Eight-ball, sometimes called stripes and solids and, more rarely, bigs and littles or highs and lows, is a pocket billiards (pool) game popular in much of the world, and the subject of international amateur and professional competition. Played on a pool table with six pockets, eight-ball is the most common pool game in the world and is so universally known that beginners, often aware of no other pool games, ubiquitously believe the word "pool" itself refers to eight-ball. The game has numerous variations, including Alabama eight-ball, crazy eight, English eight-ball pool, last pocket, misery, Missourri, 1 and 15 in the sides, rotation eight ball, soft eight and others.

In its most common incarnation, eight-ball is played with sixteen balls: a Cuegloss|Cue ball|cue ball, and fifteen Cuegloss|Object ball|object balls, consisting of seven striped balls, seven solid balls and the black 8 ball. After the balls are scattered on a break shot, the players are assigned either the group of solid balls or the stripes once a ball from a particular group is legally pocketed. The ultimate object of the game is to legally pocket the eight ball in a called pocket, which can only be done after all of the balls from a player's assigned group have been cleared from the table.


The game of eight-ball is derived from an earlier game invented around 1900 (first recorded in 1908) in the United States and initially popularized under the name "B.B.C. Co. Pool" (a name that was still in use as late as 1925) by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. This forerunner game was played with seven Cuegloss|Yellow ball|yellow and seven Cuegloss|Red ball|red balls, a Cuegloss|Black ball|black ball, and the cue ball. Today, numbered Cuegloss|Stripes|stripes and Cuegloss|Solids|solids are preferred in most of the world, though the British-style variant uses the traditional colors. The game had relatively simple rules compared to today and was not added (under any name) to an official rule book until 1940.Shamos 1999] rp|24, 89–90cite journal
last = Jewett
first = Bob
year = 2002
month = February
title = 8-Ball Rules: The Many Different Versions of One of Today's Most Common Games
journal = Billiards Digest Magazine
pages = Page 22–23
] Cite web|first=Ralph|last=Hickok|year=2001|url= http://www.hickoksports.com/history/billiard.shtml |title=Sports History: Pocket Billiards|accessdate=2006-12-13] Cite web|publisher=Billiard Congress America|date=1995–2005|url= http://www.bca-pool.com/aboutus/history/start.shtml |title=A Brief History of the Noble Game of Billiards |first=Mike|last=Shamos|accessdate=2006-12-13]

International rules

American-style eight-ball rules are played around the world by professionals, and in many amateur leagues. The rules for eight-ball may be the most contested of any billiard game. There are several competing sets of "official" rules. The non-profit World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA), with national affiliates such as the Billiard Congress of America (BCA), promulgates the World Standardized RulesCite web|url= http://www.wpa-pool.com/download/Official_%20WPA_Rules.pdf |title=World Standardized Rules|publisher=World Pool-Billiard Association|year=2005] for amateur and professional play. The for-profit International Pool Tour has also established an international set of rulesCite web|url= http://www.internationalpooltour.com/ipt_content/ipt_rules/default.asp |title=Official IPT 8-Ball Rules|publisher=International Pool Tour|year=2006] for professional and semi-professional play, used in major tournaments broadcast on television (as of 2007, this league has suspended operations, and is focusing on invitational matches, but is expected by many players to resume in 2009). Meanwhile, many amateur leagues, such as the American Poolplayers Association (APA) / [http://www.poolplayers.ca Canadian Poolplayers Association] (CPA), and the [http://www.vnea.com Valley National Eight-ball Association] (VNEA) / [http://www.vneaeurope.com VNEA Europe] , use their own rulesets as their standards (most of them at least loosely based on the WPA/BCA version), while millions of individuals play informally using colloquial rules which vary not only from area to area but even from venue to venue.

