Play the table or the opponent?

alstl

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Ronnie O'Sullivan learned about this from Ray Reardon.
https://youtu.be/Y36x3_NoYdM

I used to approach the interplay with a predator mindset. Waiting for a chance to pounce. But then I remember the wounded bird act of a robin. A predators weakness is often he is too hungry and over eager. Then I remember the shepherd. He knows you don’t have to kill the sheep to shear them. Take the path that lets you control the table.

He's talking about when to play safe - not playing to the level of the opponent. It takes skill to be able to change your game to fit the opponent and a lot of knowledge about the opponent.

I have a great accustats video of Efren playing Jason Miller in the finals of the DCC one pocket. At one point Miller sold out on a bank shot and the commentator said "he knows he can't out move Efren so that's not a bad shot". To me that's a losing attitude. You might as well just unscrew and shake hands. I doubt he got to the finals selling out on low percentage shots but the changed his game because the opponent was Efren. He was intimidated.
 

Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
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He's talking about when to play safe - not playing to the level of the opponent. It takes skill to be able to change your game to fit the opponent and a lot of knowledge about the opponent. ...
In the 2020 World Snooker Championship, Ronnie did exactly that. He found himself in some safety battles with Mark Selby, he realized he was playing Selby's game and he was unlikely to win the battle and so he changed things up. Instead of getting out of snookers by softly lagging four cushions to the back of a red, he reared back and smashed them. Maybe he was lucky but he did win that match and the World Championship. I don't recall ever seeing him play such a shot -- he is usually very good at getting a good hit.

Selby is sometimes called "The Jester from Leicester" (those two words rhyme!) but he has also been referred to as "The Torturer" and "The Anaconda" for his safety play.
 

sjm

Sweating it at Derby City
Silver Member
I feel if you don’t play the table AND the player, you’re an armchair quarterback.

Ditto. At elite levels of play, even those that think they play the table only don't.

If you push out into a safety, your thinking will be different as to what you can leave if it's Efren Reyes in the chair.

Similarly, if you push out into a shot, what you're willing to leave will be different if it's Luther Lassiter in the chair.

Will you push out into a long bank against Skyler Woodward? If so, you can't leave him the same bank you might leave for someone else.

In straight pool, will you try a 40% shot when you can start a safety battle? You probably will if it's Irving Crane in the chair. Against an average defensive player, you might start the safety battle, reckoning you'll have a 50% chance of gaining control of the table that way.

Whether to select offense or defense when the choice is close must take into account opponent's defensive skills. I remember chatting with Jim Rempe about this once, noting that, in a match of his I'd watched, he'd shunned safety play against Efren Reyes when the choice was close. He said that it was the percentage when playing against Efren.

Pool is a battle, and to come to any battle not armed with information about your opponent's strengths and weaknesses and how to plan around them hurts your chances of winning the battle.
 

Imac007

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
In the 2020 World Snooker Championship, Ronnie did exactly that. He found himself in some safety battles with Mark Selby, he realized he was playing Selby's game and he was unlikely to win the battle and so he changed things up. Instead of getting out of snookers by softly lagging four cushions to the back of a red, he reared back and smashed them. Maybe he was lucky but he did win that match and the World Championship. I don't recall ever seeing him play such a shot -- he is usually very good at getting a good hit.

Selby is sometimes called "The Jester from Leicester" (those two words rhyme!) but he has also been referred to as "The Torturer" and "The Anaconda" for his safety play.

I goes far beyond playing safe. He says it became more like chess. And, you’re right, he did recognize that an extended safety battle against Selby worked in Mark’s favor. Awareness and an analytics approach were incorporated into the Reardon approach. It’s about shot choice. The 5 out of 5 maintains control vs the 99 out of a hundred. The containing shot vs the tempting shot no matter how much up side.

Staying away from what won’t work and doing something different. Breaking up the balls didn’t let Mark retreat to safety easily. It added immediate pressure. It didn’t let Mark choose his moment to attack, it forced it. Ronnie chose the timing. Just another way to control the table.

The original post asked whether to play the table or the opponent. Ronnie chose both situationally. Even when he rearranged the table, the principles of containment and controlling shot choice applied. When on a red, the shape on a color can be such that no red is available on a miss rather than taking on an easy color shape, but leaving an entry ball on a miss. Limiting opponent opportunity when on reds is part of containment. Likewise in 8 ball, league players often have choices within a group. Picking a shot that leaves or creates difficult patterns for opponents is containment. The idea of pattern play without disturbing balls is often taken too far. Nudging an opponents ball into an unplayable position by stunning into it rather than soft rolling pots. Nudging opponent balls to rails opens up the middle as well while still maintaining control. Chess, as Ronnie said, with balls.
 

alstl

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
In the 2020 World Snooker Championship, Ronnie did exactly that. He found himself in some safety battles with Mark Selby, he realized he was playing Selby's game and he was unlikely to win the battle and so he changed things up. Instead of getting out of snookers by softly lagging four cushions to the back of a red, he reared back and smashed them. Maybe he was lucky but he did win that match and the World Championship. I don't recall ever seeing him play such a shot -- he is usually very good at getting a good hit.

Selby is sometimes called "The Jester from Leicester" (those two words rhyme!) but he has also been referred to as "The Torturer" and "The Anaconda" for his safety play.

Potting tough shots is Ronnie's game. He reverted to what he does best.
 

lfigueroa

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
The opponent becomes a bigger factor at 1pocket, what with all the safety play requiring you to turn the table over to your opponent so much.

