Playing the Ghost
Game: 9-Ball or 8-Ball
Here are the basic rules. You break the rack and then get “ball in hand” for your first shot, meaning that you can place the cue ball anywhere on the table, regardless if you made a ball or not. From there, your goal is to run the whole rack. You must win the game during this turn at the table. If you miss or scratch, it’s considered a win for the “ghost,” your imaginary opponent who automatically runs the table whenever he gets the chance. As far as the endpoint, you can play to a certain number of games (say, 10, for example, so the final score might be 8-2 or 6-4, etc.), or you can play until you or the ghost reaches a certain number of games (called a “race,” as in “race to 7”).
Those are the basics, but you can add any number of wrinkles to the rules and scoring. For example, the basic rules do not take into consideration safety play, where you end up with a difficult or impossible shot on your next ball and you instead decide to execute a defensive shot. That’s when you contact a legal object ball, and the cue ball rolls to a position where your opponent has no clear shot for his next turn. If you want to include safety play, there are several options. If your safety is successful, and the ghost has no clear shot for his turn, you can call it a draw and move onto the next game, or you can give yourself ball in hand again and continue your run out. If you, as the ghost, sink the shot, you’ve lost the rack; if you make contact with the object ball but miss the shot, you change back to your original self and keep going, etc.