How to Get Better at Cutthroat Pool

Cutthroat is a fun, three person pool game. It also goes by several other names, two of which are Elimination or Screwyerbuddy. This is a game that has been known to end friendships, so make sure that you are on good terms with your opponents.

In Cutthroat, each player claims a group five of the fifteen balls on the table – either 1 through 5, 6 through 10, or 11 through 15. The winner of the coin toss breaks and, if he makes a ball, automatically owns the group of balls to which his pocketed ball belongs.

For example, if the breaker makes the one ball on the break, his group is the 1 through 5 balls. These are the balls this player wants to protect. Should the breaker make balls from two different groups of balls, he takes his pick. If nothing goes in on the break, the next player shoots.

When the player who breaks finally ends his shot, either by making nothing on the break, missing a shot, or scratching, the second player begins his shot. If the first player already owns a group of balls, the second shooter chooses one of the other two groups left to shoot at. Should the second player make at least one ball of his chosen group, the third player gets the group of balls that is left by default.

Some Cutthroat players do it differently, with players assigning a specific group of balls to certain shooters before the game starts. Still others go by the rule that the first player to shoot gets balls 1 through 5, the second shooter balls 6 through 10, and the third 11 through 15.

The object of Cutthroat is to be the last player with balls left on the table. Therefore, when you shoot, you are trying to sink any and all of the balls but your own. If an opponent is shooting, you want to try to convince him to sink the third guy’s balls, thus preserving yours.

When all of your balls have been pocketed, you don’t shoot anymore. However, this may not be a permanent situation, because when someone scratches, a ball from each of his opponents is returned to the table. So you may get back in the game even though you were temporarily eliminated.


  • Try not to scratch because it can bring back an opponent that was already eliminated.
  • Be careful during your shot not to break up any of your balls that are in a cluster.
  • Try to steer the current shooter away from sinking your balls and towards the other guy’s.
  • If you can’t make a shot, at least try to position your balls to a spot on the table where they will be difficult to pocket.

General Tips

  • Consider playing safe instead of going for a low percentage shot
  • Choose “Solids” or “Stripes” wisely after the break
  • Pocket balls in groups to avoid having to go up and down the table
  • Think 3 shots ahead, not just 1 or 2
  • Have a plan but re-evaluate after every shot

We have more playing tips on how to better your game.

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