How to Choose Who Breaks in Pool (With Steps and Pictures)

Player shooting pool on green table

You want to play a game of pool with a friend, but you don’t know how to pick who gets to break first. What’s the best way to go about this?

There are 2 ways to pick who breaks first:

  • Flipping a coin
  • “Lagging” for the break

Lagging for the break means both players pick any ball and shoot it from behind the 2nd dot going towards the long way of the pool table. Whoever’s ball hits closest to the short rail (it should be the rail right in front of you), wins the lag and gets to break.

Here is an example below where Player 1 has chosen the 1-ball. Player 2 has chosen the blue 2-Ball.

1. Both players select a ball and place it behind the 2nd dot.

2. Next, Both players shoot their balls the long way on the table to see who can get closest to the short rail.

3. See where the balls land and determine which ball is closer to the short rail

4. Determine a winner of lag.

Here you can see that Player 2 who shot the blue 2-Ball wins the lag because their ball got closer to the short rail (The highlighted part on the far left covering the 3 diamonds).

In case of a “tie” or if it’s too close to declare a winner, both players would simply lag again.

Figuring out who breaks first in pool isn’t difficult, it’s just the method you want to go about it. If you want to learn more about how to break better in pool, or what happens if you don’t hit any balls on your break – keep reading!

How Do You Break Better in Pool?

A lot of beginners tend to break in pool with their pool stick really elevated and not leveled. It’s a sort-of-wild breaking style that is unpredictable.

The first tip is to make sure you keep your stick really leveled. A lot of different things can happen when your stick is elevated that makes the ball react differently. It may pop off the table or go in different directions.

The second tip is to follow through on your break. Most novice pool players don’t follow through enough on their stroke. Following through will ensure you transfer the most energy possible to your break.

If you would like more tips, check out my post on 5 tips every beginner needs to know on breaking.

What Happens if the Cue Ball (White Ball) Goes in During a Break?

If you scratch on the break, then that is considered a foul and your turn is over. If you are playing ‘bar rules’, then your opponent has to put the white ball behind the 2nd dot (in the ‘Kitchen’) and shoot any ball they want.

Bar Rules: A form of unwritten rules that a majority of casual pool players will abide by in a bar. It is not the same as formatted league rules like APA or BCA.

The caveat is that they can only shoot in the direction of the break. So you can’t shoot the other direction. If you play league, then in APA it is similar rules. If you play in BCA leagues, then you get ball in hand, which means you can place the cue ball anywhere on the table without restrictions.

What Happens if the Cue Ball (White Ball) Doesn’t Hit Any Balls on the Break?

The worst thing a player can do when breaking is miss the cue ball and hit nothing but air.

If you’re playing by ‘bar rules’, then it is up to their opponent to let them attempt to break again or forfeit their break. If forfeited, then the opponent would have a turn to break the rack instead.

What about in APA or BCA? APA and BCA have specific rulings on what a ‘legal’ break is and what would happen in each situation. Refer to their most updated rule book for accurate information.

Where Do You Hit the Cue Ball on a Break?

The best place to hit the cue ball on a break is center. Most beginners still have a pretty wild break and stroke, so sticking to center position is probably the best bet. If players are a little more skilled, then they can try using a little ‘top’ or ‘bottom’ (which just means hitting a little above or below center on the cue ball).

How Do You Play 8-Ball?

The rules of the 8-Ball are pretty easy. The first person to make all of their of balls (assigned groups; Solid or Stripes) and then make the 8-ball in a designated or “called” pocket wins the game. Full details on the rules of 8-Ball in my post here.

After breaking, if you make any balls in, what you make is what you are.

Example: You make a 1-Ball on the break. You are assigned the group Solids; which includes numbers 1 through 7. Now you have to target the other 6 balls to make!

What are the Rules in 8-Ball?

There aren’t too many basic rules that one needs to know before starting a game. These are all the universal rules of 8-Ball regardless of what format or location you are playing in.

  • A player must sink their appropriate balls (Solid or Stripes), then pocket the 8-ball in the “called” pocket to win the game.
  • The first player to make the 8-ball, wins the game.
    • A player cannot shoot the 8-ball until all of their appropriate balls are pocketed first.
  • If you make the 8-ball on the break without scratching, you instantly win.

There are a lot more rules than these 3, but they are the main ones to be aware of. If you want to read up on all the rules, check out my post here where I describe it more in detail.

Related Questions

Can you hit the opponents ball in pool? You cannot hit your opponents ball, the rules are that you can only hit your assigned group of balls. If you made a 1-Ball in, it means you can only make solid balls which are numbered 1 through 7. If you accidentally hit their ball, that is a foul.

What happens if you hit your opponents ball in? As long as you hit your ball first and did not scratch, there is no foul. If you didn’t make any of YOUR balls in, your turn is over and it’s your opponent’s turn now. If you did hit their ball first, then it’s a foul and it’s your opponents turn.

What happens if you hit your ball in, then your opponents ball went in too? As long as you didn’t hit your ball first and did not scratch, keep shooting. It is still your turn, their ball just happened to go in too.

What happens if you make the 8-Ball on the break? If you make the 8-ball on the break, then you instantly win and the game is over! The only caveat is if you scratch on the break too, then that actually results in a loss.

How do you make the 8-ball on the break? The best way to do this is to place the cue ball on the edge of the table near the 2nd dot. You want to be roughly 3-4 inches away from the rail. When you break, you’ll need to aim for the 2nd ball instead of the 1st ball on the rack.


Benny is the owner of Supreme Billiards and has been shooting pool and teaching people how to shoot pool for a few years now. He enjoys showing new players techniques and drills to improve their pool game.

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