Pool Scratch Rules

Pool Scratch Rules: 4 Ways To Avoid Scratch In Pool Like A Pro

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Have you ever pocketed the cue ball or knocked it off the table? That is a scratch in pool, a foul related to cue ball control. Not only does it make your turn end, but it also gives your opponent a huge advantage. 

Keep reading to learn about pool scratch rules, common types of scratches, and some tips on how to avoid them.

What Is Scratch In A Pool?

"Scratch" is a term used to refer to fouls involving the cue ball. A scratch occurs when you pocket the cue ball, knock it off the table, or make an illegal shot. Keep scrolling down to learn about the different types of scratches in the pool game.

scratch in pool

Scratches in a pool are fouls involving the cue ball. Image source: Mental Floss.

4 Common Types Of Scratches

Each variation of billiards and each tournament has different rules regarding scratches. Here, we help you understand the types of scratches most common to pool players of all skill levels.

Table scratches

A table scratch is a foul when you hit the cue or object ball with an illegal shot. However, a scratch on the table does not refer to your pocketing the cue ball. Some examples of a scratch on a table may include:

  • Your cue ball does not make contact with any balls after your shot.
  • You use the cue ball to hit your opponent's balls before you use it to hit your balls.
  • The cue ball and object ball do not touch the rail (or fall into the pocket). The usual cause is that your shot is not powerful enough.
  • You hit the cue ball so hard that it flew off the table. A failed jump shot can also cause the same situation.

8-ball scratches

In the 8-ball, a scratch occurs when you accidentally sink the cue ball while trying to sink the 8-ball. If the 8-ball also falls into the pocket, you lose.

During the break, you win if you sink the 8-ball, but only if you do not sink the cue ball.

Break scratches

A break scratch is when you sink the cue ball or knock it off the table during your break. Even if you pocket one or more object balls, it's still a scratch on the break.

Gameplay scratches

A gameplay scratch occurs when you sink the cue ball or knock it off the table during a game. It is similar to break scratches, except it doesn't occur when breaking.

What Happens If A Player Scratches In Pool?

1. Ball-in-hand in 8 and 9 ball

    The penalty is "ball in hand" for the next player if a scratch is committed. If your opponent scratches, you can place the cue ball anywhere and shoot any of your balls. If you are unsatisfied with the position after placing, you can adjust it with your hand or cue.

    Ball-in-hand is a big deal. It helps you pocket your brutal balls or perform an easy defensive shot for a better turn later.

    what is a scratch in pool

    Ball-in-hand means that you can put the cue ball anywhere you like.

    Image source: Pinterest.

    2. A spotted 9-ball due to pocket scratches on a pocketed 9-ball

      In the nine-ball game, you win if you pocket 1 to 8 balls and then make a 9-ball. Alternatively, if you shoot the lowest available ball and go on to hit the 9-ball, you also win.

      However, if you pocket the 9-ball legally when a scratch occurs, it is called a “spotted ball.” Any balls that fall into the pocket due to scratching are returned to the table for play, known as "spotted." Then, the incoming player gets the ball in hand.

      If the 9-ball is the last ball on the table when the scratch occurs, your opponent still has the cue ball in hand.

      3. A loss of pocket scratches on a pocketed 8-ball

        In eight-ball, if you sink all the balls in your set (all striped or solid balls), you will move on to the number 8. If you pocket the 8-ball but sink the cue ball, or the cue ball leaves off the table, you lose the game.

        In most popular amateur tournaments, you are sinking the cue ball while going for the 8-ball, which results in a loss.

        Exceptional Scratch Rules In One Pocket

        What Is One Pocket Pool?

        One Pocket is a pool game for two players or two teams. You or your team can only score in one of the two pockets at the end of the table. Meanwhile, the other player or team can only score in the other corner pocket at the end of the table.

        The remaining four pockets on the table are called “neutral pockets.” If you sink any ball into a neutral pocket, you must spot that ball at the end of your round. In One Pocket, the standard set of object balls used is numbered 1 to 15, along with a cue ball.

        What Is One Pocket Pool

        You play One Pocket with a standard set of billiards. Image source: Supreme Billiards.

