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Behind the eight ball

Behind the eight ball is an idiom that is derived from a game. We will look at the meaning of the phrase behind the eight ball, where the term comes from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Behind the eight ball means placed in a difficult situation from which one is unlikely to escape. The idiom behind the eight ball was first printed in American newspaper stories in the 1920s and was derived from the game of pool. There are two different versions of pool that involve a special status for the eight ball. One version is the game of Eight Ball, in which the numbered balls must be pocketed in numerical order except for the eight ball. If the cue ball accidentally hits the eight ball, then the turn is forfeited. If the eight ball is pocketed, the game is lost. Kelly Pool is another game which may have given rise to the term behind the eight ball. In Kelly Pool players are secretly assigned a numbered pool ball. To win, the player must pocket his numbered ball after first pocketing the lower-numbered balls. Players who have drawn balls with a higher number than eight, or the balls behind the eight ball, have a much lower chance of winning a game of Kelly pool.

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Examples

The Razorbacks are already behind the eight ball with a loss to Texas A&M, but a home upset of the Tide vaults them right back in the SEC West picture. (USA Today)

“I don’t want to get into the old days and then realize we’re behind the eight ball and we have to redesign all this stuff,” Boesch said. (The Naples Daily News)

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