It’s easy to underestimate the importance of racking – it is just what you do at the start of a game of pool, right? Actually, a poorly made or loose rack can result in an opening break that gives you a subpar spread, which can significantly affect the game.
Luckily, learning how to rack pool balls properly is not hard, and we have laid out everything you need to know right here. If you are a beginner pool player or need to brush up on the rack set up for different pool games, you have come to the right place too. Read on to learn racking rules, official methods and some extra tips.
Before we get into the detail of how, it is important to get to know the two main types of rack that are used in pool.
The triangle rack is the one you will see most often, as it is used in traditional pool games that make use of all 15 object balls. This rack is also sometimes referred to as the eight-ball rack.
Newbies, don’t get confused – eight-ball pool is not named for the number of balls used, but rather for the black eight-ball placed in the center of the rack.
Diamond racks are aptly named for their shape, and are primarily used in games of nine-ball. For this reason, you will often hear it referred to as the nine-ball rack. If you don’t have a diamond rack, it is possible to set up a game of nine-ball with a triangular rack – read how to do so further below.
Familiarizing Yourself With…
Before you can learn about racking pool balls, you must get familiar with the pool table and its important areas. Here are the main terms you’ll need to know as you learn how to rack pool balls:
- Center string: the imaginary line that runs across the center width of the pool table, connecting the two side pockets
- Foot string: the imaginary line that runs across the table halfway between the foot of the table and the center string
- Head string: the imaginary line that runs across the table halfway between the head of the table and the center string
- Foot spot: the spot right at the center of the foot string
- Head spot: the spot right at the center of the head string
- Apex ball: not technically a part of the pool table, but this is the ball that sits at the top of the triangle or diamond
…Some Basic Rules
Here are some general racking rules that apply to most pool games:
- In general, balls should be racked along the foot string of the snooker table, and the apex ball should sit on the foot spot with the rest of the rack towards the foot of the table
- The ball at the center is usually the ball of whichever game you are playing, i.e. 8 for 8-ball and 9 for 9-ball
- Besides some other game-specific rules, the remaining balls are usually placed randomly
- It is always important to make sure your rack is as tight as can be
A Tight Rack For Any Game Of Pool
It’s finally time to get into how to rack pool balls depending on which pool variant you are playing!
Eight-ball is the most common variant. It begins with all 15 object balls racked in a triangle.
- Place the rack along the foot string, with the top of the triangle at the foot spot
- The apex ball, usually the one-ball, should sit directly on the foot spot
- Place the eight-ball at the center of the triangle, i.e. the second spot of the third row
- Place a solid ball on one bottom corner of the triangle, and one striped ball on the other
- The remaining billiard balls can be placed randomly inside the racking triangle
- Once you have done your best to ensure a tight rack, remove the triangle carefully
9-ball is the primary game that makes use of the diamond shaped rack.
- Like in 8-ball, the rack should be positioned along the foot string of the pool table, with the apex at the foot spot
- Place the one-ball on the foot spot
- Place the 9-ball at the center of the diamond
- All the other balls can be placed at random
- Once you have got the balls tight in a perfect diamond formation, remove the rack carefully
Tip: If you do not have a diamond rack, you can still rack a game of nine-ball. Simply create the diamond shape within your standard triangle rack. As long as the bottom ball touches the center of the bottom line, you should have a decent rack.
Ten ball is racked in a triangle position, but using balls number 1-10 only.
- Place the rack along the foot string, with the top of the triangle at the foot spot
- Like in eight-ball, the one-ball serves as the apex ball and should sit on the foot position
- The number 10 ball should be in the middle. This is also the second spot in the third row, but in ten-ball there is only one more row underneath i
- The remaining balls can be placed at random positions within the four rows
- Once you have got your balls to form a tight triangle shape, remove the racking triangle careful
You rack straight pool similarly to 8-ball, but without as many rules as to which balls go where.
- Place the triangle rack along the foot string, with the top of the triangle at the foot spot
- The apex ball should sit directly on the foot spot. In straight pool it does not matter which number this is
- All other balls should just be placed at random
- Once you have made sure that the rack is tight, remove the triangle carefully
Cutthroat pool also makes use of all 15 object balls and a triangle rack.
- As always, place the rack along the foot string, with the top of the triangle at the foot spot
- Place the apex ball on the foot spot. In cutthroat pool, this should be the one-ball
- The number 6 and the number 11 ball should be in the bottom corners of the triangle
- Place the rest of the object balls randomly, make sure your rack is tight, and remove the triangle with care
Final Top Tips
Now you can rack the balls for any game of pool – but can you rack them well? Here are some tips for achieving the perfect rack.
- The first ball you place should be the apex ball: make sure it is settled before adding the others
- If you are having trouble getting your balls to stay still, try tapping them down with the cue ball
- Once the balls are in position, compress them together with your hands while removing the triangle to ensure a tight rack
Something else that may help get your rack tight is to lock your balls into place by giving them a push from the back.
The Magic Rack
If you want to ensure a perfect rack without any danger of disturbance when removing the rack, you could invest in a magic ball rack. The magic rack is completely flat and the outer balls actually sit along it, perfectly secured. You only remove it after the break, so there is no danger of disturbance like from traditional racks.
Frequently Asked Questions
The right way to rack pool balls is to position the apex ball first, and then the rest of the balls. Make sure you have the correct balls in position for whatever game of pool you are playing. There are no rules about the order in which you place the balls, as long as they are where they should be.
The white ball goes anywhere the breaker wants it to, as long as it is behind the head string. There is no exact rule for where the cue ball should go. In fact, where you decide to place it can make or break your shot, so it is important to position it carefully!
A diamond shaped rack is used in 9 ball pool. However, if you do not have a diamond rack, you can use a triangle rack to position your balls. Simply rack the first three rows as you would for 8 ball pool, and then place the rest of the balls to form a diamond shape.
You stack pool balls by following the racking instructions above; the exact positioning of the balls depends on which pool game you are playing. In general, place the apex ball at the apex of the rack on the foot spot, and the final ball in the center. Follow our tips above for getting your rack tight.
You are supposed to rack 8 ball pool by placing the triangle rack with the apex of the triangle and the apex ball (usually one one-ball) at the foot spot. Then the 8-ball goes at the center, in the second position of the third row. You should have one striped and one solid ball in the bottom corners of the triangle, and the rest of the balls are placed randomly.
The main conclusion of this article is: make sure you have a tight rack! You can use a magic rack if you want to ensure perfection, but if you follow our top tips you should be able to do it with a traditional rack and a little practice. Hopefully this article has cleared up any confusion for beginners and those needing to brush up on how to rack pool balls. Now it’s time to get to work on the rest of your game! If you need a refresher on the difference between pool and billiard games, or you are looking for your very own pool table, we have got you covered too!