There are a lot of different variations to the rules of pool especially when you’re switching from one type of pool game to another. One of the biggest misconceptions is whether a player is allowed to use their opponents ball in a game of pool. I decided to conduct some research on the topic.
According to the official rules of pool you cannot hit your opponent’s ball first with the cue ball right after striking it. If you are out of balls to sink then the only other ball that you can hit first is going to be the 8 ball (in 8 ball).
Between the two most popular pool games (8 ball and 9 ball) the only game where you are assigned a set of balls is 8 ball. In 9 ball, players take turns attempting to sink the lowest-numbered ball (1-9 balls).
In the game of 8 ball you need to first strike your own ball with the cue ball otherwise it is considered a scratch meaning you automatically lose your turn. Scratches can also be given when you sink the cue ball, sink one of your opponents balls, or you don’t hit any balls.
You cannot hit your opponents ball first but can you use them otherwise? Yes you can. If you hit your ball into your opponents ball and it gives you an advantage of sinking one of your own then you are good. Keep in mind that sinking one of your opponents balls will be a scratch and that the ball will remain pocketed.
Other Relevant Rules
8 ball has a long set of complicated rules to follow but it’s important to remember all of them especially when you’re playing for money. Here are a couple of other important rules to remember when playing 8 ball:
Call Shots: When playing a game of 8 ball each player needs to indicate the objective ball as well as the pocket they’re going to sink it in to. This is the only information you need to provide. As long as your hit is legal then you don’t have to state the specifics. If the hit is obvious you do not have to specify your move.
Racking: Different games of pool have you rack the balls in a specific way. For 8 ball, there must be 1 striped and 1 solid ball in each of the corners farthest away from the breaker. The 8 ball must be in the middle of the third row. Every other available space can be filled the way the player wants it to be.
Breaking: A break is considered legal only if the breaker pockets at least 1 ball or causes 4 numbered balls to make contact with the rails. If it’s an illegal break the opponent gets to decide if they want to keep the balls in the same position or if they want to re-break the balls themselves.
Scratching on a Break: If the breaker scratches on a break but manages to make it a legal break (usually pocketing the cue ball) then all the balls pocketed will remain pocketed, the table is open (players aren’t assigned stripes or solids), and the other player starts off with the cue ball in hand.
Legal Shot: Players must hit their own balls first and pocket at least 1 numbered ball or cause the cue ball or their numbered ball to hit the rail. If they fail to do either it will be considered a foul and their opponent will be awarded ball in hand.
Object Balls Jump the Table: If any object ball jumps off the table the player will be given a foul or a loss of turn. However, if it was the 8 ball that jumped off the table then it is an automatic loss of the game for that player.
Other Automatic Loses: Pocketing the 8 ball during any time other than the break or when a player pocketed all their other balls will be an automatic loss. If the 8 ball is pocketed when it’s the last ball but not in the designated pocket the player will lose.
What if You Pocket the 8 Ball During Break?
If during a game of 8 ball the 8 ball is pocketed during the break then the breaker can request to re-rack the balls or have the 8 ball spotted (placed back on the table on the foot spot). This is not an automatic loss.
What is the Best Break Technique in Pool?
The first thing you need to do before breaking is to make sure that all of the balls are touching. This will insure that the kinetic energy from the cue ball is transferred to all of the other balls. It doesn’t matter much where you put the cue ball before you shoot but you want a good view of the ball you’re aiming at.
Most professional players shoot for either ball in the second row. When shooting you want to make sure that your cue stick is completely level. This will prevent the cue ball from jumping off the table as well as preventing any spin on the cue ball. Spin takes away the power of the ball.