9-Ball Rack and Break Rules Plus Strategies

Careful positioning of the cue ball's impact can improve your break

Nine Ball
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A big part of winning at 9-ball, a pool game that is one of America's favorite pastimes, is learning how to rack the balls for optimal strategy before breaking. There is a pattern that the rules require you to follow, but there also are positioning tips that you can take advantage of to improve your chances of winning. Here are some suggestions:

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Only Two Balls Have Required Positions on the Break

Racked for an exciting 9 ball game. Photo (c) 2008 Matt Sherman, licensed to About.com, Inc.

According to the rules of 9-ball, you only need to worry about two balls when racking: the 1-ball, which you must put in the front of the diamond shape the balls must form, and the 9-ball, which must go in the middle of the diamond. The placement of the 1-ball, which is solid yellow, at the front of the rack makes it the simplest ball to hit on the break, which the shooter must do, according to the game rules. The placement of the 9-ball, which is yellow-striped, prevents the player who breaks from sinking it easily on the break and quickly winning the game.

The remaining seven balls can be placed randomly in the rest of the pattern, as far as the rules are concerned.

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Aim for the Spots Where Certain Balls Touch

Aim for between the balls and drill your 9 ball break. Photo (c) 2008 Matt Sherman, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Here's a tip that will sharpen your 9-ball pool game overall and help you to drill your open break shots like a champion.

Aim so that you will put pressure on the spaces where the object balls—all the balls but the cue ball—are touching in the rack. Drill the 9-ball break as hard as possible, releasing maximum energy to scatter the rack, and the balls are likely to fly apart in divergent directions from there, leaving them in position for subsequent shots.

The right-handed breaker might, therefore, shoot toward the blue area (separating the 5- and 7-balls) and the left-handed shooter toward the pink area. 

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Plan to Hit the 1-Ball Squarely

"Snake eye" aim equals my best tip of break strategy ever!. Photo (c) 2008 Matt Sherman, licensed to About.com, Inc.

The strategy of 9-ball can be complex or simple, as is the case with this ultimate breaking tip, which can double the power and accuracy of most players on the break.

Wherever you choose to place the cue ball for the break, aim straight into the 1-ball, the head ball in the 9-ball rack. Your strategy is to go squarely into the "meat" of the 1-ball from the base of the ball to the top, the stripe shown on the ball in the illustration.

This strategy remains unchanged no matter where your cue ball lies or what break angle you choose to use. If you do it properly, the cue ball will die immediately upon impact with the balls, leaving it in the middle of the table, an advantageous position for making the rest of your shots. This tip will cause the object balls to travel less than you might want them to, but they will move far more accurately toward the pockets as well as toward other advantageous spots on the pool table.