How to Play Nine Ball

Posted by HLD 06 APRIL 2022

9 Ball Pool Rules

9 Ball pool is an incredibly popular billiards-style game in America, although it has yet to find its popularity in the UK pool game scene. Rapid, quick-thinking and exciting, the 9 Ball pool game is much faster than a standard 8 ball pool game and often more exhilarating. Unlike 8 Ball pool, which bares great similarity to what we might consider game to be a standard game of pool, 9 Ball pool is a different game altogether. So, why not take some time to learn about the game and perhaps discover a new way of playing your favourite sport!


How to play 9 Ball

Here’s how to play 9 Ball pool. Naturally, the game is played with nine balls that begin in diamond shape, unlike regular pool which begins in a triangle. The aim of playing 9 Ball is to pot all nine balls in numerical order (1-9). However, it is whoever manages to sink the ninth ball with a legal shot that is the winner of the game. 

In regular pool, you can pocket your balls in any order, but in the 9 Ball rules of play,  you must sink object balls in numerical order starting with the lowest number - with the goal of pocketing the 9 ball during play. Similar to both standard English and American pool, there are penalties for sinking incorrect balls, which we will discuss a little later. The game is fast, so you’ll need to do a lot of thinking on your feet. If you’re not going for “The Golden Break”, just make sure to steer clear of the 9 ball until you’ve sunk all the other balls!


9 Ball Set-up

The first step is to arrange the formation; the 9 Ball pool setup is a diamond. The tip of the diamond must be populated by the 1 ball, centred over the foot spot, and the 9 ball must be in the centre of the diamond.

9 Ball Setup.png

However, the rest of the balls may be placed at random within the formation – a common placement is to arrange the balls ascending clockwise. From there you have two options, you can either place the 9 ball on the spot or the 1 ball.

9 Ball on Spot Table.png1 Ball on Spot Table.png 

This is largely down to personal preference and where you like to break from, although if you are playing 9 Ball in a tournament they may specify where you are required to place the diamond on the table. It’s a good idea to practice breaking both ways if you’re looking to compete in 9 Ball pool!


Breaking in 9 Ball

The opening break shot in Nine Ball is one of the most important moves in the game. If played right you can sink your first ball straight off the bat, but make sure it’s the 1 ball or 9 ball or you’ll be faced with a harsh penalty! There are illegal breaks in 9 Ball pool that you’ll want to avoid, such as sending the cue outside of the table or shooting away from the break line. To keep the break legal, pocket the 1 Ball first or hit at least 4 balls into the table rails – not including the cue ball. Luckily, in 9 Ball pool there is the opportunity to achieve “The Golden Break”; this is when the player sinks the 9 ball from the first break. As long as the cue ball doesn’t follow behind and sink itself, you will have achieved “The Golden Break” and won the game in a single move. It’s worth practicing for a golden break, you could save yourself a lot of time!


Fouling Rules

As with all pool games, there are variety of moves that constitute foul shots, immediately passing the turn to your opponent. Some fouls are common to all cue sports, such as touching the white cue ball, potting it or hitting it onto the floor, or failing to hit any ball with it.

Other fouls in 9 Ball include:

• Hitting any ball that isn’t the current lowest numbered ball
• Potting the 9 ball and the cue ball


Winning & Scoring in 9 Ball

So, we know that you must start by sinking the 1 Ball and working your way up in numerical order. But what are some other important things to know about winning in Nine Ball pool?

Like any variation of the cue sport, pocketing the cue ball is against the rules and will instantly result in your opponent receiving a ball-in-hand, a major advantage and something you’ll want to avoid. This is especially important in 9 Ball as, when an incoming player gets a ball-in-hand, they are allowed to start the ball from any place on the table. One important thing to note about scoring in 9 Ball pool is that whoever pockets the 9 ball is the winner, regardless of the balls that have been sunk leading up to the 9 ball. This means that potting the 9 ball off a hit from another ball also constitutes a win.

This is one of the reasons that 9 Ball is such a fast-paced and exciting game; any player can win at any moment with the perfect shot.


The Push Out

The Push Out is a 9 Ball pool rule that allows a player to ‘push out’, following a break, where they can move the cue ball into a better position for aiming. Here, the cue ball doesn’t have to make contact with any ball or rail, unlike a normal 9 Ball shot. It is sometimes seen as an older rule of the game, and oftentimes players opt to play 9 Ball without The Push Out, but it can be a particularly helpful move if you’re struggling with where to aim from. An important thing to note for pushing out: you must announce when you are doing a push out before taking the shot or it will be treated as a standard shot. It is also still possible to foul during a push out so be cautious during this move.


What you'll need to play

To play 9 Ball you will, of course, need a pool table. Although the game is much more popular in America, it can be played on both English and American pool tables - although a snooker table may be too large. However, you will need to purchase the correct diamond-shaped 9 Ball pool rack based on which table you are playing on, and the 9 Ball pool table size does need to be at least 9ft.

From there you’ll also need balls and cue sticks, and with cues comes the need for chalk. Even if you’re playing doubles, one pool cue stick can always be shared. So, as long as you have a single cue you’ll be able to play!

If you’re short of any equipment, we stock a full range of English and American pool tables, cues and accessories to kit out your home, office or venue for any pool game you can think of.


Tips for playing Nine Ball Pool

Once you’ve got all the equipment and understand the rules you’re ready to go, so what are our final top tips for being the best 9 Ball player you can be?

1. Breaking is the most important play of the game, and be cautious when aiming for “The Golden Break”.
2. If you cannot hit the correct ball, make sure you hit 4 object balls against the rails.
3. Try to leave the cue ball in the middle of the table. This way you set yourself up perfectly for your next shot.


Home Leisure Direct and Nineball

This year we’ve partnered with Matchroom Pool for the Nineball World Rankings. The Nineball world rankings take place from January through to December, with a number of tournaments taking place in the UK.

We’re proud to be the 9 ball pool table supplier for Nineball events in the UK for Matchroom Pool, and to celebrate this we’re announcing a special offer on our Rasson Ox American pool table so you can play like the professionals! You'll be saving over £600 thanks to this deal, which also includes an accessory pack and cloth. Our Rasson Ox table is the centre of the action at the world rankings, and can be the centre of your home as well.

Happy playing!

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