Cutthroat Pool Rules

Cutthroat Pool Rules Explained: Beginners Guide

Pool playing is fun, but only to those who have taken the time to master the rules.

So if you aren’t new to these sorts of games, or are searching for a new sport to try out, then the Cutthroat pool could be the best option.

It’s also referred to as “Elimination.”

First, because it’s widely played in social gatherings, so you get to play with your friends as you catch up.

And most importantly, because it’s full of hype, characterized by simple rules and a perfect pick when the number of players isn’t even. Are you game?

Here are some vital details to help you get started;

Cutthroat Pool Basic Rules

All games are run by a set of rules. And the Cutthroat pool isn’t any different.

And they’re as follows;

  • First, before the commencement of the game, the players must gather and agree as to whether or not they will be playing call shot. Officially, for the first shot, the cue ball should ensure to come into contact with their opponent’s object ball.
  • Players work to ensure that they get to pocket all their opponent’s balls, so that only theirs remain on the table, last.
  • Sometimes players are left with no choice but to sink their balls so that they can maintain their turn on the table.
  • The winning team is the one the pockets al their opponents’ balls. Or sometimes, the player with the most number of balls remaining on the table is declared the winner.
  • Players have the right to continuously shoot. They can only stop in case of a foul, scratch or a miss.
  • When all your team’s balls are pocketed by the other team, you’re eliminated from the turn. However, if your opponents commit a foul, then you can join the game, again.

Claiming Groups in Cutthroat

In Cutthroat game, the claiming of groups is done in various ways.

Players work hard to preserve their group by knocking the others out.

Below are the various ways of group determination;

If the game comprises 3 players, then the ball groups are indicated as (1-5), (6-10), and eventually 11-15). Consequently, for 5 participants, the groups go as (1-3), (4-6), (7-9), (10-12), and lastly, (13-14).

1: Players agree to assign groups before game start

In this case, players simply pick their numbers and proceed to play.

This method is, however, the least preferred as it’s most disadvantageous as advantageous to players.

As it’s common for players to sink their balls at the very first shot.

2: The Classic/traditional way

Here, players only get the opportunity to claim a group only after pocketing at least one ball from the other sets.

For example, if a player pockets ball number 3 and then ball number 12 right after, they can now settle for a group.

And the most appropriate one, in this case, is the 6-10 groupset.

3: The Simplest and Most Popular Way

If you’re playing the Cutthroat game in a more informal set up such as a social gathering with family or friends, then this is one of the best approaches of group determination.

A player settles for a group, as soon as they’re able to pocket a ball.

Then the next one does the same and the third one has no option but to accept the remaining one.

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Starting the Game

The start of the game is pretty easy. And everything depends on the number of players involved.

First, the teams have to divide the pool balls to form various groups (as explained earlier on).

Afterward, each participant gets a set of balls, which are classified into one group.

Players have to play smart, to ensure their balls are the last ones standing on the table at the end of the game.

As already mentioned earlier, if the game is made up of 3 players, each one of them receives 5 balls as categorized under the following groups; (1-5), 6-10), and 11-15).

However, a game of 5 players means each player gets 3 balls in groups of; (1-3), 4-6), (7-9), 10-12), and (13-15).

How to Rack in Cutthroat Pool

In the Cutthroat pool, the shape of the ball rack is triangular like the one used in 8 balls. So it’s easy to rack.

3-players Game

You can place ball number 1 on either the head or foot spot of the rack.

And then, place ball number 6 and 11 on either of the remaining corner-spots, according to preference.

Now you can randomly place the other balls throughout the rack.

5-Players Game

Since the rack has only 3 corner spots, it’s recommendable to randomly place the balls throughout the rack.

The players who are lucky to have their balls on the corner spots, enjoy some advantage over the rest.

But it’s still fair enough as the placement isn’t intentional and all players get to witness that.

Fouls and Penalties in Cutthroat


Like any other game, fouls are common in the Cutthroat pool. There are various ways of fouls in this game and they include;

If a player pockets their ball, before contacting any of their opponents’ balls.

The common term for this is an illegal shot.

And in this case, the player committing the foul will still have their ball pocketed, but they will lose their playing chance to the next participant.

The player, however, remains standby as they can be reinstated at any given time.

The object ball bounces off the pool table. This can only be considered a foul if the ball jumped belongs to your opponent.

If by any chance a player bounces off their ball, then they get the chance to spot it. No offense if reported at this time.

But if the bouncing involves the cue-ball, then that becomes a scratch (we will discuss more scratches below)


When it comes to penalties, the innings are always brought to an end, whenever a participant commits a foul.

Also, the opponents’ balls that had been pocketed are brought back to the playing table.

However, if one’s group ball had not been pocketed, then the rule excludes that specific team as penalties cannot be forwarded, for later.

Tips and tricks

Although the Cutthroat game is simple to play, for a player to advance to winning and gunner more points, they have to master a few essential tricks.

We managed to gather a few, to help you get started;

  • Winning calls for sacrifice. So when your opportunity to play comes, don’t hesitate to intentionally sink your balls as this is one of the best ways to increase your scoring chances.
  • Don’t forget you’re playing a game with rules, so play rightfully at all times and avoid fouls like plague. It’s the best way to avoid penalties that could cost you your much anticipated winning score.
  • Always be on the lookout for opportunities to team-up with one of your opponents, such that you work together to eliminate a common opponent. Teaming-up with a seemingly weaker team will be advantageous for you. And one way to do this is by helping them locate their opponent’s easy-to-sink balls.
  • Remember to always keep a close watch on your defensive side. Don’t give your opponents easy access to your balls. Kill their scoring opportunities as soon as you notice by blocking their strikes or making striking difficult for them.
  • Let the third player, who’s waiting for their turn, feel your presence. It’s your time to shine and stir some fear within them. And one of the best ways to do so is by signaling them towards their easily accessible balls.

It’s like killing two birds with one stone. How?

Apart from making them nervous, you also get to distract them from paying much attention to your playing tactics.

That way it will be easy for you to apply the same when facing them on the next turn.

  • Always ensure to return all the pocketed balls on the playing table, including the ones that had nothing before, whenever you scratch. It gives you the chance to re-strategize and attack.

What happens if you scratch in cutthroat?

In Cutthroat, a scratch refers to when a player unintentionally pockets the cue ball or bounces it off the playing table, during the game.

When this happens, the next player gets the opportunity to play in a “cue ball-in-hand behind the head-string” circumstance.

This simply means that the cue ball is strategically positioned between the invisible line that should be dividing the 2 diamonds between the breaking part of the table, and the head cushion of the rack.

However, if no ball is spotted behind the head-string, then a player is allowed to select one that’s nearest the head-string and proceed to spot it at the facing end.


When it comes to playing Cutthroat, you have to master the steps that can lead you to an early victory.

First, you and all the other team members have to agree on your turns, then you should help each other set-up the rack and then proceed to break it.

Afterward, work your way up swiftly by cleverly pocketing your opponents’ balls and don’t stop at anything until you’re declared the winner.

Remember, the best part of this game lies in the fact that you can play within your social circle.

So this is the best way to learn the game as you enjoy yourself.

Feels like something you would try out?

It’s time to invest in quality pool cues.

Have fun!