8-Ball vs. 9-Ball: Which Pool Game to Play?

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Whether you want to call it pool or billiards, it really is a fantastic game – or sport depending on what you prefer to call it – to play. That said, there are a few different versions of pool, with 8-ball and 9-ball being two of the most popular.

Now, both games might seem the same, and although they do share some similarities, they are in fact quite different. Especially so when it comes to the rules of play and how to win. Let’s figure out whether 8-ball or 9-ball pool is the better game for you.

8-Ball vs. 9-Ball

Similarities of 8-Ball and 9-Ball

Before we get into talking about what makes 8-ball and 9-ball pool different from each other, it is worth first noting the few similarities that they both share. While the similarities are quite basic in nature, and really don’t have much to do with the actual gameplay, they are similarities nonetheless.

1. They Both Use a Pool Table

One of the most basic similarities that these two games share is that they are both played on the same kind of pool table, one that has six pockets, four in the corners, and one on each side, halfway down the length of the table.

In terms of the table size, both of these games can be played on a variety of table sizes. Generally speaking, there are three types of pool tables that you may have access to. First, we have the bar pool table, which is usually 7 x 5 feet. Next, we have the recreational pool table, which is usually always 8 x 5 feet. Finally, we have the regulation pool table, the only acceptable size of pool table for competitions, which measures 9 x 4.5 feet.

2. They Both Use Pool Cues

Another similarity that both games share is that both involve the use of a pool cue, otherwise known as a cue stick or pool stick, in order to shoot the ball. Both games use the same types of pool cues, ones that measure between 52 and 58 inches in length, and weigh anywhere from 16 to 21 ounces. There are also smaller pool cues available for children.

3. They Both Use the Same Types of Balls

The next similarity that both of these games share is that they use the same regulation pool balls.

Yes, The number of balls used in both 8-ball and 9-ball is different, but the type of balls is the same. They are all regulation pool balls that measure 1-1/4 inches and weigh between 5.5 and 6 ounces.

4. The Overall Objective

Although what balls you have to pocket in what order, as well as the number of balls that need to be pocketed are both different, the end goal of the both 8-ball and 9-ball pool is to sink a certain set of balls into one of the six pockets in order to be declared the winner.

5. The Number of Players

Generally speaking, both 8-ball and 9-ball are played by two people opposing each other. That said, two teams of two can also play against each other, thus making both 8-ball and 9-ball four-player games. Whether you want to play one-on-one or two on two, both games technically allow for it, although much less so in 9-ball than in 8-ball pool.

9-Ball Rack

Differences Between 8-Ball and 9-Ball

Now that we know what all of the similarities that 8-ball and 9-ball pool share, let’s figure out what the main differences between them are. As you are about to find out, although both games are played using the same equipment, and although both involve sinking balls into pockets, that is really where the similarities end.

1. The Way to Win

One of the biggest differences between these two games is how they are played, specifically how the games are won. When it comes to 8-ball, players are assigned either solids or stripes, so balls one through seven or nine through fifteen. The aim of 8-ball pool, after the break, is to sink all of your balls, either solids or stripes, followed by the eight-ball (the black ball). A player must sink all of his balls before the eight-ball, and if the eight-ball is sunk before the set is complete, the game is automatically lost.

Now, this is perhaps the biggest difference when it comes to 9-ball pool. In 9-ball, the object is to first start with the lowest number, and then work your way up top the 9-ball. In other words, the game of 9-ball pool is won by sinking all nine balls in consecutive order from the lowest to the highest value, so starting from one and ending at nine. The game is won when a player sinks the 9-ball. However, there are two ways to get there:

  • You can sink all balls in numerical order until you get to the 9-ball
  • You can also win the game by sinking the 9-ball with a combination shot (by first hitting another ball, which hits into the 9-ball, and then into a pocket); the rule here is that the ball to hit the 9-ball into the pocket must have the lowest numerical value on the table. For instance, if the 2-, 3-, and 9-ball are on the table, you would have to hit the 2-ball into the 9-ball in order for this to work. If the order is not maintained, the 9-ball will be re-spotted

2. The Number of Balls

As you can probably guess by now, both games do not use the same number of balls. In 8-ball pool, you have 15 pool balls, the seven solid balls, the seven striped balls, and the 8-ball, plus of course the cue ball. Keep in mind that in Britain, sometimes, the balls are 2 inches with red and yellow colors, whereas in America and elsewhere, the balls are typically 2-1/4 inches and are striped or solid.

When it comes to 9-ball pool, there are a total of nine balls, plus the cue ball. Nine-ball pool is usually always played on an American-style pool table with American size balls.

3. Thinking vs. Shooting

What needs to be said here is that 9-ball requires the cue ball to move a lot, and it also requires the use of the rails to get into position. If you make a mistake in 9-ball pool, it could very well spell the end of the game. However, 8-ball pool is considered more of a thinker’s or strategy game, thus being a bit more forgiving, and probably more ideal for beginners too.

4. Racking the Balls

The balls, while they are racked in both games, are racked differently.

In 9-ball pool, the rack takes the shape of a diamond, with the 9-ball right in the center, and the 1-ball being at the top of the diamond, at the so-called foot. In contrast, in 8-ball pool, there is a triangular-shaped rack with the 8-ball in the center, with a solid and striped ball in the corners, and the rest of the balls being placed randomly.

For more details, read my guide to racking various pool games.

5. The Break

In 8-ball pool, you can hit any ball on the break you wish, and if you happen to pocket the 8-ball on the break, you can re-rack the balls. On the other hand, when you break in 9-ball pool, due to having to shoot the balls in numerical order, you must start with the lowest number. That said, if you manage to hit the 1-ball into the 9-ball right off the break, this is called a Golden Break, and this means that you win the game.

6. Calling Shots

Typically, shots do not have to be called in 9-ball pool, but they must be called for 8-ball pool. That said, rules in recreational play vary depending on the players preferences.

7. Official Governing Bodies

Without getting into too much detail here, both games are regulated by separate governing bodies., although, for the purposes of today’s article, it’s not very relevant.

8-Ball vs. 9-Ball: Which Game to Play?

What most people say is that 9-ball pool is less forgiving and requires a lot of shooting skill, but is easy to learn, whereas 8-ball pool is a bit more forgiving but harder to master. Both games are perfectly fine for adults, and when it comes down to it, the differences we talked about today don’t go far in determining which game is better for you.

Sure, 8-ball pool is a bit better for beginners, but other than that, both games are great for all people to play.


Whether you want to play 8-ball or 9-ball pool, now that you know the differences between them, you can easily choose the one you prefer. Actually, to keep things entertaining, you might want to play both and switch between them every now and then or even during a single session.