If you see casual players trying to play pool they will often randomly rack the balls and guess at their order.
In reality, setting up a good rack is very easy once you know what you’re doing. That being said, there are several types of pool that all need a different rack.
Here we will look at how to rack pool balls for different pool games and give you a few tips on how to perfectly set-up the start of the game.
How to rack 8 ball
Racking in 8 ball is very easy and all you need to the standard 15-ball triangle rack. Once you have all the balls in the rack, place one solid color and one stripe in the bottom corners.
The only other rules are to have the eight ball in the middle of the third row. After that, you can place any of the other balls in random order.
In terms of placement, the solitary ball at the top of the rack (the apex of the rack) should be sitting directly over the foot spot. The foot spot is the name for the marker that should be on the table to guide you on rack placement.
How to rack 9 ball
The rack in 9 ball is set up as a diamond. You can use a specific 9 ball pool rack for this but you can easily use a regular triangle. The formation of the diamond is one ball in the apex, two in the second row, three in the third and then two and one to complete the diamond.
There are only two set rules here. The first is for the one ball to be placed at the apex of the rack and the second is that the striped nine-ball needs to be placed in the center of the diamond. The rest of the balls can be random but some like to put them in number order.
If you’re using a triangle rack, make sure the balls are packed as tightly as possible into the top of it. With positioning, the one ball then needs to be sitting over the foot spot.
How to rack straight pool
In straight pool, it more or less doesn’t matter where the balls are and they can be placed in random order. All 15 balls are used with the apex ball sitting on the foot spot.
The difference in straight pool is that the balls will be continuously re-racked. This happens when only one object balls and the white ball remain on the table.
If this object ball is outside the racking area when you rack in the same way as you started but without a ball at the apex of the triangle. This will be continuously done until there is a winner.
How to rack 10 ball
10 ball pool is racked in much the same way as 8 ball pool but without the five balls on the bottom row. You can use a regular triangle with this and simply push the 10 ball to the front of the rack. While you can do that, it’s always going to be preferable to get a rack that is specific to each game that you play.
The first 10 numbered balls are used and can be placed in any type of pattern that you wish. There is only one rule in terms of ball placement and that is for the ten ball to be placed in the middle of the triangle.
The triangle is placed with the apex ball resting on the foot spot and if you’re using a regular triangle, make sure that the balls are packed tightly together. This is especially the case is you’re using a regular triangle as there is more chance of the balls rolling loose.
How to rack Cutthroat Pool
Cutthroat pool is racked in the same way as 8 ball with the exception of a few small rules on ball placement. A standard triangle can be used with all 15 balls.
The detail in cutthroat pool is what happens with the one, size and 11 balls. The one should be placed at the apex of the triangle and then the other two balls are to be placed in either corner of the rack.
With it being a 3 player game with the players potting balls 1-5, 6-10 and 11-15 it’s important that every player has a ball on the corner. The rest of the balls can be placed in any random order and the apex ball should be resting on the foot spot.
What makes a good and bad rack?
The crucial aspect of any rack is that it needs to be tight. If it’s not then a lot of energy is lost after the initial contact on the break and the balls won’t spread. Even if you aggressively hit a look rack only a couple of balls are likely to leave the triangle.
When the balls are tightly racked, only the black ball should remain in the triangle if the break was done with some force. This is easy to check as there should be no gaps left between any of the balls with every ball touching at least two other balls.
Tips and tools for a better rack
In order to get a tight rack, it’s best to get specific ball holders for each game. While you can use an 8-ball pool rack for 9 and 10 ball pool, with open space at the bottom of the triangle it can be hard to make sure that you’re getting a tight rack.
If are using a triangle then it’s a good idea to make a barrier with your fingers to fill any empty space. If there is any space between the balls when you lift the triangle then just place it back down and try again or gently roll the ball back into the bunch.
Another option is to use either the Sardo Tight Rack or a Magic Rack. The Sardo Tight Rack allows you to arrange the balls with pressure from the top before allowing it to slide away and leaving you with a tight rack.
The Magic Rack stays on the table when you break as it’s a paper-thin piece of material. It works by holding the outer balls in place and stops are rolling away. The thinness of the material means that the balls can spread easily once you break and as soon as you have, you can remove it.
Improper racking can ruin a game of pool as the balls get bunched up and both players are scared to break them up and give the other an advantage. A lot of people like the roll the balls with their hand when they are placed in a triangle but if you can do this, then the balls aren’t tight enough.
The correct way to rack pool balls
Pool racking isn’t too difficult and a lot of the time you only need to remember where a couple of the balls will be placed. If you’re new to the game then it’s a great idea to bookmark this page so that you can refer back to it in the future.
Not all pool rules are set in stone and there are times when people will want the rest of the object balls are in a certain place. As long as you’re following the guide above, the rest doesn’t matter.
Racks aren’t expensive and if you are playing different types of pool then it makes sense to buy three different racks that you’ll need for 8, 9, and 10 ball pool. This way you won’t have to worry about pressing your fingers into the rack or having a bad break.
Sometimes you don’t want to be ‘that guy who is overly pedantic about how to rack pool balls and make sure it’s correct. If anyone complains about you being a killjoy then tell them that it’s the exact opposite.
Taking a few extra seconds on a good rack will mean a much better break. A good break will allow for a more enjoyable and faster game. Many people are unaware that the set-up of the balls usually has a lot more to do with a bad break than anything that you do with a cue.
You could have a big strong guy who strikes the ball at an incredible pace into the balls but if they are loosely packed, the balls will simply roll away from the bunch. That isn’t going to be much fun for anyone and someone will eventually have to break them up.
If you follow the above guide then you’ll be able to see the difference in your breaks. Usually, the rule is that the person who breaks racks the balls. If that rule is in place, then a tight rack gives you a better chance of potting the opening ball and controlling the game.
Rob is an avid player and fan of all cue sports, particularly 8-ball, and snooker. He has competed in a few local 8-ball tournaments and although he is not a professional, he can compete with the best of them.