Eight-ball (often spelled 8-ball or eightball, and sometimes called spots and stripes, stripes and solids or, more rarely, bigs and littles or highs and lows) is a pool (pocket billiards) game popular in much of the world, and the subject of international professional and amateur competition. Played on a pool table with six pockets, the game is so universally known in some countries that beginners are often unaware of other pool games and believe the word "pool" itself refers to eight-ball. The game has numerous variations, including Alabama eight-ball, crazy eight, last pocket, misery, Missouri, 1 and 15 in the sides, rotation eight ball, soft eight, and others. Standard eight-ball is the second most competitive professional pool game, after nine-ball and for the last several decades ahead of straight pool.
Eight-ball is played with sixteen balls: a cue ball, and fifteen object balls consisting of seven striped balls, seven solid-colored balls and the black 8 ball. After the balls are scattered with 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.
Standardized Rules of PlayAmerican-style eight-ball rules are played around the world by professionals, and in many amateur leagues. Nevertheless, 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 around the world, some of which long pre-date the WPA, such as the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) – promulgates standardized rules as Pool Billiards – The Rules of Play for amateur and professional play. Meanwhile, many amateur leagues, such as the American Poolplayers Association (APA) / Canadian Poolplayers Association (CPA), and the Valley National Eight-ball Association (VNEA, international in scope despite its historic name), use their own rulesets (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 other leagues' published rules, which conflict on minor points, for more details).
EquipmentThe table's playing surface is approximately 9 by 4.5 feet (2.7 by 1.4 m) (regulation size), though some leagues and tournaments using the World Standardized Rules may allow smaller sizes, down to 7 by 3.5 feet (2.1 by 1.1 m), and early-20th-century 10 by 5 feet (3.0 by 1.5 m) models are sometimes also used.
There are seven solid-colored balls numbered 1 through 7, seven striped balls numbered 9 through 15, an 8 ball, and a 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 (TV: pink)1
- 5 and 13: orange
- 6 and 14: green
- 7 and 15: brown (TV: tan)1
- 8 - black
- Cue - white
SetupTo start the game, the object balls are placed in a triangular rack. The base of the rack is parallel to the end rail (the short end of the pool table) and positioned so the apex ball of the rack is located on the 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 order of the balls should be random, with the exceptions of the 8 ball, which must be placed in the center of the rack (i.e., the middle of the third row), and the two back corner balls one of which must be a stripe and the other a solid. The cue ball is placed anywhere the breaker desires inside the "kitchen".
BreakOne person is chosen (by a predetermined method, e.g., coin flip, win or loss of previous game, or lag) to shoot first and 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 call for a re-rack and become the breaker, or elect to play from the current position of the balls.
TurnsA player (or team) will continue to shoot until committing a foul, or failing to legally pocket an object ball on a non-foul shot (whether intentionally or not). 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 ball-in-hand anywhere on the table, unless the foul occurred on the break shot, as noted previously.
Pocketing the 8 ballOnce 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 or is knocked off the table, or a foul (see below) occurs and the 8 ball is pocketed, this results in loss of game. Otherwise, the shooter's turn is simply over, including when a foul such as a scratch occurs on an unsuccessful attempt to pocket the 8 ball. In short, a World Standardized Rules game of eight-ball, like a game of nine-ball, is not over until the "money ball" is no longer on the table. This rule is unusual to some bar and league players, because in American, Canadian and many other varieties of bar pool, and in some leagues, such as APA, such a foul is a loss of game. This is not the case in World Standardized Rules, nor in some other leagues that use those rules or a variant of them, e.g. VNEA beginning with the 2008/2009 season, and BCAPL), and USAPL.
WinningAny of the following results in a game win:
- A player legally pockets the 8 ball into a designated pocket, after all of that player's object balls have been pocketed
- The opposing player illegally pockets the 8 ball (e.g. before clearing all of that player's object balls, does so on the same shot as the last such object ball, or the 8 falls into a pocket other than the one that was designated)
- The opposing player knocks the 8 ball off the table.
- The opposing player commits any foul, including scratching the cue ball into a pocket, or knocking it off the table, in the course of a shot that pockets the 8 ball. (As noted above, a scratch or other foul while shooting for the 8 ball is not a loss of the game if the 8 is not pocketed or jumped from the table.)
- The shooter fails to strike one of his 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 excludes "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 player knocks in other players ball.
- The cue ball is pocketed ("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 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 (shoved slowly, rather than struck), 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 ball (with body, clothing or equipment), other than as necessary to move the cue ball when the player has 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 behind the head string and shoot the balls as they lie)