How to Rack the Balls in Billiards

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Billiards is a popular pastime and competitive sport. There are several different games, including 8 ball, straight pool, bank pool, 1 pocket and 9 ball. A rack is a frame of plastic or wood that is used to set up the balls before each game. The rules for racking balls are different from game to game. The rules given here for some of the most popular games are the official rules of the Billiards Congress of America, unless otherwise noted.

Things You'll Need

  • Billiard table
  • Triangular rack
  • Diamond rack
  • Set of billiard balls
  • Place the rack with one corner near the foul spot of the pool table. This corner is called the apex. The foul mark is a small mark that identifies the proper position to place the racked balls.

  • For 8 ball, it is traditional to put the yellow 1 ball at the apex, although it is not mandatory. The rest of the balls may be placed in any order, except that the 8 ball must be placed at the center. In some amateur competitions, the balls are placed with solid and striped balls alternating.

  • Push the rack so that the ball at the apex is on the foul mark and the side opposite the apex is closet to the end of the table and parallel to it.

  • It is important that the palls are packed snugly together (a “tight rack”) or they will not break properly when the break shot is made. Use the tips of your fingers to push the balls toward the apex until they are packed tightly.

  • The steps to racking the balls for other games are the same, except that the order of the balls in the rack varies. For straight pool, the 1 ball is placed at the right corner and the 5 ball at the left corner (from the position of the racker at the end of the table). The remaining balls may be in any order.

  • For bank pool and 1 ball, the balls may be placed in the rack at random.

  • For 9 ball, a diamond shaped rack is used. Note that two of the opposing corners have smaller angles than the other two. One of these small angle corners serves as the apex, with the rack aligned so the opposing corner is pointed directly at the closest end of the table.

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  • In 9 ball, the cue ball must strike the lowest numbered ball on the table first on each shot. For this reason, the 1 ball is always placed at the apex. The remaining balls can be placed in the rack at random

Tips & Warnings

  • Many players have the habit of tightening the rack by sliding it quickly to the foul spot and then stopping it with a jerk. This is not a reliable way of tightening the rack. Always use your fingers to push the balls together.
  • Outside of formal competitions, rules and traditions about ball placement vary widely. For casual and amateur competition, it really makes little difference and the best course is to follow local custom.

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