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9-Ball Game Rules & Strategy

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9-Ball, Fast and Furious
9-Ball Game Rules & Strategy

9-Ball Rack Ready for Play

Photo (c) Matt Sherman
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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