Many of you are new to the game of straight pool, even though you are experienced players of other games. This primer will help you with all you need to know to come up to speed on straight pool quickly. With a little effort, not just reading this but practicing it, you can make this game one of your strengths.
There’s plenty here to keep you busy, but you won’t be a noob at 14.1 when you’re done. BTW, 14.1 is another name for straight pool, named that way because of the way the 14 object balls are reracked when there’s 1 object ball left on the table.
The 5 Main Focus Areas
Offense: Straight pool is an offensive game. Running balls is what it’s all about.
Position: Better players make the game look easy. They shoot one easy shot after another and put the CB in position for the next easy shot. Pinpoint cue ball control, especially over short distances is a requirement.
Flexibility: Don’t be afraid to change your plan as you progress. Just make sure you have a map to a good break shot.
Patterns: Straight pool is a game of patterns, and some are much better than others.
Key Ball: Plan your patterns, i.e., the order in which you shoot the balls, to leave a good break shot to get into the next rack. The best way to do that is to leave a key ball and a key ball to the key ball to get on the break ball.
5 Simple Strategic Moves You Must Know
Intentional foul if opponent is on more fouls than you
Sometimes, leaving the cue ball in the rack is the best option
Calling safe and making a ball
5 Critical Skills that Win Games
Half table game in crowded conditions. Being able to shoot over a ball while maintaining a steady bridge is essential.
Recognizing dead balls in the pack
Breaking up clusters
Recognizing when your run is coming to an end before it does, so you can play a great safety.
5 Standard Safeties Your Opponent Will Know
Into one of the top two balls of a 14 ball rack
Into the side of the rack
Skimming the pack and going down table
Into the back of the rack
Skimming of the back of the rack
The 5 Best Break Shots
Side of the rack
OB next to the side
Behind the rack
OB into the side from near the rack
OB near a foot corner
5 Extraordinarily Valuable Practice Drills
The L Drill
Target pool with OB off bottom rail, 5 balls across foot line. Learn to go through the holes
Make a ball in the side and hit balls at every spot around the bottom of the table
Get on a side of the rack break ball after making a ball in a foot end corner
The Short Game by Kinister
Balls at every spot intersection in foot area, make all w/o hitting another ball, then w/o hitting another ball or rail.
Rules of Thumb to Keep You Out of Trouble
Don’t get stuck at the bottom rail
In straight pool, most of the balls most of the time are in the bottom half of the table. With the cue ball on or near the bottom rail, for most shots you’re shooting up-table, meaning either a long shot, a thin back cut int a corner, or a very tight angle into the side.
Clear blocking balls early
Sometime one ball can block several others from having a clear route to a pocket. As you plan your pattern, take these balls out early to free up all the others.
Keep your cue ball in the middle of the table
From there, no shot is very long and the angles will all be reasonable.
Play 3 shots ahead, like in 9 ball
With so many balls on the table it’s easy to get lax about position. Don’t! It’s critically important that you move the cue ball around so you’ll have a series of easy shot if you ever want to run many balls. Not thinking ahead to that third ball will get you in trouble quickly.
Play Dead Balls with Care
When shooting a dead ball, be sure to hit the target ball on the correct side and with the right amount of force. Remember, throw is maximized with a soft half ball hit. Dirty balls will throw more than clean ones. And for heaven’s sake, always know where the cue ball is going to go before you pull the trigger. Don’t get so excited about an easy break out that you wind up stuck.
Side Pockets are Your Friends
Straight pool is a half table game. When played well more than 90% of the balls are pocketed in the side pockets or the bottom corners. Learn to get comfortable with shooting in the sides and remember to include them prominently in your thought process when creating your patterns.
Have a Good Key Ball
When planning which ball to use to break with (the break ball or BB), think of the best ball to make right before the BB which makes getting good position on the BB easy. This is the key ball (KB). Having a good KB and BB combination will make it much easier to go from one rack into another.
5 Videos to Pull it All Together
The four straight pool videos that follow provide basic knowledge that even experienced players of other games may not have.
How to Keep Score in Straight Pool (2 min)
The how to keep score video will explain what those thumbwheel counters you’ve seen on all but Diamond tables are actually for and how to use them.
Pat Fleming on Straight Pool Break Shots (10 min)
Pat Fleming is a terrific player and founder of Accu-Stats videos. He walks you through all of the classic break shots and provides tips on how best to execute them. This video is an excerpt from his DVD The Creative Edge.
The Kurtz Drill (6 min)
Now that you know how to make those break shots, you need to know how to get on them. Here’s a terrific little video by David Sapolis on how to create key balls in the center of the table. I know most people think drills are boring, but they can really help.