How to Win in 8-Ball Pool: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet


Pool, or billiards, is a game you’ll find in practically any bar in America. It’s a pastime for people of all ages. Over time, this skills-based game has developed several variations, which have quickly spread across the world.

As of 2013, an estimated 34.5 million Americans play pool, making it one of the most popular games in the country. It’s a way to test your skills, challenge your friends, and even take it to the professional level.

Wanna play 8-ball? Here’s everything you need to know about how to be good at 8-ball pool.

What is 8-Ball Pool?

“8-ball, anyone?”

It’s a call you’ll likely hear in most bars around the country. The game is simple enough to understand but takes a lifetime to master.

The game of 8-ball pool involves 16 balls on the table, including seven solid and seven striped pool balls. There’s also the black 8-ball and a white cue ball. All seven of a player’s pool balls must be potted before they can sink the black and win the game.

Every country has its rule variations, making it vital to discuss them beforehand to ensure you don’t fall victim to foul rules and other quirks.

The origins of 8-ball pool are not well understood, including who was the mastermind behind the game. However, historians can confirm that the history of pool begins with the older game of pyramid pool.

It’s predicted that the game developed around 1900 in the U.S., with nine-ball following a few years later. The game boomed across the country, followed by a post-war slide until it was eventually picked up again.

With multiple world championships, video games, and home billiards sets, 8-ball pool has cemented itself in American culture.

The most significant evolution in modern 8-ball is that American players are used to striped and solid balls, or spots and stripes. Players in the UK use the traditional colored balls, solid, unnumbered reds and yellows, with a black 8-ball and a yellow cue ball. Once upon a time, these were the same balls used in the American version of the game.

Today, there are several ways to play the game. Avid players may have tables in their homes, whereas others head out to the bar. If you’re an iPhone user, you can also play 8-ball pool by text via advancements in iMessage software. Others visit platforms like Arkadium to enjoy the game online.

If you’re interested in knowing how to win in 8-ball pool, you need to learn the rules and how to integrate 8-ball strategy into your game.

How to Play 8-Ball Pool

American pool rules are the gold standard for professionals and many amateur leagues. However, 8-ball rules are among the most inconsistent on the planet, with many informal games adopting house rules. It’s not uncommon for practices to differ from location to venue.

Generally, World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) rules are most likely to be used in formal amateur and professional settings. This guide will teach you 8-ball pool rules for simple play.

It’s always important to ask which rules you’re playing by when facing a new opponent or playing in a new venue to avoid embarrassing missteps.

How to Set the Pool Balls Up

How are pool balls supposed to be set up?

First, the initial strike of the cue ball, known as the break, occurs from the upper horizontal line of the table, known as the head string. Most rules dictate starting from behind the line or within the semi-circle.

The balls themselves will be arranged into a triangle using a triangular rack. The base of the rack is positioned parallel to the end rail with the apex at the foot spot.

The order of the balls is randomized. However, the eight ball must be at the center of the rack, in the middle of the third row. The two back-corner balls must also be alternating.

The player selected to break will strike the cue ball and break apart the triangle. At this point, the table is open. Anyone can aim for any ball other than the eight ball. The first person to sink a ball can choose between spots or stripes.

Why the Balls are Striped and Spotted

Some people refer to the solid balls as spots, solids, or, occasionally, lows. So, what does stripes mean in 8-ball? And what about solids?

These all reference your various object balls. The different patterns and colors are a hangover from early television coverage and nothing more.

During the days of black-and-white television, yellow and red balls were nearly impossible to distinguish. Opting for solid and striped balls made it easier for viewers to see where each player’s pool balls were on screen.

Other than for aesthetic purposes, there’s no gameplay reason for choosing stripes over any monochromatic color or pattern.

Calling Shots

Calling shots involves choosing a ball and a pocket. If the ball does not go in the required pocket, it counts as a foul shot, regardless of whether another player’s ball hit the called pocket or another pocket entirely.

Truthfully, most amateur players won’t call their shots. Instead, calling a shot is limited to the eight-ball exclusively. Failure to pot the eight-ball into the called pocket, or sinking the cue ball alongside it, means the other player automatically wins.

So, why is calling shots not preferred for object balls? Simply put, most players aren’t good enough not to make constant fouls. Amateur players will usually make up their own shot-calling rules between themselves.

Foul Shots

What constitutes a foul depends on the rules you’re playing by. Generally, the standard rules of all variants also apply to eight-ball. For example, if you pot the cue ball at any time, it counts as a scratch.

