No matter what billiard game you’re playing, racking can affect the whole game more than you may realize. A good rack can ensure a level playing field, giving both players a chance to win the game. A poor rack, on the other hand, can give one player an advantage if some of the balls are clustered for easy pickings. And believe it or not, there’s an art to racking. So read on to learn 9 tips for racking pool balls perfectly.
1. Invest in Racks
Although it’s possible to rack a game of 9-ball with a triangle rack, it’s better to do it with a diamond rack. It’s hard to get the balls tight and keep them touching if you don’t have a diamond rack to use.
Most pool tables come with triangle racks, but if you don’t have one you can purchase one for cheap. Wooden ones are the best but not for any particular reason; they just look good. But if you don’t care about wood or plastic, you can save a little money buying a cheap plastic triangle rack.
2. Don’t Overthink It
If you’ve ever played with someone who takes five minutes to rack the balls, you’ve probably wondered just what the heck they were doing. Although there’s an art to racking, it doesn’t have to take very long. You can get a perfect rack in a minute or two if you know what you’re doing.
You don’t need to alternate solids and stripes when racking for a game of 8-ball. You simply need to meet the basic criteria of a rack as far as the ball placement is concerned:
- 8-Ball in the middle.
- Apex ball (doesn’t matter which one) on the foot spot.
- A solid in one bottom corner of the triangle and a stripe in the other.
The other balls don’t need to be in any particular order and arranging them is really just a waste of time and energy. That said, you don’t want to end up with a bunch of solids or stripes gathered together. When you do it randomly, the chances of this happening are fairly slim, but it’s something to keep in mind.
3. Make Sure the Balls Are Touching
The key to a good rack is to make sure the balls are touching each other. This allows the energy to travel through all the balls when a player breaks. When done correctly, the balls will spread all around the table. When the balls aren’t touching, some of them usually end up clustered, which can give one player a distinct advantage.
You can’t depend on the rack to keep the balls touching because all racks are made with a little extra room for a reason. If they didn’t have the extra room, you would have a hard time getting the rack off the balls! So you need to use your fingers to keep the balls together. Here’s how:
- Put all the balls in the rack behind the foot spot.
- Once you have all the balls in place, stick the four fingers of each hand between the base of the triangle rack and the bottom line of balls.
- Use your thumbs to push the rack up so the apex ball is directly over the foot spot.
- Push your four fingers forward, making sure the balls are all touching.
- Once you’re happy with the placement of the apex ball on the foot spot and the bottom of the rack parallel with the foot rail, you can slowly and gently remove your fingers while watching for movement.
- If no balls have moved, you can gently push the triangle rack forward so that it is no longer touching any of the balls on any side. If the balls did move, simply place your fingers back in the rack, pull it back, then push it forward and try again.
- Once the rack is no longer touching the balls, you can lift it off the table from the back with a slight forward movement.
- Put the rack away and start playing!
You can also use this tactic when racking 9-ball or 10-ball, although it’s a little harder to do on 10-ball. You usually have to use your knuckles when racking 10-ball with a standard triangle rack.
4. Consider The Magic Rack
If you can’t seem to keep the balls touching when you rack in the traditional manner, you may want to invest in the Magic Rack.
Essentially the Magic Rack is just a paper-thin piece of plastic with holes in it where the balls go. You simply place the balls in the holes around the perimeter and once you have all the balls on the rack they lock into place. You then break with the plastic piece still in place on the table. Once the break is done you can remove the magic rack and continue playing.
It’s an inexpensive way to get a great rack every time.
5. Spinning and Tapping
On some tables the balls just don’t want to stay put. No matter how many times you roll the balls back and forward, they won’t stay together when you move the rack. Well, there are two tricks you can use to get the balls to stay put so you can play.
Sometimes the fiber of the cloth can cause the balls to move slightly when you remove the rack. To try and fix this you can spin the balls on the outer perimeter in order to move the cloth underneath. Simply spin the balls with your fingers while they’re all pushed together, then try removing the rack again.
You can also tap the balls to keep them in place. Just grab the cue ball and tap the balls that insist on moving. Sometimes this helps them settle into place so they don’t move when you take the rack off.
6. Clean Your Table
Maintaining a clean pool table is one way to promote a solid rack every time. Sometimes dirt and debris build up on the cloth. Although you may not be able to see it with the naked eye, it could be enough to upset the balls when you’re trying to rack.
One way to avoid this is to clean your table regularly. To get the game going, simply brush the cloth around the foot spot and try to rack again. Even if the table isn’t dirty, brushing can help to even-out the cloth fibers so you can rack properly.
7. Clean Your Pool Balls
Sometimes dirty pool balls can also cause problems when racking. Again, it’s hard to see with the naked eye, but pool balls can gather just enough dirt and debris to make things hard on you. This is one reason why cleaning your pool balls regularly can make for easier racking.
Cleaning your pool balls has the added benefit of making them look good. Just make sure to use a cleaner that’s meant for billiard balls, like this one from Aramith.
8. Mark Your Table
If you want to go the extra mile to get a perfect rack, consider marking the table with a fabric pencil. You generally don’t have to worry about marking the foot spot, since most tables already have it marked for you. However, it can be helpful to mark the two bottom edges of the triangle so you get the proper alignment every time.
To do this, you can use a measuring tape, an angle square, or even a laser level to ensure the base of the rack is exactly parallel with the foot rail. You really only have to do this once. Just pay attention to the marks on the table and mark them again before they fade away entirely.
9. Train Your Table
Another way to ensure a tight rack every time is to “train” your table. To do this, first ensure that the balls are aligned exactly as you want them, paying particular attention to the apex ball at the foot spot.
When you have the apex ball in the right spot, tap it on top a few times with the cue ball to make an indentation in the cloth of the table. Then you can align the rest of the balls and continue to do the same with them.
When you’re done, you should have visible indentations in the cloth of the table. If done correctly, you can rack the balls tightly without using the triangle rack.
The problem with this method is that the indentations can affect gameplay. If you’re shooting around the foot spot and you send a ball over the indentations, they can change the ball’s course, throwing off your shot. Luckily the indentations aren’t permanent on slate tables, and they will go away over time.
I wouldn’t advise you to use this method on a non-slate table, as it can permanently dent the playing surface.
With the nine tips above, you should be able to produce a tight, perfect rack every time. Whether you use all the tips, or just pick the one that’s right for you, you can spend less time racking and more time playing pool!