How to Play 9-Ball Pool – Blatt Billiards

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How to Play 9-Ball Pool

by David Roeder |

When you are looking for different pool games to play besides 8-ball pool, you should consider learning how to play 9-ball pool. This pool game is fast paced, fun, and exciting. Unlike 8-ball pool, where you use 15 balls, you only use 9 balls to play this variation.

Racking the Balls

diamond shape of 9-ball pool balls placed in rack position on blue felt table, top view, copy space

To rack the balls:

  • Use a special diamond-shaped 9-ball rack.
  • Start by placing the 1-ball at the top of the rack over the foot spot. The 9-ball must be in the middle of the third row.
  • Arrange the remaining numbered (object) balls 2 through 8 however you want. Some players prefer to put them in numerical order. However, that is not required.

If you do not have a diamond-shaped 9-ball rack, you can use the triangular rack you use for 8-ball pool.

  • Place the 1-ball at the top of the rack over the foot spot.
  • Next, place two balls below the one ball.
  • The third row consists of three balls with the 9-ball in the middle.
  • Then, place two balls under the third row and one ball for the fifth row.
  • Make sure the balls are racked tightly before removing the rack.


Long exposure pool billiards eight ball break shot

Place the cue ball behind the head string—the second length-side marker on the opposite side of the table. During the break, the play must hit the 1-ball. To be considered a legal break, at least one ball must be sunk into one of the pockets, except the 9-ball. Alternatively, at least four object balls, or three object balls and the cue ball must hit a rail.

Order of Play

Players will take turns attempting to pocket the object balls. After all of the other balls have been pocketed, they can attempt to sink the 9-ball. A player’s turn continues as long as they are pocketing balls. As soon as they do not pocket a ball or cause a foul, play progresses to the next player.

Sequence of Shots and Calling

Billiard pool game nine ball with cue and nineball balls set up on billiard table with blue cloth

Players must always start their turn by ensuring the cue ball strikes the lowest numbered ball on the table. However, the balls do not need to be pocketed in numerical order. For example, the 2-ball is the lowest ball on the table. You must shoot the cue ball at the 2-ball and can use the 2-ball to hit another ball into a pocket.

You are not required to call your shots when playing 9-ball pool. Nor do you need to call the pocket when sinking the 9-ball.

Winning the Game

Billiard pool game nine ball with chalk and cue on billiard table with blue cloth

The game is won when a player pockets the 9-ball. However, most people will play a 9-ball match because the actual game can be rather short. A match is won when one player has won a set number of games. For example, to win a match, you must win the game three times.

Foul Shots/Penalties

You need to be aware of several foul shots and penalties when you play 9-ball pool.


  1. If you scratch when hitting the cue ball, the other player gets to place the cue ball anywhere on the table they desire.
  2. If the first ball struck by the cue ball is not the lowest numbered ball, it is a foul.
  3. If a ball is not pocketed or the cue ball or any numbered ball is not driven to the rail after the cue ball strikes the lowest numbered ball on the table, it is a foul.

When a player commits a foul, if any balls were pocketed, they are not respotted—put back onto the table—unless it was the 9-ball. The player’s turn is over. The other player gets to move the cue ball anywhere on the table.

If a player commits more than one foul during a single shot, it is only counted as a single foul. Furthermore, if a player commits three consecutive fouls on three consecutive shots, they automatically lose the game.


  1. If the break was not valid, meaning no balls were sunk or less than four balls were driven off the rails, the other player places the cue ball anywhere on the table and takes their turn.
  2. If the 1-ball was not hit during the break, your turn is over even if balls were pocketed or four balls were driven off the rails. With the cue ball in hand, the other player places it anywhere and must hit the lowest numbered ball on the table.
  3. If someone shoots a numbered ball off the table, their turn is over. The ball is automatically placed into a pocket unless it is the 9-ball. Then it is placed back on the table.

Push Out Rule Variation

Billiard Balls / 9 ball game

A push out is a variation of the standard rules. After a legal break, the player taking the second turn can declare a push out. A push out is a legal shot that allows the player to hit the cue ball into a better position without having to hit the lowest number ball or having to drive the cue ball or another ball to a rail.

Any balls pocketed during a push out are left pocketed, except for the 9-ball, which is placed back onto the table. Nor does it count as a foul. Immediately after the push out shot, the incoming player can choose to take their turn or pass. Now, play progresses as usual.

Where to Find 9-Ball Racks and Ball Sets

Custom Walnut Triangle Rack

Learning to play 9-ball pool is not difficult and is a fun, fast-paced billiards game to enjoy. To find 9-ball racks, ball sets, and high-quality, handcrafted pool tables to play pool at home, please feel free to browse our selections online, visit one of our showrooms, or contact Blatt Billiards at 212-674-8855 today.