Ray's 8-Ball Strategies
By Ray Mills
1. It is NOT the object of 8-ball billiards to pocket eight balls quickly or on a minimum of shots; rather, the objective is to create and accomplish a game-winning 8-ball shot before your adversary does (or otherwise foster his/her game-losing error). It is a fatal error to pocket many easy balls if the remaining difficult ones create a set of easy safeties and/or a run-out for the opponent.
2. Don't sink a ball which is close to a pocket (a "duck") unless a carom off of it can be used for another productive priority (see #9) or if the duck is blocking the pocketing of succeeding offensive balls. Save ducks as defensive blockers and easy options.
3. The defensive ability to cause the cue ball to come to rest somewhere where the opponent cannot contact his/her own balls on the next shot (a "hook" or "lock") has the same value offensively as pocketing at least two balls. (This includes purposely surrendering the cue ball when the opponent has no pocketable shots or safety options.)
4. Using "just-enough" speed when attempting to pocket balls instantly turns any missed shots into a good defense by leaving missed pockets blocked, plus those balls can be pocketed easily later in the game. Of course, shooting too softly has the foul risk of no rail contact.
5. The A.P.A. ARSENAL: a. Shotmaking with control of cue ball placement ("leave"); b. Defensive plays to foul or at least delay the opponent; c. Cue-handling versatility: habitual chalking, multiple bridges, mechanical bridging, opposite hand shooting, behind-the-back; d. Thorough rules knowledge and employment in competition; e. Match play "just-enough" matchmaking ability: selecting match players to win with slim margins rather than routs and shutouts, distributing the team's quality for the maximum amount of wins per 5-match night; f. Assessing and exploiting opponents' weaknesses.
6. Simplify shotmaking by always imagining the balls' centers. These points are the ends of all vectors, including the aiming lines in banking points (not the rails or their "diamonds"), combinations, and caroms. Visualize which aiming line must be used to cause the cue ball to become the proper "shadow ball" which will hit a target correctly. This visualization is confused if the shooter imagines contact points at the same time. For example, a ball center never contacts anything, including cushions; instead, bounce vectors always end in the faint lines of table surface wear which run along the rails.
7. Cue ball speed is diminished by the degree of contact ball angle of carom: a 30° hit transfers 1/4 of the cue ball's non-spin energy to the object ball, a 45° hit transfers 1/2, etc. Primarily, side energies imparted to the cue ball for English are designed to alter what will happen to the cue ball when it hits a rail after contact with the object ball.
8. During shots and between, the most coachable and therefore "team" player is one who makes it clear what he/she is intending before each shot, even to the point of providing a running commentary. This conserves time-outs and tells the coach the player's general plan.
9. PRIORITIES OF OBJECTIVES (sorted Offensively and Defensively) O- & D- Analyze the post-break field and pocket a ball from the open table, seizing that preferred category; O- Pocket balls from own category as long as some remain which are not "buried" from being pocketed later in the run-out; O- Get shape for next shot; D- Force ball-in-hand from opponent D- Prevent opponent from having a good shot; O- Breakout own ball(s); D- Pocket opponent's "duck"; O- Pocket a more difficult shot because the "leave" is not likely to be as good later in the game; D- Plan a run-out in such a way that options for safeties are preserved as it progresses.
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