A summary of the international rules follows (see the WPA/BCA or IPT published rules, which conflict on minor points, for more details):


There are seven Cuegloss|Solids|solid-colored balls numbered 1 through 7, seven Cuegloss|Stripes|striped balls numbered 9 through 15, an Cuegloss|8 ball|8 ball, and a Cuegloss|Cue ball|cue ball.The balls are usually colored as follows:
* 1 and 9 - yellow
* 2 and 10 - blue
* 3 and 11 - red
* 4 and 12 - purple
* 5 and 13 - orange
* 6 and 14 - green
* 7 and 15 - brown/ maroon
* 8 - black
* Cue - white

The table's playing surface is approximately 9 ft. by 4.5 ft. (regulation size), though some leagues/tournaments may allow other sizes.


To start the game, the Cuegloss|Object ball|object balls are placed in a triangular rack. The base of the rack is parallel to the Cuegloss|End rail|end rail (the short end of the pool table) and positioned so the apex ball of the rack is located on the Cuegloss|Foot spot|foot spot. The balls in the rack are ideally placed so that they are all in contact with one another. This is accomplished by pressing the balls together from the back of the rack toward the apex ball. The placement of the balls, for a legal rack according to World Standardized Rules is that the 8 ball is placed in the center, while the two lower corners must be a stripe and a solid (see image). The cue ball is placed anywhere the breaker desires inside the "Cuegloss|Kitchen|kitchen".


One person is chosen (by a predetermined method, e.g., coin flip, win or loss of previous game, Cuegloss|Lag|lag) to shoot first and Cuegloss|Break|break the object ball rack apart. If the shooter who breaks fails to make a legal break (usually defined as at least four balls hitting cushions or an object ball being pocketed), then the opponent can demand a Cuegloss|Re-rack|re-rack and become the breaker, or elect to play from the current position of the balls.

If the breaker pockets a ball, it is still that player's turn and the table is considered "open" (meaning the breaker can still make any object ball to determine if he/she will only shoot Cuegloss|Solids|solids or Cuegloss|Stripes|stripes throughout the game). If the breaker fails to make another ball after the break, the table is still considered "open" until someone legally pockets a ball.

According to World Standardized Rules, if the 8 ball is pocketed on the break, the breaker may ask for a re-rack or have the 8 ball spotted and continue shooting. If the breaker scratches while pocketing the 8 ball on the break, the incoming player has the option of a re-rack or having the 8 ball spotted and begin shooting with Cuegloss|Ball-in-hand|ball-in-hand behind the Cuegloss|Head string|head string.

For regional variations, see below.


A player (or team) will continue to shoot until committing a Cuegloss|Foul|foul (Cuegloss|Fault|fault), taking a safety, or failing to legally pocket an object ball on a non-safety shot. Thereupon it is the turn of the opposing player(s). Play alternates in this manner for the remainder of the game. Following a foul, the incoming player has Cuegloss|Ball-in-hand|ball-in-hand anywhere on the table, unless the foul occurred on the break shot, as noted previously.

Pocketing the 8 ball

Once all of a player's or team's group of object balls are pocketed, they may attempt to sink the 8 ball. To win, the player or team must first designate which pocket they plan to sink the 8 ball into and then successfully pot the 8 ball in that called pocket. If the 8 ball falls into any pocket other than the one designated, is knocked off the table, or a foul (see below) occurs and the 8 ball is pocketed, the player loses the game. Otherwise, the player's turn is over (including if a foul occurs on an "unsuccessful" attempt to pocket the 8 ball; in some leagues, such as the VNEA, such fouls are also loss of game, but not in World Standardized Rules).


Any of the following circumstances result in a game win:
*A player legally pockets the 8 ball into a designated pocket, after all his or her object balls have been pocketed
*The opposing player illegally pockets the 8 ball (e.g. before clearing all of his/her object balls, does so on the same shot as the last such object ball, or it falls into a pocket other than the one that was designated)
*The opposing player commits any foul, including scratching the cue ball into a pocket, or knocking it off the table, during the same inning that the 8 ball is pocketed. A scratch or foul is not a loss of the game if the 8 ball is not pocketed or jumped from the table.
*The opposing player knocks the 8 ball off the table.


