Thursday, November 29, 2012

8 Ball Tips - Moving Balls and Clusters

I love 8 ball.

I can't begin to describe how wonderful the game is.

And I have enjoyed learning so much about it, especially from Phil Capelle's Play Your Best books series. I've said it a thousand times in this blog, but my knowledge of 8ball has grown exponential because of his books. I highly recommend them.

Let's talk about making/moving balls, and those dreaded clusters.

It still amazes me when I play players who shoot their balls in randomly when they have clusters on the table. Even if there is only 1 cluster, I still carefully consider if I should make any of my balls.

If there is more than one cluster, I hardly ever make any of my balls. I may need those balls later to break out the clusters. Why would I make them??

While I am shocked that my opponents make most of their balls and then seemed surprised their last ball is in a cluster, those are the players I have an advantage over.  It's not cockiness for me to say that, it's just a fact.

If an opponent keeps picking off their balls and they do not think ahead to a solution to their problem (that cluster), then of course we have the advantage.

I was shocked one day when I helped a friend with 8 ball. We discussed the layout of a just-broke rack of 8 ball. We discussed the one cluster and she said she was going to leave it alone for now.




She said in APA, that's what they told her to do.

Now, mind you I don't think it's the "APA" per say that told her to play this way, but instead someone on her APA team. OR, in APA maybe balls made count more than wins? 

The point is, in regular 8ball tournaments, you should always try to break out clusters early. 

And in order to do that, you need more than one of your balls to do that.  Because let's face it, sometimes we wont break out the cluster on the first try.  Further, after the break out, we may need an insurance ball.

That's why it's also important to try and break up your cluster early (if you can).

That's just two of the many very important reasons not to make all your balls before breaking up your clusters.

First and foremost, if you can help it, NEVER leave your second to the last ball to break out a cluster.
You cannot guarantee you will have a shot on the last ball if you decide to leave the cluster last.

I have seen SO many people do this and it's just not smart to do (if you can help it).

If I see one or two clusters and a run-able table, I will start to try and break the clusters up.

I may need several attempts to break out a cluster. The first attempt may fail. The second may fail. If I instead had made all my open, easy shots, I would have run out of balls to break out the cluster(s).

Further, if you make all your balls, and then you break out a cluster, you will no have insurance balls!

SO many people pick off their ducks (balls in the hole that are easy to make). But, AFTER you break out a cluster, you will most likely need that duck. So, DON'T make all your easy balls before you try to break out clusters.

It's a great feeling when you leave a duck, break out a cluster, and then have that duck as your next ball.  You pat yourself on the back for planning ahead.

Let's use an example:  let's use the 1, 2, 3, and 14 balls.  Ball 1 is sitting in front of the end pocket.  Ball 2 is in front of the side pocket.  Ball 3 is in a cluster with ball 14.

You use ball 2 to break out the 3 and 14 ball cluster.  Afterwards, the 3 is no longer clustered with the 14 ball, but the 3 ball rolled to a position that you cannot make it.  Let's say the 3 ball moves to the end rail, and the cueball is now between the 14 and 3 ball.  Therefore, you broke out the cluster, but now you don't have a shot on the 3 ball.  BUT!  You thought ahead and left the 1 ball in front of the pocket, and now you have a for-sure shot on your balls and you can keep shooting.  :)

And now let's talk about moving balls/punting.

You are smart to not make all of your balls if you do not have a run; leave some on the table to add obstacles for your opponent and also because you may need your balls later.  I call this punting:  i.e., not making your balls.

Most importantly, tho, if you punt, do SOMETHING with your ball.

Do not JUST punt.  Do NOT just move your ball randomly.  Move it to a USEFUL location for the future.

I usually always move a ball near a cluster so I can USE it later as a break out ball. I don't just "not make a ball." I ALWAYS improve my balls' positions. Always.

Well, I try to.  :)

Even if you play safe, hit your ball so that you move it to a better location.

Maybe move it in front of a hole, or bank it near a cluster so you can use it as a break out ball later, or make it a blocker in front of their ball.

DO NOT just punt, but IMPROVE your balls' locations/positions.  Every time you don't make a ball, at least move it to a more useful position for the future. 

Hopefully these tips give you ample reasons to IMPROVE your balls' position and why to NOT make all your balls before you are ready to break out clusters.

Nothing pleases me more than seeing my opponents NOT make their balls randomly.  Shows they are playing smart, thinking ahead, and love the game of 8ball as much as I do.  :)

(btw, I happen to now be a dealer of Phil Capelle's books if you want to buy one and see me around the DFW area)

1 comment:

matthew said...

Great post!

"Now, mind you I don't think it's the "APA" per say that told her to play this way, but instead someone on her APA team. OR, in APA maybe balls made count more than wins?"

I think your friend just got some bad advice during an APA match. APA 8-ball is all about winning games. APA 9-ball is about pocketing more balls than your opponent. (Which has completely messed-up my mental game when I play "real" 9-ball.)

Regardless of the game, a cluster is a problem and problems must be dealt with quickly and ruthlessly. (That also applies to pool. :))