How To Play Cutthroat Pool

Cutthroat is a game of pool, where more than two players’ play using a given number of playing balls. There are 15 object balls and a cue ball. Individual players are allocated a given figure of object balls. The sum total of balls, will depend on the number of players. The main aim is to get hold of the balls of your rival groups before they get hold of yours.


You can play cutthroat pool regardless of your level. Whether you are a novice player or an experienced. It is a common and exciting game to play. It is also perfect when you have an uneven number of pool players. It is also a good substitute to the 8 and 9 ball games.

How to play

Understanding the game

To play cutthroat pool, you are required to have a group of pool balls from number one to number 15 and a cue ball. Arrange the balls into separate groups and each player will be identified with a particular group.

Your eyes should be fixed on the balls of your rival at the pool table. Once you start, you continuously shoot till you miss, you scratch or in an event, there is a prohibited shot.

Once your opponents’ balls are pocketed, then they are definitely eliminated. If you are kicked out, there is always a chance of a comeback if one player plays against the rule and is eliminated, then there’s always a chance of rejoining the game.

Claiming the groups

Individual players are allocated their own balls. Your aim here would be to keep safe your group and kick out the rest. If the game consists of 3 players, the balls will be clustered in the manner (1-5), (6-10) and (11-15). For a game of 5 players, the players are clustered as follows: (1-3),(4-6),(7-9),(10-12)and (13-15)

There are three different ways in which you can determine a group

  • The classical approach

In this method, you can only claim a cluster after one ball from the other 2 collections have been pocketed. For instance in a 3 player game, if you gain the number 3 ball and the number 12 ball, then you can claim a cluster. The most possible group, in this case, would be number 6 to 10.


  • Simpler approach

This is considered as an easy version. You have the option of claiming a group the moment you pocket a ball. This is the most common method as it makes the players feel more relaxed and the playing field feels quite leveled.

For instance, if the first player pockets a ball during the break, they have a chance to claim a group. The next player to pocket the ball will select their group. The third will left in the worst cluster.

If the first player fails to sink the ball on the break, the subsequent player to sink the ball will be the first to claim the group and this method goes on and on.

  • Assigning the clusters approach prior to the start of the game

This may seem easy but undesirable. This is where players claim groups before the commencement of the game. Should you choose this option, then there is a danger of pocketing your own balls during the first shot.


During Racking, use the normal triangular rack and place ball number 1 on topmost of the rack. Then put ball number 6 and number 11 at the edges of the triangle. Place the other balls unsystematically in the rack.


Here you need to go for the open break. .You need to break at least 4 balls from the rack so that they can touch the cushion. This will help escape a safe and messy break.

The breaking player must try their level best here. If a breaking player fails to finish an open break, the subsequent player and arrange the rack once more and try breaking.

Calling the shots

You can only play the called shots in a cutthroat game. It is better when you are playing with more experienced players. Each player normally identifies which ball to sink before every shot.

However, you do not need to call how the ball will reach its designated pocket (i.e. combos or banks). However, it’s not a must to call how a pool ball will reach the chosen pocket.

If you decide to go for the called shots and you sink a rival ball and if the sink was not intended, this is called an illegitimate shot. The ball is spotted and you end up losing your turn.

Shooting a legal shot

This requires you to come into contact with your rival’s ball first. You are not allowed to hit your ball first. You must sink your rival’s ball or make a ball with a number or the cue ball to touch the cushion. This ensures all players are trying to play safe by tapping on the balls.

If you sink your rivals ball, that’s an illegitimate shot. The ball will be noticed and you lose your chance and it’s considered a foul.


Your game can result in a foul in the following ways

  • Making an illegitimate shot and sinking your rival’s ball. This normally means you made contact with your ball before sinking your rival’s ball. The penalty here is to return your rival’s sink ball to the pool table. This allows an eliminated player to return to the table and join the game penalty is normally ignored if no player sinks the balls prior to the foul. The next player is allowed to shoot.
  • Jumping your rival’s ball outside the table. However, you are allowed to jump your balls. In case you jump over the cue ball then that is called a scratch. Once a scratch occurs, the next player gets ready to shoot the cue ball at the back of the head string and the head cushion. The head string is an imaginary line in the middle of 2 diamonds on the breaking edge of the table. If all your rivals’ balls are at the back of the head string, you can select the ball that is nearer to the head string and the spot it across.


A cutthroat game is quite simple and entertaining and as you learn how to play cutthroat pool, and get to play with experienced players, more strategies are involved.