How to Play Cut Throat in Pool/Billiards (5 Easy Rules)

Pool is a fun recreational game to play with friends, as well as a great pastime to hone your skills. But what happens when your friends invite you to play a game of cut throat in pool?

Cut throat pool is a game in which an odd number of players, usually 3 or 5, is assigned a group of balls to pocket. The goal of this game is to pocket your opponents’ group of balls before they pocket yours.

Whether you are looking for a new game of pool to play or need some refreshing of how to play cutthroat, here is a list of 5 easy rules on how to play.

Choose Group Assignments

First of all, in cutthroat, each player picks an assigned group of balls. The groups go as follows for three-player games: 1-5, 6-10, & 11-15. For 5 player games the groups are: 1-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12, & 13-15.

It is important to remember the group you are assigned to in cut throat pool since the goal of the game is to pocket the balls that aren’t part of your group. Groups can be chosen in a couple of different ways.

The first option, and the most common one, is once one person pockets a ball, they get to pick their group. This would continue until someone else pockets a ball, then they would choose their group; this continues until the last person is stuck with the last group.

The second method for assigning groups is typically used in more competitive settings. With this method, the first group isn’t assigned until at least two balls are pocketed.

Take Turns

Next, you and your group will decide the order in which you are taking turns any way you please.

Then, the play begins, and each player has a turn to try to hit an opponent’s ball into a pocket. If that person successfully knocks a ball into a pocket, they get the chance to go again until they hit it and don’t pocket any balls. 

Once they have hit a ball into their opponents’ pocket, their turn is over, and the next person gets to take their turn.

Rack and Break

Now it’s time to rack and break the balls. Begin by placing the balls in a traditional triangle form.

You should rack the balls by placing the #1 ball at the top of the triangle facing the person who will break. You should then continue to place them in numerical order. However, you should make sure that the #6 & #11 balls are at the edges of the triangle.

It is suggested that when breaking, at least four of the balls touch one of the cushions. If the person who breaks doesn’t hit it hard enough so that four or more balls touch the cushions, then the balls should be re-racked so the next person can break.

To Call or Not to Call

Before you officially begin your game, you should decide whether you will be playing “called” shots or not.

Playing called cut throat pool means that a person needs to “call” what numbered ball they are going to hit into a specific pocket before hitting their shot. When playing with “called” shots, if a player hits a ball that wasn’t called into a pocket, it is called an illegal shot.

If an illegal shot is made, the ball returns, and the person doesn’t keep the point. This definitely makes the game more challenging and can help when playing with more advanced players. If you are a casual pool player and want to play for fun, it may be better to play without “called” shots.

Basic Fouls and Their Penalties

In cut throat, there are a few ways that you can commit a foul.

Basic fouls in cut throat include if you bounce an opponent’s ball off the table, but if you bounce one of your balls off the table, it’s not a foul, and there is no penalty, and place the ball back on the table.

Another common foul is when you hit an “illegal” shot. This is when you hit your ball before hitting an opponent’s ball. In cut throat, you must hit an opponent’s ball before hitting one of yours. All of these fouls result in an opponent being able to place one of their pocketed balls back on the table. This means that even if you are eliminated from the game, and someone commits a foul, then you get to put one of your balls back on the table and continue to play.


These are just the five easiest rules to play cutthroat. There are more advanced rules that you can add to your game once you gain experience playing. But overall, cut throat is a great game to play when you have odd numbers, and it can be a ton of fun. You should try playing it the next time you find yourself playing pool with an odd number of players!


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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