I Gave up 8 Ball for a Month I Learned so Much I Hardly Play it Anymore

I like 8 Ball (BCA rules, no slop). It’s rich in complexity, what with so many puzzles to solve while not giving my opponent a chance to win. I relish the flexibility of being able to choose the pattern for my run out. Maneuvering in and around my opponent’s balls to find the only way to make the black and win the game is satisfying. I find it refreshing that my goals and my opponent’s goals are so different, where in many other games they are the same. I even appreciate the difficulties in playing safe well when my opponent still has most of his balls on the table. Lastly, I like playing short games like 8 Ball, because I get a fresh start over and over again.

Because I enjoy 8 Ball so much, I find myself playing it a great deal. It’s also the most popular game in the pool hall I frequent most often. I’ve keep track of my playing since I started in August of 2005, and I know that nearly 80% of my games have been 8 Ball. I also play Straight Pool, 9 & 10 Ball and One Pocket regularly, and these games usually play significantly faster or slower than 8 Ball. To get a fairer comparison I used a weighting factor based on how long I thought the games usually took on average. That way, 1 game to 100 in 14.1 that took 90 min got its fair share relative to a game of 9 Ball that took only 5. Here’s a little table I created that tells the story.

GameWinsLossesGames% of GamesWin %WeightingWtd Games% of Wtd Games
8 Ball43604298865877%50%1.0865856%
9 Ball794881167515%47%0.711738%
10 Ball951041992%48%0.81591%
Straight Pool931162082%45%15312020%
One Pocket1942604544%43%5227015%

I play other games too, like Chicago, Rotation, Carom 9 Ball, etc, but they make up only a tiny percentage of my playing time, so I’ve left them out of the table.

I’d like to move toward a mixture so that 8 Ball (weighted) represents one-third of my games, 9 & 10 Ball combined represent another third, and Straight Pool and One Pocket combined represent the remaining third. Since 14.1 and 1 Pocket are already in line with that, I’m replacing the 8 Ball with mostly 9 & 10 Ball for at least a month.

I hope to work the underused skill areas of my game more and strengthen them significantly.

Every different game has different skill requirements to excel, so I’m thinking that by avoiding 8 Ball and playing the other games more (I’m not cutting my time at the table) I’ll inevitably work the underused skill areas more and strengthen them significantly.

Another benefit I hope to see is that when I do go back to playing 8 Ball, I’ll know more, and have more things I’m confident about, so that as I make decisions about how to proceed, my options will have increased and I’ll occasionally find a better plan than I would have otherwise.

The main reason I’ve played comparatively little 9 & 10 Ball is that at my level, luck is still too big a factor. I respect a good safety, but I hate it when an opponent misses and leaves me safe totally by accident. I know this happens to a certain extent in all games, but in 9 & 10 Ball it happens much too frequently. Also, slopping in balls is something else I really don’t like. When it happens to me I feel embarrassed and guilty. When it happens to my opponent I have to work hard to stifle my irritation (ok, anger). At the A level these are nits, but at the B level they happen way too often for my taste.

I may have misjudged these games, and need to give them a lot more effort to be fair to them.

So, other than 3 games of 8 ball each Monday night in my ACS league, I haven’t played any 8 Ball in a month. How’s it been? Well, my 9 & 10 Ball games are improving. My ability to get shape on long shots and shots requiring significant cue ball travel after the hit has improved. I’m also picking up more of the subtleties of the two games and winning more because of it. Lastly, I’ve seen that some percentage of the shots by my opponent that I used to think resulted in lucky breaks were in actuality shots played that way on purpose. This isn’t all of them by any means, but it is enough to make me begin to feel I may have misjudged these games, and my opponents, and need to give them a lot more effort before I come to a conclusion.

I recommend that if you mostly play one game, no matter which one it is, you try this little experiment yourself. I’m betting that you’ll see at least one thing, probably several, that you would not have learned if you didn’t do it. I bet also that when you go back to your favorite game, it’ll feel new and exciting in a way it hasn’t in quite a while.

Let me know what you think of my little experiment, and especially so if you have even done something like this yourself, or if you’ve decided to now that you’ve read this. BTW, you may have noticed that my winning percentage is near 50% for all games. I do my best to play people who are as good or better than I am, and as I’ve improved I’ve adjusted who I play. To me, too high a winning percentage would be an indicator that I wasn’t playing opponents that were tough enough.

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