Play Better 8 Ball With These Tips!
As an avid pool player & professional I love & play many billiard games. Of course I spend most of my time playing rotation pool (shooting the balls in numerical order) because most professional events these days are 9 ball or 10 ball. I also love playing & competing in straight pool (14.1), bank pool, snooker & occasionally 3 cushion; however, the game of 8 ball will always hold a special place in my heart as the game I played in my childhood & early college years hustling in bars. I am also partial to 8 ball because it can be more creative & offensive than rotation. To help your pool skills, I encourage you to play all the games and here are some tips that can help you play better 8 ball.
Choosing Solids or Stripes
One of the most important decisions in the game of 8 ball is choosing solids or stripes, also known as the little ones or the big ones, after the break. If you are playing in a bar or in an APA league match you might be playing with the rule “take what you make”. This means you are designated either solid or stripes based on what you pocket on the break. Personally I dislike this rule because I believe whether you are solids or stripes should be determined with skill & not chance, after all it dictates the rest of the game.
On the flip side if you are playing with BCA or more advanced rules, most likely the table will be open after the break. “The open table rule” means that the first called & pocketed ball will determine the set of each player. If you are playing this way let’s talk about what to look for when choosing solids or stripes:
Analyze the available shots & determine your personal make % for them. If either a solid or a stripe is significantly easier for you, you will probably want to choose the more make able shot to ensure you stay at the table.
If the solid & stripe options are close to equal, you should consider the layout: a.) Which balls are blocking pockets? (more +) b.) Which balls are tied in clusters? (more -) c.) Which balls are on the rail or in a small position window? (more -) d.) Which balls are blocking the available pockets for the 8 ball? (+ or -)
Try to weigh the answers to these questions, then choose the set of balls with more positives & less negatives. Next look at least 2 shots ahead if possible or more if your skill level allows. After you commit 100% to your opening shot, starting shooting with confidence.
Remember to Maintain Blocked Pockets
In 8 ball when you have one of your designated solid or stripes in front of a pocket, you are essentially blocking your opponent from making potential shots to beat you. Unfortunately a lot of amateurs will shoot those balls first because they are easier to make, but oftentimes it is in their best interest to leave those balls to make it harder on their opponent. When possible you should choose a slightly harder shot & leave blocker balls to do their job until it's in your best interest to make them.
Be Flexible: When playing 8 ball, you have a lot more forgiveness when it comes to position, don’t be afraid to change your pattern as needed. If you get out of line or over run position on a certain ball, be ready to abandon your Plan A & create Plan B.
Identify your “Problem Balls” : Look for problem balls -- balls close to the rail, with a small position window, or a ball tied up with other balls. If possible at the very beginning of the rack you should identify the problem balls & other balls close to them. Hopefully those balls can be used to create position for a tough shot or to break out of a cluster. Then as you move through the rack, stay flexible & look for opportunities to take care of your problem balls. If you happen to land on a good spot to take care of a problem, take it even if it’s a hard shot. In the end the goal is to run out & win, what is the point of making the easy shot when you’re going to be left with the problem eventually.
Make Sure to Consider Defense: At the same time you should consider defensive options in problem situations, especially if it involves your opponents balls. If a solid & a stripe are in a group on the table where neither can be made, instead of trying to aggressively break them out, maybe you can play defense & force your opponent to break open the balls instead. You should also consider defense when you are faced with a more difficult offensive shot. Many times there is an easy safe available, but players often default to the offensive shot. If you train yourself to look for the defensive option, you are more likely to shoot it when it is the better choice.
Plan backward from the 8 ball: In the end, the name of the game is 8 ball & without making it you can’t win. When you’re looking to run out as efficiently as possible, the idea is to make every ball in that run & not let your opponent shoot. In order to do this you need position & a pocket for the 8 ball. If you can identify the ideal ball to play position for the 8 ball & then design a pattern to get position on that ball & keep that going you are going to win more often.
Maintain Patience: There is no 3 Foul Rule
I have seen 1 game of 8 ball between 2 professionals last over 30 mins because they got into a safety battle. In 8 ball many times the winner is the player with the most patience because they are willing to play defensive & let their opponent make the fatal mistake. Personally I struggled with this as a younger player & would go for a low % shot because my patience ran out. Sometimes I would come with it & still win, but often I would sell out. Over the decades I’ve matured & in turn my resolve for playing defense has increased. Remember there is no 3 foul rule in 8 ball & sometimes the best course of action is to commit to the safety battle.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article & I wish you all the best in improving your pool game! Below is a link to a YouTube Video for more tips on the awesome game of 8 ball. Cheers!