9-Ball Game Rules & Strategy

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9-Ball, Fast and Furious

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9-Ball game rules and strategy are deceptively simple. But there is far more to the action than meets the eye.

For decades, 9-ball has been the darling of televised pool for its explosive open break and pocketing action.

9-ball is a rotation game. You shoot at the lowest numbered ball on the table, with the caveat that if the 9-ball falls on any shot anytime, even on the break, it's a win! Take full advantage of 9-Ball's rules for your benefit.

The balls numbered one through nine are racked in a diamond shape, the 1-ball in front (so the player may hit it as proscribed first without added difficulty) and the 9-ball in the center (for added protection from pocketing on the open break).

Beginners forget to hide the 9-ball in the center. If the nine is moved to another position, a pro or hustler could sink it on the break or soon after most every time to win.

You must hit the lowest numbered ball first with the cue ball. Following that hit, one of the ten balls on the table must touch a rail or sink in a pocket or your opponent receives ball-in-hand.

Skilled 9-Ball players always have an eye to the strategy of pocketing the 9-ball early for the win.

The above are the rules and strategy at their most basic but there are warnings ahead as first class 9-Ball takes much time to learn. The game of 9-Ball is a shark pool where hustlers find victims swimming in abundance.

Typical rule additions include the "Three Foul Rule" where three fouls or scratches on three consecutive turns end the game. Of note, the rule is enforced only if the opposing player has verbally announced when two fouls have been "achieved" before the third infraction is made. Skilled hustlers often position the balls to make their prey foul three times to lose the game.

The "Push Rule" allows the incoming player (following the break shot only) to shoot the cue ball anywhere without touching the lowest ball for a safety or defensive play. The other player may accept the new position or force the person who made the push to shoot again and attempt a regular shot. Again, the hustler is well placed to start hiding the cue ball immediately.

On the next page are the three mistakes intermediates make the most often when playing 9-Ball. Be cautious.

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Traps for the Unwary

9-ball hints, 9-ball pool, 9-ball billiards
9-Ball hints--here are three mistakes I see made at the tables constantly by newbies and others. Photo (c) Matt Sherman, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Take my 9-Ball hints and miss the three traps almost every 9-Ball player drowns in.

I've taught hundreds of students 9-Ball and have noticed three pitfalls that hurt nearly every beginning (and intermediate) player:

1. Greed--There is a rush for the 9-ball early yet a miss often leaves the nine near a pocket, vulnerable to the other player or team. Game over!

2. Ignorance--Top 9-ball players realize they have lots of room to play lock safes if they cannot simply run to end the game.

So the unwary play stronger 9-Ball players, even with handicaps, at their peril. Don't be ignorant, 9-Ball is a much tougher game than it looks at first try.

I recommend 7-Ball instead to start your experience with rotation games. 7-Ball is also a superb method to practice 9-Ball runouts with less balls on the table to interfere with one another. Try this fun and fast game.

3. Waste--9-Ball presents many difficult shots, so many in fact, that new pool players who limit themselves to 9-Ball waste time and opportunities to practice basic but important shots.

Readers may dislike my comments but I want to keep my teaching honest. Great pool is less about shooting long, hard 9-Ball-type shots as it is about making simple shots and wisely positioning the cue ball for upcoming shots.

Only a few players on Earth can run 10 difficult shots without a miss, but shooting simple shots and rolling the cue ball accurately, you can make 50 balls in a row...

Watch for upcoming articles on 9-Ball hints, moves and strategy including the links below. It takes much mental energy and added patience to become a 9-Ball star. Yet 9-Ball still is loads of fun for most players so enjoy and also please consider pool lessons from myself or another top instructor, too.