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How to set up pool balls?

Racking the balls before a game of pool is not something we usually give much thought to.

Yet, the quality of the rack should not be overlooked. If you have a bad or loose rack, the break will suffer, and so will the overall game.

For example, a loose rack with the wrong ball placement can result in a weak break, with a cluster of easy shots formed right in the middle of the table for your opponent.

We should all at least know the basic rules for how to rack these games, as well as the proper technique for achieving a tight and cohesive rack.

Here, after an overview of the correct pool ball set-up and rules for the most popular games, I will give you some tips on creating a nice tight rack to improve the quality of your games.


It’s the start of any game, and doing it correctly is essential. Here’s our guide to correctly racking pool balls for some of the most popular billiard games.

Before you rack up, check the whole pool cloth for any debris or imperfections. Gently brush it if needed, add new table spots and ensure the cloth is in perfect condition. We stock an extensive range of cloth care products if your table needs a little TLC. If there’s a rack cloth on the table, flip it onto the playfield to protect the cloth as you’re racking. Find the triangle, and you’re ready to go.

Eight Ball

Place the triangle rack on the pool table and set up all 15 balls within the triangle in random order.

Arrange the balls so that one striped ball and one solid-colored ball are in the corners of the last row of the rack.

Set the eight balls in the middle position of the third row of the rack. Keep the other balls in their random location after finishing Steps 2 and 3.

Slide the rack over the poker table felt so that the ball in the first row sits on top of the foot spot, which is the light spot in the middle of the table used as a guide for positioning the rack.

Nine Ball

Sit the triangle rack on the table and place the balls 1 through 9 within the triangle. Position the balls in random order and split them among five rows so that the balls form a diamond; the first and fifth rows will have one ball, the second and fourth rows will have two balls, and the third row will have three balls. Many pool halls have a diamond rack so that you do not have to shape the balls in the triangle rack.

Place the one ball at the top of the triangle and the nine balls in the middle of the third row; the remaining balls should stay in random order.

Position the rack so that the one ball sits on top of the foot spot.

How to Set Up a Snooker Table

A snooker table is the most complicated to set up. The 15 reds should be placed into the triangle and positioned just behind the foot spot. In front of the triangle is the pink ball, and black is behind it.

You would place the brown in the middle of the balk line at the other end of the table. From the balk, the line runs a semicircle. As you look down at the table with the black ball closest to you, the yellow is placed on the left-hand corner of the semicircle, and the green is on the right.

Tips for Racking

  • Use the racking cloth if the table has one. This protects the cloth on tables in busy public areas.
  • When the balls are positioned correctly, compress them with your hands while removing the triangle for a nice, tight rack. This will ensure a neat, tidy break.
  • When setting up a “random” rack, such as the American pool, try to spread the balls out as evenly as possible.
  • If you move a ball while removing the triangle, point it out, put the triangle back and tighten the balls up again.
  • If you want to try 9-ball but don’t have a diamond, use the front part of a typical eight-ball triangle to form a diamond. The black goes in the same place, but the other balls form a diamond shape instead. We have plenty available in our Pool Triangles & Diamonds section if you want your diamond.
  • Now that you know how to rack all the most popular forms of pool and snooker, the table’s your oyster. Remember that although these are ‘official’ rules, many leagues, bars, and players may use different rules to rack the balls, so it’s polite to check.

If you’re ready to try your new skill but want to do it in style, we have a range of premium pool table triangles, 9-ball diamonds, ball sets, and more in our pool table accessories store.

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