What are some examples of good 8-ball strategy?

See Vol. I and Vol. V of the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB) for comprehensive coverage of this topic.

The most important strategic decision made in 8-ball is choosing between “solids” and “stripes” after the break. Here are some good examples from Vol. III of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots of things to consider:

Another important decision is in selecting “key” balls. Here are some examples from Vol. I of the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB) and from Vol. III of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS):

For more info, see: VEEB – Part II: Selecting Key Balls (BD, 2015). Here’s another video with a good example of “key ball” selection:

It is also very important to know how to deal with pocket blockers. Here are some examples from Vol. I of the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB):

For more information, see “VEEB – Part I: Pocket Blockers” (BD, November, 2015).

It is also very important to know how to deal with common end-game situations. For examples, see the end-game situation strategy resource page.

And here are some run-out examples from Vol. V of the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB) and Vol. V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS):

For more information, see “VEEB – Part IX: Run-Out Examples” (BD, July, 2016).

Here are some useful drills from Vol. III of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP) to practice patterns common in 8-ball:

For more information, see “VEPP – Part VIII: 8-Ball Pattern Drills” (BD, November, 2012) and “Billiard University (BU) – Part VII: 8-Ball Drills,” (BD, February, 2014).

Here are some run-out examples with discussion of various 8-ball strategy elements:

Here’s a summary of important 8-ball strategy:

  1. Choose “solids” or “stripes” wisely after the break (per the info above).
  2. Choose the key ball for the 8 very carefully (per the info above).
  3. Choose the key ball for the key ball very carefully.
  4. Plan your run-out from the 8-ball backwards.
  5. Reevaluate your run-out plan after each shot, especially if you get out of line.
  6. Minimize CB motion when possible.
  7. Walk around the table while evaluating a run-out plan.
  8. Deal with problem balls as early as possible.
  9. Clear balls from the center of the table early since they block common CB paths and can cause trouble late in the rack.
  10. Break out clusters when there is an insurance ball available, and use as little speed as necessary for better control.
  11. Don’t bump into or disturb balls (yours or your opponent’s) if it is not necessary.
  12. Pocket or move balls that clear the way for other balls as early as possible.
  13. Pocket balls in groupings to avoid having to go up and down the table.
  14. If you can’t run-out, play a safety early in the game and solve problems (or create problems for your opponent, like a blocked pocket) in the process if possible.
  15. On a “bar box,” avoid the side pockets when possible.
  16. If you decide to run out, don’t miss, and don’t take the “easy shots” for granted.
  17. Consider playing safe instead of attempting a low-percentage shot.
  18. If your opponent has many more balls on the table than you, an offensive shot (even low percentage) is often better than a safety (unless the safety is extremely effective).
  19. Try to avoid “one ball hell,” where you only have one OB left on the table and your opponent has many. It is very difficult to win in a situation like this.
  20. When an opponent has you in a bad situation, with no reasonable offensive or defensive shot at one of your balls, consider an intentional foul where you pocket a problem opponent ball (assuming your opponent doesn’t have an easy run-out).

Advice, strategy and options concerning the break are covered on the 8-ball break resource page.

from Robert Byrne (in “Byrne’s New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards”):

Byrne’s 13 Rules to Live by to Run the Table (in 8-ball or straight pool):

1. Because a ball frozen on a rail can usually be approached from only one side and made easily in only one pocket, look for chances to make such shots early in the run.
2. If you have a choice among several balls, take the one that clears the way for other balls.
3. Beware of breaking a cluster toward an obstructed pocket.
4. If it’s not too much trouble, wait until most loose balls around a cluster are gone before you break it; otherwise, you might create a new cluster.
5. Think twice before breaking a cluster on a low percentage shot because if you miss and spread the cluster you have solved your opponent’s problem instead of your own. Think safety instead.
6. Break small clusters lightly.
7. Look for opportunities to break clusters when there is an insurance shot.
8. Try not to bump into balls that are already separated to avoid forming new clusters.
9. Don’t risk missing in order to get perfect position on the next ball. Better to cinch the shot and get so-so position, which still leaves you with the option of playing safe.
10. Try to send the CB into a cluster at a point that will most likely spread the balls advantageously.
11. When you can easily do so, avoid the narrow end of the position zone.
12. Think three shots ahead.
13. Have a plan, but reevaluate it after every shot.

from Poolplaya9 (in AZB post):

Being able to see the problems, patterns, and positions needed to run out the rack is not even half of the equation. The other part, and arguably even more important part (although both are absolutely essential), is being able to accurately weigh risk verses reward, and accurately assess what each of the options available will do to your chances to ultimately win the game, otherwise known as “playing the percentages”. Acquiring the ability to accurate assess the percentages for success with each option will only come through lots of experience, however being able to be honest with yourself is an absolute necessity and can be very difficult for many to do, and making a concerted effort to pay attention to how things turn out depending on the choices you made will shorten the learning curve.

