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- For other uses, see Eight ball (disambiguation)
Eight-ball is a pocket billiards game played with a cue ball and fifteen billiard balls on a pool table with 6 pockets.
The game of eight ball is derived from an earlier game invented around 1900 and first popularized in 1925 under the name B.B.C. Co. Pool by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company. The forerunner game was played with 7 yellow and 7 red balls (in lieu of the modern norm of striped and solid balls), a matte-black ball and the cue ball. The game had relatively simple rules compared to today and was not added (under any name) to the official rule book until 1940.
There are eight solid-colored balls numbered 1 through 8, seven striped balls numbered 9 through 15, and a solid white 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 (pink in some tournaments)
- 5 and 13 - orange
- 6 and 14 - green
- 7 and 15 - magenta (brown in some tournaments)
- 8 - black
- cue - white.
The 7 and 15 balls may instead be colored tan, pink, or magenta.
There are four phases to the game: setup, breaking, visits, and pocketing the 8 ball.
To start the game, the colored 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 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 between the head string and its nearest short side (that is, the quarter of the table farthest from the rack), an area known as the "kitchen."
The pool table is divided into two equal halves lengthwise by an imaginary line called the "long string". Two lines, the "head string" and "foot string" are perpendicular to the long string and are placed ¼ length away from each end of the table. 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".
One person is chosen (by any of a number of methods, e.g. coin flip, winner of previous game, lag, etc.) to shoot first and break the balls 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 either re-rack and break, or play from the current position.
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 solid or striped balls 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.
A common tournament rule is that if the 8 ball is pocketed on the break without fouling, the breaking player wins instantly (but loses instantly if a foul also occurred).
A player will continue to shoot until he/she commits a foul or fails to pocket one of the object balls. Then, the other player takes his/her turn. Play alternates like this for the remainder of the game.
Pocketing the 8 ball
Once all the player's object balls are pocketed, he/she may attempt to sink the 8 ball. To win, the player must first call which pocket they plan to sink the 8 ball into.Neither the cross nor the spider are allowed to be used whilst the player is attempting to sink the 8 ball. If the 8 ball is shot into the wrong pocket or a foul (see below) occurs, the player loses. Otherwise, the player's turn is over.
- Further information: Foul
When one player commits a foul or scratch, the other player will get two shots, the player may not move the white ball on his/her shot, but may hit and pocket any ball on the table excluding the black ball
Possible set of rules
The rules for eight-ball may be the most contested of any billiard game. Many people in the US use the WPA/BCA, IPT or amateur league rules as their standard, though others may use their own house rules, which vary not only from area to area but even from venue to venue.
One possible set of rules follows, which does not exactly match the WPA/BCA or IPT rules (which conflict on minor points):
- the player has legally pocketed the 8 ball
- the player pockets the 8 ball while (s)he still has object balls in his/her group on the table
- the player pockets the 8 ball in the same shot as the last object ball in his/her group
- the player has jumped the 8 ball off the table
- the player commits a foul while attempting to pocket 8 ball.
Possible fault situations:
- 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 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 the cue
- the player touches any other ball
- the player causes a ball to leave the table
- the player hits the ball into another players ball and makes their ball go into the pocket
A legal stroke is defined as:
- the player hits the cue ball with the tip of the cue, then the cue ball hits one of the balls of that player's group of balls, then either the player pockets one of the player's own balls (not necessarily the one hit), or any ball hits a cushion.
Differences between UK and U.S.
In the version of pool or Eight Ball played in the United Kingdom, plain unnumbered red balls and yellow balls often replace the solid and striped balls. The black ball, however, still typically 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.
The cue ball is often placed initially directly opposite the other balls, on the boundary line of the kitchen.
Whether a ball contacts the rail, or the player pots one of his own balls, is irrelevant in deciding a foul. Instead, a legal move is one where the cueball first hits one of the balls in the player's own group, and does not pot the cueball, the black ball or any of the balls in the opponent's group. If the player does succeed in potting one of his own balls then he or she will often be rewarded with a free shot.
After a foul stroke in the UK, the offending player will miss a turn - known as the "two shots" rule. This generally replaces the "ball in hand" rule, except in the case that the cueball is potted. In this case the opposing player, in addition to receiving a second shot, may choose where to place the cueball. Sometimes the player is limited to the semicircle ("the D"), although the horizontal boundary line of the "kitchen" can also be permitted. It should also be noted there has never been a one-shot on the black rule despite popular belief, the EPA rules can be found at http://www.epa.org.uk/wrules.php
A common area of contention concerns "fouls on the black". Possibilities include:
- Any foul committed while shooting for the black ball is an instant loss.
- Any foul committed while both players are shooting for the black ball is an instant loss.
- Any foul committed while one's opponent is shooting for the black ball entitles the opponent to only one shot.
Similarly, there is contention over two shots "carrying over". Possibilities include:
- If a player has two shots, and pots a ball with the first, he still has two shots.
- If a player has two shots, and pots a ball with the first, he now has one shot left.
- Rule 1 applies unless the potted ball is his last coloured ball, in which case rule 2 applies.
Lastly, the question of "shooting backwards" after the white ball is respotted following being potted. Possibilities here include:
- A player may not hit a ball on or behind the line without hitting another ball or cushion first.
- A player may not "shoot backwards", but may shoot at balls behind the line provided that the direction of motion of the white ball is forwards.
- A player may shoot backwards.
Further disagreement may arise over whether it is acceptable to deliberately pot the white ball (usually if a "no shooting backwards" rule is in effect, and the opponents' balls are behind the line).
"Global" tournament eight-ball rules
The World Pool-Billiard Association (with national affiliates such as the Billiard Congress of America) promulgates the World Standardized Rules for amateur and professional play. The International Pool Tour has also established an "international" set of rules for professional play, used in major tournaments broadcast on television.
On January 1st, 2006, "blackball" rules were introduced world-wide for the UK and other countries playing "small table, English pool". The idea is that blackball should unify the various existing rule-sets. These rules are sanctioned by the World Pool-Billiard Association. A guide to these rules can be found at www.blackball.info  The governing body for blackball in Europe is the European Blackball Association.
Other Rule Variations
In Mexico and parts of South America, the 1 ball must be pocketed in the right side pocket relative to the end of the table you break 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 many times a player's strategy will revolve around getting the 1 or 15 in. When racking the balls with this variation, the 1 and 15 balls are placed behind the 8 ball at the center of the rack, the 1 ball on the right and the 15 ball on the left.
Bank-the-eight is a common American amateur variation, especially on coin-operated tables (because it makes the game last longer), in which the 8 ball must be banked or kicked, off one or more cushions, into the 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 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 suit); all other rules apply as usual. Another Latin American variant, of last-pocket in particular, is that each player is allowed two cue ball scratches when shooting for the 8, which simply end the shooter's turn at the table; only the third such scratch is a loss of game (though scratching the 8 ball itself off of 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.
- ^ Shamos, Michael Ian (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. New York, NY: Lyons & Burford, Page 85. ISBN 1-55821-219-1.
- ^ Jewett, Bob (February 2002). "8-Ball Rules: The many different versions of one of today's most common games". Billiards Digest Magazine: Page 22-23.
- ^ Ralph Hickok (2001). Sports History: Pocket Billiards. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
- ^ Billiard Congress America (1995-2005) A Brief History of the Noble Game of Billiards by Mike Shamos. Retrieved December 13, 2006.
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