Why You Should Play One Pocket

A lot of players don't like playing one pocket because they don't understand it.  It's easy to explain: Make 8 balls in your pocket before you opponent does.  The problem people have with the game is that it is not just an offensive game. In fact, I'd suggest the game is primarily a defensive game. It's a strategic game, not unlike chess or perhaps any battle simulation game.  You move your troops around on the field, jockying for position, and when the time is right, everyone attacks. 

And like war, one pocket is a game of chance. Not all of your forces will complete their objectives; some will die a quick death, others will betray you and turn to your opponent's aliance and some will stay in their foxholes, scared and frozen in place.  I'm talking about pool here, so let's put those terms into one pocket lingo.  When your opponent makes a mistake, whether a careless mistake on their part, or a forced mistake engineered by your hand, the time to run out is at hand (if you've placed your troops in proper positions). The pressure to take full advantage of this opportunity is [can be] overwhelming.  So as you start your attack, the advance can be stopped by simply missing a ball (the quick death), you can miss a ball poorly, sending it to your opponent's side of the table or opening up a problem cluster for them (the traitor) and you miss a key breakout, leaving you a few balls shy of a finish and forcing you to return to defense early (the frozen scared soldier that doesn't want to play).

This is likely the simplest and most rudimentary explanation of the game I can give while also addressing, at least on the surface, all the various facets of the game.  Now, why should you play this frustrating and overly cerebral game?  Because it helps all of your other games.  All of them.  I present to you this situation from my APA 8-Ball league match last night:  I was solids and overran my position on the 8 ball in my previous inning forcing me to play a [poor] safety.  My opponent began his run out but somehow missed the 12 ball and left me this table:

 

 

I studied the position of the cue and the 8-ball for a good while.  The natural cross corner was blocked by the 15.  The angle into the cross side was far too steep to hold, regardless of speed or spin (plus there's a foul-potential with the balls so close together). I began to look for safety options.  In thinking about grazing the 8ball and sending the CB uptable I saw the shot. Cross-side bank, the very shot I had just ruled out - but the key to this was not speed or spin, it was finesse. I had found the answer to my riddle.  But, there was traffic. I was (perhaps unnecessarily) concerned with the 15 ball stopping the cue ball in the 8-ball's path.  I studied the deflection of the CB off the 8 and figured I would hit the 15 nearly full.  So, I marked the side pocket and got down on the shot, double-checked my edges and pulled the trigger.  I might have overdone the speed of the shot as both the cue ball and 15 ball travelled around the table, but neither of them bothered the 8-ball's slow track towards, then finally into, the side pocket:

 

My team erupted into applause and even some people watching clapped and congratulated me on that shot.  It was likely the shot of the night across the tables (or maybe I'm just thinking it was).

A lot of people asked me how I saw it, how did I do it? I told them all, it's essentialy a routine one-pocket shot - just in the middle of the table.  This is why you should play one pocket.  These types of goofy banks are quite common in the game and even though I don't make them as often as I think I should, I see them.  And once you see them, you can't un-see them.

I'll look for you on the battlefield. Till then, good night, and good luck. ;)

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Filed Under: 8-Ball · League · One Pocket

Confidence On The Bar Table

Last Wednesday was the first night of the APA bar league on my new team.  In 9-ball, I'm rated at a 7 right now (was an 8 for a short while, but went back to a 7 recently).  They put me up against a 6, I guess to see how I'd do.  It was early in the night and I was still feeling quite fresh. The beginning of the match, my opponent seemed to still be getting loose. He missed some pretty easy shots and I quickly found myself up 15-5 (in a race to 55-46).  I continued to play somewhat cautiously, but not nearly as tight as I might have if I were playing a lower skill level.  We both had some really tough times trying to play safe, leaving each other straight in after poor safeties. I ended up winning the match something like 55-35, or around there; but the shot of the match was this one right here:

I under-hit the 5 ball into the side pocket and came up on the wrong side of the 6.  But, this is one of my favorite stroke shots, and I fired it - with the intent to come down on the short-side of the 7, but I over-hit it and got lucky the CB bumpbed off the 8 just right as to leave me an easy out.

 

The shot was well received by everyone watching, and I thanked them, smiled and continued my run.  I did get a 9-on-the-snap, but I did not break'n'run.  I'm hoping to get a mini-slam this session (meaning, I just need to break'n'run in 9-ball).  There's absolutely no reason I shouldn't be able to do this; as long as I keep my head in the game, play smart, but simple position, play to my strengths and just stick to my pre-shot routine. :)  Maybe this week will be my week? Who knows. I'm looking forward to the match though.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · League · Stroke

Getting The Feel Back

With all my leagues starting up next week, the last 2 weeks were something of a small break and gave me time to get some practice in.  I talked earlier about how I had a long-since break'n'run the other week.  I've had a couple more since then and it feels good to get out when I see the pattern.  Even if I don't break and run out, if my opponent leaves me with an open table, there's a really good chance I'm getting out.  With less than 7 balls, it's about 96% that I get out, 7 balls drops to about 60% 8 or more is unfortunately around 40%.  The reason is, as always, getting out of line; forcing me to try and get back in line, taking tougher and tougher shots; and with each one the probabilities drop against me.

Wednesday, I went to practice bar-table 9-ball with a new league/team mate (she's a 2).  I played as if I were an 8, meaning the score line is 65-19.  We played 2 sets, and I won both.  She got to 11 one set and 15 the other.  The strange thing was that while I was worried about the huge weight, I didn't feel overly concerned about it.  It's not like when I played the 4 (when I was a 7).  Those levels are real dangerous, as they're very likely to run 4-6 balls at a time.  But a 2 or 3... it's not too common.  Which meant I had a lot more chances at the table, and if I messed up early in the rack, there was a pretty good chance I was getting back to the table, and when I did - I ran out.  I don't think more than a few racks were more than one inning.  If I had played a 6, 7 or another 8 though... I don't know how I would've come out.  It's always close when I play those guys.  But, that's fine with me. :) I like a good match - as long as I get outplayed - as opposed to me dogging it - I don't even mind losing so much.

I've been training the new player, Reza, for a few weeks now and it's nice to see the little improvements.  It's even more refreshing to see that look of total glee when a shot she has zero confidence about drops in the hole just as I described it.  It's been a long, long time since I felt that way about a shot, so when that happens, I get to live a little vicariously.  Reminds me that the game should be fun and inspiring - not just about fighting the dogs and trying to outshoot the o.k.coral.

I'm only a few matches away from being able to play Singles boards in the APA; so when that happens, I'll be looking to play in the tournaments held throughout the week.  Which was the primary reason for joining the APA anyway.  If I win some of those, I qualify for regionals or some such thing.  And because I finished 2nd in the Top Gun race for 9-ball I'm automatically qualified for the Top Gun tournament ... though I have no idea when or where that will be held. *shrug* Guess I'll keep my ears open.

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Filed Under: League

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