Perfect Position vs. Options

Patrick Johnson

Fish of the Day
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I had one student who overall was an APA 5. He had been playing for a long time. He could make shots that stronger players would not attempt. He did not play position and was not interested in playing position. If a soft shot was guaranteed to get good position, he would hit it with medium speed and shoot the resulting 75-degree cut or a bank. I briefly got him to play a few position shots and he kind of agreed that was useful, but the next week in league he was back to the style he felt comfortable with -- shoot and then look around for another shot.

It is not common but it is quite an eye-opener when you see such a person. I think he may have originally learned snooker which might explain hit potting ability and disdain for making the next shot easier.
That would take all the fun out of the game. To me making shots is an enjoyable challenge, but mostly a prerequisite to the art and fun of controlling the cue ball.

pj
chgo
 

BC21

Poolology
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I think we should seriously rethink the whole 'great shot-maker poor position player' thing. It's almost an oxymoron. You almost can't be a great shot-maker and a poor position player. There may be a brief cross-over period but it's very brief.

Most players think they're decent shot-makers, but they're not. Their poor position skills reflect that. Only when you can pocket balls with cue ball spin can you start to think about position play; and by then you're already doing it.

You only have a certain amount of time? Then practice making every shot on the table.

It's more common than you think (in bold). Seriously.

I have been a witness to these types of players for many many years. Maybe in a big city where there are several instructors and thousands of pool players you just don't get to see it. But go to ANY small town where there are zero poolhalls and zero instructors within a 2 hour drive. The kind of place where nobody knows what a Diamond table is, like a WV or KY or PA coal mining town, where all there is to do is drink beer and play pool at the only bar in town. Here you will find a player that consistently pockets rediculous shots due to years of playing 8ball on Valley barboxes. He is a great shot maker because that's how he learned, by firing at every shot he gets, regardless of difficulty, and he's had years to perfect it. Position play takes a back seat, because he knows as long as he can see the ob he can make the shot.
 

BC21

Poolology
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I had one student who overall was an APA 5. He had been playing for a long time. He could make shots that stronger players would not attempt. He did not play position and was not interested in playing position. If a soft shot was guaranteed to get good position, he would hit it with medium speed and shoot the resulting 75-degree cut or a bank. I briefly got him to play a few position shots and he kind of agreed that was useful, but the next week in league he was back to the style he felt comfortable with -- shoot and then look around for another shot.

It is not common but it is quite an eye-opener when you see such a person. I think he may have originally learned snooker which might explain hit potting ability and disdain for making the next shot easier.

Actually, outside of a poolhall environment, or a big league, or an area where half the players have access to private lessons, it is very common to run across these types of players. They are not serious players, but weekend warriors that have shot thousands of balls with no regard or knowledge of playing position. And they've developed excellent shot-making skills because they had to.

Here in WV it is not uncommon to find such players. They're everywhere. And since BCA leagues started becoming more popular, these players are coming out of the woods more often
 

BC21

Poolology
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That would take all the fun out of the game. To me making shots is an enjoyable challenge, but mostly a prerequisite to the art and fun of controlling the cue ball.

pj
chgo

I have a good friend who for years never played ball in hand rules. I first met him in a bar room 8ball tournament. He was an incredible shot maker (still is) and only cared about getting a shot, any shot. He would play the most unbelievable upside down runouts quite often. To him, and to me before ball in hand rules became the norm, the "art and fun" of playing was directly related to how well you could pocket balls.

Anyway, he lives about 40min out of Charleston, and years later he started coming to the poolroom here. He killed in ring games, where the old-school honest effort rules apply, like old bar room 8ball rules -- no safeties, no defense, just 100% ballzout creative offense on every shot. But he struggled in tournaments where other players were playing a more strategic game, unlike old bar room 8ball tournaments.

He does much better now, having incorporated better position and safety play, but there was definitely a learning curve where he found himself missing shots that he had always made before adding more position play to his game. He still occassionally shoots a very low percentage (wild) shot instead of playing an easy lockup safety, but that's because he's got the confidence of knowing he's going to make the ball and run out.
 

skipbales

AzB Gold Member
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As is common here, the subject has drifted, which is fun too but I would like to drag it back to my original question for just a bit.

