Written by Mark Finkelstein

One of the things that amazes me is how hard some people make playing pool. Pool is a very difficult game, yet moving from ball to ball can sometimes be done the easy way or the hard way. So many people seem to always wind up going about things the hard way.

Learning how to play patterns is one of the key factors is running balls. Unfortunately, todays nine ball players never really had to learn much about patterns. The numbers on the ball dictate which ones you have to play next. Now it takes a lot of skill to run 9 balls in rotation consistently, but I've seen some pretty good players stymied with a complex straight pool or 8 ball pattern.

Here are some old timer exercises that I have learned in the past to help you get a grip on pattern play. I have tried to give you the source of the drill as best that I can remember. Spending some time with these drills, trying to do what is simplest will open your mind to some new ways of running balls, and the advantage of looking at all the pockets. Have fun, these drills are challenging.

This drill comes from Rags Fitzpatrick and I first heard about it in the old Palace Billiards in San Francisco in the late 60's. The object here is to make all the balls without touching a rail or another ball.

Figure 1

This next drill comes from Bud Harris, 1950's National Billiard Champion. This drill is great for close in pattern play. The object here is to make all the balls and keep the cue ball in the center of the little circle. Good Luck.

Figure 2

Here is a great drill from Bert Kinister. His tapes have some great stuff and I highly recommend them. This drill really makes you put on your thinking cap. The object is to randomly throw 5 balls on the table around the spot, and try to find a pattern that you can make the balls with only stop shots. Ideally, you don't want the cue ball to move at all after it contacts the object ball. I'll admit I learned a lot about pattern play using this drill. Here is a sample lay out and my solution.

Figure 3

My solution is to play the 2 in the side and come back just a little. Then you have stop shots on the 4 corner, 8 corner, 1 side and 5 side. There may be other solutions and the idea is to find one that you can do. Of course the fun part here is after you torture your brain to find a pattern, you then try to do it. Now that is fun. Remember is you miss or get out of line on any of these shots, that's a good thing!!! Now you have something to practice other than aimlessly rolling balls around thinking you are practicing.

Now that you have some drills to help you sharpen your pattern play, I'd like to give you a few ideas about what makes a good pattern. A good pattern is the easiest order of pocketing balls that accomplishes your objective. Planning a sequence in 8 ball means that you have to start from the 8 and work backwards until you can as Abe Rosen at the old Amsterdam Billiards uptown used to say, "solve the puzzle of this rack!". To help guide you in your choice of shot, remember that a rolling cue ball is the easiest to control if you have to move the cue ball, and a stop shot gives you the exact position of the cue ball after the shot.

Good luck with learning pattern play and 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

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Author Info - Mark Finkelstein