Your specific abilities and weaknesses will also have some impact on what you should do. The right choice for SVB will not always be the right choice for you because of your skill differences, but at the same time you also have to be trying to improve so that you become comfortable with the “right” decision to make in a circumstance and the “right” way to play the shot. If you always fall back on “well I am not good at speed control so I won’t play the safe here even though I know it is the right shot and instead will just try to run out” for example then it is going to be hard to ever learn that safety if you won’t ever shoot it now isn’t it? You learn by doing, so while you have to keep in mind your specific skills, you also have to push yourself to do things the “right” way with the right plays so you can learn those skills too. When you are practicing is a good time to always try to play the “right” shots, even if they aren’t the best choice yet for your skill level if it were a more meaningful match, because that is the only way you are going to learn them and become comfortable with them.

While there are always exceptions, here are some general rules of thumb for 8 ball to try to keep in mind and live by and plenty more could be added but these kind of fit in to some of the questions you have asked:

—As counter intuitive as it will sound to someone still learning the game, the guy who has the most balls on the table usually has a significant advantage in the game. The reasons why are because it is more interference balls in the way for your opponent, it is more balls for you to be able to play safe off of or hide behind if needed, there is a much better chance you will have a good shot if your opponent misses or plays safe, etc. Why on earth would you want to give up your advantage in the game? Keep that advantage until it is the right time to run out and win the game.

—Don’t go for the run out until you have a pretty high percentage chance of being successful at the run including sinking the 8 ball too. You have to be able to be honest with yourself in your evaluation.

—Go for your problem ball (the one that will be very tough to get good shape on) as soon as possible in your run. If you fail to get good on it, try to get on it again as soon as you can. Saving problems for the end of the game usually leads to disaster because if you fail to solve it when it is one of the last balls you are now out of options and chances, whereas when you go for it early, you will likely get several chances to try to solve that problem throughout the game if needed.

—Try to solve your problem clusters as soon as possible in a run for the same reasons as above, because if you fail to break it out properly early in the rack you may get more chances, but once that is all you have left you are up a creek in a bad way.

—Whenever you get ball in hand you should almost always try to take care of your biggest problem on the table, whether that is a ball that will be extremely tough to get shape on later, or whether it is a cluster or some other problem. Even if you are going to have to play safe with ball in hand, try to do it in a way that takes care of your biggest problem if at all possible (say by moving your “tough to get shape on” ball into a better position, or breaking up your problem cluster, etc), and if that is not possible try to take care of your second biggest problem instead and so on. Sometimes the best way to address an issue while playing safe is through indirect means such as hitting one of your balls over near say a problem cluster so that ball now becomes a good key ball to break out the cluster from as you pocket it on some later turn. Sometimes with ball in hand you may want to take a shot before playing safe even when you already know you have no intention of trying to run out yet, such as pocketing your “really tough to get shape on” ball before playing safe with with the second shot as that may be the play that best increases your chances for ultimately winning.

—As has been mentioned previously, with every turn at the table you are trying to do something that is going to increase your chances for being able to win the game, so always look for those opportunities. Don’t be satisfied for example with just looking for a good safe that hides the ball for your opponent, but instead look for a good safe that also solves one of your cluster problems or other problems. The examples here could be endless and you really have to analyze the table to find these opportunities. They don’t always exist but a lot of times they do but aren’t real obvious and you are going to miss them if you are not looking hard for them.

—While you always want to improve your situation with every turn at the table if possible, keep in mind whether or not it benefits your opponent as well. If it benefits him as much or more than it benefits you, like breaking up some clusters might do for example, then it may not be the proper shot or the proper time to take it.

from Skippy27 (in AZB post):

One thing I would stress is to keep it simple. You know your strengths and your weakness so play to your strengths when in a match and work on the weak parts when practicing to make them a strength.