* The shooter fails to strike one of his/her own object balls (or the 8 ball, if all of said object balls are already pocketed) with the cue ball, before other balls (if any) are contacted by the cue ball. This includes "Cuegloss|Split|split" shots, where the cue ball strikes one of the shooter's and one of the opponent's object ball simultaneously.
* No ball comes into contact with a cushion or is pocketed, after legal cue ball contact with the (first) object ball (or 8 ball, if shooting for the 8).
* The cue ball is pocketed ("Cuegloss|Scratch|scratched")
* The shooter does not have at least one foot on the floor (this requirement may be waived if the shooter is disabled in a relevant way, or the venue has not provided a Cuegloss|Mechanical bridge|mechanical bridge)
* The cue ball is shot before all balls have come to a complete stop from the previous shot
* The cue ball is struck more than once during a shot
* The cue ball is jumped entirely or partially over an obstructing ball with an illegal jump shot that scoops under the cue ball
* The cue ball is clearly pushed, with the cue tip remaining in contact with it more than momentarily
* The shooter touches the cue ball with something other than the tip of the cue
* The shooter touches any other ball (with body, clothing or equipment), other than as necessary to move the cue ball when the player has Cuegloss|Ball-in-hand|ball-in-hand
* The shooter knocks a ball off the table
* The shooter has shot out-of-turn
* On the break shot, no balls are pocketed and fewer than four balls reach the cushions (in which case the incoming player can demand a re-rack and take the break or force the original breaker to re-break, or may take ball-in-hand and shoot the balls as they lie)

English-style rules

In the United Kingdom, eight-ball pool (and its internationally standardized variant blackball) as an overall rather different version of the game has evolved, influenced by English billiards and snooker, and has become popular in amateur competition in Britain, Ireland, Australia, and some other countries. As with American eight-ball, there are multiple competing standards bodies that have issued international rules. Aside from using unnumbered object balls (except for the 8), UK-style tables have pockets just larger than the balls, and more than one type of Cuegloss|Rest|rest is typically employed. The rules significantly differ in numerous ways, including the handling of fouls, which may give the opponent two shots, racking (the 8 ball, not the apex ball, goes on the foot spot), selection of which group of balls will be shot by which player, handling of Cuegloss|Frozen|frozen balls and Cuegloss|Snooker|snookers, and many other details.

The English Pool Association [http://www.epa.org.uk/index.php] is recognized by the Sports Council as the governing body for pool including blackball in England.

Eight-ball rotation

The hybrid game eight-ball rotation is a combination of eight-ball and rotation, in which the players must pocket their balls (other than the 8, which remains last) in numerical order.

Informal rule variations


In Canada there is a similar level and type of variation as in the US "(see below)". One particularly common feature of Canadian bar pool is the "hooked yourself on the 8" rule — failure to hit the 8 ball when one is shooting for the 8 is a loss of game, "unless" one was Cuegloss|Snooker|hooked (Cuegloss|Snooker|snookered) by one's opponent (even then, if Cuegloss|Called pocket|a pocket is called for the 8, as opposed to "just a shot", i.e. a Cuegloss|Safety|safety, failure to hit the 8 is an instant loss). Pocketing an opponent's Cuegloss|Object ball|object ball while shooting for the 8, even if the shot was otherwise legal, is also a game-loser, often even in local league play. Cuegloss|Split|"Split" shots, where the Cuegloss|Cue ball|cue ball simultaneously strikes a legal and an opponent's object balls, are generally considered legal shots in informal games, as long as they are called as split shots, and the hit is in fact simultaneous to the human eye. A further Canadian bar-pool peccadillo is that a shot is a Cuegloss|Visit|visit-ending (but not Cuegloss|Ball-in-hand|ball-in-hand) foul if one pockets one's called shot but also pockets another ball incidentally, even if it is one's own (however, if that secondary pocketing was also called, the shot is legal, regardless of the order in which the balls were dropped).