Everyone agrees that making the ball is important and doing ball pocketing drills helps with that. Most also agree getting position is important so having a target for the cue ball in your ball pocketing drill is important. Most also agree that things like getting on the correct side of the ball, using rails to control speed and coming into the line of the shot are all valuable techniques to make getting position easier. These considerations are the first step in the thinking part of the game, choosing shot options to make position easier. Most also feel like at least considering what you leave your opponent if you miss is also helpful.

That brings us to my topic. To plan a full table runout, or at least 3-4 balls ahead and plan to stick to it, knowing if you get bad position your run is probably over, but attributing that to a lack of skill and so you work on your shot making and position play. vs. Understanding you are likely to make some mistakes in position and trying to plan for that by considering alternate shots if you are long or shot, hit a ball unexpectedly, and so forth.

This is where some very good instructors disagree. One is so convinced you can't attain a high level he teaches shooting every shot based on a bad leave in case you miss. I rule this one out entirely. This gets you to a low intermediate level and is no fun to even play.

But the two major ones are:
1. Practice all the above and strive to get so good you can almost always run the patterns you predict to begin with. If you can't you just need to practice more to be more consistent. You never think of an alternate pattern or shot until you fail at what you are trying to do.
2. You understand your skill level and believe full table run out perfection of a predetermined run out is not realistic for almost anyone, so you don't think that way. Instead you see that pattern and maybe other possible patterns and go for shots and position on more than one ball , or more than one pocket at a time. You pick that desired landing area and a specific spot in it but it is a landing area with a as many other possible shots as you can, not necessarily the best landing area for your predesigned pattern.

Example:
Player 1: To get shape 3 balls ahead a player goes for a shot on the 3 ball into a side pocket to get on the 7 ball, etc. But if the player rolls long it ruins the entire plan. Rolling long is bad play and is corrected by practice. Better speed control is necessary.

Player 2: looks at the same layout with different eyes. He/she says I will shoot the 3 ball in the corner and if I am short I will shoot the 4 but if long I will still have a shot at the 6. So the pattern is not so set. It is less thinking 3-4 or even 8 balls ahead and more a matter of more options on the next shot then working your way through problems based on options that present themselves based on where you skill level takes you.

I think the philosophical difference is a disagreement on the difficulty of developing a skill set that can consistently make 8 preselected shots. 1. Says it is attainable and more practice gets you there. 2. Say no one (or at least almost no one) ever gets there and it is not the goal. The goal is to develop those skills and apply them as opportunity presents itself so playing for position that creates the most possible options is a more practical approach and a faster way to improve.

I hope I was clear, I apologize I am so wordy. I was looking to see who agrees with concelpt 1 vs 2.
 
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bbb

AzB Gold Member
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I am not an instructor but I would go with your number one
When that fails time to make a new plan
However
When assessing the layout you will know where being on the wrong side of the ball is to prevent you on getting to the next ball
So you know you don’t want to go there
You see the ball has two open pockets the side and corner
You can get shape to the next ball shooting in either pocket
I still would play for a consistent shape to one or the other pocket
Because trying to play shape for both targets could put you on the 50 yard line as far is shot difficulty for both
Jmho
 

BilliardsAbout

BondFanEvents.com
Silver Member
I tend to say, "Don't care where the object ball goes, let's talk cue ball," however, that's for better players who make slight misses, where correct cue ball speed will adjust for both o.b. throw and c.b. position.

Bangers who make a lot of shots need to understand a soft touch, but as stated above, intermediates may pick up position play fast.

The cliche is true at lower levels, though, that the position player beats the shot artist over time, since 1) the shot maker attempts fewer safeties 2) the shot maker showoff forgets to chalk or does something else dumb 3) the "but I can make any cut!" intermediate fails to understand 80% isn't 100% of cuts.
 

BC21

Poolology
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.....

But the two major ones are:

1. Practice all the above and strive to get so good you can almost always run the patterns you predict to begin with. If you can't you just need to practice more to be more consistent. You never think of an alternate pattern or shot until you fail at what you are trying to do.

2. You understand your skill level and believe full table run out perfection of a predetermined run out is not realistic for almost anyone, so you don't think that way. Instead you see that pattern and maybe other possible patterns and go for shots and position on more than one ball , or more than one pocket at a time. You pick that desired landing area and a specific spot in it but it is a landing area with a as many other possible shots as you can, not necessarily the best landing area for your predesigned pattern.

A mixture of both.

