Drills and Games in Pool and Billiards

... useful drills and games for helping you improve at pool.

Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs),
mostly from the BD CCB and AZB discussion forums

maintained for the book: The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards,
the monthly Billiards Digest "Illustrated Principles" instructional articles, and the instructional video series:
Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS), Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP),
How to Aim Pool Shots (HAPS), and the Billiard University (BU)


For lots of drills and practice shots, see the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP)


American Rotation

What is American Rotation?

American Rotation is a 15-ball game developed by Joe Tucker similar to 9-ball and 10-ball, but with slightly different rules. Instead of the game being won by pocketing the highest numbered ball, it is a points game where each ball pocketed earns a player points. Balls 1 through 10 are worth 1 point each and balls 11 through 15 are worth 2 points each. The game is played to a pre-set number of points (e.g., 150). The first person to reach the target number of points wins the game. Like all rotation games, the lowest-numbered ball on the table must always be struck first, and you continue shooting after pocketing a ball with a legal shot. Unlike 9-ball, slop doesn't count. All shots must be called (unless they are obvious). If a shot is missed, the opponent has the option to shoot or have the current shooter remain at the table (e.g., if the cue ball is left in a bad place after a missed shot). If you don't want to attempt to pocket a ball, you also have to option to call and play a safety.

The first break is decided by a lag shot. A full rack of 15 balls is used on every break. After the first break, there is an option to shoot, play safe, or push out as in 9-ball. After every subsequent break, the shooter takes ball in hand after the break. Whoever pockets the last ball on the table breaks another full rack of 15 balls with ball-in-hand behind the head string. This continues until a player reaches the target number of total points.

In the event that your opponent fouls on three consecutive shots, you get a free shot (i.e., if you miss, you get an extra turn before your opponent returns to the table). This free shot only applies to the current rack (i.e., it doesn't carry over to the next rack of balls).

Here are the detailed rules, scoresheets, and video demonstrations.

Note - A related drill and rating system based on 15-ball can be found here: 15-ball-rotation rating drill.


Billiard University (BU) playing-ability exams

What are the BU exams, and how do I rate myself and earn a diploma?

The Billiard University (BU) exams offer a collection of well-designed drills that assesses a wide range of pool skills. More information can be found on the BU rating systems resource page.


Bonus Ball

What is Bonus Ball?

Bonus Ball is a pool game developed by Larry Chiborakthat is a combination of 8-ball, 9-ball, snooker, one-pocket, and straight pool. It was promoted in 2013 through the World Professional Billiard League (WPBL), a team league of professional pool players. Here's a consice summary of the rules from the WPBL website:

Bonus Ball is played with nine billiard balls: four purple, four orange, and one black Bonus Ball. The objective of the game is to reach 30 points by pocketing balls. Each legally pocketed purple ball is worth one point, orange two points, and the Bonus Ball three points. Pocketing all three in order is called a "sequence". A player will continue their visit at the table until they fail to legally pocket a ball, or commit a foul. If a player fails to pocket the Bonus Ball on their turn, during their next visit to the table they will restart the sequence at purple. After the final orange ball is pocketed leaving only the Bonus Ball, the purple and orange balls are re-racked, and the active player must perform a re-break. The game is played until a player reaches 30 points or the 15 minute game clock expires. Failure to reach 30 points within regulation time will result in a shootout.

The complete rules of the game are also available on the WPBL website.

Here's an example match:

And here's a 60-point run (in a shoot-out final) by Thorston Hohman.


bank shot drills

What are some good drills for practicing bank shots?

Here are some examples from Disc IV of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

 

More information can be found in “VEPP – Part XI: Bank Shots,” (BD, February, 2013).


carom shot drills

What are some good drills for practicing carom and kiss shots?

Here are some examples from Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):


Colin's potting drill

What is a good drill for measuring and monitoring a player's aiming and shot making ability?

Colin Colenso came up with a useful potting drill to assess shot making ability for a wide range of shots over various cut angles, distances, and directions. It consists of 80 shots, and takes a while to complete (e.g., 30-50 minutes), but it is time well spent. More info can be found below.

Here is a useful printable file containing the diagram, along with scoring sheets.

 

from Colin Colenso:

Here is a test I devised to see how well you pot.

There are 16 pot challenges (see diagram below). They challenge your potting from both sides of the table. Perform each pot 5 times and make a total out of 80. Scratching is ok, slop is not ok.