Pattern play does not matter if as part of that pattern you are leaving yourself shots that are a weakness (say rail shots, or long spot shots) for you. Clearly part of pattern play to learn is how to get yourself to the next strength shot while you avoid putting yourself in a position to shoot one of your weak shots. Some people see the table differently because of this and play it differently it does not mean they did it wrong.

Always look at the pocket line and know if you need the cue above it or below it for your next shoot, to get to your third shoot the way you need to in order to continue the run. Most importantly know when you need to concede the table so you can stop making balls and put yourself in a position to return to it. The worse thing you can do is allow you ego to remove most, if not all, your balls so your opponent has an open table to work with.

from CreeDo (in AZB post):

• Get the stripes-or-solids group where the problems are all solvable
(meaning a tricky tied-up ball has another ball nearby that naturally breaks it up).
I’d rather have a group with 2 solvable problems than a group with 1 problem and no natural way to deal with it.

• Don’t ever risk getting hooked while trying to play aggressive position, unless you have a “plan B” shot available.
“Too long” you can deal with. “Too thin” you can deal with. Even on the rail can be dealt with. Hooked = game over.
Especially on a barbox, don’t be afraid to settle a bit on shape, if it means you have the right angle and 0 risk of hook.

• Just because a ball is near the side, doesn’t mean you have to play it there. In fact thats where a lot of players
get into trouble. Getting funny on a side pocket shot means moving the cue ball up and down the whole table
weaving through traffic. That’s the kind of risky stuff that ends runs. Plan for mostly corner pocket shots.
This goes double on the barbox. Move the cue ball less.

• If you start with ball in hand, solve your biggest problem with it. Don’t play position to solve the problem later.
Solve it right now. With your ball in hand. Many runouts are blown by people getting too cute,
trying to sink a ball or two before dealing with their problem.

• Don’t miss. 9-ball gets people used to 2-way shots where missing is sometimes safe,
the opponent is left long or even hooked. In 8-ball a miss is much worse. If you’re gonna risk a missable shot,
do it early in the rack.

from Cornerman (in AZB post):

Leaving your balls in the center of the table as your last or nearly last balls isn’t a good idea for two reasons:

1) It limits your pathways for your cueball

2) positionally speaking, it is more challenging to get the proper angle on a ball in the center of the table.

It’s easy to see why number 2 is true when the table is full of balls; it’s tougher to see why it’s a challenge when you only have your balls left.

Ways to screw up a ball-in-hand runout in 8-ball (barbox or otherwise):

  • The number one way a ball-in-hand out in 8-ball is botched is by leaving the object balls in the center of the table as the last balls. The balls in the center of the table block path routes, and are deceptively challenging when the “proper angle” is needed to get to the 8-ball.
  • The number two way to botch a ball-in-hand runout is to leave hanging balls until the last balls. There’s little reason to take hangers out late.
  • The number three way to botch a ball-in-hand runout is to leave two balls side-by-side in the same pocket, as opposed to just leaving one ball as the last ball before the 8-ball. If you just take one out earlier, the there is no “which one do you have to get on first” failure mode.
  • The number four way to botch up a ball-in-hand runout is stick too tightly to the “clear all balls from one side of the table” misconception. I cant’ recall where this idea is ever correct, yet so many people bring it up as if there’s some sanity to it.
  • The number five way to botch up a ball-in-hand runout is try too hard to set yourself into rules. These are just guidelines.

from 8onthebreak (in AZB post):

