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What an awful feeling it is when you accidentally mess up a shot and the cue ball starts heading straight for a pocket! Your opponent now has the ball in hand and it’s a bummer. Scratching on the 8-ball, however, is different from scratching on any other object ball. It could really mean big trouble.
If you scratch on the 8-ball, do you lose? In most versions of the game, especially professional ones, if you scratch on an 8-ball, you lose, but only if the 8-ball is no longer in play. If it is in play, then it’s a foul but the game continues.
But, hang on. It’s not so simple.
What exactly is a scratch in pool? What kinds of scratches are there and what are the rules related to them? How is scratching on the 8-ball different from scratching on a break shot or on any other object ball- is it always a loss?
We’ll answer all of these pertinent questions below.
What is a scratch in pool?
Generally, a scratch in pool is when the cue ball is either driven into a pocket or struck off the pool table. It’s a foul, basically, and you get a penalty for it.
During most of the game, whenever a player scratches, it’s considered a foul and results in a ball-in-hand i.e. the opposing player gets the cue ball in hand and can place it wherever he wants for the next shot.
Note: It is still a scratch if other object balls are pocketed with the cue ball. Even if a pocket is full and the cue ball only hits the topmost ball in the pocket, it’s a scratch again (because it would have gone in if the pocket wasn’t full already).
That was the rule for most part of the game.
However, if you scratch the cue ball on the 8-ball (the 8-ball is the black ball with the number ‘8’ on it, which is the last ball a player has to pocket to win the game), the penalty is a bit different sometimes (and worse!). We’ll talk more about this in a while.
What else is considered a “scratch”?
To be exact, the cue ball being pocketed or driven off the table is not the only kind of scratch. There are some fouls called “table” scratches. These include:
- The cue ball not hitting an object ball at all
- An object ball not being pocketed and not hitting a cushion either. In this case, the cue ball does hit an object ball. But as a result, the object ball must either be pocketed or at least hit a cushion. If it does neither, it’s a scratch.
All these are considered fouls and again result in a ball-in-hand for the upcoming player.
Scratches which make you lose your turn are:
- The cue ball strikes the 8-ball first when it’s illegal.
- The cue ball strikes one of your opponent’s balls first.
- You pocket one of your opponent’s balls.
Then there are other scratches too, but these are serious ones.
- If you drive the 8-ball off the table at any time, it’s a scratch.
- If you pocket the 8-ball when it’s not a legal shot, or if you hit it to a different pocket than the one you were aiming for, again a scratch.
These last two are not just fouls. If you commit any of these, you lose right away!
Are the same scratch rules followed everywhere?
No, they vary.
The rules for a scratch foul can vary between different versions and leagues of pool. Some of the rules you may have heard may even be “bar” rules, which aren’t practiced in professional pool leagues at all.
For example, there are two common practices for a table scratch foul. In the first case, the penalty is ball-in-hand for the next player, and he can place the ball wherever he likes.
In the second common practice, however, it will still be a ball-in-hand but the player can only place the ball in the kitchen. In easy words, he can only place the ball somewhere behind the head string.
These rules, regarding where a ball can be placed, vary a bit from tournament to tournament.
What happens if you scratch on the 8-ball?
Now that you know the basics, back to our big question. Are the rules for scratching on the 8-ball the same as those for scratching on an object ball? Oh no, they’re not.
The 8-ball is the winning ball- the last ball you have to drive home after you’ve pocketed all your object balls. But even a win can actually flip into a complete loss.
Yes, you heard right. Scratching on the 8-ball could mean game over for you!
If you pocket the cue ball on the 8-ball shot, there are two possibilities:
- If you scratch the cue ball and also put the 8-ball out of play, you LOSE! That’s it. All over. You forfeit the game and your opponent wins!
- BUT, if you scratch and do not sink the 8-ball (meaning it’s still in play, still out and about!) then it’s not game over. Phew. It’s only a foul and the other player is awarded a ball-in-hand. So, there’s still hope for you.
Other ways you can scratch the 8-ball and lose the game are:
- Pocketing the 8-ball when it’s not the legal ball
- Driving the 8-ball off the table at any time in the game
- Pocketing the 8-ball in a different pocket than the one you called
Then there are also a couple more ways where you can scratch on the 8-ball and still stay in the game! These are:
- Scratching on the break. If you manage a nice break, but lo and behold you pocket the 8-ball too, then it’s just a foul.
- On a legal 8-ball shot, if the cue ball misses the 8-ball, you’ll survive (assuming the cue ball isn’t pocketed).
As you can see, there are quite a few scenarios that can come up when you talk about “scratching on the 8-ball”. Some do mean that you end up losing the game, but not all of them. Sometimes you still have a chance!
How do you lose on the 8-ball?
If you drive the 8-ball off the table, you lose. If you pocket the 8 ball but it’s a foul, then again you lose. This could mean pocketing the cue ball with the 8 ball, pocketing the 8-ball when it’s not the legal ball or pocketing it into a different pocket than the one you aimed for.
Is it a scratch if you don’t hit a ball?
Yes, it is. If you fail to hit a ball on any shot, it’s a foul and results in ball-in-hand for the next player.
Like every other ball, missing the 8-ball when it’s the legal ball is a foul too. The game will go on however. A scratch on an 8-ball shot is just a foul unless you put the 8-ball out of play, in which case you lose completely.
Do you lose if you scratch on the break in pool?
No. In professional leagues, you don’t automatically lose; it’s a foul. In some “bar” rules however, you do lose!