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How to Rack Pool Balls Like a Pro

by Brian Roeder |

Before you can play pool, you need to be able to set up the balls on the table. When you place the balls on the table before a game, this is referred to as racking the balls. Racking is another pool skill you need to learn and practice.

There are different styles and ways to rack pool balls depending on the pool game or billiard game being played. Each game variation can have its own specific placement and method to rack the balls. For beginners, it is ideal to learn the proper racking for several pool game variations, including straight pool, eight ball, nine ball, and ten ball.

What Is a Pool Rack?

pool balls in triangle

A pool rack is an essential piece of pool equipment you need to rack the balls on the pool table. Racks can be made from different materials, such as plastic, aluminum, steel,  walnut, oak, mahogany woods and even carbon fiber.

Pool racks come in two different configurations: triangle-shaped and diamond-shaped. The rack configuration you use will depend on the pool game you are playing. Pool racks are used with both pool balls and billiard balls.

Why Does Racking the Balls Matter?

The quality of your rack is vital to the overall game. If your rack is loose, the break will not be as tight and concise as you want it to be. As such, you can end up with a break that could ultimately set up a cluster of simple shots for your opponent.

This is why you will notice that skilled players and professionals always insist on a tight rack. The tighter the rack, the more difficult it is for the person breaking. Essentially, the best defense for the player not breaking is to verify the rack is as tight as possible.

Racking the Balls for Straight Pool

Billiard balls on the table with a cue

Straight pool is where players agree on a number of points before the start of the game. One point is awarded for each ball sunk in a pocket on the pool table. To set up a game of straight pool, place the triangle rack on the table where the marker is located. Next, randomly place the balls inside the rack.

The order does not matter. However, some players prefer the one ball to be placed on the foot over the marker, with the five ball on the back left corner. After the initial fourteen balls are pocketed, the triangle rack is placed back on the table over the marker.

If the fifteenth ball is outside the rack, it is not re-racked. If it is inside the rack, then it is re-racked with the other fourteen balls. Continue playing and re-racking as needed until the agreed-upon point total is reached.

Racking the Balls for Eight Ball

Eight ball pool is the type of pool game most people are familiar with because the eight ball—the black ball—is the last ball to be pocketed. Using the triangle rack, place the one ball over the market on the pool table.

Place one solid ball and one striped ball in the other two corners of the triangle. The rest of the balls, except the eight ball, are placed randomly. The eight ball should be placed in the middle of the third row. 

Racking the Balls for Nine Ball

diamond shape of 9-ball pool balls

Nine ball pool uses the diamond-shaped rack and only uses balls numbered from one to nine. Start off by placing the one ball at the apex—the spot over the marker on the pool table. All the other balls are placed randomly, except for the nine ball.

The nine ball is placed in the middle of the rack, the middle of the third row. The object of nine ball is to pocket the nine ball last.

Racking the Balls for Ten Ball

Ten ball pool uses balls numbered from one to ten. The object is to pocket the ten ball last. To rack the balls, use the triangular rack. Place the one ball at the apex over the marker on the pool table. Randomly fill in the other balls, ensuring the ten ball is in the middle of the third row.

To ensure a tight rack for ten ball, place all fifteen balls in the rack when setting up the game. Once you remove the triangle, carefully remove the eleven through fifteen balls from the table.

How to Ensure a Tight Rack

Learning how to make a tight rack does require some practice. After you have the balls racked for the type of pool game or billiard game you are playing, carefully slide the rack forward and then backward while lining up the apex ball over the marker on the pool table.

walnut wood triangle ball rack

Next, slide your fingers behind the back of the triangle rack and push the balls forward. For nine ball, slide your fingers on the bottom sides of the diamond rack while moving the balls forward. Once the balls look tight and there are no gaps in between, carefully remove your fingers. Last, very slowly remove the rack from the pool table.

Now that you know how to rack pool balls, it will not be too long before you are racking the balls like a pro.

To find pool balls, billiard balls, triangular racks, and diamond racks, please feel free to explore our selections in our online store, or contact Blatt Billiards at 212-674-8855 today! You may also visit one of our showrooms in California, New York, New Jersey, or Dallas.