Green’s Dictionary of Slang

behind the eight ball phr.

also back of the fifteen-ball, up against the eight ball
[pool imagery]

(orig. US) in trouble, in a difficult situation.

[UK]D. Ahearn Confessions of a Gunman 243: Crime does not pay because the best you wind up is behind the eight ball.
[US]D. Runyon ‘Broadway Financier’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 201: She [...] winds up back of the fifteen ball.
[[US]W. Winchell ‘On Broadway’ 4 Aug. [synd. col.] The 8-ball look in the eyes of the men seeking jobs along Sixth Avenue in the latter 40s].
[US]‘Bill O. Lading’ You Chirped a Chinful!! n.p.: Behind the 8 Ball: Broke.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Homicide Surprise’ in Speed Detective Feb. [Internet] First you festoon me with bruises and then you put me behind the eight ball by slamming a cop senseless.
[US]C.S. Montanye ‘Frozen Stiff’ in Popular Detective Mar. [Internet] Well, here we are [...] Right behind the ball numbered eight.
[US]Monteleone Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 246: up against the eight ball In a bad predicament.
[US]W.R. Burnett Little Men, Big World 72: Here he puts me behind the eightball with you, with the Mover—with everybody.
[US]L. Hughes ‘Dear Doctor Butts’ in Clarke Harlem, USA (1971) 343: And where am I? As usual, behind the eight-ball.
[US]San Diego Sailor 76: I’d certainly jockedyed myself into a sweet position behind the eightball.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
[Aus]S. Maloney Sucked In 39: I’m a bit behind the eight-ball on the twilight of the Municipals.