How To Play 9 Ball Pool: A Quick Guide

The standard version of pool is 8 ball pool, but the American alternative is 9 ball pool, sometimes referred to as nine ball pool.

How to Play 9 Ball Pool

There are quite a few differences between the two (more than just the difference in the number of balls).

It can take some time to get used to 9 ball pool if you’re from outside the United States and you’ve only ever played 8 ball pool.

The following is a guide to all you need to know about 9 ball pool, including the setup, the break, the rules, and fouling.

We’ll also be briefly outlining similar forms of pool, including 3 ball pool, 10 ball pool, and the gambling variant of 9 ball pool called 3-6-9 ball pool.

9 Ball Pool: The Basics

9 ball pool is a popular form of pool around the world, but is most common in America. One of the reasons a lot of people prefer it to 8 ball pool is because it can be played at a much faster pace.

While anyone can play this form of pool, it’s most suited to those who have been playing pool and are eager to get better, more so than beginners.

This is because of its unique combination of strategy and skill.

The object of 9 ball pool is simply to pot the 9-ball and win the game- but there’s a lot more to say regarding the rest of the game.

One thing worth noting is that, although the game is played with nine balls, that’s not actually the reason it’s called 9 ball pool.

It’s more likely that the name comes from the fact that the game’s focus is the 9-ball itself, which the player must pot to win the game.

Overall, it’s quite a bit different to 8 ball pool. There’s no allocated balls, and you have to aim to pot each ball in numerical order.

How To Set Up A Game Of 9 Ball Pool

The triangular formation used for 8 ball pool is redundant in this case, because six fewer balls are in play.

Instead, you should be racking the balls up in the shape of a diamond. The order of the balls isn’t important- all that matters is that the 1-ball is at the front, and the 9-ball is right in the middle.

The rack must be as tight as possible; no gaps.

9 Ball Pool: The Break

Now that we’ve covered the setup for 9 ball pool, we can move on to the break. There’s more than one way to decide who’s going to break. You can either flip a coin, or you can ‘lag’ for it.

Lagging involves taking one turn each hitting the cue ball from the baulk line, and whoever’s ball rests closest to the baulk cushion is the player who will break.

The breaking player will aim at the 1-ball and hit the cue ball from the baulk line into the pack.

How To Set Up A Game Of 9 Ball Pool

Their goal is to pot as many balls as they can. If at least one ball is potted, they take another turn, and aim for the ball on the table with the lowest number.

Is it possible to win a game of 9 ball pool by potting the 9-ball with the break? Absolutely!

But bear in mind that the 9-ball is right in the middle of the pack, so you’d need a fair amount of luck to get it in a pocket.

When it comes to subsequent games, you can lag for the break each time, but it’s quicker just to make it so the winner (or loser) gets the break.

The Rules Of 9 Ball Pool

The object of the game is to sink each ball in ascending order (one to nine), but a player can win at any point by potting the 9-ball, so long as the first ball their shot struck was the ball with the right number.

The game is won when the 9-ball is potted legally.

The 9-ball cannot be hit directly into a pocket, unless the player has sunk the previous eight balls.

If you’ve struck the cue ball into the ball with the lowest number first, then you can pot any other ball on the table, which would be referred to as a combo shot.

If you pocket a ball legally, then you take another shot. If you miss, then your opponent will take their shot, hitting the cue ball from wherever your shot left it.

Some halls and leagues may have rules that differ, but generally you are not required to call each of your shots, except when it comes to the 9-ball.

9 Ball Pool: The Push Out

The ‘push out’ is a shot that a player can only execute immediately after the break.

Once the player has informed their opponent what they intend to do, they can shoot the cue ball anywhere on the table, without hitting any other balls.

The opponent can then allow you to take the next shot, or take the next shot themselves.

The push out would usually be found in a competitive game. If you want to add this rule to an amateur game, make sure your opponent agrees to it first.

The goal of the push out is to get the ball in such a location that you think you would be able to play successfully, but that your opponent probably wouldn’t risk. If they don’t want to risk it, they’ll give you the shot back.