Latin America

The Cuegloss|Rack|racked balls are often loose, crooked and/or not exactly on the Cuegloss|Foot spot|foot spot (it is not considered to matter), and the rack itself may be made of rubber, and flexible, making a tight rack physically impossible to achieve. Other than the 8 ball, other balls may be placed far more randomly than players in other areas would tolerate, with large clusters of solids together, and stripes with each other.

In most of Latin America, including Mexico, shots are un-Cuegloss|Call|called, as in British pool (i.e. Cuegloss|Slop|slop shots count, a concept foreign to most American players other than APA league members). In many if not most areas (Brazil being an exception), fouls result in Cuegloss|Ball-in-hand|ball-in-hand behind the Cuegloss|Head string|head string only, as in American bar pool (allowing for intentional scratches that leave the opponent a very difficult shot if all opponent balls are forward of the headstring).

A common Latin American variant of "Cuegloss|Last-pocket|last-pocket" is that each player is allowed either one (or even two) cue ball scratches when shooting for the 8, which "must" be pocketed in the same pocket as the shooter's final object ball. Such fouls simply end the shooter's turn at the table and give the opponent ball-in-hand behind the head string; only the second (or third, respectively) such scratch is a loss of game (though scratching the 8 ball itself off the table or into the wrong pocket is an instant loss). This version is common even in US pool bars that are dominated by recent Latino immigrants. This requirement has a profound effect upon game strategy – it is effectively 5 times harder to Cuegloss|Run out|run out – and most North American (and British, etc.) players are completely unprepared for it, unless they are last-pocket players. Players must be very mindful what they do with their last few balls, and common failure to get Cuegloss|Shape|shape that allows for the last object-ball shot to set the player up for an easy 8 ball shot into the same pocket leads to long games with many Cuegloss|Bank|bank, Cuegloss|Kick|kick and Cuegloss|Kiss|kiss shots on the 8.

In some parts of Latin America, especially South America, the 1 ball often must be pocketed in the right side pocket (relative to the end of the table one breaks from), and the 15 ball must be pocketed in the other side pocket (left). This rule probably developed to make it harder to run out after the first shot. Position play takes a larger role in this variation, and a player's strategy must necessarily initially revolve around getting the 1 or 15 in and preventing this opponent from doing likewise. When racking the balls for this variation, the 1 and 15 balls are placed behind the 8 ball at the center of the rack, the 1 ball on the left and the 15 ball on the right (from the "racker's" perspective). Latino last-pocket is virtually the only version of eight-ball played in Mexico, other than in the Mexico–US border area.

In Mexico, a minority of players rack with the 8 ball rather than the apex ball on the foot spot, a trait in common with British blackball/8-ball pool. Pocketing the 8 ball on the Cuegloss|Break|break shot is an instant win, as it usually is in American bar pool, but is not in the international rules. The only ball-in-hand (behind the head string) foul in Mexican pool is Cuegloss|Scratch|scratching the cue ball into a pocket; other fouls are simply loss-of-turn. Because Mexican pool, except near the US border, is almost always played on open-pocket pool-hall-style tables, rather than coin-operated tables that trap object balls, any of one's own balls pocketed on a foul are Cuegloss|Spot|spotted (but how they are spotted varies widely, with the balls often placed against the Cuegloss|Foot cushion|foot cushion on the Cuegloss|Center string|center string, and adjacent to nearby Cuegloss|Diamond|diamonds if more than one must be spotted, instead of on the foot spot, but sometimes even to the "side" at Cuegloss|Long rail|long rail diamonds, due to the influence of coyote, a Mexican variant of Chicago; foot-spot spotting is neither common nor uncommon.) Pool itself is not considered a very serious game in the country other than in the northern states; in most of Mexico, three-cushion billiards is the serious game, while pool is mostly played by youths, by groups of friends (including many young women) as a bar game to pass the time, and by older working-class men as an after-work activity. In many recreation halls, dominoes is more popular than pool.

