How To Play Cutthroat Pool? Basic Cutthroat Pool Rules Explained

If you’re into Pool, you’ve probably heard of Cutthroat Pool. Cutthroat is a popular social pool game that is best played in groups with odd numbers of people. This is the spot to go if you have a team and want to attempt this pool game type. In this article, we’ll demonstrate how to rule play cutthroat pool and go over some basic guidelines.

What is Cutthroat Pool?

What is Cutthroat Pool

Cutthroat Pool (Three-person pool game) is a variant of Pool that can be played with three or more players, with the goal of being the last person to have their balls on the table. It is considered an elimination game in which the more object balls on the table, the better. Object balls are evenly distributed among players throughout sets, and players are responsible for pocketing opponent balls and defending their own once the break has been made.

The Cutthroat Pool game uses a total of fifteen object balls with numbers ranging from 1 to 15, as well as the standard cue ball. At the start of the game, each player will be given a number that will represent the group of balls under their control. You’ll try to shoot balls into the pockets, just like you would in the traditional Pool. If you manage to get into a pocket, you’ll be able to keep shooting until you miss or make an unlawful shot. As a result, the more you hit, the more options you’ll have for future shots. Finally, players are eliminated from the game when they have pocketed all of their balls. However, if your opponent commits a foul, you can be reinstated into the game.

Basic rules

How to play Cutthroat Pool

Before starting a Cutthroat Pool game, every player has to know the rules to play pool properly. There are some general basic rules of Cutthroat Pool that you have to know before getting into the game:

  • You try to hit the balls on the table that belongs to your opponents.
  • If you make one, you keep shooting until you create a foul, scratch, or make an illegal shot 
  • When all of a player’s balls have been pocketed, the player is eliminated.
  • After all of the other players have been eliminated, the player with any balls left on the table wins.

Detail Rules

Detail Rules

1. Determine group

Each player needs to have a group of balls to start. There are some different ways that players can apply to determine groups in the Cutthroat Pool game

  • Traditional way: The most advanced and traditional variant is when you can only claim a group after pocketing at least one ball from the other two sets. If you pocket the 3-ball and the 12-ball in 3-player cutthroat, for example, you can claim a group. In this case, the most likely group would be 6–10.
  • Common way: Others prefer a more straightforward method of claiming sets in Cutthroat, in which you claim a group as soon as you pocket a ball. When playing Cutthroat in a less competitive and casual setting, this appears to be a typical strategy. For example, the first player can claim a group if they pocket a ball on the break. Following that, the next player to sink a ball would choose his or her group. The third is assigned to the worst group.
  • Assign groups before the game starts: Others like to allocate groups before the start of the game. Simply choose your numbers and begin. It is not always advantageous to break up with predetermined groups. On the first shot, you might just sink your balls.

2. Racking


The same as a normal rack, Cutthroat’s rack isn’t that challenging. All you’ll need is a conventional triangle rack and the 1-ball at the top of the triangle, with the 6 and 11 balls at either corner. The rest of the balls’ positioning isn’t crucial. It’s critical to position the rack so that one ball rests on top of the foot location once it’s completed. The majority of racks are located in this location.

The cue ball will, of course, be put behind the head string. The head string is an imagined line generated when players stare at the diamonds on the side of billiards tables. It is not a literal line that rests on the table. It’s fine to break as long as the cue ball is placed below the diamond closest to the table’s center.

Even if a person uses all of their might in a break, the balls may not travel very far. If this is the case, players should double-check the rack’s tightness. Because of how close the balls are to each other, a good rack should look like it was bonded together.

Want to learn how to rack pool balls properly? Read this article: How To Rack Pool Balls Like a Pro in 7 Steps

3. Break


Breaking a rack is an important component of the Pool game since it can set the tone for the entire game. It’s critical in the Cutthroat Pool game that whoever goes first can perform an “open break” which means that at least four balls separate from the rack and make contact with the cushions on the pool table’s sides. This is done to keep the balls from becoming too crowded in the middle. If the first player fails to complete an ‘open break,’ the following player can request a re-rack and try again. In order to perform a nice break, you have to choose a good pool cue besides practicing your skills. There are various pool cue options on the market, the good one is the one you can afford and suitable for your level.

4. Legal shots

Legal shots, Fouls, Scratches, and Related Penalties

In Cutthroat Pool, a legal shot requires the player to first make contact with an opponent’s ball, followed by at least one ball making contact with a cushion. This is done to prevent players from trying to put the ball in a bad position for the next guy up. If you miss a legal shot and the ball goes in, that player’s ball will be returned to its original location, and the player who hit the cue ball will forfeit their turn.

5. Fouls

Cutthroat fouls are very similar to fouls in any other pool game. You are considered to make a foul when:

  • Hitting the cue ball off the table
  • Double hitting the cue ball 
  • Push the balls rather than striking 
  • Any movement made with the end of the cue stick or the player’s hands to the cue ball or the object balls.
  • All illegal jump shots, including scoop shots and any other variations listed in the pocket billiards bylaws.

If a player commits a foul during their turn and their shot is declared to be an illegal shot, the ball will be returned to its original spot, and the player will forfeit their turn. If that player also made their own ball in by mistake on that turn, their ball will stay in the pocket and they will still lose their turn.

6. Scratches

When a player accidentally pockets the cue ball, this is called scratches. This “scratch” term comes from the early days of Pool when the punishment for doing so was a point being scratched off from the players’ score. Scratching is especially important in Cutthroat because of the implications for the other players. If a player scratches the cue ball by jumping it off the table or pocketing it accidentally, the other players on the table are allowed to put one of their pocketed balls back into play. If none of the other players have any balls in the pocket, they merely wait for their turn. The player who follows the scratcher will then place the cue ball below the head string in whichever location they want and take their turn.


What is a legal shot?

In Cutthroat Pool, a legal shot requires the player to make contact with an opponent’s ball first, followed by at least one ball making contact with a cushion. This is done to ensure that players aren’t aiming to put the ball in a bad position for the next guy up. If you miss a legal shot and the ball goes in, that player’s ball will be returned to its original position, and the player who hit the cue ball will lose their turn.

Read also: What Are Pool Bank Shots?

Can we play cutthroat pool with more than 3 people?

Yes, in fact, Cutthroat Pool is sometimes called a three-person pool game since it is popularly played with 3 players. However, it can be played with more than 3 people. Because it’s a 15-ball game, it can be played by multiple people as long as the object balls are split evenly into sets. The cutthroat pool is a versatile multiplayer game that may accommodate two players with seven balls in each set to seven players with two balls in each set.


In general, learning how to play pool is not that difficult, especially cutthroat pool. Cutthroat is a simple game, but it can be competitive and a lot of fun, with some complicated strategies when experienced players are involved. You just need to understand how to play cutthroat pool with all the basic rules and create your strategies to win the game.