The first and most popular billiards game that most people learn is 8 ball. 8 ball happens to be a very strategic game that is, oddly enough, only played at the amateur level. If you feel like you're ready to take your game to the next level, you have to learn rotation games, specifically 9 ball and 10 ball.

9 ball and 10 ball are essentially the same game in that you must run the balls in numerical order from one to nine or ten, and they are both heartbreaking because you can run every ball, miss the last one, and lose. Some say that rotation games are not very strategic because the order of the balls is already dictated to you, but here I have to disagree. There are hundreds of different ways to play the table, but there is usually one best way. I could go for days on end talking about the best way to play patterns, and maybe some day I will, but for now I'm just going to give the basics.

1. After the break, assess the table. Are there any clusters? Balls against the rail that are very close to the side pockets? What is the key ball, or in other words, the ball that if you make it and get position solves the rack? You must assess any and all problems and have a good idea of how you're going to play each ball before you take the first shot.

2. Once you identify your problems, try to find a solution. Is there a way to safely run into a cluster while still getting position on the next ball? Can you run into the ball on the rail to knock it out a little? This is especially useful when you have ball in hand. Whenever you are holding the cue ball in the course of a game you should be looking for a free way to simplify the rack.

3. Sometimes solving your problem either isn't possible, or is too risky. In these situations you can play safe with the cue ball and use the object ball to possibly open up your problem balls. You can also do the opposite and play the cue ball behind a cluster, gently nudging them open a little.

4. Play the percentages. If the shot is harder than the safe, play the safe. If the safe is harder, then fire away.

5. Stay patient. Sometimes your opponent will miss and leave you tough. It is very easy to lose patience and go for a bank or a tough cut, but it's much smarter to wear down your opponent with a safe. One of the worst things you can do in rotations games is give the game away with a wild shot. I've seen way too many sets turn on these types of decisions.

6. One of the biggest differences between rotation games and 8 ball is how you miss. In 8 ball your suit is like a little army. When you miss you want to leave them in the holes to block your opponent. In rotation it's much better to use a speed that leaves the ball away from a pocket. When pros miss balls in 9 ball, it's almost always an overcut that goes back to the center of the rail. Of course you aim to make it, but use a speed that will give you an added measure of protection if you don't.

Good luck!