        Objective Of One Pocket

        The object of this game is to score points

        You earn one point if you pocket any object ball into your designated pocket. You win the game if you are the first to score eight balls in your pocket legally. Whether you pocket the game-winning ball by your shot or your opponent's shot is valid.

        "Call your shots" does not apply in One Pocket. You can sink your object balls in any order.

        Essential Rules To Play One Pocket Pool

      1. Racking And Breaking
      2. Like straight pool and bank pool games, you randomly arrange 15 balls into a triangular rack.

        The breaker is the winner of the lagging or coin flip.

        If you are the breaker, you can choose one of the corner pockets at the foot of the table. You must put your ball into that pocket during your game. Your opponent will put their balls into the remaining pocket at the corner of the table.

      3. Scoring And Fouls
      4. If you sink the object ball into a pocket other than the top pocket of the table, you lose your turn. Then, you must spot that object ball.

        You lose your turn if you sink an object ball into your opponent's pocket. At the same time, your opponent gets 1 point.

        You have the cue ball in your hand behind the head string, and all the object balls are behind it. You can spot the object ball closest to the head string upon request.

        The highest-numbered ball is spotted if you place two or more balls at the same distance from the head string,

        • The player who makes mistakes three times in a row loses the match.
        • If you make a foul or scratch, you lose 1 point.
        • You’re at a negative score if you scratch while you don't have any balls in your pocket yet.

        So, what are the scratch rules in One Pocket? Read on!

        Scratch Rules In One Pocket Pool

        Scratch Rules In One Pocket Pool

        Scratch in One Pocket is a foul that involves control of the cue ball.

        Image source: Hippox.

        1. What Are Scratches In One Pocket?

        In One Pocket Pool, "scratch" is an essential rule about sinking or knocking the cue ball off the table. These rules affect how players calculate their points and each player's rights. 

        Understanding the specific circumstances and their consequences when a scratch occurs is critical.

        • A scratch occurs when you sink the cue ball into your opponent's pocket without pocketing at least one ball yourself.

          It is also a scratch if your cue ball does not touch any object balls before you sink it into your opponent's pocket. These errors often happen when you do not calculate carefully before shooting or cannot control the cue ball.

          • Scratch when the cue ball bounces off the table.
          Knocking the cue ball off the table, with or without any balls in your pocket, is considered a scratch. You must control your power and angle well to avoid making this foul.
          • If you use the cue ball to hit another ball and both balls fly off the table, that is also a scratch.
          In this case, if your cue ball returns to the table, there is no foul. However, this will be a scratch if your cue ball and the other two balls fly off the table.
            2. Consequences Of Scratch In One Pocket

            In One Pocket, if you scratch, your opponent gets their turn and plays anywhere behind the head string.

            This rule means your turn ends, and your opponent gets their turn with more favorable ball positions. Additionally, your opponent also has the right to choose between the following two options when you inflict a scratch:

            • Your opponent can earn points directly from any ball in their pocket. They will score these balls; their score will go up, and yours will go down.
            • Your opponent can also put balls in their pocket and return them to the table. This rule requires you to select a ball that has fallen into your opponent's pocket. Then, depending on the game's or tournament's specific rules, you must replace it in a reasonable position.
            • The incoming player then places the spotted balls back on the table as close to the head. This rule is necessary to prevent one spotted ball from affecting the other balls.

            Exceptional Scratch Rules In Straight Pool

            What Is A Straight Pool?

            Straight Pool is a variation of the billiards game played by two or more people. Some call It “14.1 continuous pool” or “simply 14.1.”

            Like the 8-ball, you can play the Straight Pool with 15 numbered balls and one cue ball.

            Straight Pool's goal is to score points by pocketing numbered balls.

            What Is A Straight Pool

            Image source: SportRec.

            Objectives Of Straight Pool

            The game's object is to sink the numbered balls into the pockets. Each ball pocketed counts as 1 point. You can sink the first 14 balls. However, before shooting the 15th ball (the last ball on the table), you re-rack the pocketed 14 balls. You leave one space at the top of the triangle.

