Thinking Your Way to a Win

Written by Mark Finkelstein

I've been watching a lot of pool lately and one of the things I do when I watch is run through the rack in my head, seeing if my idea of how to play the rack is the same as the player at the table. I learn a lot of new approaches this way, seeing how different people play a rack. One game in particular struck me as very instructive. I saw this game in Japan between two intermediate players. The bet was small and they were playing about even.

Here is the rack lay out I want you to look at:


Diagram 1

Two balls were made on the break, and the incoming player had ball in hand. Now my first take on this rack was to play safe on the two and roll the cue ball behind the 4 and the 6. After a lot of thought, I could see that even if I got ball in hand, trying to run this rack would be difficult.

Going for the run out seemed a little too difficult with the way the 7 and 8 lay.

Here is the creative approach I saw. The incoming player, a woman, was against a strong guy. She played the combination off the right side of the nine with the two and sent the cue ball near the 4 and the 6. The two ball stopped under the 4 and 6 leaving a great safe. She also had the nine moving and it stopped near the side rail below the 7 and 8. Here is what the table looked like when her opponent came to the table:


Diagram 2

Her opponent tried a heroic three rail kick and missed the ball giving up ball in hand. He was now on two fouls.

Here is what she did to win the game. She pushed the two between the 4, 6 and 3 and laid the cue ball against the 4/6. Her opponent was in jail. He tried something, but failed and she won the game.

The nice part of this game was the way she played multiple options to give herself a chance to win. The two way shot on the 9, playing the combination and the safe with a follow on position if she got ball in hand. By not disturbing the 4/6 cluster, she had it available to use as blockers for her next safety!

I want you to ask yourself how many of your would try to run this rack out?? Probably a lot of you. How many more would just play safe off the two, not moving the nine?? A lot more I would guess. Some of you might have even taken off the 2 and the 3 and then played safe on the 4.

The key point here is that playing safe on a rack that you can't run with ball in hand requires some extra thinking. What you don't want to do is get ball in hand, run 5 balls and then get safe on the 7, giving up the table to your opponent.

This was a great game to watch, and I hope you learned something. Just to be sure, I'll say it again….playing a safety so you get ball in hand in a rack that you can't run doesn't make a lot of sense. Look to see how you can rearrange things to your advantage so that when you get ball in hand you can either run out, or play another lock up safety and win the game. Now this is really playing good pool.

See you on the road.

About The Author: Mark Finkelstein is a professional pool player, a BCA Master instructor, an American Cue Sports (ACS) level 4 instructor, and house pro at Slate Plus in New York. Mark can be reached via phone at 347-545-1916, email at nycpool<at_char>gmail<dot_char>com or thru his website at www.mfpool.com.

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Author Info - Mark Finkelstein