If you enjoy playing pool in you man cave, at your home, your local pub or a nearby pool hall, you will definitely need to learn how to rack the balls for the various types of pool games. Learning to rack the pool balls in the proper way will allow you to play the variety of pool games as they were meant to be played. It will also ensure that the balls are broken properly when they are struck by the cue ball.
Racking pool balls is a fairly easy and straightforward process, but there are some rules you will need to follow as well a few strategies you can employ in order to do the job properly and by the book. To help ensure you are up to the task, in the following article we have discussed how to rack pool balls in some detail, providing step-by-step instructions for racking the two most prevalent pool games on the planet: 8-ball and 9-ball.
How to Rack Pool Balls When Playing 8-Ball
The first thing you will need to do before you can even think of racking the pool balls for a game of 8-ball is to purchase the correct rack—in this case the standard triangle rack. Racks such as these can be picked up and purchased at pool and billiards supply stores as well as most stores that specialize in gaming equipment.
8-ball is a game that utilizes all 15 balls (16 balls if you count the cue ball), and the standard triangle rack is designed to accommodate all 15 of these balls.
There are actually several different ways you can rack for a standard game of 8-ball: the semi-random 8-ball rack, the solid/stripe 8-ball rack, and the numerical left to right 8-ball rack.
Semi-Random 8-Ball Rack
In the semi-random 8-ball rack you will begin by placing the number 1-ball at the very top point of the triangle rack. This point is known as the apex of the rack. Next, you will want to place one of the solid-colored balls in the far left-hand corner of the rack; and one of the striped balls in the far-right hand corner of the rack. When a rack is broken by the breaker (by hitting the cue ball into the balls with the pool cue), the balls on the two bottom corners tend to get the most action—to scatter the most. Because of this, you will want to place one ball of each type at those corners so as not to give any one player an unfair advantage.
Once you have the yellow-colored 1-ball at the apex of the rack, and alternating solid-colored and stiped balls at each corner, you can now fill in the rest of the balls into the rack at random. The only exception to this random rule is this: the 8-ball must be placed in the very center of the rack. The middle of the rack can be found in the third row, where there is only enough room for three balls across. The 8-ball, then, should be placed as the middle ball in that third row.
Now that all the balls are in the rack you will want to press them tightly together from the bottom using your thumbs and the palms of your hand. Roll the rack towards the “black dot” or starting position on the table, placing the apex of the rack—where the 1-ball sits—directly on top of that dot. Continue to hold the balls from the bottom to ensure they are tight, and then gently lift the rack up and off the table. Now you are ready to break the pack with your break cue and enjoy the game.
The Solid/Stripe 8-Ball Rack
The solid/stripe 8-ball rack is commonly used in bars, pubs and pool halls, largely because it is fast and easy to remember. To rack in this fashion, you will once again want to place the 1-ball at the apex of the rack. Then starting at the left-hand side of the rack, begin placing the balls in a solid, then stripe pattern. In other words, directly under the 1-ball on the left-hand side you will need to place a striped ball. This will be followed—going downward along the outside of the rack—by a solid-colored ball, and so-forth. Continue this pattern until the entire rack has been filled up, and then place the 8-ball in the last space—once again smack-dab in the middle of the rack.
The only downside to the solid/stripe racking pattern is that you will always end up with two solid-colored balls at each of the corners. However, you will also have an equal number of balls on the outside portion of the rack—the portion that tends to break-up more easily when it is struck by the cue ball.
Numerical Left to Right 8-Ball Rack
Last but not least is the numerical left to right 8-ball rack. This is also an easy rack to perform, but it is least commonly used because it ends up with the 8-ball on the outside rail of the rack, as you will soon see, and leaves two striped-colored balls in each of the bottom corners.
To perform this racking strategy, start by placing the 1-ball at the apex of the rack. Next, take the 2-ball and place it directly under the 1-ball to the left. Now, moving horizontally instead of vertically, begin placing the balls in numerical order, starting with the 3-ball directly next to the 2-ball, until you have reached the far right-hand corner of the rack. Important to note with this racking strategy is that this will always result in the 1-ball being at the apex, the 11 and 15 balls being at the two bottom corners, and the 5-ball being in the 8-ball’s customary position: in the center of the rack. Because this racking style does not end up with the 8-ball in the middle, it is very seldom used for this game. It is, however, a very popular racking style for games like cutthroat and straight pool.
As with the first rack we explained, remember to place the apex ball directly over the small black dot on the table and to pack the balls tightly before removing the rack. A tightly-packed rack will offer a better spread when it is hit squarely and powerfully with the cue ball.
How to Rack Pool Balls When Playing 9-Ball
The game of 9-ball, as the name suggests, is played using only 9 balls instead of 15. These balls are the solid yellow 1-ball, the solid blue 2-ball, the solid red 3-ball, the solid purple 4-ball, the solid orange 5-ball, the solid green 6-ball, the solid maroon 7-ball, the solid black 8-ball, and the yellow-striped 9-ball. As such, when you prepare to rack for a game of 9-ball, you will want to take the other 6 balls off the table—the 10-ball through the 15-ball.
Although a game of 9-ball can technically be racked using a standard racking triangle, this strategy always seems to leave the balls too loose when the rack is removed, resulting in a poor break without much scatter. Instead, you will want to purchase the diamond-shaped rack that is specifically designed to rack a game of 9-ball. Like the standard triangle rack, the diamond-shaped rack can also be found at pool and billiards supply stores as well as retail outlets that specialize in table games. The pattern of a diamond-shaped 9-ball rack is much as you would expect from this shape—1-2-3-2-1.
The first rule when racking a game of 9-ball is that the 1-ball is always at the apex of the rack. This is very important. 9-ball is a game in which the balls are hit in numerical succession, so it only stands the reason that the 1-ball would be out in front, as this is the first ball in which the cue ball will make contact.
The second rule of 9-ball is that the 9-ball should always be at the center of the rack—the middle spot of the third or middle row. This is also very crucial. Because the 9-ball is “usually” the last ball that will be played in a game of 9-ball, it should be least affected when the cue ball makes contact with the rack. Sinking the 9-ball in any pocket on the break results in an automatic win for the person who broke the balls, so by placing the 9-ball in the middle you will make that eventuality as difficult and as rare as possible.
As long as the 1-ball is at the top or apex of the diamond rack, and the 9-ball is placed in the middle, the remainder of the balls can be placed at random. This is what’s called a standard 9-ball rack—the same rack they use in tournaments and other competitions.
One variant to this is placing the balls in numerical right to left order—all balls but the 9-ball which must remain in the middle. If you follow this strategy, as many an amateur player does, you will have a rack in which the 1-ball is at the apex, the 9-ball is in the middle, and the 8-ball is at the very back of the diamond.
Where to Store the Rack
It’s best practice to store the racks somewhere close to the pool table so that you don’t spend too much time finding the rack everytime you start a new game. This is commonly under the pool table itself, hung on a nearby wall or on a cue and ball rack holder.