Example: With nothing but difficult options before him, Bill found himself behind the eight ball.
Origins: Billiards and the game of Eight Ball, perhaps Eight-ball Croquet. First use is in the 1929 Sheboygan Press about baseball. (Source.)
- behind the hate ball
- behind the black ball
- behind the odd ball
- behind the mid-ball
- behind the killer ball
- menaced by the eight ball
- intimidated by the eight ball
- gamed by the eight ball
- galled by the eight ball
- on the unlucky side of the eight ball
Discussion: I tried to play on the variety of ways you might think of facing an eight ball in a game of billiards.
Update: I had struggled with rewriting this cliche for some reason. As I was promoting his page on social media, an entirely new angle hit me - other game metaphors:
- caught between the chutes and the ladders
- caught at the bottom of a Sorry! slide