What is a Scratch in Pool?

The easiest way to learn how to play pool is by learning all the mistakes that you can possibly make. This is not easy though as it can only be learnt by doing. The more you play the more you learn the game till you become a master.

Every newbie will ask questions like, what is a foul in pool? Does a scratch on the break result in a loss? Among others. The term scratch in pool is booth simple and very complicated. Simply put a scratch is a foul ball in pool. This article will guide you on how to spot a scratch on the table and how to avoid it.

What is a scratch in pool?

A scratch is the official way of calling out a foul, period! However, you will need to dive deeper into the rules regarding scratches to fully understand this term.

When you pocket the cue ball or drive it off the table after a stroke, then that is a scratch. In most cases, this action is regarded as a convectional foul and your opponent will get a ball in hand on the entire table or behind the head string.  If you are playing 8-ball and you pocket both the 8-ball and the cue ball, you forfeit the game to your opponent.

Scratch Rules

The game is more fun to play is it is all fair to all the players. It is advisable to always agree the rules you will be using before starting off the game as this sets a fair playing ground to all the players. It is never a good feeling when you start disagreeing about the rules when the game is already underway.

With scratches as seen earlier, there are rule variations that result into forfeiting the whole game while in some cases you miss your turn. To give you a fair game, we have listed the most common scratch rules below.

Gameplay scratches

These are also known as general scratches and they happen during the regular play. This is a situation where the cue ball has been pocketed or sent off the table during the play. Most rules dictate that your opponent gets an immediate ball in hand. In some variations, your opponent gets a shoot from behind the head string. The main aim of this scratch rule is to keep off players who intentionally scratch during the game.

Break Scratches

Break scratches are not very common but they do happen. It will be considered to be a break scratch if you pocket the cue ball or it jumps off the table during a break. If you scratch on the break, your opponent get a the ball in hand immediately. If you happen to pocket any balls during the break, they will remain pocketed save for the cue ball.


8- Ball Scratches

Do you lose if you scratch on the break?

If you are playing 8 ball pool under the APA rulebook, you will lose the game when you scratch on the break.

Under the BCA rules you don’t lose a game when you scratch on the break. Your opponent gets a ball in hand and they have two options, to re-spot the 8 ball in the kitchen to continue with the game or to re-break the game again.

This simply means that the only time you will lose when you scratch on the break is when you are playing under the APA rules.

This rule however is not common in casual games these days. In some competitions and pool leagues, there are house rules that override both the APA and BCA rules. That is why it is important to be clear on the rules you will be playing under with your opponent before you start off the game.  If you want to perfect your break and avoid break scratches, invest in a good break cue.

Table scratches

If a player misses a shot with the cue ball in normal play then that’s a table scratch. These are standard fouls that do not result in any ball getting pocketed or going off the table. It is also a table scratch if you fail to pocket a shot successfully or you fail to make contact with a cushion on the table.

When table scratches happen, your opponent will get a ball in hand which gives them a huge advantage in the next shot. In some rules the first ball in hand is placed behind the head string while all other preceding balls in hand can be placed anywhere on the table.

How to Avoid Scratches in Pool

  • Practice stop shot skills

There are several shots that you can use in pool for different instances for example, jump shots, masse shot or a bank shot. To avoid pool scratches, you need to learn how to play the stop shot. This is where the cue ball stops immediately after making contact with the target object ball. This makes it hard for the cue ball being carried into the pocket. When delivering a stop shot, the cue ball should have zero spin applied to it. It is easier if you practice at home, however most people do not have the space or the budget to acquire one.

  • Practice more Draw Skills

This is a shot when the cue ball gets a backspin after making contact with the target object ball. It is a perfect strategy to keep the cue ball from going into the pock after hitting the object ball as it rolls back towards you.

  • Buy the right pool cues

To get the best of your game, you need to invest in a variety of pool cues. This will give you an opportunity to choose the right pool cue for different instances. For example, you pick on a breaking cue when breaking or a jump cue when jumping.


The game of pool will be more enjoyable when we all know and agree to the rules from the start. You can barely run away from scratches when playing pool and they always put you in an awkward position as they give your opponent a great advantage putting you at the risk of losing the game.

To get a great experience, win more games and enjoy pool, practiced the above mentioned and you will keep scratches at bay.


APA Source: Pages 8-9 https://poolplayers.com/8-9-ball-Rules.pdf

WPA Source: http://masse.co.nz/cue-sports/8-ball/full-wpa-rules/

BCA Source: https://www.colorado.edu/umc/sites/default/files/attached-files/8-ball_rules_bca.pdf