If you're not patient just do 2 of each pot and multiply your total by 2.5.

Rating System:

Colin ball-potting drill

 

from dr_dave (from AZB post by theUBC):

Here's another useful shot-making drill from Ekkes that also include practice with stun, follow, and draw:

video demonstration by Ekkes


custom drills

How and why should I create and practice drills customized to my individual needs?

Here are some examples from Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

For more information, see VEPP – Part XIV: Custom Drills (BD, May, 2013).


drill resources

Where can I find useful drills to help my game?

Many drills from various sources can be found here:

Instructor and Students Resources

The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP) is also an excellent drill and pool workout resource.


8-ball bowling and 10-ball bowlliards

from WoodMonkey:

(1) Set up rack and break.
(2) After break, choose stripes or solids and shoot until you miss (calling all shots). Then shoot the other group until you miss. (One run on each).
(3) That makes one frame (of ten). Here's how to score:

a. If you don't run out, score just one point per ball made (maximum would be 14, all 7 of each group.)

b. If you do run out, score as follows: If you made a ball on the break, and run out first group, score 30. If you made a ball on the break, and run out second group, score 25. If you don't make a ball on the break, and run out first group, score 20. If you don't make a ball on the break, and run out second group, score 15.

c. If you foul at any time in any way during a run, score 0 for that group. (If you scratch on the first group, take ball in hand for second group.) If you scratch on the break, shoot from kitchen but take 5 off your score for the frame.

d. Safety Play: I also include a safety play rule so I have an excuse to practice safety play. My rule is that if I call a safety, I succeed if the ball lands such that my opponent would have to kick to hit one of his balls. If I do this, I continue whatever run I'm on with ball in hand.

As with bowling, the maximum possible score is 300.

from marek:

I know a game named "bowlliards". It is played with ten balls and its played like this: you break them and you have ball in hand. If you run them all in one inning its a strike, if you make a mistake you have second inning and if you run them in the second inning its a spare. Simple as that.


Equal Offense

What is Equal Offense?

Equal Offense is a non-head-to-head game based on straight pool. The goal is to score as many points as you can in 10 innings at the table. Each inning begins with an open break shot. Any balls pocketed are spotted. The maximum allowed score for each inning is 20, for a maximum possible score of 200. As with straight pool, after pocketing the 14th ball, you must re-rack the 14 balls (with the lead ball missing) and attempt to break the rack while pocketing the 15th ball that remains on the table.

After each inning-starting break, you start with ball in hand in the kitchen. As in straight pool, it is important to think about balls that can serve as the break shot ball in case we run the other 14.

More info can be found here.


Fargo rating drill

What is the Fargo rating drill and how does it work?

Fargo is an excellent practice and rating drill developed by Mike Page. More info can be found here:

Note that the "Fargo rating drill" is different from the Fargo player rating and handicapping system.


Hopkins Q Skills

What is Hopkins Q Skills?

Hopkins Q Skills is an excellent rating drill developed by Allen Hopkins, which is a combination of straight pool and rotation. More info can be found here.


jump shot drills

What are some good drills for practicing jump shots?

Here are some examples from Disc IV of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

For more info, see: VEPP – Part XII: Jump Shots (BD, March, 2013).


kick shot drills

What are some good drills for practicing kick shots?

Here are some examples from Disc IV of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

Here's another useful kick shot drill, from Disc III of the Billiard University (BU) Instructional DVD series:


line-of-balls drill

How does the line-of-balls drill work and how can it help me improve cue ball control and position play?

Here's a description and demonstration from Disc II of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

See “VEPP - Part VI: Line-of-Balls Drill,” (BD, September, 2012) and "Billiard University (BU) - Part II: Skills Exam," (BD, September, 2013) for more information.


MOFUDAT (center-ball stroke drill)

What is a good drill for testing my stroke and how well I can hit the centerline of the cue ball?

See "Fundamentals - Part I: MOFUDAT" (BD, September, 2008). It discusses the MOFUDAT drill (The "MOst Famous and Useful Drill of All Time"). A demonstration of the drill, along with additional useful information, can be found in these videos:

Here's another good stroke drill, using two golf tees:

See also:

finding the center of the CB
fundamentals "best practices" check-sheet
stroke "best-practices"


position control drills

What useful drills for practicing cue ball control and position play?

