8 Easy Tips for More Strategic 8 Ball: Play Smart to Wear Out Opponents
There are several ways to win games of 8 ball, and depending on your playing style, these tips may or may not fit the way you want to play. But you can also look at these tips as ways to evolve your game and become more familiar with ways to think on your feet, given certain situations.
These tips may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget the fundamentals when grinding during a game of pool.
For those who haven’t quite yet reached an advanced level, using these 8 ball strategies can be an equalizer when playing against superior players.
We’ll discuss the following 8 ways (in no specific order) you can be more strategic at the pool table to give yourself a fighting chance, no matter the opponent:
- Take your time before picking solids or stripes
- Play more defense and safeties
- Identify problem balls
- Clear out ball clusters
- Turn opponent’s tendencies into your advantage
- Hit softer shots
- Think about your leave more often
- Play for center table position
1. Take Your Time Before Picking Solids or Stripes
After the break, if you get the choice to pick solids or stripes, it’s crucial to be patient and read the table. There are a couple things you should think about before choosing solids or stripes:
- Where is the path of least resistance for the 8 ball?
- Do solids or stripes have more clusters or pocket blockers on the table?
You want to make your potential run-out as easy as possible during the game. Balls are bound to shift during play and can potentially create a tough game after you pick your solids or stripes, but giving yourself the best chance from the start will reward you more times than not.
Here’s an example of a table layout and what you’ll want to think about:
Let’s imagine this is your open table after an opponent’s break. Check out the 8 ball’s position. You’ll see that it has a clear line to the lower right corner, or a tougher angle at the side pocket.
We can also see that there are two stripes in an unfavorable position right on the lower left rail, as well as the 13 and 14 ball bunched up near a rail up top.
This situation is going to create a tougher run out on the stripes. The 1 ball is impeded, but you can try to plan out when you want to potentially clear out the 13 and 14 to give yourself a chance at it. You’ll definitely want to try your luck with the solids here.
2. Play More Defense and Safeties
Playing a safety is one of the best strategies you can take advantage of in pool (assuming your league or tournament isn’t lame and prevents them).
This is useful because you won’t always have a favorable cue ball position. When this happens, depending on the rest of the table, you can make life a lot more difficult on your opponent.
Usually, the main thing you want to accomplish with a safety is preventing your opponent from pocketing a ball on their next shot. You at least want to give them a very difficult shot so you get your turn back, and possibly a ball in hand.
Let’s take a look at a quick safety example:
You only have the 8 ball left, and your opponent has one stripe to pocket still. The only shot you have is a very difficult hard bank back to the lower side pocket. This isn’t a high percentage shot.
Your best defensive option, depending on your shot making, is to nudge the 8 ball right of the 12, making sure to position the cue ball far up the left side of the table with a little left english. You want to make sure to keep the 8 ball close to the rail to block the 12 ball.
This leave will give your opponent an opportunity for a defensive shot as well, but if they don’t execute the speed perfectly (since it would be all the way across the table), you could have a very easy shot on the 8.
Safeties are an art, and there are so many ways to play them. You can use them when there are lots of balls left, or just a couple. This video provides a great perspective on some strategies you can put to the test!
3. Identify Problem Balls
Problem balls are balls on the table that simply make things more difficult on you during a game. Ball clusters that prevent a run out are an example, as is a ball that is blocking a pocket for the 8 ball finisher.
When you identify problem balls, you gain a better understanding of what you need to do in order to win a game and where you need to leave the cue ball at certain points in the game. Don’t simply walk up to the table and take the easiest shot, or the first shot you see.
4. Clear Out Ball Clusters
Ball clusters are one of the biggest roadblocks to winning a game of pool. This is when you have 3 or more balls very close together, or even touching. This makes it difficult to pocket any of those balls, regardless of it being a stripe or solid. Breaking up these balls should be one of the biggest priorities at the beginning of a game.
The sooner you can break these balls up and make it possible to pocket them, the sooner you have a cleaner table that is easier to navigate the cue ball around.
Here is a wonderful drill that will help you understand the angles and english needed to achieve good cluster breakouts.
If you’re a beginner, this can be difficult to master. But once you able to start breaking out even just one cluster during a game, it is extremely satisfying to see that progress.
5. Turn Opponent’s Tendencies Into Your Advantage
If you know your opponent, whether it be a friend, or a stranger that you’re in a run to 3 with, odds are you have learned things about the way they play. Oftentimes, you can use their playing style against them!
If an opponent always hits balls way too hard, you already have a good chance of winning. Try to give them longer shots because hard hitters will mis-hit more often, and when the cue ball has farther to travel, balls will spin unfavorably.
If an opponent doesn’t see angles very well, try to prevent them from getting straight shots.
Anything you notice about your opponent should be in your mental inventory. Opportunities will present themselves when you do.
6. Hit Softer Shots
Playing with more touch at the table can be a massive advantage. When you hit balls softer, it becomes easier to pocket balls as they won’t rattle out as often. Who doesn’t want that?!
Playing the cue ball a little slower also gives you a better idea of where the ball will end up. It’s much easier to play to a specific position as opposed to smashing the cue ball and having no idea what will happen to it. When you hit balls that hard, you are also much more prone to scratching.
7. Think About Your Leave More Often
The leave is just as important as making your object ball. Getting good leaves and positioning the cue ball well will win a lot more games for you, in a hurry.
This means you need to think about the next shot, perhaps even more than the current shot. If you keep doing that, all of a sudden you’ll have less balls on the table and will be that much closer to winning a game.
When 100% of your focus is on the current shot, you don’t give yourself a very good chance to pocket more than a couple balls.
8. Play For Center Table Position
Leaving the cue ball close to the center of the pool table gives you the best opportunity to make shots towards any area of the table. You have the most options when you can leave the cue ball here.
See below – you can how this position can greatly benefit you in the middle of a game.
Clearly, this cue ball position is highly favorable over a position on a rail somewhere, or on the far left side of the table.
This isn’t rocket science, and even if you’re a beginner player, you’ve likely thought about most of these strategies while playing pool.
It helps to get reinforcement of these fundamentals whenever you can. The more you can practice these methods, and the more you internalize why they can help your game, the better you will become over time.
While there are more ways of incorporating strategy into your pool game, these 8 practices will put you in the right direction and get you in position to win more games of 8 ball.
We hope you found these tips to be helpful, and we look forward to sharing more pointers in the future.
As always, Happy Shooting!