8-Ball Vs. 9-Ball - What's the Difference

8-Ball vs. 9-ball

By Phill Williams
9th Mar, 2023, 12 min read

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There are quite a bit of variation of games that can be played on a pool table. Out of all, Eight-ball and Nine-ball are the most common and most popular.

You may already be familiar with 8-ball, which is the quintessential pool table game. This is the same game that many think of when they hear the word "Pool." On the other hand, 9-ball pool is what you mostly see in the televised events and is massively popular in the states.

In Eight-ball, the players need to pocket the 8-ball to win the game, and that's the reason it's referred to as '8-ball'. Similarly, in Nine-ball, you need to pot the 9-ball to win the game.

While both the games are played on the same standard pool table but the rules, regulations, and strategy used vastly vary.

Let's take a look at the difference between these two popular games:

8 Ball vs. 9 Ball

> The Objective of the game

In Eight-ball, the first player who legally pockets all of his/her set of balls - 1 through 7 (solid) or 8 through 15 (stripes) and then legally pockets the 8-ball wins the frame.

The players can score their
set of balls in any order. Whereas in Nine-ball players are shooting for the lowest numbered ball on the table and whoever pots the 9 numbered ball wins the frame.

Also, in 8-ball, you cannot pot the 8-ball before all your set of balls have been pocketed. In contrast, in 9-ball, if you shoot your object ball (in order) and indirectly knock the 9-ball in any pocket, you WIN.

> Strategy

Both the games require different strategies – 8-ball is more of a thinker's game, and 9-ball is primarily a shooter's game. If you make a mistake or play a wrong shot, you still stand a chance in 8-ball, but in 9-ball, that may very well be Game Over for you.

9-ball requires a lot of cue ball movement, and you would need to use English more often. The game also requires extensive use of the rails to get in the right position strategically.

> Number of Balls

The two games use a different number of balls as well.

In Eight-ball, you play with 15 standard pool balls (7 solid, 7 stripes and 8-ball) and a cue ball. In American pool, 2 and a quarter-inch (2-1/4") stripe and solid balls are used while in British pool, 2-inch solid red and yellow balls are used. However, the playing rules remain the same.

In contrast, Nice-ball is played with 9 balls numbered 1 through 9 and a cue ball. Generally, the game is played on an American pool table with two and a quarter-inch ball (2-1/4").

Summary: 8-ball is played with 15 balls and a cue ball while 9-ball is played with 9 balls and a cue ball.

8-Ball Rack Vs, 9-Ball Rack

8-Ball Rack (Right) Vs. 9-Ball Rack (Left)

> The Rack

The balls are racked differently, too.

In 8-ball, you have a triangular rack with 8-ball at the center, and a solid and strip ball at the side corners and the rest of the balls are placed randomly.

In contrast, 9-ball uses a diamond rack with 9-ball at the center, 1-ball at the top of the diamond (foot spot), and rest balls placed randomly.

Summary: 8-ball uses a triangle rack while in a 9-ball diamond rack is used.

8-Ball Rack

How to Properly rack in 8-ball

> The Break

Breaking Guidelines in 8-ball

Breaking Guidelines in 8-ball

In 8-ball, the player can place the cue ball anywhere behind the head string. Similarly, in 9-ball, you can place the cue ball anywhere behind the head string or baulk line, but some tournaments restrict placing the cue ball between the second and third diamond of the headrail (break box).

This is primarily done to give a fighting chance to the opponent. With time players have become quite good at breaking from the sides; as a result, they might end up winning frame after frames without even letting the opponent play a single shot.

In 8-ball, if you pocket the 8-ball during a break, you can either request for a re-rack or have the 8-ball spotted. However, in the game of 9-ball, if you pocket the 9 numbered ball in the opening break, you win, and it's called the Golden Break.

The golden break is primarily a result of a bad rack, and it's almost impossible to score one on a tight rack. You can find more discussion on this topic here.

Summary: You break from behind the head string in both the games. However, in 8-ball, if you pocket the 8-ball during the opening break, you lose.

In contrast, in 9-ball, if you pocket the 9 numbered ball in the opening break, you WIN.

Breaking Guidelines in 9-ball

Breaking Guidelines in 8-ball

> Call Shots

In 8-ball, it's mandatory to call the shots before you make the shot. While it's not important for the obvious shots, but for the complex and trickier ones, you need to specify first which pocket are you going to pot the ball in.

In 9-ball, you don't need to call the shots.

> Governing Body

8-Ball has primarily two sets of world-recognized rules set forth by the World Pool-Billiard Association (WPA) and the World Eightball Pool Federation (WEPF). The European affiliate of WPA is the EBA (European Blackball Association), and its members play 8-ball as per the rules laid down by WPA.

9-ball is primarily governed by the Billiards Congress of America (BCA), although some amateur leagues are governed by American Poolplayers Association (APA), which has slightly different rules. The women billiards is governed by the Women's Professional Billiard Association (WPBA) in the United States.