Another technique would be to hit the cue ball into a location where your opponent will be able to easily pot the right ball, but in doing so will struggle to pot the next ball (for instance, they may be able to pot the 1-ball but their cue ball will end up in a location where potting the 2-ball will be tricky).

9 Ball Pool: Fouls

There are a number of fouls in 9 ball pool, most of which are the same in 8 ball pool. When a foul is committed, the player gives up their turn to the opponent.

If the 9-ball is potted, it must be re-spotted, but no other ball will be re-spotted. The opponent can place the cue ball anywhere on the table.

The Rules Of 9 Ball Pool

If more than one foul is committed in a single shot, this is only counted as one foul. So, what are all the different fouls in 9 ball pool?

No Rail Foul

If your shot doesn’t pocket the object ball and the cue ball or any other ball doesn’t come to a rail once the contact ball has touched the object ball, this will be a foul.

Bad Hit Foul

If the cue ball hits an object ball that isn’t the lowest numbered ball, this is a foul.

In Hand Foul

If the cue ball is in hand, it can be placed anywhere on the table, unless it’s in contact with any other ball.

If the cue ball is already touching the object ball when the player takes their shot, this would be a foul.

Object Ball Jumps Off Table

If a ball that hasn’t been pocketed jumps to anywhere else on the table besides the bed of the table- immediately, foul. This includes any object ball that leaves the table entirely.

Jump Or Curve Foul Shot

While it is possible to jump or curve (which is commonly known as the massé) a ball around an impeding ball to get to the lowest numbered ball, it is a foul if the impeding ball moves even slightly before the object ball is touched.

Three Fouls In A Row

If a player makes a foul shot on three consecutive turns, they lose the game. Each foul must have taken place in a single game.

The History Of 9 Ball Pool

9 ball pool originated in the United States, and can be traced back as early as the 1920s. Since then it’s been played in social settings as well as in leagues and tournaments.

For a long time 9 ball pool was referred to simply as a ‘money game’, but has since been legitimized as a contemporary alternative to 8 ball pool and other forms of pool.

There are multiple leagues in which 9 ball pool is the dominant game when it comes to tournaments.

These include the Women’s Professional Billiard Association, the World Pool-Billiard Association, and the United States Professional Poolplayers Association.

9 ball pool has proved quite suitable for television, due to the game’s fast pace.

Games Similar To 9 Ball Pool

There are a number of pool games that are very similar to 9 ball pool. The following games are just a few; there is also 6 ball pool, 7 ball pool, and 9 ball kiss.

3 Ball Pool

Unlike the modern folk form of pool which shares the same name, the historical version of 3 ball pool is essentially just 9 ball pool played with three balls.

Games Similar To 9 Ball Pool

This version of pool was even quicker than 9 ball pool, because the chances of potting the 3-ball (referred to as the money ball) with the break shot are obviously quite high.

This game involved far more luck than its successors.

10 Ball Pool

The main differences with 10 ball pool are that every shot must be called, and the 10-ball (or money ball) cannot be potted on the break. It’s considered a more challenging alternative to 9 ball pool.

3-6-9 Ball Pool

3-6-9 ball pool is 9 ball pool but with an element of gambling.

You are allowed to heckle your opponent while they’re taking a shot, as long as you’re not touching any of the balls.

The money balls are the 3-ball, the 6-ball, and the 9-ball, the values of each (which would be paid out to the player who pocketed them) are 1-1-2 respectively.

Conclusion: How To Play 9 Ball Pool

The main difference between 8 ball pool and 9 ball pool is that, in the latter, the balls must be potted in numerical ascending order.

The game is won when the 9-ball is potted, and it can be potted at any time throughout the game, but if there are any balls on the table with lower numbers then the 9-ball can only be potted via a combo shot (in other words, it cannot be the first object ball you strike with the cue ball).

9 ball pool is an ideal form of pool if you’ve got more than a working knowledge of 8 ball pool, and are eager to move onto something that requires a little more skill and strategy.

Dave White