How to Rack Pool Balls Properly

To Tap or Not to Tap -- That's the Pro's Question

Arranging cue balls
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If you want to learn how to rack pool balls very tightly, the way an expert does, you're in the right place. Forming a firm pool rack can involve tapping. Stymie your opponent the legal way in billiards and "tap" their open break resources to the max for the win. In other words, rack that sucker tightly with a tap.

In recent years, select tournament referees have confirmed that tightening a pool rack by tapping, rather than placing then setting with the traditional wooden rack most use instead, is the superior rack building method. Learning how to tap is important, but equally imperative is learning how to tap balls into place without harming the pool table itself.

Go on the Markers If You've Got 'Em

Referees often use lined markers atop the table felt to best set each ball in place, by hand. Most tables you shoot on do not offer such a luxury accessory as these clean outlines that resemble chalk lines (lines which can distract you visually during play, anyhow). Use the wood rack and tapping together, instead, and make a superb, legal rack to thwart the other player.

Tightly racking object balls together ensures better defense in the game. Most players aren't competent enough to sink balls consistently on the break, but a loose rack often can yield an easy scattering of balls, especially those balls at the three corners of an 8-Ball rack or the four end corners of the 9-Ball billiards rack.

How to Tap Like a Champ

To tap a ball into its final resting place, take an extra ball and lightly rap atop its middle, pressing the base of the ball where it touches the cloth down with a straight-line vertical motion from ball top to bottom. If the ball sitting on the cloth is a globe, gently rap its North Pole with the cue ball.

The tap need not be perfectly up and down in motion, your other hand will steady the tapped ball and keep the momentum dispersed down into the table in place with ease. A gentle tap or two on the head ball of the rack, and perhaps the two balls behind it also, is all that is needed on most tables to ensure an extra-firm ball racking. Only referees in pro tournaments (or people with severe OCD, perhaps) need rap all 15 or 9 balls.

Hard raps in the rack, or those made by throwing the balls onto the table at the start of play, are the bane of every billiards room owner in the world. Hard raps create micro dents on the table slate underlying the cloth. These microscopic spots accrue and become "wobble spots" over time that no cloth replacement can repair. Balls traveling slowly over these spots will go far offline, ruining a shot.

Why You Want Them Tight

For your own breaks, you want your opponent to give you tight racks, and the same goes for practice or for self-racking in games and matches. How can you adjust subsequent breaks until you get the results you want unless the balls are racked the same every game? A tight rack is not only a good defense but what you need if you take breaking and offense seriously.

Tap gently and watch your opponent try to get a good scatter with a lazy break on your new, tight pool rack -- it won't happen!