We've all been there. You're at the end of an epic game of pool. Although you've taken the time to line up your shot on the 8-ball, you know that this is do-or-die. So you take your shot and scratch the 8-ball with the cue ball. What does scratching on the 8-ball mean? Is the game over?
You see, there are lots of variables in the game of billiards. Not least of which are different people's interpretations of the rules.
For instance, did you know that there are two sets of rules? It's true!
Tournament rules are different from bar rules. Then there are different views on what scratching on the 8-ball actually means. Did you touch it? Did it go in the wrong pocket? Or perhaps it bounced off three rails?
Before you play your next game of pool, find out what does scratching on the 8-ball mean.
What Does Scratching on the 8-Ball Mean?
It's a question that drives you nuts. How do you determine if you're scratching on the 8-ball or if it's a legal play?
As we pointed out, there are many interpretations out there, and everyone seems to have their own variation of the rules.
But you can set the law down with some hard-and-fast rules taken right out of the Valley National Eight-Ball Association rule book. These are the guys (and gals) who play Champions tournaments in Las Vegas every year. This is the top of the sport.
Here's what it says about scratching on the 8-ball.
- 1If you pocket the 8-ball when it's not the legal ball (the ball you called)
- 2If you pocket the 8-ball on the same stroke as the last of the group of balls
- 3If you jump the 8-ball off the table at any time
- 4If you pocket the 8-ball and the cue ball on the same stroke
- 5If you pocket the 8-ball in a different pocket than the one you called
As you can see, there are five unbreakable rules as to when you lose if you scratch on the 8-ball.
But what about those people who swear up and down that you lost if the cue ball brushes past the 8-ball? Or what happens when you sink the 8-ball on the break?
You're still in the game. Of course, a lot depends on which rules you're using.
Tournament vs. Bar Rules
Did you know that there are two sets of rules for 8-ball billiards? There are the highly-rigid tournament rules, and then there are the looser, yet honorable, bar rules.
Both have evolved over the years, and there's no denying that they've heavily influenced each other. After all, billiards began as lawn bowling and then moved indoors, into the taverns of 15th Century Europe (that's why the felt is green, to simulate grass).
But before we look at the differences in rules, let's look at some rules which are the same.
That's where the commonalities end.
So you want to know the tournament rules so you can better argue with your friends the next time you play? Let's jump right in.
Next, we have the much more interesting, and controversial, bar rules of 8-ball pool. That's because everyone tends to interpret the rules differently. However, there are actual bar leagues, and they have some of their rules written down.
See? There are some wild variations on the rules of pool depending on whether you're in a tournament or a bar.
That being said, when it comes to scratching on the 8-ball, there are some clear cut cases where you can keep playing.
When Is It Not a Loss?
While it may be true that you want to keep away from the 8-ball as much as possible, you don't have to be terrified of it. That is until it's time to nail it home and win the game.
You see, there are lots of allowances in the official rules of 8-ball. For instance, did you know that you can use the 8-ball in a combination shot?
If you need to put another ball in a pocket and the 8-ball is blocking you, hit the 8-ball to push your ball into the pocket. Of course, you run the risk of sinking the 8-ball and losing, but if you're good at combos then why not?
But there's more.
According to the 1997 Standardized World Rules of 8-Ball Billiards, there are two times when you can scratch on the 8-ball and keep on playing.
Scratch on the break
Think about this for a moment: it's the beginning of the game. The balls are racked properly with the 8-ball in the middle of the triangle. You're lining up your break, and you fire.
A perfect break, except that the 8-ball rolled into a corner pocket! What now?
Well, according to the official rules of tournaments, you just pull the 8-ball back up, place it on the lower dot, and forfeit your turn to your opponent.
However, in bar rules, if you didn't pocket the cue ball, then you've won the game! But, if you did pocket the cue ball, the 8-ball is pulled up and placed on the lower dot, and your opponent gets to shoot from the kitchen.
Cue ball misses the 8-ball
If you're shooting for the 8-ball, and miss the shot, you're still in the game so long as the cue ball doesn't roll into a pocket.
Now you're probably thinking "Duh. Everybody knows that!" but there are people who believe you have to make contact with the 8-ball or you lose.
That's just not true. If your cue ball doesn't touch the 8-ball but stays on the table, you're still in this.
How to Avoid Scratching on the 8-Ball
By now you realize that you should probably take better care of your shots.
That can be hard to do after a few hours in the local bar. However, there are always some tricks you can keep in your back pocket.
If you want to avoid scratching on the 8-ball, start with the obvious. Don't drink too much. Nothing ruins your pool game like seeing double. But if you're not drinking, then you can turn to some other great tips to avoid scratching on the 8-ball.
Select the right cue.
For starters, you can find a good cue. Ordinarily, that's close to impossible when choosing from the well-used collection at the local pool hall or bar. Still, there are precautions you can take.
For instance, hold the cue up to your eye, so you're looking down the length of it from the base. Is it warped? Rotate it in your hand, looking for warps or bulges. Chances are they'll all be warped, but if you can find the least-warped stick, you're off to a good start.
Use the 90-degree rule
Next, understand a little physics. Every time your cue ball hits another ball, so long as there's no backspin or jumping, it will separate at a 90-degree angle. In math-speak, this is because the kinetic energy from your shot is transferred to the target ball. The cue ball has no other place to go.
So, look at the angle you're shooting at, and imagine a line drawn from the target ball along the direction it will travel. Then, figure out what 90-degrees away from the line is. That's where your cue ball will go. If there's a pocket at the end of that 90-degree angle, you might want to reconsider the shot!
Call every shot
Finally, one great way to hone your game and avoid embarrassing mistakes is to call every shot. Seriously. It doesn't matter if you're playing on a scratched up coin-table at the local watering hole. Call each shot.
You'll be surprised how much more accurate you are when you've announced to everyone what you plan on doing.
Maybe it's psychological. Perhaps it's some of that weird magic that surrounds every pool table. Either way, you can improve your game and decrease the odds of scratching on the 8-ball by calling every shot you take.
Don't Be a Pool Shark!
So, now you know what scratching on the 8-ball really looks like. Also, you know how to avoid it. Remember to use your new knowledge for good.
Clean up the table against your friends, feeding your ego. But don't use this for evil. Nobody likes a pool shark!
Do you have any tips to avoid scratching on the 8-ball? Let us know in the comments.