How to play 9-ball. Rules and gameplay Explained.

Nine-ball is a popular cue sport played with a cue ball and nine numbered balls (1 through 9). The game’s objective is to legally pocket the 9-ball after all the other balls have been legally pocketed. Here are the basic rules for playing nine-ball:

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Arrange the nine balls in a diamond shape, with the 1-ball at the front and the 9-ball in the center. The remaining balls can be placed randomly within the diamond.

The cue ball is placed anywhere behind the head string (the imaginary line between the second diamond from the front and the head rail).


The game begins with the player who wins the lag (a contest to see who can strike the cue ball closest to the opposite rail) getting the first break.

The player must strike the cue ball first to hit the lowest-numbered ball on the table (the 1-ball). If the cue ball fails to make contact with the lowest-numbered ball or doesn’t drive any ball to a rail, it’s a foul, and the incoming player gets the ball in hand.

After a legal break, the player continues their turn as long as they pocket a ball (any ball) on each shot. If a player legally pockets the 9-ball at any point during their inning, they win the game.

The player must always contact the lowest-numbered ball on the table first. After the lowest-numbered ball is pocketed, the player can shoot in sequence at the next lowest-numbered ball.

If a foul is committed (such as scratching the cue ball, not making contact with the lowest-numbered ball, or failing to hit a rail after contact), the incoming player gets the ball in hand, meaning they can place the cue ball anywhere on the table for their next shot.

If a player legally pockets all the numbered balls (1 through 8) before pocketing the 9-ball, they must attempt to pocket the 9-ball for the win. If they pocket the 9-ball out of turn, they lose the game.

The game continues with alternating turns until a player legally pockets the 9-ball, winning the game.


In nine-ball, there is no scoring in the traditional sense. The first player to legally pocket the 9-ball wins the game after legally pocketing all other balls.

Remember that these are the basic rules of the nine-ball, and there are variations in how the game is played in different regions and among other groups of players. Agreeing on the specific rules before starting a game is essential to avoid confusion or disputes during play.