            You then try to pocket the fifteenth ball so that the racked balls are disturbed. You continue to play. You win if you score a predetermined number of points (usually 150 or any) first.

            Essential Rules To Play Straight Pool

          1. Racking And Breaking
          2. To rack, you place the 1-ball in the lower right corner and the 5-ball in the lower left corner. Then, you arrange the remaining balls randomly.

            You and your partner can use lagging to determine who breaks the ball to decide who breaks the ball. The winner of the lag chooses who breaks to start the game.

            If you are a breaker, you put the cue ball any place behind the headstring and push it toward the rack. The cue ball and at least two object balls must touch the rail. Otherwise, it will be considered an illegal break and a foul.

          3. Scoring And Fouls
          4. To pocket the ball legally, you must call the ball you intend to sink and the pocket you plan to put the ball in. This rule applies to break shots as well. If you successfully pocket the ball you call, you earn 1 point.

            If you sink two balls simultaneously, one in the called pocket and one in the uncalled pocket, you get 2 points.

            If you sink a ball into an uncalled pocket, you will not earn any points. Then you must return that ball to the table. You get no penalty or foul. However, you lose your turn.

            If you commit a foul, you lose 1 point. If you commit a foul on your next shot, you lose another 1 point.

            If you commit a third foul in your next shot, you lose 1 point and an additional 15 points. Then, all 15 balls must be re-racked, and your opponent will decide who breaks.

            Scratch Rules In Straight Pool

            Scratch Rules In Straight Pool

            If the cue ball falls into the pocket, it is a scratch in the Straight Pool.

            Image source: GCL Billiards.

            1. What Are Scratches In Straight Pool?

            Like the modern eight-ball, scratch in the Straight Pool is when you make the cue ball fall into a pocket. You can consider a scratch if the cue ball fails to contact another ball. Similarly, it's also a scratch if it contacts another ball but fails to touch the rail afterward.

            If you are the starting player, you must name a ball and a pocket into which that ball will fall. You have to make the cue ball come into contact with a ball and then a cushion and make the two object balls come into contact with a cushion. If you fail to meet at least one of these requirements, you make a foul and create a scratch.

            As a consequence, you lose 2 points and lose your turn. In addition, your opponent can accept the table in position or have the balls re-racked and require you to re-break. That choice continues until the opening break is not illegal or until your opponent accepts the table in position.

            2. Consequences Of Scratch In Straight Pool

            All standard rules about sinking the cue ball and not touching the rail after first contact apply. However, there are some specific rules for scratching in a straight pool:

            • In a straight pool, a scratch or foul is never ball in hand, as in 8 or 9 balls. It is a ball in hand only behind the head string. There is never a non-restrictive ball in hand in a straight pool.
            • If you scratch for the first time, you will have 1 point deducted from your score.
            • If you scratch twice in a row, you will lose 2 points.
            • If you scratch thrice in a row, you will lose 1 point and add 15 points. Your opponent can leave the ball in the same position and continue shooting. Alternatively, they can re-rack all 15 balls and require you (the player who scratched three times) to re-break the ball.

            4 Common Misunderstandings About Pool Scratch Rules

            Misunderstanding 1: A loss if you scratch on the break in an 8-ball pool

            If you scratch on the break in 8-ball, you will not immediately lose the match. Your break would be a legal break shot, but because you scratched, your turn ends, and your opponent's turn begins.

            Scratching on the break in an 8-ball game may cause you to lose your turn. However, it means you lose only part of the match. You may get stuck because you can't continue playing until your next turn, but it's not over.

            Misunderstanding 1

            Scratches on the break in an 8-ball does not mean you lose the game. 

            Image source: Family Education.

            If you hit a ball before scratching, it remains in the pocket and will count as your ball (solid or striped) for that match. When you hit each type of ball, you can choose solid or striped. However, this right passes to your opponent from the moment you scratch.

            Although losing a turn can be difficult, you still need to succeed. That's why scratching on the break doesn't mean you'll lose the match.

            Some people believe that if you scratch when broken, you may lose the match, but that is untrue. You can only lose if you hit the 8-ball or put the 8-ball in the wrong pocket.

