How to Play Cutthroat Pool – Complete Guide

The cutthroat pool is one of the fun and popular billiards games. You can choose it as an excellent substitute for the typical 8-ball/9ball matches. It’s a perfect game to play when you get a lot of players. But, you must know how to play cutthroat pool as a beginner.

Usually, cutthroat is a 3- or 5-player game. Every player gets a set of balls. The game aims to send the opponent players’ balls to a pocket before doing the same for yours.

How to Play Cutthroat Pool

Apart from these basic rules, there are some rules to know and follow while playing this game. We’re going to share the basic rules of this game that will make it a more enjoyable pool version.

What is Cutthroat Pool?

If you’re a beginner or not an expert at the standard pool, the term ‘cutthroat’ could be off-putting as it’s linked with billiards. Fortunately, this is a tremendously fun game without having any threats about it. It’s an alternative to the eight-ball pool; you can easily enjoy it with your family and friends.

In billiards, cutthroat isn’t a unique word to pool. There are many sports where players should look after themselves as a part of any group that consists of three or more people. In this way, the cutthroat pot gets its name.

However, if you’re fond of having challenges and fun, the game will not stop your way. When you’re going to play this game, you’ll need three people or more people.

The common thing of the game is that you’ll play as an individual participant being a part of a group with your billiard balls. The key objective of the game is that you have to pocket your opponents’ balls before they do it for your balls.

If you feel things are exciting, joining a pool club or league would be great. But, it requires regular practice to become perfect at this game before you take part in any contest.

How to Play Cutthroat Pool?

Every game comes with guidelines, and cutthroat is also not an exception. Some specific procedures need to be followed for this game. Let’s know what they are.

Knowing the Rules

As the rules are easy to follow, the game is easy to play. So, going through the below rules will help you learn how to play cutthroat pool:

Closing a Set

Closing a set indicates declaring it by a participant. You’re allowed to seal a set as a player A if you have pocketed a minimum of one ball from two sets. For example, if you’re player A and pocketed the second ball, you’re off-limits to 1-5 sets.

You’ll need to pocket a ball from 6-10 or 11-15 set to close that’s unspotted. If player A missed a shot, but player B put 3 and 11 into the pocket in a single turn, player B closed their set 6-10.

It leaves you with an 11-15 single set, making player C default by the set 1-5. After closing all sets by players, it starts the actual game.

Related Post: How to Clean Pool Balls at Home

Assigning Groups

You can assign players to get balls in different ways. Three of them are common:

  • Assigning essential groups before starting the game: That might be simple, but it comes with an issue. As pocketing the opponents’ balls is the main objective, this is not beneficial if you have pre-designed the groups. It can help you to get one ball in. 
  • Claiming a group after pocketing a ball: It’s also a pretty simple method. Before starting the game, there will be no groups, but if you’re the first player of the match to get the ball into your pocket, you can choose your group. Similarly, the next player can choose their group while the last or third player will go with the group you left behind.
  • Traditional method: It’s a little trickier. If you want to get a group in this method, it requires pocketing a ball from all other groups. 

Scratching & Spotting

Scratch happens when you, as a player, pocket or knock the cue ball to the table. It’s severe for a player to get the sequence. Your opponents will spot a previously pocketed ball that comes from their sets. It may even take you back to this game or from your game’s level when you’re near to winning it.


How to Play Cutthroat Pool

It would help if you used a regular triangle rack in the cutthroat for racking the game. Place the first ball at the top of the triangle and put the 6th and 11th ball at its other corners. Still, some balls are remaining and put randomly in this triangle.


An ‘Open Break’ is in the game of cutthroat that you have to use. Usually, that break requires driving at least four balls from your rack and striking the cushions to break the count to initiate the game. As it helps you to spread out the ball, it allows you to play the game less annoying at the start.

Shot Calling

You should decide while playing this game – before you start the game – whether you’re going to count “shot calling.” It means that every player participating in the game must declare which ball they’re going to drive into which pocket earlier than taking every shot.

If you drive an unintentional ball by accident, the shot will be illegal. Playing a short, not legal will be penalized by forfeiting your turn.

