In most games, the winner of the last game breaks. The loser must rack the balls for the next game. Breaking a loose rack (gaps between the balls) causes a lot of lost energy, and the balls will stay bunched up in clusters. This is not something you want to happen. It can throw off your focus and rhythm.
In most matches, you don’t have to inspect every rack. But if your opponent has already put together one loose rack, he could do it again. Inspecting makes good sense.
In league competitions, inspecting every rack by your opponent is often a good way to irritate him, especially if you keep pointing out miniscule gaps as justification to try again. He can turn this against you by insisting that you do your own racking.
If you don’t inspect every time, do so after he “sticks” you with a bad rack. Make it a point to closely inspect each one. And, ask for a re-rack if he gets careless. It is good manners to let him know what required the re-rack. Don’t be petty.
Do not expect that you will be able to get a perfect rack on a regular basis. There is simply too many variables that can interfere with perfection. Do expect any gaps to be minimal, that most of the balls will touch. It is rare to actually get all of the balls touching.
In 8 Ball, you want the top ball to touch as least one of the two balls behind it and the lower corner balls are touching one of the adjacent balls. In 9 Ball, you want the top ball to touch one of the two balls (both is preferable).
Sometimes the other player asks if there is something wrong with the rack. In a tournament, you can respond with a smile, “I just want to make sure you are as good a racker as I am.” In a league match, when you’ve already gotten burned, respond with, “Because”, or some other answer that indicates you want a good rack.
You want to achieve tighter racks because these give you a better chance at pocketing a ball on the break, and thereby open the possibility of a run-out.
Nowadays, it is common at important tournaments for the person who breaks to rack their own balls. This prevents any bad feelings over any possible intentional or unintentional bad racks.
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