            Misunderstanding 2: A loss if you scratch on your last ball in an 8-ball pool

            Depending on the different variations of billiards (such as 8-ball), you may encounter many other rules of play. One of the rules is that you scratch the ball while going for your 8-ball.

            But what happens when you scratch your last ball? Some people think that if you scratch, you lose, while others say the game continues.

            What are the official rules of the game?

            The truth is that you don't lose if you scratch while trying to hit your last ball. You only lose if you scratch when you hit the 8-ball.

            Although this is not how most recreational billiards players play, it is the official rule. You only lose the game when you scratch after successfully hitting the 8-ball.

            If you scratch without hitting the 8-ball, you lose your turn, and your opponent moves on. These are the official rules for playing 8-ball, regardless of whether you are an amateur or a professional.

            Misunderstanding 3: Removing a pocketed ball if you scratch on the same turn in an 8-ball pool

            A common situation in an 8-ball pool is scratching and pocketing a ball in the same turn. Some say you should discard that ball, meaning you can not count it. However, are these official 8-ball pool rules?

            If you scratch and pocket a ball on the same turn, do you remove that ball?

            If you scratch and pocket another ball simultaneously, you do not take the other ball out. However, your turn ends, and your opponent gets the cue ball in hand.

            Misunderstanding 3

            In 8-ball, even if you scratch, you still can count the pocketed ball. 

            Image source: Supreme Billiards.

            As such, there is no official rule regarding removing the pocketed ball when scratching with the cue ball. Instead, it simply means you lose your turn and allow your opponent to place the cue ball anywhere. It can be a counter-attacking or defensive position.

            In conclusion, with many other variations of billiards, you must remove the pocketed ball if you scratch simultaneously. However, with 8-ball billiards, the pocked ball is still counted even if you scratch.

            Misunderstanding 4: In an 8-ball, when you scratch, your opponent must put the ball in a specific position

            Another misunderstanding is that the other player does not have a ball in hand when one player scratches. Some say they must put the ball behind a specific line or even at the midpoint on the table.

            But is this rule correct?

            The truth is: In 8-ball billiards, if you scratch, your opponent has the cue ball in hand. This rule means they can place the cue ball anywhere on the table they like. There are no rules about where they can and cannot set the cue ball when you scratch.

            So, if you scratch while playing the eight ball, your opponent can place the ball anywhere on the table. They can shoot at any of their balls, whether forward or backward.

            That's why scratching is something you want to avoid. A clever opponent can take that ball in his hand when you scratch it and use it to pocket many other balls.

            Confusion over this rule may stem from other billiards variations, such as Straight Pool or One Pocket. These games require the ball to be placed in a particular position or behind a specific line. However, this is not a scratch rule in an 8-ball pool.

            4 Ways To Avoid Scratches In Pool

            Hit The Cue Ball With A Softer Shot

            A common mistake among new players is hitting the cue ball harder than necessary. While using power to play billiards is correct, shots that are too powerful cause the cue ball to go further than your control. That increases the chance of the cue ball touching another ball or the rail and falling into the pocket.

            If you scratch often, try hitting the cue ball more lightly. For example, you practice placing the cue ball at the starting point. Next, you place an object ball in front of a corner pocket of the table. Then, try to hit as lightly as possible to pocket the object ball. 

            You'll be surprised at how light you can hit the ball and still get good action on the shot. Additionally, picking a carbon fiber shaft cue because it is lightweight, resistant to dings and scratches, and reduces deflection.

            Big Cat Carbon Fiber Shaft

            Big Cat Carbon Fiber Shaft, characterized by a dark tone of silver, highly durable and lasting for years to come.

            Use The Tangent Line To Determine The Path Of The Cue Ball

            In billiards, the tangent line is an imaginary line. With a 90-degree angle, it forms at the contact point where the cue ball touches the object ball.

            If you hit the center of the cue ball and don't put any spin on it, the cue ball always runs along this tangent line. This rule helps you avoid pocketing the cue ball.

            To practice, place an object ball on the head spot and the cue ball in the center of the head string. 

