Over the years, I have noticed one thing about the game of 8-Ball; the player that generally has the best layout wins the majority of the time. In recent months, we have already discussed several strategies related to varying circumstances the game sometimes brings about, but the one thing I have neglected to share with you are my thoughts related to balls that are sitting near either of the two end rails.
Why is the end cushion a problem? The answer lies with the fact that balls positioned in this location are often difficult to pocket. Many times, it is a necessity to have a key ball just to play position on this area of the table. Unfortunately, this isn’t always an option.
In fact, I know several great pool players that don’t understand how big of an obstacle that the end rail is. In reality, the problem is so big that it’s almost like a bunker in golf. Anytime you have one of your object balls lying in that location, it is imperative to remove it as soon as possible. Most players just keep on shooting until they run out of easy shots and when they do they are often left firing at an impossible bank shot.
Now, I’m not saying that you should do something rash to remove a ball sitting on the end rail; I’m simply suggesting that the ball should be removed if you can do so without risking any type of severe penalty.
In fact, it’s one of the first problems I look for when I play a game of 8-Ball. Balls positioned in this area usually only have one pocket that they can be shot in. On the other hand, balls located near the middle of the table tend to have several pockets.
Near the end of the game, your opponent can also leave you up table without ever giving you access to an easy shot (see the relationship between the cue ball and fourteen in Figure 1). If your final ball is on the end rail and your opponent is shooting, you can bet your bottom dollar that you are going to be left somewhere on the opposite end of the table.
So what should you do? My advice is to remove the problem and build a better position for yourself. Essentially, you need to play pool as if you were playing chess. Continually work on the table layout until you have a substantial advantage. You can do this by either pocketing the problem ball or by moving it into a position where it will actually help you. Remember you shouldn’t always try to run the balls, just survey the table and do something smart.
Another strategy might be to bump your ball over to the side rail and block the path of one of your opponent’s balls (Figure 2). As you do this, you should always remember to leave enough air between the balls to ensure that your ball can be easily pocketed. You don’t want to create another obstacle for yourself. You are only looking to make things more difficult for your opponent.
In the words of pro player Mike Sigel, “There is always stuff to work on. You are never really there.” So the next time you decide to play 8-Ball, don’t be left up table with an off angle bank. Remember to think like a winner and try to give yourself a better position by moving balls away from the “dreaded end rail.”
Anthony Beeler is the 2017 Pool Instructor of the Year and is a former BCAPL National 9-Ball Champion. He has numerous top 25 national finishes and is one of only 8 ACS Master Instructors in the world. He is the primary author of the National Billiards Instructors Manual and has also authored the book Unstoppable! Positive Thinking for Pool Players. Anthony currently has the highest established Fargo Rating of any Master Instructor. He has won over 300 tournaments and has defeated numerous professional players in tournament competition.