What are some differences between play on a small “bar-box” table and a full-size regulation table?

The biggest difference are:

  • There is more “traffic” and “clusters” requiring precise CB control and break-out shots.
  • There is less “shot making” on a bar box since no shot is very long.
  • In general, bar box play involves more finesse and less power. Also, CB control can be easier when less travel distance is involved, but sometimes more precision is required.
  • The CB is sometimes heavier on a “bar box” (especially older bar boxes, or when the OBs are old and the CB is new) making draw more difficult and follow easier. For more info, see ball size/weight effects.
  • The corner pockets are usually more forgiving on a bar box (almost playing like “giant buckets” at slow speeds), and the side pockets can be trouble (very tight in comparison).
  • The balls will often be dirtier and older in bar boxes, so you will get more throw and more frequent cling. Therefore, in general, use more speed to limit throw (for cuts greater than about 20 °).  Also, be very careful with stun shots, especially at slow speed, because they result in the most throw (especially for cuts close to a 1/2-ball hit). If the balls are really clingy, you might also consider using outside english on cut shots.
  • Because the ball size is the same on all tables sizes, the rack extends lower on a smaller table. So ball directions on the break will effectively be lower on a smaller table (see the video below), but adjustments can be made to CB position and spin to adjust per the info on the 8-ball, 9-ball, and 10-ball break resource pages.

In general, on a bar box, it is better to select simple patterns that limit CB motion to play for easy position, even if the resulting shots are a little longer.

See also: table difficulty factor (TDF).

The Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB) covers everything thing about 8-ball in great detail. A good book dealing with playing 8-ball on a bar box is: “The Eight Ball Bible” by R. Givens.

from Neil:

1. If the cb is heavier, but basically same diameter- just hit stun and draw shots a little lower. You should be able to adjust to this easily.

2. If playing on a Valley table- the pocket shelf is much shorter, so the pocket acts much bigger than it is. If the rails are in decent shape, you can still make balls that would not be make-able on a 9′ or on a diamond. Essentially, forget the point of the pocket is there, and if you can make the ball in the back of the pocket, it will go rail first in the front of the pocket. Sometimes you can really cheat the pockets hitting rail first at a slower speed.

3. BB’s like a pure stroke. And, a pure stroke is the easiest way to try and adjust to the speed of the table. The speed can be the toughest part to overcome. One BB may play slow, the one next to it might make you think the cb is jet propelled! On the fast ones, use as little english as possible because the english will really make the cb seem to speed up off the rails.

4. If on a Valley, don’t act like they are easier because the pocket is essentially bigger. Still aim to a specific part of the pocket.

5. Bank shots are easier, and a part of the game on a BB. Utilize them when you need to.

6. DO NOT underestimate any shot just because you don’t have a lot of distance to the pocket. MAKE SURE your properly aim EVERY shot.

7. Really pay attention to how the balls are racked. And, where others are breaking from and at what speed. Sometimes a much slower speed works wonders, and sometimes just changing sides to break from works wonders.

8. Make sure you hit the one ball very square on the break. If you don’t, you have a good chance of scratching in the side pocket, and that spells doom.

9. Run out as often as possible. However, safes can give you the game too. When kicking at a ball on a bar box, especially later in the rack, you seldom will win the game unless you kick it in or leave it hooked. Most of the time, if you can see it, you can make it. Even if you have to bank it.

10. Don’t shy away from going around the table at times. The shorter distance makes around the world position very feasible. Just pay attention to the route so you don’t scratch. Come through the middle of the table when possible when traveling a long distance.

from JoeyA (in summarizing a thread on AZB):

1. Control the cue ball on the break.

2. Pay attention to how the balls are racked.

3. Pay attention to how other breakers are making balls on the break. It could be the only difference between winning and losing.

4. Avoid the side pockets whenever possible as they are smaller pockets.

5. Shoot for the corner pockets as they are large and generous to most shots.

6. That being said, ‘Just because the corner pockets are large and the table is small, “DON’T take any shot for granted”.

7. If you do use the side pockets, MASTER shooting into the smaller pockets before you start the tournament.

8. If you use side spin, MASTER the use of Side Spin, before you start the tournament. Remember, the heavy “ROCK WILL ROLL”. MASTER the art of spinning the heavy rock and use it prudently.

9. Play minimal shape. Most shots are close and do not require pinpoint shape.

10. Avoid accidentally running into balls while playing the run out, unless that is the plan. Accidentally bumped balls have a way of creating new problems for running out.

11. Do not slow roll the cue ball or the object balls as smaller tables can often times have serious leans at slow speeds.

12. Practice cheating the pockets, at different speeds, because on occasion, you can achieve even better shape than you normally would.

13. Avoid force follow on the bar table as the outcome is hard to determine with any consistency.

14. Bar box banking is full of hazards. Test the rails early and often. That being said, instead of playing a weak safety (and most are when there are only a couple of balls left on the table), take make-able bank shots and be sure and hit them at the proper speed.

15. Less cue ball movement is key to success on a bar box. Select patterns that minimize cue ball movement. For example, settle for a longer shot where you can shoot a stop shot rather than a short cut shot where you have to move the cue ball a foot or two and bounce off one cushion.

16. Stop shots and stun shots are your friend.

17. Break out clusters early, especially if you are going to try and run out.

18. OK, I just remembered, I did shorten up my bridge and moved my back hand forward just a bit and it did seem to help on some shots.

19. Be more aware of your cue ball speed. These smaller tables require that as you have less distance that you need to travel than on a larger table.

20. THINK, THINK, THINK! Because this is a smaller table and you don’t regularly play on them, you have to constantly think about all of the above. Playing on a smaller table requires that you pay more attention, not less.

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