: Liz Ford
We've looked at the factors that affect pocketing bank shots without giving much thought to suavely and sagaciously applying appropriate banking during game-time. Banks can be squirmy and hard to pin down – read LOW PERCENTAGE – and usually there's an effective safety that could be played instead.
No two situations or two players are the same. With my permission, you can turn a deaf ear to those folks who claim “you should ALWAYS go for the bank,” as well as an unsmelling nostril to those who counter with “you should NEVER go for the bank.” Banking is a gray area that only makes sense as you build a personal set of rules based on knowledge, wisdom and pragmatism. Here are some questions to ask yourself in order to determine if a tantalizing bank shot is right for you.
1. Is it key to winning the game?
There's little reason to take a bank if there are further problems on the table or a low percentage run-out remaining. Save going for the gusto for when there's gusto to be got!
2. Is the safety easier than the bank?
If torn between two options, chose the one with the higher probability of working. If you've a no-brainer, lock-up safety opportunity, don't gamble everything on a risky bank shot. If all things are equal or the safety is tougher, be aggressive and give yourself a chance to win.
3. Is position automatic, or do you have to force it?
Opt out of banking if you have to weave through obstacles on the way to your next shot, or if position is otherwise sketchy – there may be little pay-off even if you make the tough shot.
4. Does banking guarantee you position that a straight-in shot cannot?
If left with a long, difficult shot that also carries the challenge of moving the cue-ball ten feet for position, look for cross-banking opportunities that will naturally send the cue-ball where it needs to go. On smaller tables, don't overlook an easy bank that leaves you with perfect position and lets you avoid negotiating excessive traffic.
5. Can you control the miss with speed?
In 8-Ball, you and your opponent are shooting at different targets. It's a smart move to lag tough bank shots at the pocket so that if they don't drop they stay put, blocking the pocket from your opponent and making it very hard to play safe.
6. Can you control the miss with direction?
In 9-Ball you and your opponent are shooting at the same target, so leaving a ball hanging in the jaws is a bad thing. Look to play corner pocket banks short so that they hit the inside rail and end up parked in the middle of the outside rail, leaving your opponent a bank of his or her own.
7. Can you hide the cueball from your opponent's shot?
“Protected banks” or “two-way shots” exist in both 8 and 9-Ball, allowing you to go for a bank and a safety at the same time. Make sure that you have position on your next shot if you make it but that your opponent won't have position if you miss.
8. What are the dynamics of the game?
If the score is close and the game is tight – with neither player claiming momentum – it's essential that you scrap and fight to establish control and banking becomes even riskier. If you're far ahead and on a roll, a bank might feel easy and serve to put a nail in your opponent's coffin. If you're far behind and twisting on your opponent's spike, a successful bank can serve to re-ignite your fire and put some fear into him or her.
9. How do you feel?
Sometimes you know instinctively that you're going to make a bank shot; you can feel it in your bones. Knowing yourself and what feels right to you are important to becoming a competitive player. If it feels right, do it.
10. Is it do or die?
It's hill-hill, you and your opponent are down to the final ball. You're faced with a bank shot for the win. There's no safe to be played, no way to manage the miss and nowhere to hide. Give yourself over 100% to feel and execution and let it fly. Whether or not it goes in, these are the moments we pool players live for.