and play from behind the headstring.
  • The table is considered “open” after the break shot, meaning that stripes or solids have not yet been determined. The table is always considered open immediately following the break shot. You may strike any object ball at this point, whether it is striped or solid. It is even legal to strike the 8-ball when the table is open—but don't pocket the 8-ball.

You can only hit the 8-ball as part of a combination shot at this point during the game. If you make a direct strike on the 8-ball, you lose your turn and any pocketed balls remain pocketed. Your opponent can continue play on the open table at this point.

Looking for more fun games for your kids? Check out our top classic board games!

Stripes or Solids?

Now that the table is open, it's time to pick your group of object balls. Your selection is determined only after you pocket a called shot. The solids are numbered 1-7 and the stripes are numbered 9-15. The 8-ball is black. So if you call “9-ball in the corner pocket” and you manage to pocket that called shot, then you will be stripes for the remainder of the game.

Making Contact

All this sounds pretty easy, right? Well, not exactly.

Here's the catch: On all shots—after the break and not when the table is open—the player must hit one of his group of balls first, and either pocket a ball, or make a ball (or the cue ball) contact the side of the table.

You can make the cue ball bounce off the side of the table (bank shot) before striking the object ball, but the object ball must be pocketed, or it, or the cue ball, must contact the side of the table.

If either of the balls does not contact the side of the table, the shot is considered a foul. Your opponent may then play the cue ball in hand from anywhere on the table (this does not necessarily have to be from behind the headstring—that just applies to the opening break) .

Fouls and Ball-Jumping

A shot is considered to be a foul if it is jumped off the table. Jumping a ball off the table means you lose your turn to your opponent. Your opponent may spot the balls in numerical order from any location on the table (that means he or she can place the ball anywhere on the table before taking his or her next turn).

If you jump the 8-ball off the table, you lose altogether! So keep your eye on that ball and be careful! If you jump a ball—other than the 8-ball—off the table, you lose your turn

Illegal Pocketing

A ball is considered illegally pocketed for the following reasons:

  • If you pocket a ball while lobbing another ball off the table (shooting a foul)
  • The object ball that you called does not go into the designated pocket

Combination Shots

Combination shots are legal shots, but you can never use the 8-ball as the first contacted ball. In other words, you can use the 8-ball in combination with another object ball to pocket an object ball, as long as you don't strike the 8-ball first.


You keep playing your object balls on your visit to the table until you fail to pocket a shot. Once all the object balls of your group are pocketed, you try to pocket the 8-ball. The first person to achieve this wins the match.

Losing the Game

You can forfeit the game for the following reasons:

  • Pocketing the 8-ball (except on the opening break) before your object balls have been pocketed
  • Pocketing the 8-ball on the same shot as pocketing your remaining object balls
  • Jumping the 8-ball off the table
  • Pocketing the 8-ball at the end of the game in a different pocket than the one you call
  • Pocketing the 8-ball when it's not the legal object ball

Looking for more fun games to play with the family? Grab a deck of cards and check out our Card Games section!

  • The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games
    The Complete Idiot's Guide to Family Games
    Bring the family together with these fun games.