How to Play Pool


While there are many variations of Pool, the game most often played in international competitions is 9-Ball Pool. A full set of pool balls is made up of 16 balls, numbers 1-15 plus the cue ball, and the game is played on a 4.5 x 9-foot table (50 x 100-inch playing area), with six pockets.

9-Ball is played using 9 object balls and a cue ball. The object balls are of different colors and are numbered one through nine. The goal of the game is to pocket the 9 ball on a legal shot. On each shot, the cue ball must first contact the lowest numbered ball remaining on the table. If any ball is pocketed on a legal shot, the player remains at the table but if the 9 ball is pocketed the shooter wins that rack, and the next begins. Each 9 ball scores one point and the match goes up to a previously determined number of points.


  • For the start of each rack, the object balls are racked into a diamond shape, with the 1 ball at the front of the diamond, the 9 ball placed in the center, and the remaining balls at random. The breaker will play from behind the line (head string) and hit the 1 ball first with enough power to force a minimum combination of four object balls hitting one or more rails, or being pocketed. Failure to achieve that minimum results in a foul, even if a ball has been pocketed. Players will break in alternation.
  • Fouls include:
    • failing to contact the lowest numbered ball first
    • failing to make a ball hit a rail contact if no ball is pocketed
    • sending the cue ball into a pocket or any ball off the table

    If a player commits a foul, the incoming player is permitted to place the cue ball anywhere on the table. If a player fouls on three consecutive shots, it results in the loss of that rack.

  • In the World Games, the matches are a race to 11 racks (best of 21) in the men’s event and a race to 9 (best of 17) in the women’s event.

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