Most runouts involve key shots and potential trouble shots that you must be able to recognize and deal with. Your plan or pattern must have plasticity, meaning you can adapt to any "what if" situations along the way.

Every now and then a rack opens up so nicely that the potential for trouble is basically nonexistent. A buddy of mine calls these "set racks" because the pattern is so obvious that you'd really have to fall apart in order not to get out -- as if someone set the rack up purposely to make it an easy out. This is of course assuming you can at least play decent position, not perfect but just decent general shape.

Most racks, however, will contain potential trouble, and we have to recognize this and plan accordingly. The plan might involve a key shot that requires precise position, or it might involve playing a case shot or playing position for multiple options that will allow the plan to unfold more smoothly. Recognizing key balls and potential pitfalls comes with experience. It's more of an acquired knowledge than a skill that needs practiced. Watching pros/great players and getting lessons from good instructors can really help with acquiring that specific knowledge. It doesn't mean you'll always be able to deal with potential trouble, but recognizing it at least gives you opportunity to adapt if you can.
 
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skipbales

AzB Gold Member
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I am not an instructor but I would go with your number one

Because trying to play shape for both targets could put you on the 50 yard line as far is shot difficulty for both
Jmho

Not so much going for both pockets, the concept is more:

For purposes of my planned runout I go for shape for the side pocket, knowing if I mess up there is no other possible shot for me. But the side pocket position leads me to the easiest path for my planned runout so I need to set up for the side. If I don't get good position on the side pocket it is because my skill level is too low and the fastest way to improve my overall game is to improve my skill level.

vs. If I go for position into the corner it doesn't work perfectly with my pre designed plan (or maybe don't even have a pre designed plan) and I am off, even by a lot, I will still have 3 other balls I can shoot and I am very likely to get good on at least one of them but that would mean not following the run out pattern I designed to begin with. It would mean seeing other ways to run out. This thinking is, the fastest way to improve my game is to make choices with more options, and work on seeing the options better, to work with my skill level as it is and improve my skill level slowly as I can over time.
 
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bbb

AzB Gold Member
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Not so much going for both pockets, the concept is more:

For purposes of my planned runout I go for shape for the side pocket, knowing if I mess up there is no other possible shot for me. But the side pocket position leads me to the easiest path for my planned runout so I need to set up for the side. If I don't get good position on the side pocket it is because my skill level is too low and the fastest way to improve my overall game is to improve my skill level.

vs. If I go for position into the corner it doesn't work perfectly with my pre designed plan (or maybe don't even have a pre designed plan) and I am off, even by a lot, I will still have 3 other balls I can shoot and I am very likely to get good on at least one of them but that would mean not following the run out pattern I designed to begin with. It would mean seeing other ways to run out. This thinking is, the fastest way to improve my game is to make choices with more options, and work on seeing the options better, to work with my skill level as it is and improve my skill level slowly as I can over time.
I think your second concept is geared more for street pool eight ball or one pocket
and not rotation games
Examples are an insurance ball when breaking up a cluster
And trying to stay above the balls when running balls in one pocket
I still think especially with limited time to practice working on improving your skill level
will get you farther in the long term picture
Even though you may have a few more losses along the way
Jmho
Icbw
I am not an instructor
 

skipbales

AzB Gold Member
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I think your second concept is geared more for street pool eight ball or one pocket
and not rotation games
Examples are an insurance ball when breaking up a cluster
And trying to stay above the balls when running balls in one pocket
I still think especially with limited time to practice working on improving your skill level
will get you farther in the long term picture
Even though you may have a few more losses along the way
Jmho
Icbw
I am not an instructor

Yes, non rotational. 8 Ball or straight pool. 8 ball was what I had in mind.
This is kind of a vote for #1. Going for higher skill sets is what gives the most overall performance improvement.
 
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skipbales

AzB Gold Member
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A mixture of both.

.

"A mixture of both" This is actually a vote for #2. The #1 instructors simply do not include the concept of alternates in training.

