Scratching on the Break – Pool Rules

  • By: Rob
  • Date: April 23, 2023
  • Time to read: 4 min.
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The idea of scratching in all variations of pool seems somewhat confusing to people despite it being a relatively simple rule.

I think the confusion comes when people don’t understand what is a scratch in pool and they don’t understand there are different rules depending on the situation when the scratch occurred. 

One such rule that is slightly different from a standard scratch is what happens if you scratch on the 8 ball or 9 ball.

scratching on the break

Another common question asked is about scratching on the break, so i have decided to write this article to help put some clarity on such fouls so you are best informed on how to proceed if such a foul were to occur during your game.

Scratching on the break

What happens if you scratch on the break will depend on which pool game you are playing. Regardless of which pool game, there seem to be plenty of different rules surrounding scratching on the break. 

One thing I have seen a lot of is the same rule being applied for both 8 ball and 9 ball When in fact, there are two completely different rules regarding scratching on the break in 8 ball and scratching on the break in 9 ball.

The most common rule continuation I have seen is players having a ball in hand and placing it anywhere on the playing surface, although that’s half correct, it doesn’t apply to both pool games. 

For both games, as is true with all scratches, the shooter gives up their turn as it’s deemed a foul and the opponent comes to the table. 

Where things differ is what happens next.

The rules that follow for scratching on the break in 8 ball and scratching on the break in 9 ball differ.

Scratching on the break in 9 ball

Let’s start with the easiest one to explain, what happens if you scratch on the break in 9 ball? Scratching on the break in this game will give the opponent a ball in hand. 

That means, the opponent can place the cue ball anywhere they desire on the playing field.

As with the rules of 9 ball, the player will then need to hit the lowest numbered ball next. 

So that means if a shooter pots the 1 ball and scratches on the break. The break will be deemed a foul and therefore this turn has finished and its the opponent’s turn. 

The opponent will continue with a ball in hand, meaning they can place it anywhere on the table. In this example, the opponent will then need to aim for the number 2 ball to continue the game in a way that abides by the rules of 9 ball. 

Scratching on the break in 8 ball

what happens if you scratch on the break in 8 ball? Scratching on the break here is a little different. Unlike 9 ball, you have different objectives – you need to pot all your balls before your opponent pots all of theirs. 

This is important to note, as the break is technically still not over if multiple shots have been taken and no balls have been potted, therefore the table is still neutral or “open”. 

If the table is still open, players are still unsure which are their balls; the solids also known as spots or the stripes. 

Until this is determined, scratching on the break in 8 ball will always have the same punishment applied. The cue ball will be placed behind the head string.

If a scratch occurs on the break 


before another ball is legally potted, then the cue ball is to be placed behind the head string.

If a ball is potted on the break and the white ball is scratched, the ball is left in the pocket and the game is still considered open. The opponent will need to place the cue ball behind the head string and continue on an open table. 

Any balls potted when the white ball is potted are left in the pocket and the game will continue open – This rule will continue until players know which type of balls are theirs; solids or stripes.

scratching break shot

When scratching on the break in 8 ball, the cue ball is placed behind the head string, anywhere in the “kitchen”. To make a legal shot the shooter needs to shot the cue ball past the head string and hit either a solid or a stripe. 

The first object ball the cue ball hits can be in the “kitchen” but the cue ball needs to have gone past the head string first before re-entering and hitting the object ball.

Final thoughts

The rules on when you scratch on the break are a little more complicated than the rules about scratching during a game where the sides have been picked. 

You need to understand the different rules on when scratching on the break in 8 ball and 9 ball, once understood it’s easy to follow.

Enjoy playing!

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Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.

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