Specific eight-ball fouls include:

  • The player fails to hit one of their object balls first with the cue ball. This does not apply if the cue ball strikes the ball and the opponent’s ball simultaneously, known as a split shot.
  • If a ball hits a pocket, bounces out, and hits the ground, the ball is placed into the pocket, and the game continues.
  • The shooter fails to call the pocket before striking the eight-ball when it’s the legal ball.
  • The shooter deliberately pockets their opponent’s ball when targeting the eight-ball.
  • A foul is called on the break if no balls are pocketed and at least four balls fail to strike the cushions. The non-shooting player can choose whether to take a re-rack, a re-break, or continue playing with a foul applied.

Note that the application of fouls varies based on the venue. Many U.S. players choose to place the ball anywhere and take one free shot. European players often put the ball behind the head string but receive two free shots.

Finishing the Game

To win, you must legally sink all seven of your object balls and the 8-ball.

This is one game where it’s possible to win without allowing your opponent to take a shot. It’s also possible to win without ever taking a shot, such as if your opponent illegally pockets the eight-ball.

Note that the rules that apply to pocketing the eight ball off the break are some of the most contentious. Some jurisdictions call it an automatic win, others call it an automatic loss, whereas others require a re-rack.

How to Win in 8-Ball Pool: Tips and Tricks

Are you wondering how to win on 8-ball pool?

As previously noted, the game can take a lifetime to master. Newer players often overthink the game. Applying just a few smart strategies can give you an advantage while perfecting your technique.

Follow these tips on your journey to becoming the resident pool shark.

Watch for Fouls

Newer players ruin their chances of winning a game because they make silly fouls. Watch out for them and search for opportunities to make your opponent foul the ball.

For example, if there are no easy shots, tapping one of them to leave the cue ball in a difficult position could win you a free shot.

Keep Calm on Your Shots

Crucial shots lead to pressure, and you will make mistakes if you’re under pressure. Some people do worse under pressure than others.

Whether you’re playing online or offline 8-ball pool, sweaty palms, and fingers can cause you to strike your shots poorly.

Take a deep breath and relax your mind before a pivotal shot.

Focus on the Cue Ball

Beginners are obsessed with putting the balls into pockets. It makes sense because it’s the object of the game. But potting a ball could leave you in a tight spot if you're playing someone good.

Experienced players are clever because they will take the shots that leave the cue ball set up for an easier shot. They’re always thinking about where they’ll take their next shot from.

Blocking Pockets

Watching your ball ricochet around the jaws of the pocket and roll away is disheartening, to say the least.

Bad aim and cue action is the obvious cause, but not getting your power right is quite another. It’s always better to hit the cue ball too lightly than too hard.

Shots that leave one of your object balls blocking the pocket are a great strategic move. Even though you’re handing control of the cue ball back to your opponent, you’ve stopped them from using that pocket. Moreover, you’ve got an easy shot for later.

It’s not uncommon for players to leave two or three pockets blocked with their game balls, allowing them to make a late-game flurry.

Disrupt Your Opponent

Don’t try to make the impossible shot. If there’s a shot you know you’re unlikely to succeed with, think about how you can disrupt your opponent’s chances.

Consider knocking one of your object balls into one of theirs. For example, if one of their game balls is facing the middle pocket, hit your ball into theirs and put it up against the cushion.

It’s an easy way to frustrate your opponent and prevent them from taking the lead.

Learn the Value of Spin

Spin, or English as the technical term goes, focuses on controlling where the cue ball lands after striking the ball.

Several types of shots exist to control where the cue ball goes. Ball control prevents unnecessary fouls, such as leaving the cue ball inside a pocket.

The first shot you should learn is the stun shot. Strike the ball at the lower middle, and the cue ball will come to a halt after it hits the object ball. Hit the upper middle, and the cue ball will keep rolling forward after hitting the object ball.

You can also aim for the sides to cause it to move in the corresponding direction. Power will influence how significant the spin is, so be careful not to overdo it or underdo it.

Keep Calm and Enjoy

Remember, it’s only a game!

Players who approach the game intent on having fun will always be calmer and less stressed. Relaxed players are more likely to get more from the game, including extra wins.

Put Your Pool Skills to the Test with Arkadium

Figuring out how to win in 8-ball pool starts with learning the rules and intricacies of the game. Anyone can easily pick it up after a few rounds.

Arkadium offers a selection of free games and super-affordable subscriptions — no downloads required! Test your 8-ball skills online or try out common variations before challenging your friends and family.

Play Arkadium’s 8-ball pool game now and become the master of the table.