Chinese eight-ball

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This article is about a historical American recreational variation on eight-ball, not the modern competitive Asian game Chinese eight-ball pool, which uses standard eight-ball equipment, and similar rules, except with snooker-style pockets and rails.

Chinese eight-ball (sometimes rendered "Chinese" eight-ball, and also known as eight-ball kiss, reversed eight-ball or backwards eight-ball), is an American, two-player pool (pocket billiards) game which combines the play of eight-ball (except by shooting object balls at the cue ball instead of the normal vice versa) with the shooting style of carom billiards games, and is thus a pool–carom hybrid game, like English billiards. It is similar in game mechanics, if not exact rules, to Russian pyramid, but using typical American pool equipment.

The game probably takes its name from the fanciful notion that things might be done backwards on the other side of the world (cf. Chinese fire drill, etc.).[1]


The balls are set up as they would be for a regular game of eight-ball. The first player breaks by shooting the cue ball into the rack as one normally would. A ball must be pocketed, or two must strike cushions, for the break to be legal. If a ball is pocketed, the breaking player shoots again. Even if a ball is pocketed on the break shot, the table is still open, meaning neither player has yet claimed the stripes or solids groups of balls. To determine which object balls one is playing, one must pocket an object ball with a legal shot.

From this point forward, balls are pocketed by striking a chosen object ball with the cue stick and causing that ball to contact the cue ball and carom (cannon) off it into a specific pocket by legal means (See § next section, below.).

Legal shots[edit]

For a shot to be legal (i.e., not a foul), the shooting player must call the pocket where the object ball to be shot is intended to drop.

The object ball that is shot must strike the stationary cue ball before touching any other ball on the table. One or more cushions may be struck by the shot object ball before contact with the cue ball.

After first contact with the cue ball, the shot ball may (as with straight pool, ten-ball, and professional eight-ball) strike other balls or cushions before dropping into the called pocket.

A player who legally pockets a shot then shoots again (and again if succeeding again); otherwise, play passes to the other player.

When all of a player's object balls have been pocketed, the 8 ball is the final ball-on.


If a player makes a foul (fault, illegal shot), that player's turn ends. The opponent may elect to play the balls where they lie, or may choose to move the cue ball to the center spot, but only if it is unoccupied by another ball. This center-spotting option is not always permitted, so players must agree about whether that rule will apply before play begins.

Major fouls[edit]

There are two major fouls that may invoke a penalty: one of the fouling player's pocketed balls (if any) must be pulled out and is placed on the foot (rack) spot, or if that is occupied occupied, as close as possible to this spot following an imaginary line perpendicular to, and moving toward, the foot cushion from the foot spot. (In the unlikely event this entire line is occupied, the ball is spotted in front of the foot spot on the same line.)

  1. If the object ball is in contact with the cue ball when the shot begins, the player must hit away from the cue and strike it by banking off a cushion; the cue ball may not move before the object ball touches the cushion or it is a foul.[dubious ]
  2. When the cue ball falls in a pocket or leaves the table, it is called a scratch. In addition to the penalty ball being spotted on or near the foot spot, the cue ball is placed on the head spot, or as close as possible on a line toward the head cushion.

An object ball cannot, of course, be pulled from a coin-operated "bar box" table that captures pocketed object balls, or when the player has no pocketed balls to pull. In such a case, a major foul is treated as a minor foul. Penalties are not "owed" when a player has no currently pocketed balls (i.e., in the advent of a major foul, a player with zero balls down does not have to pull and spot the next one the player pockets in a later round).

There are also several 8-ball fouls (See § Winning and losing, below.) that constitute immediate loss of game.

Minor fouls[edit]

There are several minor fouls:

  1. Failure to strike the cue ball with the shot object ball before the latter contacts any other ball.
  2. Failure to hit any ball at all with the shot object ball.
  3. Pocketing the shot object ball in a pocket other than that which was called (it is spotted like a pulled ball, above).
  4. Shooting the shot object ball directly into a pocket without contacting the cue ball with it first (it is spotted like a pulled ball, above).
  5. Causing any object ball to fly off the table (it is spotted like a pulled ball, above). If it was not the shot object ball itself, whether to treat this as a foul varies in informal play.
  6. Failure to cause at least one ball to touch a cushion, or at least one object ball to fall into a pocket legally, after contact between the shot object ball and the cue ball. This "soft-shot" rule is sometimes dropped in informal play.
  7. Inadvertently moving any ball, e.g. with the hand or the side of the cue. If this happens, the opponent elects whether to move it back or leave it where it has come to rest. Treatment of this as a foul is often dropped in informal play, especially if the inadvertent movement was minor and did not affect the shot.

If a foul results in the pocketing of one or more of the opponent's balls, any such ball remains in the pocket. Any of the shooting player's own balls pocketed as a result of the foul must be pulled out and spotted, like a pulled ball (above), and this does not count as the pulled ball in the advent of a major foul.

Failure to succeed in pocketing the shot object ball into the called pocket, during a shot that was otherwise legal, is not a foul but simply a miss.

Aside from a major foul, knocking balls off the table, and pocketing one's own ball on a foul, a missed or foul shot does not result in any ball being returned to the table.

Incidentally pocketing an object ball (of either player) that is not the shot object ball has no consequences if the shot was legal; it is not a foul on its own, nor does it enable the shooter to continue shooting if the object ball that was directly shot was not legally pocketed in the called pocket.

Winning and losing[edit]

The winner of the game is the one who successfully pockets the 8 ball with a legal shot, or the opponent of one who loses due to one of the 8-ball fouls described next.

Pocketing the 8 ball through any foul shot (including in a pocket that was not called, when hitting some other ball with it before the cue ball, etc.), pocketing it when one has not yet pocketed all of one's regular object balls, or knocking the 8 ball off the table, each constitute a loss of game. It is not permissible to pocket one's last remaining regular object ball and the 8 ball in the same shot.

Scratching the cue ball into a pocket while shooting the 8 ball does not result in a loss of game if the 8 ball remains on the table; the cue ball is head-spotted, as described above, and the shot is treated as a major foul, with a one-pulled-ball penalty. This rule is sometimes dropped in informal play, with a scratch while attempting the 8 ball considered a loss of game. Another variant is to treat a player's third such scratch while attempting the 8 during the same game as a loss of game (and any other foul while shooting the 8 ball may, in this variant, also count toward that three-fault countdown). Naturally, players must agree on which rule is to be applied before playing.


In addition to treating some rules as optional (as noted above), the rules peculiar to any variant of eight-ball can also be adapted to the so-called Chinese version, including ball-in-hand on fouls (players must agree whether it is the cue ball or an object ball which can be taken in-hand), ball-in-hand behind the head string only, bank-the-8, last-pocket, 1-and-15-in-the-sides, the fixed object ball order of eight-ball rotation, etc. Such adaptations may drop the major-foul penalty rule, to more closely mirror regular eight-ball as familiar in the region, simply with cue-ball-at-object-ball shooting reversed.


  1. ^ Shamos, Mike (1999). The New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Billiards. New York City, NY, US: Lyons Press. p. 52. ISBN 1-55821-797-5.