In Brazil, a foul is generally punished by pocketing the lowest-numbered ball of the opponent. In that case, the cue ball remains where it stopped, as ball-in-hand is not commonly used. Additionally, in the case of scratching the cue ball, the opponent places the cue ball in Cuegloss|Kitchen|the kitchen, on the Cuegloss|Head spot|head spot, or most commonly anywhere inside Cuegloss|"D", the|the "D", indicating some British snooker and/or blackball influence.

North Africa

In North African countries (as in Latin America, but reversed), both the 1 and 15 balls must be pocketed in the sides, the 15 on the right and 1 on the left (relative to the end of the table one breaks from). The North African version of the informal game is always played "Cuegloss|Last-pocket|last-pocket". Cuegloss|Ball-in-hand|Ball-in-hand is not taken on fouls, and "Cuegloss|Bank-the-8|bank-the-8" is a very common rule in addition to last-pocket.

United Kingdom

There are several colloquial blackball/8-ball pool variations, which – along with differences between published blackball and 8-ball pool rules (which differ in various ways) and American-style and international eight-ball rules – can be encountered by eight-ball players as a form of culture clash when playing against opponents who are more accustomed to UK pub pool, the Cuegloss|Two shots|two-shot rules being the most significant.

United States

Most commonly of all in American Cuegloss|Bar pool|bar pool, it is generally required that all shots be Cuegloss|Call-shot|called "in detail", as to what balls and bank/kick cushions will be involved in the shot, with the shot considered a turn-ending (but not ball-in-hand) foul if not executed precisely as planned (and a loss of game if the "foul" shot pocketed the 8 ball). Contrariwise, some Americans hold that nothing other than the 8 ball has to be called in any way — "Cuegloss|Slop|slop" counts.

In informal amateur play in most areas, the table will only be considered open if no balls were pocketed, or an equal number of stripes and solids were pocketed, or the cue ball was Cuegloss|Scratch|scratched (into a pocket or off the table), on the Cuegloss|Break|break; if an odd number of balls were legally pocketed, such as one solid and two stripes, or no solids and one stripe, the breaker must shoot the stripes (in these examples). The table is almost never considered so Cuegloss|Open|open as for it to be legal to use a ball of the opposite Cuegloss|Suit|suit, much less the 8 ball, as the first ball in a combination shot while the table is open (despite this being perfectly legal in WPA World Standardized and many US league rules). In non-Cuegloss|Money game|money games it is fairly common for a foul break in which the rack was not struck at all (e.g., due to a Cuegloss|Miscue|miscue) to be re-shot by the original breaker.

Fouls, in common bar pool, that are not cue ball scratches generally only cause loss of turn, with cue ball left in place (even if it is Cuegloss|Hook|hooked). Even in the case of a scratch, this only results in Cuegloss|Ball-in-hand|ball-in-hand "behind the Cuegloss|Head string|head string". Handling of fouls while shooting at and/or pocketing the 8 ball varies widely, from area to area, in bar pool. In some cases any foul while shooting at but not pocketing the 8 is a loss of game, in others only a foul while otherwise successfully pocketing the 8, and in yet others only certain fouls, such as also sinking an opponent's ball, while pocketing the 8 (that last is not even a recognized foul of any kind in the international and major American league rulesets, and may have been imported from Canada).

What is considered a foul further diverges from established, published rulesets. Scoop-under Cuegloss|Jump shot|jump shots are usually considered valid (these are fouls in WPA (and most US league) rules, as they are Cuegloss|Double-hit|double-hits, though few players realize it). When a cue ball is frozen or near-frozen to an object ball, shooting it dead-on, in line with both balls, is a foul in formal rulesets (as another kind of double-hit), but is generally tolerated in bar pool.

