10 Steps for Planning and Executing an 8-Ball Runout

BD caught up with Hall-of-Famer Mike Sigel and asked him to boil down his system for analyzing a rack and running out a rack of 8-ball to 10 steps.

Sizing Up the Table

  1. Look for clusters and problem areas

After the break, take stock of any clumps of balls, and balls frozen to the rails or each other. Avoid them if possible, and consider the suit (stripes or solids) with the fewest problem balls. If you have to address clusters, visualize exactly what route you must take to break them out without giving an edge to your opponent.

  1. Figure out where to pocket the 8-ball

Start from the end of the runout and think backwards. Ask first, which pockets will accommodate the 8?

  1. Scope out potential pivot balls

Once you know where you can pocket the 8, you can figure out which particular object balls you can use to get shape on the game-winning shot. The ball you choose is the "pivot ball." It'll be the last ball of the suit you pocket before the 8.

  1. Divide the pool table into sections

When Sigel plans a run in straight pool, he divides the table into sections - basically corresponding to the real estate by each pocket - and clears the balls from each section. He works his way down to the section with the break ball and handles that last. He approaches an 8-ball table much the same way, with the 8 ball taking the place of the break ball. While assessing the table, ask yourself, "Which suit has the easiest sections to clear?"

  1. Think simple and short

Make the game easy and consider the suit that allows you to travel the least amount of distance to run out. "What you don't want is a suit of balls where one is on the head rail, another is on the foot rail, another is over here, and another is way over there, and the 8 ball where it only goes in one or two pockets," Sigel says. "You don't want a suit of balls where you have to move the cue ball all over the world to get out. That allows too many errors to jump in."

Running Out

  1. Play any safeties immediately

"In 8-ball, once you start running out, you can't make a mistake. In 9-ball, if I make the 1 and the 2 and don't like the shot on the 3, it's no big deal - I can stick him behind the 5. But in 8-ball you can't do that. In 8-ball you have to play any safes early. Once you have made two or three balls, if you get into trouble, you're dead. If I can see I can't run out - if I can see that I need ball in hand once or even twice to get through the table - I make one of mine and then play a safety immediately. But if I make three or four balls and then screw up, I've given the game away."

  1. Bust up the clusters ASAP

"Too many players leave the problems until too late in the rack. It's the biggest, most common error out there. You see guys leave the 8 ball tied up against an opponent's ball until their last shot and then try to clear it. That's too late. That's how you lose. Me, if there's a problem out there, I'll shoot my first shot - even if it's a hard, long shot - so that I can get on a second shot that lets me clear that problem out of the way. Get rid of your headaches before they become migraines."

  1. Pocket balls according to section

Just like in straight pool, concentrate on sinking all the balls in a particular section of the table before moving to the next, taking advantage of the short position plays.

  1. Stay out in the open

Whenever possible, program your runout so the cue ball will land toward the center of the table after each shot. It gives you the greatest freedom to pursue a different pattern, in case you fall out of line.

  1. Have a Plan B

"In 8-ball, you want to leave yourself options. Plan a run where if you get out of line just a little on a ball, you still have another shot that allows you to keep playing. Don't box yourself in."