A great 8 ball player is great because he finds the easiest pattern, not because he’s a better executer. 8 ball is chess, running out isn’t as important as moving the pieces into position. it is a game of patience. Some suggestions…
1. Never break out a cluster if you don’t have to. Usually the balls will go into A pocket, you need precision cue ball control to get the position, but breaking them out leads to scratches, and many times, no shot after.
2. Find a pattern that is easy to run out, involving NO draw. Top is much more predictable. Start with the 8 ball, and work your way backwards to find the best pattern…your last shot before the eight should be an easy stop shot, with easy shot on the eight. The shot before that should be an easy stop shot with position for an easy shot on the setup ball…etc. work backwards thru the rack and if you pick the pattern out correctly, a b player should be able to run it out almost every time.
3. Clear your trouble balls early, this includes any balls on the rail or in a cluster.
4. Never shoot your ducks in. They are like soldiers fighting for you. Theres 4 reasons for this. They are an easy shot from anywhere and give you easy position for almost any shot on the table. Also, It will be difficult for anyone to play a safe on you if you have hangers on the table, and they block pockets so your opponent can’t use the pocket.
5. Look at clusters as a golden opportunity. A cluster is absolutely THE BEST environment to play a safe into. Always look at the cluster, and determine how u can hit a ball in the cluster, freeing that ball, and stop the cue ball inside the cluster or behind it, acquiring an easy ball in hand. Plan, get position for the safe, and take the safety shot, wait for ball in hand or an easy runout with the cluster now being makeable since u removed the tough ball. Clusters are your friend.
6. Don’t move the cue ball, settle for short side shape, nice, easy…there’s no long shots on the table, so any shot is an easy shot if you are even remotely in shape.
7. If you are less than 70% sure you’ll make the shot…start looking for a safety. If you can’t find a safe with significantly better odds of success, take the shot.
8. Gently bump opponents balls to the rail, and especcially away from the side pocket when possible. A hanger in the side pocket can win you a game cuz its guaranteed position to anywhere on the table…however, a ball on the rail next to the side pocket has about a 30% chance of costing a good player the game. If the opportunity presents itself to make one of your hangers in the side pocket, off of his duck, and move his duck to the rail…you’ve just put the odds in your favor to return to the table if you should make a mistake.
9. Don’t shoot hard…it’s an unnecessary risk.
10. Don’t shoot soft…it’s an unnecessary table roll risk.
11 Patience, patience, patience.

from Billy_Bob:

1. Don’t pocket ANY of your balls if any are tied up. LEAVE THEM! Instead hit clusters where your balls are tied up and re-arrange the table so every one of your balls can be made into a pocket. THEN run out. You CAN’T win if one of your balls is tied up and can’t be made into a pocket. You can’t win if the 8-ball is tied up and can’t be made into a pocket. Leaving your balls on the table will get in the way of your opponent. What will frequently happen if you do this is your opponent will shoot in most of his balls except two or three (as you are busy unblocking your clusters and turning the table back over to him). Then you wind up with a wide open table, very easy to run-out at this point. You have cleared up your cluster problems first thing and your opponent has been kind enough to get his balls out of your way! RUNOUT!

2. If you can’t run-out because you still have one or more trouble balls, and you have a ball blocking a pocket and this is blocking the 8 or one of your opponent’s balls, LEAVE IT! Shoot at a cluster and fix trouble balls first. Your opponent can’t win if his ball or the 8 is blocked.

3. If you are left with a difficult shot and it is VERY LIKELY you will wind up giving your opponent ball-in-hand, might as well do something constructive instead of missing your shot. Something which will make winning for you easier or will make winning for your opponent more difficult. Shoot an intentional foul! Shoot one of your opponent’s balls into a nasty spot. Create a cluster for your opponent by shooting at his balls. Shoot at one of your opponent’s balls so it hits one of your balls which is in a cluster and tied up and this frees up your cluster. You were going to give him ball-in-hand anyway, but this way you have given him one more cluster/trouble ball, or given yourself one less cluster/trouble ball. This tips the scale so you will have more of an advantage to win.

4. Who is going to win? Look at clustered balls/trouble balls. How many balls does your opponent have which can’t be made into a pocket? How many balls do you have which can’t be made into a pocket? THIS is the “score board” as to who is going to win! You want to ALWAYS and FIRST THING adjust this scale so all of your balls can be made into a pocket and many of your opponent’s balls can’t be made into a pocket. If your opponent has balls tied up, he can’t win. If all of your balls can be made into a pocket as well as the 8, then it is possible for you to run-out I feel this is the MOST important thing to winning. Work from the get go toward tipping the scale to your advantage and to the disadvantage of your opponent.

Example: It is your shot and you have 2 balls which can easily be pocketed. Instead you shoot at a cluster and move those balls so they can be pocketed and turn the table over to your opponent. (Your opponent has two clusters.) Your opponent shoots in a few balls, but does nothing with the clusters. Then your turn and you move your last trouble ball to a spot where it can be made into a pocket. Your opponent shoots in a few more balls and is left with his two clusters which he has left for last. He shoots at one and it does not go into a pocket. Now your turn. Wide open table, no trouble balls, your opponent has pocketed most of his balls so they are not blocking your shots, every one of your balls can be made into a pocket, easy run-out and win!

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