In Europe, 9-ball is governed by the European Pocket Billiard Federation (EPBF), which is the affiliate of BCA.

8-Ball Pool Rules

8-Ball Rules

The rules of 8-ball can vary a lot between tournaments because of different governing bodies managing it. Then, there are also house rules which vary from bar to bar.

That said, here are the general rules of 8-ball:

The game of 8-ball starts with deciding who breaks first. Generally, that’s determined by either a coin toss or playing a lag. The winner of the toss breaks the rack.

For a legal break, at least four balls should hit the cushion or result in at least one ball being pocketed. If the player fails to make a legal break, the incoming player has the option to either accept the layout and shoot or request for a re-rack.

  • If the ball jumps off the table during the break: The ball remains out, and the opponent has the ball in hand and free to shoot anywhere behind the head string.
  • If you scratch during a break: Opponent gets the ball-in-hand behind the head string.
  • If you pocket the 8-ball and scratch: Under American Pool Association (APA) rules, the player loses the game. However, under the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) rules, the opponent gets the ball-in-hand, and the game continues.

>> Open Table

After the break shot, the table remains open, i.e., the players are still not allotted the set (solid or stripe) until the next shot. Even if the player makes multiple balls during the break, the table would still remain open.

At this point, the player can hit either the stripe or solid ball. Depending on what type of ball he/she scores, the players are allotted the group. After the groups are allotted, the players can't hit each other's balls directly.

However, in most of the bars and local clubs slightly different rule is adopted. Depending on what the player pockets during the break, he is allocated the group. So if he pockets a solid ball, he gets the solid group, and if he pockets one of each group, then he has a choice to choose any group.

>> Game Flow

After the groups are allotted, players take turns to pocket their group balls first. A player continues shooting as long as he keeps on pocketing his group's balls. If he misses or commits a foul, the turn goes to the opponent.

The winner is the one who legally pockets the 8-ball after potting all his group balls.

>> The shooter loses if

  • Pockets the 8-ball in a different pocket then called for
  • Pocketing the 8-ball before all of his/her group balls are pocketed
  • Jumping the 8-ball off the table
  • Scratching while pocketing the 8-ball

>> Common Fouls (Results in a loss of turn)

  • Hitting the opponent's group ball(s) directly
  • Pocketing the opponent's group balls
  • Pocketing the cue ball or if the cue ball does not strike the object ball
  • Jumping the cue ball off the table
  • Pushing the cue ball rather striking it
  • Double hitting the cue ball
  • Shooting the balls before other balls have fully settled
  • Touching the cue ball with anything except the cue tip

9-Ball Pool Rules

Setting Up the 9-ball Rack

The rules of 9-ball are relatively simpler and somewhat similar to 8-ball.

Similar to 8-ball, the game starts with deciding who breaks first. This is decided either by a coin toss or lagging.

While breaking the shooter must hit the 1-ball (top of the diamond) such that at least one ball is pocketed or at least three balls touch the rails.

If the shooter fails to make a legal break, the opponent can request for re-racking and have the option of breaking.

Fouls during the break:

  • If 1-ball was not struck
  • Scratching the cue ball
  • If any numbered ball jumps off the table or rests on the top of the rail

The above fouls result in ball-in-hand, and the opponent can keep the cue ball anywhere on the table, unlike 8-ball, where he/she can place the ball behind the head string only.

If the shooter legally pockets the 9-ball during the break, he/she wins the frame.

>> Game Flow

As long as the shooter keeps on potting the balls in order (lowest-numbered first), the player retains his/her chance. If the player misses or commits a foul, the turn goes to the other opponent.

It does not matter which player scores how many balls. The winner is the one who legally pockets the 9-ball. The player may have very well done the handwork of pocketing most of the balls, but if the opponent manages to pocket the 9-ball legally, he WINS.

Also, while the players need to follow the order of scoring balls at all times, but if one manages to pocket the 9-ball using the right object ball indirectly, he/she still Wins.

>> Common Fouls

  • Scratching the cue ball
  • Not hitting the ball in the right order
  • If neither the cue ball or the object ball after being hit touch the rail
  • Jumping the balls off the table (the ball remains pocketed though)
  • Shooting while all the balls have still not come to rest
  • Double hitting the cue ball

All the above fouls result in ball-in-hand. The opponent is free to keep the cue ball anywhere on the table and shoot.

Summing it up

Essentially both games: 8-ball and 9-ball are equally great and present their own set of challenges. The game of 9-ball pool is fast-paced and a lot of fun. On the other hand, 8-ball requires laser-sharp focus and tactical moves to outwit your opponent, similar to chess.

The rules mentioned above are broad guidelines, and you may find slight variations depending on where you play.

I sincerely hope this guide could successfully answer your query!

Did I miss anything? Do you play with a different set of rules? I would like to know.

Please share your thoughts in the comment sections below.

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