Magic: The Racking (and Breaking)

Getting the most out of the Magic Rack

I have been donating to playing in the Mezz West State Tour for two years now. Desiree Rivera and Oscar Dominguez have done an amazing job with this tour so far.

One of the requirements for the tour is that we use the Turtle Rack, which is functionally equivalent to the Magic Rack. This rack is used for both 9 Ball and 10 Ball events.  We are going to focus on 9-ball.

Ask many professional pool players how they feel about Magic-style racks, and I think you’ll find that most of them do not like them.  The reason is that because it gives a very consistent, tight rack, it is very easy for the pros to break and run a rack of 9-ball.  Break properly, leaving the cue ball in the middle of the table, and you should be able to run the table, barring any mistakes.  And we all know that pros rarely make mistakes!

However, this article is for the rest of us.  My goal is to help you achieve the perfect rack and break with the Magic Rack (or Turtle Rack). I’ll leave it up to you not to make any mistakes!

First, let’s talk about racking.  Place the Magic Rack on the table with the top hole lined up with the foot spot.  The rack should be lined up with the center of the table – it helps if there is a mark on the table to guide you.

Now, place the balls 3 through 8 randomly around the center of the rack, with the 9-ball in the middle (The Mezz West State Tour requires the 2-ball to be at the bottom of the rack).  Once they are all placed, make sure they are all touching, nudging the cluster of 7 balls toward the head of the table just a bit.  Carefully place the 1-ball at the top, on the foot spot, and the 2-ball at the bottom. They should nestle into place.

Done correctly, all of the balls should be touching, with the possible exception of one tiny gap. If there is a single gap, the problem is with the balls, not the rack. If there is more than one gap, get a new set of balls.

There are two ways to break this rack.  The first way is to break softly, about 25 to 50% of your normal break speed.  The second is to break “as hard as possible (another Mezz tour requirement)” while still maintaining control of the cue ball.  In both cases, the cue ball should be placed on the head string, about one to two ball-widths away from the side rail.  Either side will do—whichever you are more comfortable with.

Try the soft break first.  It will be easier to control, and you can more easily see how the balls will react.  Hit the one ball directly; do NOT strike the front of the 1-ball.  You should essentially be shooting a stop shot. Aim directly at the center of the 1-ball.

The wing ball on the side you’re breaking from should go straight into the corner pocket.  The 1-ball should go very close to the side pocket opposite your breaking position.  If it misses, it will travel to the head of the table, most likely in position for a shot with the cue ball that you hopefully stopped in the middle of the table.  Try this break several times before you move on to harder breaks.

When breaking hard, you are looking for similar results, although you’ll tend to get a bit more randomization.  If the 1-ball doesn’t go into the side pocket, it may go up to the head rail, and then rebound back to the middle of the table. The cue ball may be caromed by another ball; squatting it in the middle of the table is still your goal, to minimize the chance of it being caromed into a pocket.

However, the wing ball should still end up in the corner.  If it misses, and you are sure the balls are racked as tight as possible, try moving the cue ball a little to the left or right before breaking.

For more, very detailed information about the 9-ball break, I recommend taking a look at Racking Secrets with Joe Tucker, and Racking Secrets II. Making a ball on the break can mean the difference between winning and losing a match. These DVD’s are worth their weight in gold.

Here is a bonus tip to help you run 9-ball racks:

The 9-ball will usually stay inside the rack after the break.  Ideally, you’d like the 8-ball to be a fairly easy key ball, right?  Simple!  When racking, place the 8-ball in the position directly between the wing ball and the 1-ball.  Do a soft break, and notice that the 8 simply floats away toward the side rail, usually somewhere between the 2nd and 3rd diamonds; perfect position to set up the 9-ball!

It will do the same thing for a hard break, although there is a strong tendency for other balls to knock it down the table.

If the rules state that there is no pattern-racking (like in the Mezz West State Tour), then the next time you rack, place the 8-ball in the wing ball position, and place the 7-ball between the 1-ball and 8-ball.  As long as you place the other five balls around the 9-ball randomly, you shouldn’t be accused of pattern racking.

Now… go run some racks!

If you would like to share some of your success stories (or even the failures), or have suggestions for future articles, please feel free to drop me a line at I can also be found hanging out with fellow billiards enthusiasts at Come on by and join the discussion!

Posted in Article, Break, Table Talk, The Break / Rackem / Stroke Magazines, Tip of the Day