Other US bar pool oddities varying from area to area include: Knocking the cue ball off the table on the break may be an instant loss; scratching on the break may be an instant loss; pocketing the 8 ball on the break (without scratching) may be either an instant win or instant loss (the latter being a rare variant); no safeties may be allowed at all – all shots may be required to be at least vaguely plausible attempts to pocket a legal ball; all jump shots may be banned; Cuegloss|Massé|massé shots may be banned; it may be illegal to use the 8 ball in any way in combinations, caroms or kisses; the 8 ball may be required to be pocketed "cleanly" in the sense of no contact with other object balls (even if the Cuegloss|Kiss|kiss shot can be accurately called); failure to hit one of one's own object balls (or the 8 if shooting for the 8) may be considered a "table scratch" that gives the opponent a shot in-hand from behind the head string; failure to hit the 8 if shooting for the 8 may be a loss of game; and a "split" shot, where the cue ball simultaneously strikes a legal ball and an opponent's object ball, may be considered legal shots, as long as it is called as a split shot, and the hit is in fact simultaneous to the human eye.

Most American league players are also bar pool players outside of league matches and will happily switch back and forth between league rules and their local house rules, depending on whom their opponents are.

Due probably to the influence of nine-ball, in which the 1 ball "must" be the apex ball of the rack, most American bar players traditionally rack a game of eight-ball with the 1 ball in this position. Racking is also typically done solid-stripe-solid-stripe-solid along the two sides of the rack, resulting in solids being on all three corners. This is not a legal rack in World Standardized Rules, nor any other notable league ruleset, because it gives an automatic, strong statistical advantage to solids.

"Cuegloss|Bank-the-8|Bank-the-8" is a common American amateur variation, especially on coin-operated Cuegloss|Bar table|bar tables (because it usually makes the game last longer), in which the 8 ball must be Cuegloss|Bank shot|banked off one or more Cuegloss|Cushion|cushions (Cuegloss|Kick shot|kick shots may also qualify in some versions), into the Cuegloss|Call-pocket|called pocket; either player may suggest bank-the-eight at any time before or during the game, and the other may accept or refuse; all other rules apply as usual. Playing bank-the-eight may be considered rude if there is a long line of players waiting to use the table.

A similarly-motivated variant is "Cuegloss|Last-pocket|last-pocket", in which the 8 ball must be pocketed in the same pocket as the shooting player's last object ball (i.e., each player may be said to eventually "own" a pocket in which their 8 ball shot must be played if they have already run out their Cuegloss|Suit|suit); all other rules apply as usual.

ee also

* List of World Eight-ball Champions


External links

* [http://www.wpa-pool.com/ World Pool-Billiard Association] (WPA) – the International Olympic Committee-recognised promulgator of international rules for a variety of cue sports including eight-ball. Sanctions international tournaments, amateur and professional, in various countries.:* [http://www.bca-pool.com/ Billiard Congress of America] (BCA) – the US national WPA affiliate and self-described "governing body of pool" in North America; has an affiliated national amateur league that holds North American tournaments in Las Vegas.
* [http://www.poolplayers.com/ American Poolplayers Association] (APA) – the self-described world's largest amateur pool league (site also provides pool-related news and articles); see also the affiliated [http://www.poolplayers.ca Canadian Poolplayers Association] (CPA) Uses a ruleset widely divergent from that of WPA/BCA, geared toward beginning players. Holds North American tournaments in Las Vegas.
* [http://www.vnea.com/ Valley National Eightball Association] (VNEA) – the oldest extant and allegedly second-largest national amateur league in North America; despite its name, it is becoming increasingly international, with Caribbean and Mexican teams, as well as foreign affiliate leagues such as [http://www.vneaeurope.com VNEA Europe] , and is branching out to Finland, Australia, Argentina, Malaysia, the Republic of Georgia, etc. Uses a ruleset similar to that of the WPA/BCA in most respects. Holds international tournaments in Las Vegas.

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