Last Pocket – An Insidious but Fascinating Game March's Game of the Month is an 8 Ball Variation

Last Pocket 8 Ball is a variation of 8 Ball, one of the most played of all pocket billiards games. Its origin is indeterminate but probably arose as a way to lengthen the time it takes to play an 8 Ball game on a coin-operated bar table in order to get more playing time for one’s money. It’s particularly popular in both Latin America as well as in the northern plains states in the US and in Canada. It has lasted because it not only achieved its original purpose but is a strong game in its own right. The rules are very simple: play 8 Ball the way you do now, and add one additional major rule, along with a couple clarifying rules for unusual circumstances.

Last Pocket 8 Ball is a great game
Last Pocket 8 Ball is a great game

FYI, it is considered poor etiquette to play Last Pocket 8 Ball if others are waiting in line for the table.

Last Pocket 8 Ball Overview

The special rule for Last Pocket 8 Ball, as you probably guessed, is that the 8 ball must be pocketed in the same pocket as the last ball of your suit. That is, if you pocket your last stripe in the left corner on the foot end of the table, you must also pocket the 8 Ball there. Pocketing it anywhere else would be a loss.

Each player must have a different pocket for the 8 ball, with the first one claiming the pocket being the winner. If the second player pockets his last ball in the same hole, instead of getting to claim that pocket, his opponent gets to dictate the pocket he must use for the 8 Ball. He can choose a side pocket if he wishes, and he should.

The pocket the last ball goes into is important, but who made the ball go there is not. If you are able to make your opponent’s last ball on a legal shot, you are choosing the pocket for him. However, he gets to choose his pocket if you pocket it illegally.

If the 8 Ball comes to rest in the jaws of a neutral (unclaimed) pocket, you spot it.

Basic Strategies

Games often go one of two ways, one for weak players and one for strong. Weak players will usually screw up the end game pattern, and then have to bank the eight into their hole. Stronger, more experienced players will instead play very carefully and strategically until a run out is simple, and then run out.

Don’t run out until you are sure you can complete the run-out. If you fail it’s easy for your opponent to leave you safe on every shot until they win.

If your opponent gets down to the 8 Ball and misses, only take shots that leave him nothing if you miss. You’re in the driver’s seat; take your time and play carefully.

Be very careful with your shot selection and patterns in this game, especially for the last few balls. Having a key ball in place that gets one a good position for the 8 in the same hole is very valuable, as is a ball before that which gets you a good shot on the key ball. Other ideas follow here:

  • Do not make your last ball in a side pocket unless you are sure you won’t miss the 8 in that pocket on the next shot. Even then, think twice about doing this.
  • Use pocket speed on the 8 Ball to leave it close to your hole if you miss.
  • If your opponent is on the 8 and you don’t have a run-out, consider leaving a blocker in front of his hole.
  • When you don’t have a clear run-out, and your opponent has more than one ball on the table, including a hanger he can use as a good last ball, knock it in so he can’t.
  • If your opponent has great position with the eight ball where it is, and you don’t, move the 8 Ball with a combo or carom to mess up his plans.
  • If your balls predominate at one end of the table, move the eight there.
  • Good banking skills will help if you mess up your end-game pattern. Remember, you might want to bank your last ball to get better shape on the 8, rather than the other way around.

Why Play Last Pocket 8 Ball?

You can learn a lot from playing different games and this one’s a perfect example. This game really rewards thinking and strategic play more than many other games. This is particularly true of regular 8 Ball. Managing the pattern, creating one if it isn’t there, and executing position play well to complete the pattern are essential to winning this game consistently. Creatively planning patterns that let you make the last two balls in the same hole is a big advantage here. Building up that skill exercises your pool creativity in ways that will help all your games.

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