Legal & Illegal Shots

To make a legal shot, you can’t contact any of your assigned balls first. Instead, it would help if you hit your rivals’ balls first. All shots must result in opponents’ ball pocketing, or any balls you numbered should hit their cushions.

It helps you ensure that someone isn’t playing this safe until the setting up of the table looks more attractive for them.

Fouls & Penalties

Fouls may happen in many ways while playing cutthroat, so it’s crucial to learn the rules strictly. Some of the most common fouls that occur in this game include:

Pocketing your rivals’ ball isn’t a legal shot: It’s a foul when you make any illegal shots like pocketing your rivals’ ball. It occurs very commonly when you strike your first ball before hitting your opponents. Surrendering the short is the penalty of this foul.

Jumping on your rivals’ balls: It’s another type of foul while bouncing on your rivals’ ball on the table. If you jump your balls, it means you’ve spotted those balls. And it’s a scratch to jump your cue ball.

One of your opponents’ balls will return to your table from the pocket when you commit this foul. It also means that the eliminated players will get back into the game.

If a foul happens and no rivals’ balls have been pocketed, you need to ignore this penalty and pass the shot to the following players.

Game Set-Up

On the triangle’s top, you should place the first ball and put the 6th and 11th ball in the triangle’s left and right corners at the bottom, respectively. Then, place the remaining balls at random in a triangle.

Line up the first ball remaining at the top of this triangle to its second spot: the white marked dots on the table’s wood. And line up it on the table’s center.

Don’t forget to pack the balls tightly together and take the rack away from the balls. Now, it’s time to decide whether participants will call a shot or not.

Playing the Game

You have learned and made the most rules required for cutthroat by now. The first player will go for breaking that has been decided by lagging. So, you’re all set to initiate the game right now.

If they fail to break legally, the next player will attempt to break or rack for the new break. In this way, all players will shoot to put the ball set in their groups.

When a player fails to hit the ball, the strike goes to the next person. In this sequence, this game will be running. The first player needs to pot all their assigned balls to win the game.

Some Tips & Tricks Regarding Cutthroat Pool

Many different and creative strategies are in the cutthroat pool. People use them to get leads and win this game. As they’re not tough to follow, you can use them in particular situations. Below are some tips and tricks to follow in cutthroat:

  • As you know, you have the option to make your ball and keep shooting if you hit the balls of your rivals first. It’ll keep the momentum up and prevent your competitors from choosing an easy shot. Also, this strategy is helpful to strike a tough combination shot and sink your ball.
  • You must avoid leaving your rivals with a simple shot when you can’t get a ball. It would help if you tried to hit legal shots that can leave the next player in a tricky shot.
  • Placing the cue ball next to the other ball will make this more challenging for the opponent to play a simple shot for your balls.
  • If you’re an expert in games like snooker, eight-ball, or bumper pool, these skills will help you compete in the cutthroat pool. And it would help if you familiarize yourself with the game’s rules fabulously.


What Is Scratch in Cutthroat Rules?

In the cutthroat, the issue of scratch happens when someone accidentally pockets their cue ball. Also, this occurs when a ball bounces out of their playing table when playing the game. If it happens, the next participant will get a chance to make a shot in this circumstance.

How to Break into A Cutthroat Pool?

It would help if you went with the option of the ‘Open Break,’ which means you must drive a minimum of four balls from your rack to make touch with their cushions. As a result, the breaker should put more effort into this. It’s an easy way to prevent a cluttered and safe break.

Do Groups Have to Be Divided in Numerical Order?

According to the game’s rule, you must divide the groups of the ball in numerical order. It helps things to keep straight while playing the game.


You’ve now mastered yourself by knowing how to play cutthroat pool. When you get a sound familiarity with its rules, the game is as easy as super fun to play.

Keep in mind which balls you must play with and which ones should avoid being pocketed. The most appealing part of the game is that it allows you to play within a social circle.

That’s also an excellent way to be an expert in this game. Hopefully, the above-said guide will be helpful to improve in cutthroat.

Have fun!

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