I am a Tor Lowry Patreon. He is a #1 trainer. Every week he posts a table with some issues and everyone has to pick a specific pattern. You are looking for the easiest way to run them. You are supposed to pick all the balls and pockets then run it out. You take everything into consideration except any alternate shots. Here is Kia running a pattern with stripes. http://www.kiasidbury.com/post/zero-x-8-ball-10-17-19-pattern If you watch you can see she is more figuring it out as she goes. I think that is how she ends up with her patterns. I think she shoots them first then writes them down. It is what I have to do. What seems like it will work can be a lot harder than it looks. And sometimes, when shooting, a new pattern emerges which I had not even considered.
 

bbb

AzB Gold Member
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"A mixture of both" This is actually a vote for #2. The #1 instructors simply do not include the concept of alternates in training.

I am a Tor Lowry Patreon. He is a #1 trainer. Every week he posts a table with some issues and everyone has to pick a specific pattern. You are looking for the easiest way to run them. You are supposed to pick all the balls and pockets then run it out. You take everything into consideration except any alternate shots. Here is Kia running a pattern with stripes. http://www.kiasidbury.com/post/zero-x-8-ball-10-17-19-pattern If you watch you can see she is more figuring it out as she goes. I think that is how she ends up with her patterns. I think she shoots them first then writes them down. It is what I have to do. What seems like it will work can be a lot harder than it looks. And sometimes, when shooting, a new pattern emerges which I had not even considered.

So tor advocates #1.... yes?
 

skipbales

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So tor advocates #1.... yes?

Yes, very strictly. He does a drill almost every instructor uses where you scatter balls then shoot them in in rotation. Every instructor has slightly different rules. Jerry Briesath says you have to have an easy shot and good position, no hard shots or it is considered a miss. Jerry doesn't care how you do it or how many times you may change your mind. He is interested in your ability to run out. You can shoot all the either or options you want so long as you end up with an easy shot and good position.

Tor says you have to not only shoot them in rotation, you must pre-select all the pockets before shooting the first ball. You can't get off a little and shoot a ball into a different pocket, etc. You are not allowed to change your mind. You need to be precise. Tor mentions things like having an insurance ball or a plan B ball when he is demonstrating but not for practice.

I favor #1 for practice but play like #2. Lately I am practicing the #2 style more. I don't like shooting any shot that only has one chance for a positive outcome. I hate getting trapped along the end rail or so straight I can't get where I need to go and don't have another ball I can shoot instead. I am learning to see areas where I have gotten into trouble before and just shoot a different shot that offers more options instead. In non rotational games there are a lot of different ways to get the job done. But when I do drills I demand precision and the shot doesn't count if the cue ball doesn't end up in a circle or doesn't hit a specific spot on a rail or hit a cluster the way I plan. So I practice for precision but also look for options that don't require that precision because I understand I don't always get it.
 
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bbb

AzB Gold Member
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Yes, very strictly. He does a drill almost every instructor uses where you scatter balls then shoot them in in rotation. Every instructor has slightly different rules. Jerry Briesath says you have to have an easy shot and good position, no hard shots or it is considered a miss. Jerry doesn't care how you do it or how many times you may change your mind. He is interested in your ability to run out. You can shoot all the either or options you want so long as you end up with an easy shot and good position.

Tor says you have to not only shoot them in rotation, you must pre-select all the pockets before shooting the first ball. You can't get off a little and shoot a ball into a different pocket, etc. You are not allowed to change your mind. You need to be precise. Tor mentions things like having an insurance ball or a plan B ball when he is demonstrating but not for practice.

I favor #1 for practice but play like #2. Lately I am practicing the #2 style more. I don't like shooting any shot that only has one chance for a positive outcome. I hate getting trapped along the end rail or so straight I can't get where I need to go and don't have another ball I can shoot instead. I am learning to see areas where I have gotten into trouble before and just shoot a different shot that offers more options instead. In non rotational games there are a lot of different ways to get the job done. But when I do drills I demand precision and the shot doesn't count if the cue ball doesn't end up in a circle or doesn't hit a specific spot on a rail or hit a cluster the way I plan. So I practice for precision but also look for options that don't require that precision because I understand I don't always get it.

i think you are progressing terrifically...:smile:
seeing a shot that has options then trying to play perfect position for plan A
with plan b/c available is a great skill to develop
thats option
1 1/2.....:smile:
 

mvp

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I think it's best to do both on every shot: choose a "position zone" that has maximum room for error, and then aim for the precise spot in that zone that gives the most options.

pj
chgo
This is how I practice but I lay my magic rack down and use it as a shape target.
 

FranCrimi

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
It's more common than you think (in bold). Seriously.

