How To Play: 9 Ball Pool

There are two main types of pool (if you ignore the giant holes in the ground full of water, that is). There’s the standard game of 8 ball pool that we all know and love. And the American alternative – 9 ball pool. 

The rules of 9 ball are quite simple once you’ve got your head around them. But if you, like most people outside of the US, have grown up playing the other style of the game, it can take some getting used to.

Let’s run through the game now, shall we? We’ll talk about the the set-up, break, rules, quirks, fouls and anything else you need to know.

Here goes!

The basics

How to play 9 ball (1)

9 ball isn’t called 9 ball because there are 9 balls on the table. More likely, it’s called that because the focus of the game is the 9 ball. 8 ball is called 8 ball, but has 15 balls on the table, after all.

So, then. There are 9 balls. The winner is the person who pots the yellow and white 9 ball. The 9 can be potted at any time in the game and, provided it’s a legal shot (we’ll get to that shortly…), it’s a game winner.

The thing is, 9 ball is really quite different to the red n’ yellows/spots n’ stripes pool most people know and love. You’ve not got allocated balls, you need to pot them specifically and in numerical order until the 9 is down. Meaning you only have one ball (the lowest numbered on the table) to aim for any time you’re at the table.


The set up

How to play 9 ball

There are 6 fewer balls, so the triangular formation of balls is out of the window. Instead, you rack up the balls in a diamond shape. You can still use the triangle to help get the balls where they need to be, though. As you can see in the image above.

It doesn’t really matter which balls go where provided you’ve racked up with the 9 ball in the middle and the 1 ball at the front of the pack.


The break

How to play 9 ball

A coin toss can decides who breaks. Or, if you prefer, you can go a little more American and ‘lag’ for it. Players strike the cue ball from the baulk line to the end cushion/rail and see where it rests. Closest to the baulk cushion wins.

As with 8 ball pool, the person breaking shoots the cue ball into the pack from the baulk line. They aim at the 1 ball and attempt to pocket as many balls from the break as possible. If they pot, they stay on and aim to pot the lowest numbered ball on the table.

Pot the 9 ball off the break…? You’ve won! Getting the ball in the middle of the pack into a pocket from the break-off is a rare feat, mind.


The rules

How to play 9 ball

The rules are fairly simple. You aim to pot the balls in order until the 9 ball drops. Whoever pots it has won, regardless of how many of the previous balls the player was responsible for holing.

Miss a shot and no balls go down, your turn is over and your opponent comes to the table.

You can pot any ball you like during your turn (aside from the cue ball). So cannons are an option. You must aim for the lowest numbered ball, but if you can send the object ball into another and pot that, it’s a fair shot and you continue your break. Do that to the 9 ball and, again, it’s a frame-winning shot.



How to play 9 ball

Fouls in 9 ball come in many different shapes and sizes…

The following acts constitute a foul:

  • Touching or moving the cue ball in any way (the cue doesn’t count, of course)
  • Being coached by anyone else
  • Shooting without at least one foot on the floor
  • Hitting the cue ball into a pocket or sending it off the table
  • Hitting a ball that isn’t the lowest numbered
  • If no ball is potted and no non-cue ball hits a cushion
  • Potting the 9 ball and the cue ball in the same shot

After a foul, the other player can pick up the cue ball and place it anywhere on the table they like. Provided it’s not in contact with the object ball.



How to play 9 ball

Get that 9 ball down! Just, y’know, legally. That’s all there is to it. Unless you opponent decides to throw the game or wander off or something.

If you want to impress, you can clear up and hole the 9 last. But to truly show off, it’s all about downing that 9 with a cannon early doors.


Extra things you need to know

Killer Pool

We’ve pretty much covered it, but there area few more quirks and weird rules that it’s worth us pointing out…

  • If someone fouls three shots in a row – they forfeit the game
  • After a foul, you can keep moving the cue ball with your hand until the shot is taken
  • The balls and pockets are quite a bit bigger than 8 ball pool balls and tables
  • Finally… This game ain’t as easy as it looks!

How’s that? Make sense? Keen to try it out? Then get yourself down to your nearest Rileys and book a pool table today. You’ll be a 9 ball wizard in no time. Trust us.

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