Many can be found on Disc II of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP). Here are a few examples:

 

 

Here are some additional useful position control drills from the Billiard University (BU) Instructional Series:


progressive practice

What is progressive practice?

Progressive practice is an approach to drills where the difficulty level matches the players ability. The drill also results in a rating score that can be tracked over time to monitor improvement. More info can be found in "VEPP – Part II: Progressive Practice, and Draw Drills," (BD, May, 2012), in Bob Jewett's handout, and in Mike Pages's video.

Here's an example progressive-practice drill from Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

and here are some fun draw shot challenge drills from the same DVD:

 


safety drills

What are some good drills for practicing defensive safety play?

Here are some examples from Disc III of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

For more information, see: “VEPP – Part IX: Safety Drills,” (BD, December, 2012).

Here are some fun challenge games and drills from Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

Here's another safety drill from the Billiard University (BU) Instructional Series:

For more info, see “Billiard University (BU) - Part VIII: Safeties” (BD, March, 2014).


target practice drills

How do target practice drills work, and how can they help me with cue ball control and position control?

Here's an introduction and example from Disc II of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

See "VEPP – Part IV: Target Practice Card Trick," (BD, July, 2012) for more information.

Here's another useful position-control target practice drill from the Billiard University (BU) Instructional Series:


3-ball drill

This is probably one of the simplest, most common, and most useful drills for developing good offensive skills. Here's how it works:

  1. Randomly throw out three balls (e.g., the 1-ball, 2-ball, and 3-ball) on the table. If a ball drops, randomly throw it back on the table.
  2. Take cue ball in hand and pocket the three balls in rotation (i.e., in numerical order).
  3. Keep track of how many 3-ball patterns you run (e.g., out of 20), and see if you improve over time.

If you are very successful with three balls (e.g., 18-20 runs out of 20 patterns), increase the number of balls to four and then more. If you can progress to 15 balls and make a high percentage of the patterns, then you can join the pro tour.


wagon wheel drills

What are wagon wheel drills and how can they help me with cue ball control and position control?

Here's an introduction and example from Disc II of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP):

 

See "VEPP - Part III: Wagon Wheel Drills," (BD, June, 2012) for more information.


why do drills

What is the value of doing drills, and how can it be better than practicing through normal play?

from lfigueroa:

I believe there are several different ways to look at drills.

First off, I think you can look at drills as an end in themselves. Work the drills and learn variations on a standard -- maybe like playing "Chop Sticks" on a piano. A drill can show you how minor riffs can produce divergent outcomes -- selection of speed and spin all dramatically changing what the balls will do on any given shot -- similar but different.

Second, some people need a little structure to maintain their interest while practicing. IOW, the drill is an overt tool to help maintain focus. One guy likes the treadmill, the other likes an outdoor run. One guy can practice 9ball or 14.1, the other likes drills, but they both want the benefits of the exercise. And for these folks, drills are a great little game of solitaire to strive and measure their performance against.

Personally, I think the most valuable way to look at drills is like a Zen koan. The drill is just a vehicle to get you inside your game, your mechanics, your stroke, your mind. This is also the toughest way to workout. You are not only working on the aggregate shots and required positional plays of the drill, you are also seeking to achieve a mental state wherein you can become introspective about your choices, mechanics, and stroke. There's the real payoff.

wax on
wax off

from Neil:

Doing fundamental drills will "groove" your stroke. Without a repeatable, straight stroke, all else is nothing more than a crap shoot.

Doing pocketing drills will increase your confidence and ability in making balls. It will also show you which shots are low percentage for you.

Doing pocketing drills combined with positional drills will increase your confidence and abilities in pocketing and positional play.

Playing the ghost will enable you to take your individual skills and combine them. It will teach you pressure. It will teach you how shots tie in together. It will teach you the best routes to take to make things as simple as possible.

Doing drills will enable you to set up the same shot, and see exactly where you had a problem with it. Is it a shot that you feel you should make most of the time, but in reality you actually make less than 50% and didn't even realize it?

In any case, drills, or playing the ghost, will do you little good if your goal is just to perform the drill a set number of times. The drills are to reinforce your muscles and your subconscious on how exactly to perform it. So that under pressure, you will perform as you trained. During drills, you should be paying very close attention to details. ALL the details, so you can actually learn something and improve.

To those that think drills are a waste of time- good luck with that. Don't be surprised when in 10 years you find out you aren't much better than you are now.


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