Scratching in pool is easy!
There are so many different ways to scratch that it ends up happening in most amateur level games.
And that is a problem. Scratching can present your opponent with a huge advantage, depending on the rule set you are using.
The good news is that many scratches are easy to avoid. The table scratch is one of the easiest.
What is a table scratch in pool?
Keep reading to learn all about the table scratch. We’ll also briefly discuss the other types of scratches and give you some tips on how to minimize how often you scratch.
Table of Contents
- 1 Table Scratch In Pool
- 1.1 Table Scratch Fouls
- 1.2 Other Types Of Scratches
- 1.3 Consequence Of A Table Scratch
- 1.4 How To Avoid Scratches
- 2 Table Scratch In Pool: Conclusion
Table Scratch In Pool
The term “table scratch” can refer to several different types fouls in which the cue ball does not end up in a pocket or off the table. If one of those two things happens, it is a scratch, but not a table scratch.
Any type of scratch is still a scratch, even if you also pocket an object ball. The result of any scratch, table scratch included, is that you forfeit your turn and your opponent gets to place the cue ball back on the table.
Where to place the cue ball after a scratch depends on the rules under which you are playing.
It will either be a ball-in-hand, meaning you can put the cue ball anywhere on the table, or you will have to lace it in the kitchen, i.e. behind the head string.
In the definition given above, we mentioned that a table scratch can refer to several different fouls. Let’s take a look at the different fouls that are considered table scratches.
Table Scratch Fouls
As mentioned above, you table scratch when you commit a foul, but do not pocket the cue ball. These are the situations which result in a table scratch.
- missing all balls with the cue ball
- hitting an opponent’s ball with the cue ball, before hitting one of your own balls
- hitting the 8-ball with the cue ball, before hitting one of your own balls, while you still have balls remaining on the table
- failing to send either the cue ball or an object ball into a rail or a pocket
- hitting the cue ball twice
Basically, a table scratch results from any type of illegal shot that does not result in the cue ball going into a pocket.
What are illegal shots? The easiest way to explain is to simply list the rules to which you need to adhere in order to perform a legal shot.
- you must hit the cue ball only once with your pool stick
- the cue ball must hit one of your balls (stripes or solids) before hitting any other balls
- once the cue ball has made contact with one of your object balls, either the cue ball must hit a rail, an object ball must hit a rail, or one of your object balls must go into a pocket
Other Types Of Scratches
In addition to table scratches, there are three other types of scratches that can occur in a game of pool. Let’s take a look at each one in turn.
A break scratch occurs when the cue ball goes into a pocket, or jumps off the pool table, on the break. It is a scratch, even if you also pocket on, or more, object balls.
A gameplay scratch is the exact same as a break scratch, except it happens during the regular course of the game, instead of on the break. Pocketing the cue ball or sending it off the table during gameplay constitutes a gameplay scratch.
An 8-ball scratch occurs when you pocket the cue ball while trying to pocket the 8-ball, but you do not actually sink the 8-ball. If you also pocket the 8-ball, you lose.
If the 8-ball goes into a pocket on the break, however, you win the game, as long as the cue ball does not also go in.
Consequence Of A Table Scratch
We already touched on this above, but the consequences of a table scratch, and any other kind of scratch, depend on the set of rules governing your game.
In general, if you play in a bar or pool hall, it is likely you will be playing using bar rules. These rules dictate that your opponent has to place the cue ball in the kitchen and take their next shot from there toward the other end of the table.
At times, this can be a huge disadvantage for the person who suffered the foul, meaning they are being punished, not the player who committed the foul.
In fact, some players will scratch on purpose to put their opponent in a bad situation. If this seems unfair to you, it is! We hate this rule!
It is for that reason that most tournaments do away with this “kitchen rule”, Instead, they allow the player to take the ball-in-hand, meaning they can place it anywhere on the table and shoot in any direction they wish.
This makes much more sense. It ensures that the player who committed the foul is punished and the other player rewarded.
Whenever you start a game of pool, you should always clarify the rules you will be using with your opponent before beginning the game. If the opponent is amenable, we recommend using the ball-in-hand rule.
But whichever rule you use, the important thing is to agree on this in advance, so that there are no disagreements during the game. It just keeps things nice and friendly.
Of course, you could also avoid issues by simply not scratching. I say “simply” but it is impossible to avoid scratches completely. However, you can minimize their occurrence and avoid scratching quite so often..
How To Avoid Scratches
Scratches result in you losing your turn and they give your opponent the ball in a hugely advantageous situation , if you are using the ball-in-hand rule. Even if you are not, putting the ball in the kitchen is usually an advantage, too.
In other words, you seriously hurt your chances of winning the game when you scratch. Thus, it only makes sense to try and limit how often you commit a foul.
Here are some pool shots tips you can use to try to limit how often you end up scratching.
Take Your Time With Shots
This should be self-explanatory, but don’t rush your shots. If you take your time planning and lining up your shots, the chances that you completely miss all object balls and table scratch are greatly reduced.
Similarly, taking some time to consider each shot also reduces the chances of not hitting a rail or a pocket.
Don’t Show Off
This is another self-explanatory tip. Many players ignore an easy shot and go for something far more tricky, because they imagine how cool they will look if they pull it off.
But they don’t pull it off, because they don’t have the skill to do so. Yes, I am definitely speaking from personal experience here.
Use Less Power On Your Shots
Some shots need full power, but most do not. A soft touch usually takes you a lot further than a powerful shot.
It is much more difficult to predict where the cue ball will end up after hitting it with tons of power. Softer shots are more manageable. The smoother your shots, the easier it is to predict where the cue ball will end up.
Use The 30° and 90° Rules
You can read about the 30° and 90° Rules here. It will help you determine the possibility of scratching and how you can avoid it.
Hone Your Stop Shot Skills
Learn about the stop shot here. A stop shot is one where the cue ball stops in place after making contact with the object ball. This obviously means that it can not go into a pocket. A stop shot requires you to put zero spin on the cue ball when hitting it.
The best way to hone any type of skill is to practice. This is easiest if you have your own pool table at home, but most of us simply don’t have the space or budget. A quality mini pool table is a good compromise that allows you to practice your shots regularly.
Hone Your Draw Shot Skills
You can learn all about the draw shot here. This is a shot where you apply back spin to the cue ball, which results in it rolling back toward you after making contact with the object ball. It is a good way to avoid the cue ball following an object ball into the pocket.
Table Scratch In Pool: Conclusion
Scratching of any type in pool puts you at a huge disadvantage and seriously hampers your chances of winning the game. Table scratches are arguably the easiest type of scratch to avoid.
All you need to do is make sure you hit one of your object balls first and that either an object ball or the cue ball hit a rail, or that the object ball goes into a pocket. Sounds simple enough, right?
But sometimes, it is anything but simple. There are times during a game of pool where you find yourself in a bad situation. Perhaps you are surrounded by your opponent’s balls, making it virtually impossible to hit one of your own.
In those cases, you may not be able to avoid scratching. But most instances of scratching are easily avoidable.
And the key to avoiding them, as is so often the case in life, is to practice. Practice different types of shots to improve your shooting accuracy and your ability to predict where the cue ball will end up. Those two things alone will drastically reduce the number of times you scratch.