How To Play 8-Ball and 9-Ball Pool – Sage Arcade
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How To Play 8-Ball and 9-Ball Pool

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The Difference Between 8 Ball and 9 Ball Pool

There are several different types of pool table games you can play but two of the most popular games are 8 ball pool and 9 ball pool.

8 Ball Pool

8 Ball pool is actually played with 15 balls plus the cue ball. There will be two opposing sets of 7 balls and one black ball or the 8 ball. The balls are usually split between 7 spotted balls and 7 striped balls, or 7 yellow balls and 7 red balls. For this explanation we are going with spots and stripes. The balls are arranged in a triangle formation with the aid of a rack and the black 8 ball is placed in the middle.  The image below shows a typical 8 ball rack.

8 Ball Pool Rack


The object of 8 ball pool is to pot all seven of your balls and finally the black 8 ball before your opponent pots there 7 balls and the black 8 ball.

The game starts with a break-off, where the cue ball is placed at one end of the able and is hit into the triangle of balls at the other end of the table. Whether you are a stripe or spot is determined by which player pots the first ball. If you were to pot and choose a stripe ball, from that point on you must pot all the stripe balls before potting the 8 ball to win the game. You will control the table until you fail to pot one of your stripes. When this happens, it’s your opponents turn to pot a spot ball.

There are numerous 8 pool tournaments and leagues in many parts of the world and is the favored version in the UK and many other countries.

9 Ball Pool

9 ball pool is played with less balls than 8 ball pool. It is played with 9 balls numbered 1 to 9 and the cue ball. Unlike 8 ball pool where the balls are racked in the shape of a triangle. With 9 ball pool the rack is the shape of a diamond.  The image below shows the typical 9 ball rack.

9 ball pool rack

The object of 9 ball pool is to pot the 9 ball to win the game. However, you must hit the cue ball against the lowest numbered ball on the table first. You keep your turn by potting balls with each shot. So for example – with your first turn, you may pot balls, 1, 2 and 3, but then have an opportunity to pot the 9 ball by hitting the 4 ball against the 9 ball, to pocket the 9 ball. Likewise if you hit the 4 ball against the 5,6,7 or 8 ball and one of those went in, you still retain your visit at the table.

Therefore, unlike 8 ball pool where you have opposing balls, with 9 ball pool you both can pot the same balls.

This is the most common tournament pool game in the USA.


  • 8 Ball is played with 15 balls and a cue ball
  • 9 Ball is played with 9 balls and a cue ball
  • With 8 ball each player starts with 7 balls each and must only pot those balls.
  • With 9 ball both players can pot all the balls.
  • With 8 ball all ‘your’ balls must be potted before you can pot the black.
  • With 9 ball you can pot the black at any time as long as you hit the lowest numbered ball remaining on the table first.


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