Winning 8-Ball Tip #2: Variety is the Spice of Pool

It’s so easy to get trapped in your own little 8-ball bubble. It’s the most popular social game played these days and truthfully, it’s one of my personal favorites. However, just because you enjoy the game doesn’t mean it has to be the only game you play or the only thing you practice. In fact, there are many ways you can improve your 8-ball game by including various other games into your agenda. In one of Liz’s earlier Dawg Training articles, “Oh, The Games People Play,” she discusses the basic format of each game and how the diversity can make you a better-rounded player.

In this edition of Winning 8-Ball Tips, I’ll be defining the specific benefits from each of these games and how they can spice up your 8-ball game.

If it’s not 8-ball, it’s usually 9-ball. This is the game played on the women’s professional tour and in many other professional events. It’s also the one most often seen on television these days. It’s very fast paced and to the naked eye, it can be difficult to identify the subtleties that make this game look easy. If there’s one thing that you can take from your 9-ball game to help benefit your 8-ball game, that would be: Always be on the correct side of the ball.

This is something that should be done in any game but in 9-ball, when your options for the next shot are limited, it is much more critical to make sure you have the correct angle for each shot. Playing too much 8-ball can make a player lackadaisical. It can be easy to get careless at times when you have so many options to choose from. Practice some 9-ball and then practice playing 8-ball as though you were playing 9-ball. Instead of playing position for one of six other balls, have a plan and change it if necessary.

Straight Pool (14.1)
Straight pool is my all-time favorite game. When played properly, it looks effortless and very simple. However, this game is far from simple. It requires much concentration and endurance. If there’s one thing I learned from straight pool that’s transferred to my 8-ball game, it’s the break out shots. Always have a plan when breaking out balls.

In straight pool, the rule is to never go for a break out shot without an insurance ball. Even with the break shot, there is always an ideal way to contact the rack to achieve a favored result and usually guarantee yourself an opening shot. Often times in 8-ball when there’s a ball tied up and it needs to be moved, it’s easy to be so focused on the break out that we forget about what’s next. In the worst case scenario, sometimes we miss the shot completely. From now on, only go for a break out if you will have a shot afterward (e.g. you’re bumping the ball you’re breaking out toward a pocket or there’s another ball that you will have a shot at after you break out the cluster).

If there’s one valuable lesson that everyone can learn from playing one-pocket, it’s the lesson of patience. In this discipline, it is truly a virtue. As it pertains to 8-ball, particularly when you’re faced with a safety battle: Patience and smart decisions will help you win more games. When faced with a difficult low-percentage shot versus the simple lock-up safety, having the patience to choose the safety over the offensive shot can mean the difference between winning and losing that game. The objective is to win the game. It’s not a race to see who gets to the finish line first. If you have balls tied up, shoot a safety that sends and object ball near the cluster. If you’re able to get ball-in-hand from your safety, now you have a way to break it out.

Bank Pool
Bank pool is a fun game to throw in the mix every now and then. The more bank shots you shoot, the more comfortable you’ll feel when faced with them. When it comes to 8-ball, it’s not uncommon to play for a short bank instead of trying to break the ball out. If you practice those banks and have it in your auxiliary then nothing can stop you from running the rack. Bank pool teaches you that: Bank shots require just as much skill and accuracy as pocketing a ball straight in. It’s also an option to shoot a bank shot to attain better position if the cut shot offers the wrong angle.

Multiple Player Formats
The most important thing to remember when playing multiple player games, such as a ring game, is that if you give up your turn it may be a while before you get another chance to shoot. So, take every single shot seriously. Do not take any shots for granted no matter how simple they are. Playing games with four or more players will definitely encourage this mentality when you return to 8-ball.

What is the spice of life? Variety. So this month, mix things up a bit. Spice up your 8-ball game with a couple hours of each of the above. Focus on the strengths you develop from each different game and when you return to 8-ball, notice how they carry over.