10 Bad Habits That Keep You From Running The Rack

Written by David Sapolis

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Article Index
10 Bad Habits That Keep You
     From Running The Rack
(page 1)
Bad Habit #2 and #3 (page 2)
Bad Habit #4, #5 and #6 (page 3)
Bad Habit #7 thru #10 (page 4)

Bad Habit #2: Failure to properly read the rack.

Many skills are necessary in nine ball, but none is more important than possesing the skill to properly and effectively read the rack. When it is our turn at the table, we need to know exactly what needs to be accomplished. Just aimlessly shooting from ball to ball won't work here. You might get lucky every now and then, but you won't be successful consistently.

Planning is essential in any endeavor, but here it pays dividends on your confidence and hopefully your cashflow. What is "reading the rack"? It is the art and skill of seeing a pattern (shot for shot) that will eventually lead you to a game winning shot on the nine ball. Every shot that you make is designed not only to get position on the next ball, but it must aid you in your efforts to run the rack. This can be practiced by watching others play, or it can be practiced while you are playing.

What causes us to improperly read the rack? Lots of things. Jitters, nervousness, anxiousness, or in some cases our own stupidity (me included). Some of us just don't pay attention to what we are doing. We take an easy layout for granted and eventually stand over the table scratching our heads while mumbling, "oh, sh*t!" Our mind must work like a rack-running computer, analyzing each shot of the layout, while recognizing the patterns and routes required to get you out of the rack. Carelessness gets us nowhere but sitting back in the chair. We need to concentrate on every shot, calculating each and every move with precision. Later I will give you some ideas to consider when reading the rack.

Bad Habit #3: The inability to effectively deal with clusters and problem balls.

This is the Achilles heel of many players. Many of the younger players of today are at a disadvantage compared to players of twenty of thirty years ago. I have always maintained that the game of straight pool (14.1) is and always will be the game's best teacher. Many of today's players have never played straight pool or one pocket, and that is a shame. The game of straight pool forces you to learn how to break up clusters and eliminate problem spots within the rack. So how does this relate to nine ball? Simple. Many times clusters develop and make our path to the nine ball seem impossible. A seasoned player knows that these clusters serve a dual purpose:

a) They can stop our opponent dead in his tracks as he attempts to run the rack.
b) We can use these clusters to our advantage by using them as target areas if and when we have to play safe.

But, what if we are the shooting player and we are forced to either duck, or break up the cluster? As with anything else, this can be learned through practice. Remember how I spoke earlier about some of us just aimlessly toss nine balls out on the table and start shooting away as opposed to practicing a specific part of our game that needs work? This is what I was talking about. All of us could use work in this area. Set up a few clusters and see how you can effectively break them up after shooting in the lowest numbered ball. Leaving it up to chance, or hoping that our opponent will do the dirty work for us is not very smart. We want to be in control of the table, and we want to keep shooting. That is how we win games. Problem balls can be classified in two categories.

a) They can be the "key shot" in the rack.
b) They can be that ball that has the least pocket availability options.

Either way, these balls must be dealt with accordingly. Perhaps you can start by setting up for the key shot from the get go. This bad habit goes hand in hand with effective rack reading, and problems can be avoided by utilizing proper planning. If we are weak in this area of our game, it will be exploited by a more experienced player.

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About The Author: Blackjack David Sapolis played professional pool for 20 years in The United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

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