Overview of the Game
You just read that the rules of the games differ from pool league to pool league and player to player. So how do you know what rules you are playing from place to place? You don't always, but all you have to do is ask the new group of players about their specific rules of play. The differences are usually subtle enough to require a short discussion before play begins.
If you play with the same crowd of people on a regular basis, you will, of course, pick up the rules by which they play. If you play in various places with new people, you may want to have a little chat before you pick up the cue so that you're all on the same page. The rules you will learn in this chapter are a good guideline to get you started.
Eight ball can be played with either two opposing players or in pairs. It is played using all fifteen object balls (and the cue ball, of course). This is where the stripes and solids come into play. As you learned earlier, the solid balls are numbered 1 through 7 (these are the balls that are one solid color with a number on it — usually a black number on a white background). The striped balls are numbered 9 through 15. What about the 8 ball? The 8 ball is solid and black and it will take on a whole new meaning for you when you look at the table now.
The goal is to pocket all of your object balls (either stripes or solids) and then to legally pocket the 8 ball. The first player to accomplish this wins. However, if you pocket the 8 ball before you pocket the rest of your balls, you lose.
If you've been playing straight pool, you will know all about call shots by this point. But just in case, let's review it now. To “call” a shot means you announce to the other players which of your object balls you will strike into which pocket. You don't have to call any specialty shots, just the ball that will land in the pocket. For example, if you are going to strike the 7 ball into the 9 ball in order to pocket the 7 ball, you don't have to say so. You just have to sink that 7 ball.
When you've pocketed all your object balls and you go to pocket the 8 ball, you have to call it just like any other shot. If you miss the pocket, you give up your turn at the table and your opponent gets to shoot.
So far so good? Everything sounds pretty simple so far, doesn't it? It is, except for when that tricky 8 ball gets in your way — not to mention all your opponent's object balls. The reason eight ball is so popular among the amateur players is because the object of the game is easy to understand. Pocket your object balls and then the 8 ball and it's all over.
What about when all your good shots are lodged somewhere behind your opponent's object balls and there's just no way around them? Now you see why it's so important to learn those techniques you read about in earlier chapters. Position and safety play are critical to your game because it all comes down to offensive and defensive play. Practicing your strategy and shot-making will enable you to successfully pocket your object balls and eventually get to that 8 ball. With plenty of practice you won't find it too difficult to maneuver your way around the table — challenging, yes, but isn't that what it's all about?
Once you've pocketed all your object balls, you are ready to take aim at the 8 ball for the win. You have to call the shot and mark the pocket. To mark the pocket, you may use any agreed-upon object (a coaster, a hairpin, whatever you have on hand). Place the object on the table next to the pocket into which you will pocket the 8 ball. If you're playing socially with friends, you can forgo the marker and verbally designate the pocket you wish for the 8 ball.