I played a match the other day in my straight pool league. My opponent is a little better than I am and he spotted me 26 balls in a game to 100. I started out slow and he got way ahead and I caught fire, and he slowed down and we were at 98 me – 95 him with me at the table.
It’s a nearly fresh rack with only 3 or 4 balls loose. I’m behind the rack with good safety options and one shot on a close moderate cut to the corner. Not a shot I’m sure of by any means, but a shot I can make ~ 40-50% of the time. Getting shape on the out ball is easy, so if I make the shot I’ll win. It’s offense vs defense decision time.
I shoot it and miss, leaving my intended out ball for my worthy opponent. He makes it, and another ball then misses and it’s still 98 me – 97 him. I have another long cut down table with about the same chance as before, as well as good safe opportunities. Again, shape on the out ball is all but guaranteed. I take the shot and miss again (man I suck) and my opponent gets out.
We’re friends who often share thoughts about all aspects of pool and our games. He asked about why I took the shots rather than play the easy safeties. My response was that he’s a better safety player than I am, and I saw myself winning a safety battle with him about 1 in 3 or 4 times. We’d had a number of these safety battles in the game and I lost more than I won by about that percentage (do I smell an area for practice, or what?).
So I went with the percentages. What do you all think of this approach? How would you go about making decisions like this? Do you favor offense vs defense in a general way or do you make the decisions one shot at a time? I look forward to reading and discussing your comments.