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What is a Scratch in Pool – Game Rules

When you hear the term scratch, what comes to mind? In Pool, scratch is both complicated and simple; let’s explore what exactly I mean by that. At its most basic, scratch is the word used to describe a foul ball. 

What is Scratch in Pool?

A scratch happens when you hit a ball in a way that isn’t legal under traditional Pool rules. There are plenty of different ways this can happen, and even professional Pool players have scratched before. But if you want to get better at Pool, then you’ll need to know all about scratch.

So, scratch is just the official way of calling a foul, right? Well, yes, it is, but that’s not all there is to this term. This is where things get a little more complicated, and the rules regarding a scratch aren’t always easy to understand, especially for beginners. 

The rule regarding scratches can be sorted into several different categories. Many people misuse the term scratch as a blanket statement, but there are significant differences depending on what exactly caused the scratch. So, let’s take a look at them in more detail. 

Scratch Rules

Scratch Rules 

When it comes to Pool rules there’s a lot of variation, which is why it’s best to always discuss with your opponent beforehand what rules you’re all playing with. You don’t want to get partway through a game only to end up disagreeing about the rules. 

When it comes to scratches, there is a lot to think about in regards to the rules. In some rule variations, scratches can result in you forfeiting the game outright. So to help ensure you are playing with the fairest rules, we have listed the most common scratch rules below. 

Break Scratches 

A break scratch isn’t overly common, but it can happen. If you do scratch on the break, then your opponent will immediately get a ball in hand. However, any balls that are pocketed during the shot will remain pocketed. 

In some rule variations, a break scratch will be an automatic forfeit. However, these days, this isn’t overly common, especially in casual games. If you want to avoid break scratches, then a breaking cue can help. 

General Scratches 

Also known as gameplay scratches, these will often result in your opponent getting an immediate ball in hand. However, in some rule variations, your opponent will instead get to shoot from behind the headstring. These scratch rules are designed to prevent players from scratching intentionally during the game. 

Table Scratches 

A table scratch is a standard foul that doesn’t result in any ball getting pocketed or knocked off the table. This kind of scratch will normally occur when a player misses a shot with their cue ball. But it can also occur if a shot doesn’t get pocketed successfully or fails to make contact with a cushion on the Pool table. 

In the result of a table scratch, the opponent will usually get a ball in hand, which will give them a significant advantage on their next shot. However, some rule sets do say the first ball in hand must be placed behind the headstring while any others can be placed anywhere on the table. 

8 Ball Scratches 

In 8-Ball rules, a scratch is likewise classed as a foul, and in most rule variations, it will result in an immediate forfeit. However, this is only the case if the 8-ball and cue ball and pocketed in the same shot. If the 8-ball isn’t pocketed, but the cue ball is, then your opponent is instead rewarded with a ball in hand. 


So, let’s conclude what we now all know about the Pool term scratch, shall we? A scratch is a foul shot that can happen in a variety of different ways. Most scratches will result in your opponent getting a ball in hand, although there are a few variations to this rule. In some cases, you could immediately lose the game. 

So, what have we learned about scratches? Well, ideally, players will want to avoid them as they will give your opponent a significant advantage. Don’t be too disheartened if you do scratch, though, because it happens to everyone, even professionals, from time to time. 

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