How to Play Cut Throat Pool

Pool tables come with endless possibilities of which games to use them for. If you have access to a pool table and want to try your hand at something different to a traditional game of pool, the game of Cut Throat is a great introduction to the versatility of a pool table. 

Moreover, have you ever been in a group of more than two all gathered around a pool table, in which some of you have to wait for a game because there is no multiplayer way of playing traditional pool, other than with only two people? Cut Throat is a great way to get everyone involved without all the waiting around. 

How to Play Cut Throat Pool

How many players can play Cut Throat pool?

It is common to only have three people play Cut Throat pool, however, five players can join in on this fun game. Four people cannot play the game, and if you have a group of more than five people, we’d suggest getting into either three or five teams so that you can all join in on the fun. 

What skill level is Cut Throat pool for?

Anyone can play Cut Throat pool, whether you’re a beginner or advanced player. Just bear in mind that, like any normal game of pool, if you’re playing with varying levels of skill, the advanced players are obviously going to have an advantage over the beginners. 

If you have any sore losers in your group, we’d suggest coming up with a way to make this a little more fair on the beginners. Perhaps you could pair two beginner players together against two single advanced players, or pair the beginner up with an advanced player to help them through the game.

That being said, Cut Throat pool is meant to be an enjoyable and casual game to get more than two people involved in the game, so hopefully there aren’t any too-competitive players in your group. 

What equipment do you need to play Cut Throat pool?

The good news is that you don’t actually need any additional equipment in order to play this game. All you need is one pool table, one set of balls numbered one to 15, and a pool cue. It might be helpful to have enough cues for the number of players or teams you have, but this isn’t essential as you can always share one or two cues.

Read ->  How to Hold a Pool Cue

How to play Cut Throat pool

Now that we’ve gone over everything that you need to gather all your friends around the pool table raring for a game of Cut Throat, let’s actually get into how you play the game, shall we? We’ll be looking at everything from how to get the table set up to how to win the game and crown a player or team victorious. 

But that’s enough talking, let’s get into the instructions section of this article! 

A Quick Synopsis of Cut Throat pool

You don’t want to read a bunch of instructions only to find out that the game doesn’t actually sound like the game for you, right? For this reason, and to save you a lot of time, we’ve condensed the premise of the game into a few sentences to give you an overview of what the game entails. 

You’re aiming to hit your opponent’s balls into the pockets without hitting your own balls in. Your go continues until you fail to pot an opponent’s ball or conduct an illegal shot. Once a player’s balls have all been potted, they’re eliminated. The winner is the last person standing once everyone else has been eliminated. 

BUT - if all of your balls have been eliminated, all hope isn’t lost for you. You can come back to the game if another player commits a foul. 

Sounds intriguing, right? If this sounds like a good game for you and your friends, keep reading to get a better understanding of how to play and what rules you should follow. 

Step 1: assigning billiards to each player

This is rather simple but worth noting that assigning the balls to each player is among the first thing you should do. If you’re playing with three people, assign five balls to each player. You can do this however you want to, but we’d suggest doing it in order to avoid confusion. 

This would be: player one has balls numbered one to five, player two has six to 10, and player three 11 to 15. Alternatively, if you’re playing with five people, divide the balls in the same way for an efficient start-up so that you can start playing the game quicker.  

There are a few ways to determine which player gets which group of balls, which we’ll be looking at below. 

Read ->  3 Player Pool Games

The Traditional Method: Traditionally, you’d only get your group of billiards assigned to you once you pocketed one ball from the other two groups. Once you’ve done this, you can pick a group to call your own.

The Predetermined Method: This involved claiming the groups before beginning the game. This is often a faster version of the game, but there’s the potential for you to pot your own billiards off the break. 

The Beginner-Friendly Method: Once you pot any ball, you can choose a group of billiards. This takes less time than the traditional method and doesn’t offer the breaker a disadvantage like the predetermined method. 

Step 2: setting up the table

Another simple step, set the table up just as you would any traditional game of pool. Use a triangular shaped rack and place the 1-ball at the front of the triangle, or closest to where the cue ball will begin. 

In the two back corners, place the 6- and 11-balls, with the rest of the balls being randomly assigned spots in the middle of the rack. This is so every player has one ball in a compromising spot at the beginning of the game. 

Step 3: breaking the balls

The break needs to be a good one for a game of Cut Throat pool, meaning that the breaker should aim to make at least four numbered balls hit the cushions. This puts more of the balls at risk and adds some suspense to the game. You can rebreak as many times as you want to get the perfect start to your game.

Step 4: play Cut Throat pool!

Finally, you can begin your game! If you’re going to be calling each shot, call a pocket and try to sink an opposing players ball into it. If you succeed, take another go until you miss one. Keep taking it in turns to try and pot each other’s balls until there is a victor.

There are just a few more details to remember so that you can be sure that you’re playing your game correctly, which we’ll look at now. 

Legal shots

For a legal shot, you must hit an opponents ball with the cue ball hard enough for it, or any other ball on the table, to hit one of the cushions. This keeps players from tapping the balls to prevent their balls being pocketed. 

You can hit your own balls, but the cue ball must come into contact with an opponents ball first. Follow all of these rules and your shot will be ruled legal.

Read ->  Fun Billiards Games

Illegal shots

An illegal shot is one that disobeys the rules we just mentioned, for instance, if you hit one of your balls first. If you pot an opponents ball after an illegal shot, you will incur a foul. Another way to get a foul is by hitting another player’s balls off of the table. 

Fouls mean penalties, and this should be the return of one of each opposing players balls. They get an advantage over you, and this gives eliminated players the chance to get back into the game. If an opposing player doesn’t have any pocketed balls, they cannot benefit from your foul. 


Scratches are another form of fouls and also lead to penalties. If you scratch the ball, it means that you’ve pocketed the cue ball or caused it to jump off of the table. 

The penalty for this foul is that the next player gets to place the ball wherever they want, as long as it’s behind the head string. The head string is the straight line across the table that cuts through the starting position for the cue ball when breaking. 

Each opposing player will also be able to take one of their pocketed balls and replace it back onto the table. 

Final Say

You can now call yourself a master in the knowledge of how to play Cut Throat pool. Once you get your head around the rules, this game is super fun and easy to play with an odd number of people. Just remember which balls are yours so you don’t accidentally pocket your own numbers!

You can adjust the difficulty of the game by choosing between the different grouping options to determine which balls each player gets, and deciding whether you’re going to call each pocket or not. Now go and get some friends to try out Cut Throat pool yourselves!

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