How to Rack Up Balls & Set Up a Pool or Snooker Table

Racking billiard balls is still a mystery to some, but when you know how, it couldn't be easier. Read our guide on how to rack for the most popular billiard games, and become a master racker.

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Sections in this video
Racking Reds & Yellows
Racking Spots & Stripes


It’s the start of any game, and doing it correctly is essential. Here’s our guide to correctly racking pool balls for some of the most popular billiard games.

A man sets up the balls on a pool table.

Before you rack up, check the whole pool cloth for any debris or imperfections. Gently brush it if needed, add new table spots and ensure the cloth is in perfect condition. If your table needs a little TLC, we stock a large range of cloth care products. If there’s a rack cloth on the table, flip it onto the playfield to protect the cloth as you’re racking. Find the triangle and you’re ready to go.

How to Rack a WPBA English Eight-Ball Table (Reds & Yellows)

English or British pool is played on an English or British pool table. The British Association of Pool Table Operators now follows WPBA Blackball rules. The rack is dictated by these rules as follows.

The two rear corners of the triangle should be different colours, and then two stripes of two balls each should be placed next to those. On the right, a stripe of three of the same colour should be placed to meet the two balls of the same colour (to create a J-shape). Then two yellows are placed inside the J, next to the black ball. Finally, the front ball should be the same colour as the ball in the left-hand corner. The ball behind and to its right should be the same colour, leaving a space for the remaining opposing colour on its left.

The black 8-ball should sit on the foot spot - remove the ball and move the triangle around until the spot shows in the centre of the gap, and then pop the black in. Gently remove the triangle.

How to rack a pool table for English pool with red & yellow balls.

How to rack a pool table for English pool with red & yellow balls.

How to Rack an WPBA English Eight-Ball Table (Spots & Stripes)

If you wish to play English Eight-Ball with spots and stripes, simply follow the rules above and lay spots or stripes in place of reds and yellows.

How to rack a pool table for English pool with spots & stripes balls.

How to rack a pool table for English pool with spots & stripes balls.

How to Rack an American Eight-Ball Table

American pool is played on an American pool table, which is larger than a British table. Read more about the differences between British and American pool in our guide. Start with a spot and a stripe in each rear corner of the triangle. The ball in the apex corner can be either a spot or a stripe, and this is placed on the foot spot (unlike British pool, where the 8 ball is placed on the foot spot). The 8 ball goes behind this, and the rest of the balls are inserted at random.

How to rack a pool table for American pool with spots & stripes balls.

How to rack a pool table for American pool with spots & stripes balls.

How to Rack a 9-Ball Table

Place the 8-ball in the centre of the diamond and the 1-ball at the front of the diamond. All other balls can be placed randomly. The diamond is moved so that the 1-ball is positioned on the foot spot before play commences.

How to rack a 9-ball pool table.

How to rack a 9-ball pool table.

How to Set Up a Snooker Table

A snooker table is the most complicated to set up. The 15 reds should be placed into the triangle and positioned just behind the foot spot. In front of the triangle is placed the pink ball, and behind it, the black.

On the baulk line at the other end of the table you would place the brown in the middle. From the baulk line runs a semicircle. As you are looking down the table with the black ball closest to you, the yellow is placed on the left-hand corner of the semicircle, and the green on the right.

How to set up a snooker table.

How to set up a snooker table.

Tips for Racking

  • Use the racking cloth if the table has one. This protects the cloth on tables in busy public areas.
  • When the balls are positioned correctly, compress them together with your hands whilst removing the triangle for a nice, tight rack. This will ensure a neat, tidy break.
  • When setting up a "random" rack, such as American pool, do try to spread the balls out as evenly as possible.
  • If you move a ball whilst removing the triangle, point it out, put the triangle back and tighten the balls up again.
  • If you want to try 9-ball but you don't have a diamond, simply use the front part of a typical eight ball triangle to form a diamond. The black goes in the same place, but the other balls form a diamond shape instead. If you want your own diamond, we have plenty available in our Pool Triangles & Diamonds section.
How to set up 9-ball pool without a diamond.

How to set up 9-ball pool without a diamond.

Now that you know how to rack all the most popular forms of pool and snooker, the table's your oyster. Remember that although these are 'official' rules, many leagues, bars and players may use different rules to rack the balls, so it's polite to check.

If you're ready to try your new skill but want to do it in style, we have a whole range of premium pool table triangles, 9-ball diamonds, ball sets and more in our pool table accessories store.

This article was written by Liberty Games staff member
Joe O'Mara
Sales Manager at Liberty Games. Pool table specialist & pinball wiz. Film & cinema nerd, with a mental database of every episode of The Simpsons ever made.

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