Basic Eight Ball Rules

By Lisa Dorward
8-Ball is played by 2 players.
billard image by Magalice from

Billiard games are played with a set of 15 billiard balls numbered 1 to 15. Balls 1 through 7 are solid colors, the 8-ball is black, and balls 9 through 15 are striped. The game 8-Ball is played by two players. One must pocket the solid colored balls and the other must pocket the striped ones. The player that pockets his group first, then the 8-ball, wins the game.

The Break Shot

several options, who, the break shot
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When the balls are stabilized, the triangle form is removed and one of the players takes the break shot. Common ways for determining who takes the break shot are to alternate, go with the losing player in the previous game or go with the player trailing in game count.

A Legal Break Shot

The legal break, the game
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A break is considered legal when the shooter pockets a ball or scatters the balls such that four or more numbered balls are driven to the rails. If neither of these occurs, it is a foul and the breaker’s opponent may choose to play the table as it is, re-rack the balls and take the break shot or re-rack and have his opponent make the break shot again. If the breaker pockets the 8-ball, he chooses whether to spot the 8-ball and play on or have a re-break. If the breaker pockets the 8-ball and scratches (pockets the cue ball), his opponent gets to choose whether to spot the 8-ball and play the table as is or re-rack. If the breaker scratches only, it counts as a foul, any pocketed balls remain so and the table remains open (i.e., neither player is assigned a group yet).

Choosing a Group

a legal break shot, the shooter, which group, balls
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Which player takes the solid balls and which takes the stripes is determined by the first shot after the break.

Call Shot

The shooter, the number, the ball, the pocket
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Each player must call out the number of the ball he intends to pocket before his shot.

First Shot

a foul, the opponent, the cue ball, the head
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On the first shot after the break, the shooter chooses the ball he will pocket, thereby choosing his group for the rest of the game. The first ball contacted does not have to be the ball called. But if the 8-ball is the first ball contacted, it is a foul and the shooter loses his turn and does not get credit for any balls pocketed. His opponent gets to spot the cue ball, any pocketed balls remain pocketed, and he calls his shot, thereby choosing his group.


Pocketing the 8-ball ends the game.
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A shooter continues his turn until he fails to pocket a ball in the group called. After the player pockets all balls in his group, he must pocket the 8-ball.

Foul Shot

any foul, the opponent, the cue
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In the case of a foul, the shooter loses his turn and his opponent gets to spot the cue ball and call his shot.

Foul Shot

any ball, the one, any pocket, the one
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It is a foul to pocket any ball other than the one called, or to sink the correct ball in the wrong pocket.

About the Author

Lisa Dorward was a corporate financial executive and business consultant for more than 15 years before becoming a writer in 2003. She has B.A. degrees in both history and creative writing and earned her M.F.A. in creative writing in 2008, specializing in novel-length historical fiction.