I have been a witness to these types of players for many many years. Maybe in a big city where there are several instructors and thousands of pool players you just don't get to see it. But go to ANY small town where there are zero poolhalls and zero instructors within a 2 hour drive. The kind of place where nobody knows what a Diamond table is, like a WV or KY or PA coal mining town, where all there is to do is drink beer and play pool at the only bar in town. Here you will find a player that consistently pockets rediculous shots due to years of playing 8ball on Valley barboxes. He is a great shot maker because that's how he learned, by firing at every shot he gets, regardless of difficulty, and he's had years to perfect it. Position play takes a back seat, because he knows as long as he can see the ob he can make the shot.

That's not my definition of a great shot-maker. A great shot-maker may make the wrong position choice but they make a position choice and they pocket the ball based on that choice. Once you begin to develop the skills to consistently pocket balls, it's only natural to think about setting up for the next shot. The player has to be able to pocket the ball with spin in order to be a great shot-maker.
 
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BC21

Poolology
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That's not my definition of a great shot-maker. A great shot-maker may make the wrong position choice but they make a position choice and they pocket the ball based on that choice. Once you begin to develop the skills to consistently pocket balls, it's only natural to think about setting up for the next shot. The player has to be able to pocket the ball with spin in order to be a great shot-maker.

I guess it's a matter of definition then. I consider a great shot maker someone that can pocket a wide variety of difficult shots with remarkable consistency. CB spin and position play have little to do with this core skill of just pocketing balls. Many weekend bar room players have superb ball pocketing skills and minimal if any position playing skills.

Keep in mind that I am not talking about poolhall players that practice and watch youtube clips and take lessons, etc.... I'm talking about weekend warriors that have no poolhalls. They don't subscribe to Billiards Digest, couldn't name 1 pro player if you offered them a prize to do so, and they certainly don't participate in AZB forums. But they've spent years and years worth of Friday and Saturday nights shooting every shot they were confronted with, developing an uncanny ability to pocket balls, despite position play. It's habitual. In order for a player like this to incorporate position play into their game, it would take a couple of months to break the habit of shooting at anything regardless of position. As Bob described with a student he had once, that habit isn't so easy to break.

But I have seen improvement with a couple of shot makers who began paying more attention to position and cb control. They miss more shots now because they are learning to move the cb around, which means they're using spin, and that's not something they've spent years developing. But they win more because they aren't blindly selling out by going for foolish shots that leave no reward.
 
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skipbales

AzB Gold Member
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I guess it's a matter of definition then. I consider a great shot maker someone that can pocket a wide variety of difficult shots with remarkable consistency. CB spin and position play have little to do with this core skill of just pocketing balls. Many weekend bar room players have remarkable ball pocketing skills and minimal if any position playing skills.

Keep in mind that I am not talking about poolhall players that practice and watch youtube clips and take lessons, etc.... I'm talking about weekend warriors that have no poolhalls. They don't subscribe to Billiards Digest, couldn't name 1 pro player if you offered them a prize to do so, and they certainly don't participate in AZB forums. But they've spent years and years worth of Friday and Saturday nights shooting every shot they were confronted with, developing an uncanny ability to pocket balls, despite position play. It's habitual. In order for a player like this to incorporate position play into their game, it would take a couple of months to break the habit of shooting at anything regardless of position. As Bob described with a student he had once, that habit isn't so easy to break.

But I have seen improvement with a couple of shot makers who began paying more attention to position and cb control. They miss more shots now because they are learning to move the cb around, which means they're using spin, and that's not something they've spent years developing. But they win more because they aren't blindly selling out by going for foolish shots that leave no reward.

When I played 40 years ago I was not exposed to any professional training. I backed pool players in money games and new some very good players. But they would give me a tip here and there and a lot of what they believed is today understood to me incorrect. This new world of video instruction and technical analysis is very useful. It may have existed in books when I played but I never heard of them or read one.

We believed all kinds of things to be true. One I remember was "being in stroke". We would bet money on the belief a certain player was a great player but had not been playing on bar tables and was not "in stroke" on them so another player could beat them who would not normally be able to. "In Stroke" was like a month long concept, not a matter of a few hours of play. I backed a local player against the current world champion snooker player and he quit us. There was some truth in it. My guy said "he can't beat me playing 9 ball on a bar table with the big cue ball". It turned out to be right, at least it was that night.
 
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