How to Rack Pool Balls (for All Games)

Virtually everyone loves to play pool. It’s a relaxing sport and easy to understand.

But while the gameplay is straightforward, very few people know how to rack properly — I’ve certainly been guilty of this in the past!

And even for the limited number of you who know how to rack pool balls, you probably only know how to do so for common games such as eight-ball pool, but what about the rest?

There are lots of pool game variations out there! In this blog post, I explain how to rack pool balls for all pool variations and provide tips on optimally setting up your pool triangle.

What Is a Pool Rack?

A pool rack is a piece of equipment you use to organize a pool ball set up before the commencement of a game. Racks are always included when you buy a table, but there are actually different types. You are probably familiar with triangle-shaped racks, but there are diamond-shaped versions too. Which you need to use depends on the type of game you want to play.

Why Does Having A Good Rack Matter In Pool?

Racking maintains the positional integrity of the ball set up for pool: it ensures you position the balls correctly beside one another with no gaps. If your pool triangle setup is poor, the balls will be more spread out, which results in a wider break, making it easier for the player who starts the game.

Read More: Best Pool Tables

How to Set Up Pool Balls for American Eight-Ball Pool

For American eight-ball pool, the racking procedure is very simple. Begin racking the pool balls by placing a spot and a stripe at the bottom of each corner of the triangle. It doesn’t matter which way around they are. Then fill in the balls randomly except for the middle slot of the third row. This is where the black eight ball goes. Finally, position the triangle, so the top ball is over the marker on the table, and then remove it.

There are many more types of pool games you can play as well, so let’s cover each now.

How to Rack for English Eight-Ball Pool — Spots and Stripes

how to rack pool balls for eight-ball pool

Kafziel – Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 3.0

Eight-ball English pool is similar to the American version as it too, uses eight balls with a spot and stripe pattern. However, each ball has a specific location.

Begin the same way you would for American eight-ball pool by placing differing balls at the bottom of each corner (stripe and spot). After which, place two balls beside each original ball of an opposing type. Next, create another line of opposing types only on the right side. These should be the same type as the second line on the left and meet to form a J-shape.

Back to the left side, place another two balls of a different type from the J-shape to go on the inside. The black ball goes in the same position as American eight-ball pool in the middle of 3rd row. Above the black, again, place opposing types of ball to those on the left and right of the black, and finally, place the last ball at the top.

Unlike American eight-ball pool, the black sits over the marker spot on the table. Either remove the black ball or place it last. This way, you can see the marker throughout to ensure the rack is positioned correctly.

How to Set Up 8-Ball Pool — Reds & Yellows

The pool setup for English eight-ball pool with reds and yellows is the same as spots and stripes. The balls just use colors rather than patterns to distinguish between the two sets.

How to Set Pool Balls for Nine-Ball Pool

how to rack pool balls for nine-ball pool

SMcCandlish – Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 4.0

Nine-ball pool uses the diamond-shaped rack instead of the triangle and balls one through nine. Only two balls have specific placement for this type of pool, and that’s the one and nine ball. The one goes at the top of the rack, and the nine goes in the center as the black does for eight-ball pool.

Place the other balls randomly and position the number one ball so it sits on the marker.

Read More: Best Foldable Pool Table

How to Rack for Ten-Ball Pool

how to rack pool balls for ten-ball pool

SMcCandlish – Wikimedia Commons – CC BY-SA 4.0

To rack the ten-ball pool, you use numbers one through ten and a triangle. Like with nine-ball pool, you place the balls at random except for two balls. For this game, it’s the one and ten ball. The one ball goes at the top of the rack, and the ten ball goes in the middle of the third row.

Top tip: Place all fifteen balls into the rack with numbers eleven through fifteen at the bottom to achieve a tight rack. When all balls are in, carefully remove these five balls.

Correct Way to Rack Pool Balls for Straight Pool

Like eight-ball pool, straight pool consists of fifteen balls plus the cue ball. This game differs from the others as it does not conclude when you have potted all of the balls, but rather when an agreed-upon points total is reached.

To rack for straight pool, all you need to do is place all of the balls into the triangle on the marker. Some players prefer specific spots for the balls, but there are no set positions.

When fourteen balls are in the pockets, you take the triangle out and re-rack. If the remaining ball sits within the rack, it is re-racked. You leave it out and rack the other balls if it does not. This continues until the specified points total is met.

Proper Way to Rack Pool Balls for Cutthroat Pool

Cutthroat pool is another game that uses fifteen balls. To rack, use the triangle, and place the one ball at the top and over the marker. The six and eleven balls go in the opposing bottom corners. As for the rest, place them randomly within the triangle.

How to Set Up a Snooker Table

Setting up snooker is very different from pool. You rack the fifteen reds using a triangle and place them behind the foot spot. The pink ball goes in front of the apex ball, and the black goes behind the red balls in the middle.

The blue ball is easy to place as it goes in the center of the table. As for the rest, you place them along the baulk line where it meets the semicircle. The brown goes in the middle, the yellow goes on the left, and the green goes on the right.

How to Rack Pool Balls Tightly

While the triangle-shaped and diamond-shaped racks do a lot of work for you, there are a few steps to learning how to rack pool balls properly.

1) Place all the balls in the rack, slide them up fast to the foot, and then stop. This momentum will cluster them together nicely.

2) Apply force with your fingers to the balls at the bottom of the rack to compress the pack.

3) Remove the triangle carefully without contacting any of the balls. If you do, repeat the rack to ensure correct positioning.

Read More: Best Multi-Game Tables


Is There an Order to Rack Pool Balls?

There is no pool racking order as it doesn’t matter which sequence you follow to place the balls, only that you know how to arrange pool balls correctly.


Congratulations! You now know how to rack pool balls. Not very difficult, eh? The hardest part is remembering the different racking rules for each game, but every game is easy by any means. Besides, you’ll probably only play one or two most of the time, and you can refer back to our guide as needed to refresh your memory.

Freelance writer. Table tennis enthusiast. Lover of all things online. When I’m not working on my loop game I’m probably binge-watching some fantasy show.