Your Guide to More Smarter 8-Ball
The game of 8-Ball is a fickle little beast. Some days you sit
comfortably behind the windshield with the table laid out perfectly for
you while your opponent, the bug, toils in the misery of clusters and
blocked balls. Other days it's your fate that ends with Windex and a
damp rag. Fortunately, a little knowledge goes a long way in this game,
whether it's learning how to maximize your chances of running out a
viable table or how to chip away at a clogged table that seems
unwinnable. Here are some tips to keep you on the right side of the
1. Keep it on the table after the break.
If you scratch on the break or send the cue ball flying away, your
opponent will come to the table with the cue ball in the kitchen (or
ball-in-hand) and choice of which suit to play – way too much power to
make you lose! Make your opponent earn everything by hitting the break
2. Don't pocket just to pocket.
Counterintuitive to most people's understanding, you earn nothing for
pocketing as many balls as you can against your opponent – unless you
make it all the way to the win. Your options, both offensive and
defensive, dwindle as you have fewer and fewer balls on the table. The
worst case scenario is to fail at running out, leaving one or two of
your balls behind. A good opponent will either run out easily, since
you've cleared away the traffic, or play safe behind one of his or her
3. Be realistic about problem balls.
Problem balls are balls that are clustered together, either with your
suit alone or mixed with your opponent's suit, balls that don't have a
pocket in which to go, or balls on which it's very difficult to play
position. Many people try to run out while ignoring these balls as if
they'll somehow magically become playable. Learn to recognize problems
and plan for solutions.
4. Try to get ball-in-hand.
Generally, problem balls become much less of a problem when you can
squeeze into a short side position or give yourself the perfect
break-out with ball-in-hand. The time for defense is early, even
claiming suit and immediately playing safe on a table that's
particularly messy. Don't overlook using ball-in-hand to play another
safety that solves one of your problems while hooking your opponent.
5. Move balls to key positions for breakouts.
While playing defense, be mindful of where your object balls end up.
Play safe while positioning one of your balls near a cluster or other
problem area, giving yourself a future offensive opportunity to play a
break-out or difficult position play.
6. Move balls to key defensive positions.
Look for double-duty shots like playing safe while placing one of your
balls where it blocks a pocket for your opponent's balls. Just make sure
that you leave enough room to be able to pocket the ball yourself.
7. Make your opponent's ball.
If your opponent has a ball in the jaws of a pocket that's blocking all
of your shots, consider playing a combination where you pocket the
offending ball while leaving your opponent without a shot.
8. Don't start running out until you have a plan for the whole table.
Wait until all of your balls have a viable pocket, or an easy
break-out, before you start running out. Think it through and plan a
pattern that gets you all the way to the win. If you find yourself in
trouble while there are still four or five balls on the table, strongly
reassess the situation and decide whether there's a good defensive
option. Proceeding further might leave you locked into a losing
9. Start with the eight ball and work backwards.
While making your plan, aim to shoot your last shot so that it leaves
you with an easy shot on the eight. Choose the ball that gives you the
easiest shot on that ball and so on and so on.
10. Look for the pattern with the least cue-ball movement.
Let the layout dictate your shooting order, when possible choose a
pattern that incorporates stop shots and other very small position
plays. Don't send cue ball up and down the table needlessly, work to
clear one area of the table at a time to avoid positional and pocketing
mishaps that can keep you from squashing your opponent.