            Next, you put a second object ball behind the first object at the point. You must hit the first object ball to sink it at this point. Place your cue between those two object balls in the middle of the distance. It is the direction of the cue ball.

            The contact point

            The contact point is where the cue ball touches the object ball.

            Image source: AzBilliards Forums. 

            Use 30-Degree Rule To Control Your Cue Ball

            By practicing the 30-degree rule correctly, you can gain better control of the cue ball and avoid creating scratches.

            The 30-degree rule helps you predict the cue ball's natural deflection angle after contact with the object ball.

            In other words, when the cue ball touches the object ball. It deviates about 30 degrees from the tangent line of the contact point.

            Thus, you can control and position the cue ball after it hits the object ball.

            The following drill will help you better understand this rule:

            1. You predict the contact point and visualize the tangent line extending from this point.
            2. You have to predict the angle of deviation by imagining an angle of 30 degrees from the tangent line. The cue ball will move in this direction. From there, you can estimate the approximate trajectory of the cue ball.
            3. You adjust the spin and speed of the cue ball. Note that the 30-degree rule assumes the cue ball misses. Whether you apply upper or lower rotation, the deflection angle changes. Also, because speed affects the angle of attack, you must adjust your shot accordingly.
            4. Finally, with the predicted trajectory in mind, you make your shot and observe the action of the cue ball.
            30-Degree Rule

            If the cue ball stuns, it will likely fall into the pocket.

            Image source: AzBilliards Forums.

            The best way to hone any skill is to practice. To maintain the smoothness of your play, you should use a high-quality cue. Big Cat cues are designed for players at all levels. They boast a light and superior balance to ensure your shots are like the strength of a big cat.

            Practice To Hone Your Draw Shot

            In billiards, a draw shot causes the cue ball to spin back after contact with an object ball. 

            It is one of the most impressive ways to avoid the cue ball following the object ball into the pocket. It is also an essential skill of every professional billiards player's game.

            To master drawing control, you have to practice a lot. There are at least four relevant variables you should focus on:

            1. How far do you want your cue ball to return after contact with the object ball?
            2. How far is your cue ball from the object ball?
            3. How low on the cue ball do you want your cue tip to make contact?
            4. What material is your billiard table cover? Simonis fabric or a slow knot? Does it feel smooth when you play on it? The amount of friction on the playing surface significantly affects your draw shot.
            Drawing shots

            Drawing shots is an essential skill in pool. Image source: HubPages.

            When the object ball is further away, you must hit the cue ball lower and harder to maintain the backspin far enough. Otherwise, the friction of the felt will stop the backspin. 

            In general, the lowest point you want to make contact with the cue ball is the entire width of the tip below the center.

            You can also apply some simple but valuable drills to improve your draw shot day by day. First, you place the cue ball and object ball 1 foot apart, then 2 feet and 3 feet. Try to draw your cue ball back to its original position on the table with each distance.


            Scratches, no matter what pool game, are detrimental to your chances of winning. There are times when you can't help but scratch. However, scratches are avoidable. You only need to practice hard to improve your ability to control the cue ball's direction.

            Frequently Asked Questions

            When you scratch in the pool, what are the rules?

            A pool scratch is a foul in which the cue ball does not hit the object ball, or the object ball does not hit the rail. It can also occur if you pocket the cue ball.

            If you make a scratch, your turn is over, and your opponent receives the ball in a very favorable position. This penalty significantly reduces your chances of winning. So it's best to do your best to prevent scratching from happening.

            What are the rules for scratches in a straight pool?

            Scratching occurs in straight pools when the cue ball does not touch the object ball. Alternatively, it happens when the cue ball touches the object ball but does not touch the rail. The cue ball falling into the pocket is also a scratch.

            The scratch rules require your turn to end. With the cue ball in hand, your opponent can place it anywhere behind the headstring.

            What are the rules for scratching on the break in 8-ball pool?

            Anytime you scratch on the opening break, you lose your turn, and your opponent receives the ball in hand. If you scratch and sink a ball, you must take it out of the pocket and return it to the table.