Basic Pool Game Rules

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Cue sports are a variety of games played with a cue stick, and the most popular of them all is pool. Pool, also known as eight ball pool or billiards, is played in homes, bars and restaurants around the world; because of this, there are many variations on the pool rules, including tournament rules and innumerable sets of local "house rules."

Before getting any deeper, it’s important to understand some basic terminology used in the game of pool.

  • Cue ball‌: A cue ball is the white ball hit by the cue with the object of hitting other balls into the pocket
  • Object ball‌: The object ball is any other ball on the table except for the cue ball
  • Break‌: The break involves hitting the cue ball from one end of the table to the other, where it will hit a group of balls to begin play
  • Head string‌: The head string is a line that passes between the second diamonds on the long rails and through the head spot
  • Foot spot‌: The foot spot is marked on the foot of the table where the apex ball of the triangle of balls is placed on a re-rack before the opening break
  • Call shot‌: According to the Billiard Congress of America, “For games of call-shot a player may shoot any ball he chooses, but before he shoots, must designate the called ball and called pocket
Chinese snooker players cue up at the la

Players and Equipment

Eight ball is a two-player (or two-team) game using a standard billiards table and cues. Official rules call for sixteen numbered balls to begin on the pool table playing surface: one white (the cue ball), one black (the eight), seven solid colored and seven striped.

For example, if Player X is the first player to pocket a ball following the break shot (let’s say a solid-colored ball), they must hit all of the other object balls that are


According to official 8-ball rules, the object of the game is to use the cue ball to knock all striped balls or solid-colored balls (depending on the player) into the pockets before the opposing player can pocket all of their balls, and then knocking the eight ball in to win.

Empty Pool Parlor


All the balls but the cue ball are placed tightly in a triangle with the apex ball on one of the two spots on the table. A stripe and a solid must be at the back corners of the triangle, and the eight must be directly behind the apex ball, but the order of the others doesn't matter. The cue is placed anywhere behind the other spot on the table.

Game play

Players take turns hitting the cue ball to knock the other balls into the pockets ("pocketing" them). Players may pocket any ball but the eight until the first ball is pocketed, at which point the player who pocketed the ball must continue pocketing the same type of balls and the other player the other type.

Whenever a player pockets a ball of his type, that player may go again. Once a player has pocketed all of his type of ball, she can attempt to pocket the eight to win. When doing so, the player must indicate ahead of time which pocket he will knock the eight ball into.

Fabio Patroni of Italy cues the ball dur


If any of the following fouls are committed, the penalty is “ball in hand” for the incoming player. Ball in hand means the non-offending player has an open table to place the cue ball anywhere on the pool table and shoot any of their balls.

According to the rules of play, these foul penalties include:

  • A player hits the cue ball into a pocket
  • A player fails to hit their object ball first (a player who is shooting solid balls must hit a solid ball first)
  • A player fails to hit a rail after contact
  • A player hits a “jump shot,” where the cue ball bounces over another ball, done purposefully
  • A player receives coaching from anyone other than that pool player’s coach
  • A cue ball leaves the playing surface
  • A player causes movement to the cue ball, even if accidental
  • A player hits the cue ball and it does not hit any other balls on the playing surface
  • A player automatically loses the pool game if he pockets the eight ball prematurely, pockets the cue ball while trying to pocket the eight ball or knocks the eight ball into a pocket other than the one he indicated before the shot.