Lou Figueroa
 

Cornerman

Cue Author...Sometimes
Gold Member
Silver Member
I sometimes play the player, but I think that is a mistake.....As soon you assume a player will not make a tough shot, they will do so.....

Playing the table always seems correct to me, as it always assumes the other player has the ability (or luck) to make the perfect shot.......

You're not mistaken. If you're not also playing the player, you're not playing the game. The whole "play the table not the player" is nice for people who have problems making balls (focus on the shot at hand). In fact all nice sayings are meant for beginners. They're rarely correct for advanced players.
 

measureman

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
In over 60 years of playing I never barred anyone.
I've played world class players where I was getting a spot all the way down to giving someone the 7 out in 9 ball.

I always played the player first and the table second.

For instance playing 9 ball against a better player I would never shoot a real tough shot because missing most likely would mean the better player is going to run out.

On the other hand giving a spot to a weaker player and early in the game taking a risk on a tough shot and making it and running out always made sense.
 

straightline

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
The way I look at it, and it's only a look, players should have the headroom to win efficiently. I got this notion practicing in bars. Shouldn't be any different anywhere up the food chain.
 

ChrisinNC

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Recently there were some comments in the turning point thread about playing your opponent, which I take to mean consider his skills, weaknesses and faults, and be sure to put him in a position where he will not be able to exercise his skills and his faults are likely to show up.

The contrary idea is to play the table and the position of the balls and simply play the right shot and a beautiful game without any consideration of which particular meat-sack is stationed in the other chair.

I have been watching a chess channel lately and two of the quotes I've seen there seem to sum up those two sides in that game:

View attachment 558185

View attachment 558183

Which side do you take?
I change my push-out strategy considerably, depending on the strength of my opponent. If he's a strong player and strong safety player, you must be very careful in planning your push-out. If not, you can plan your push-out to leave a low percentage (for that opponent) harder shot or a place from where you know you can play a strong safety but that they likely wouldn't.

Yes, I may vary how aggressively or conservatively I may play in my shotmaking vs defense decisions in the course of the match depending on the strength of my opponent. For example I'm likely to play more offensively when playing a weaker player in the early games of the match or if I have built up a significant game lead in the match.

However, when you get at or close to the hill-hill game in a match, then you better bear down and play smart to give yourself the best chance to win, regardless of the strength of your opponent. You just never know when they could get lucky or run out a number of balls they wouldn't normally do.
 
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HomeBrewer

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
As a below average three cushion player, the table itself gives me enough problems. Once I have the table under control I'll focus on my opponent.

Oops, was your question meant for decent players? :)
 

BC21

Poolology
Gold Member
Silver Member
I love the chess quotes!!! Lol

I have developed a habit of playing my opponent more so than playing the table. In our local BCA 8ball league you only play 5 games of 8ball every week, 5 different players, no races or matches. So one week you might be playing a group of 600's (Fargo), and the following week you'll play a someone around 450 or 500.

When playing lower rated players I tend to occasionally give them opportunities that I very seldom give to higher rated players. When faced with a tough shot or a saftey opportunity, I have a tendency to weigh my odds of getting out against their odds of getting out if I happen to not pull the shot off. Playing the equally skilled players or better players I hardly ever take a low percentage shot over a high percentage safety. But with a weaker player I will often go for it. This is bad habit I am trying to break, because a lot of times that weaker player will get out when you least expect it, or they'll miss a shot and leave you so buried or camped up that you find yourself wondering how in the hell you're supposed to win from there!

So I'm a firm believer of playing the table. It's just hard to do sometimes, especially if you're in the habit of playing your opponent. But when it comes to gambling it's a great strategy to know and exploit your opponent's weaknesses. In league play, however, it usually doesn't do you much good.
 

pt109

WO double hemlock
Gold Member
Silver Member
I just have to pipe in and share my two favorite chess quotes:

"When I am White I win because I am White. When I am Black I win because I am Bogoljubov."

And, my favorite:

"It began to feel as though you were playing against chess itself." -- Walter Shipman (on playing against Fischer)

I used to play a guy with a horrendous spot at snooker...and win.
So he drops down to my pool hall...i had a beautiful handmade chess table.
I said “John, I know you east Europeans all play chess...lets play for $50.
He agreed to play for $20.
I checkmated him in four the first game....so I’m already counting on a $$ win.
After 8 games, we’re four apiece..:eek:...and he had to go.
We shook hands...I said “John, I think you play a little better than me...how could you
lose to a four move checkmate?”
He said “I was nervous, I’ve never played chess for money before.”

Sometimes your tells are misleading
 

megatron69

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
99% of the time I play the table; I could care less who I'm playing. This is in league or a bar tournament or whatever.

I only consider the opponent if I know they can play as well as I can or better. And even then only when I think I can't just get out. If I have a trouble table and the guy can really play, I think about his strengths and weaknesses. But only then.

And for most newer less experienced players I always tell them (if I'm asked) to just play the balls and not to worry about the opponent. Less to worry about means less to get stressed over. Always worked for me.
 

ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
Gold Member
Silver Member
reminds me

Sometimes your tells are misleading


Reminds me of a major miss. Stopped in a place for a beer with a guy after working very hard all day. We were both very sore and tired. Some guys wanted to play partners pool for a beer each. "OK" I had eight beers of my own in front of me before I got up. Thirteen beers total for me, I had shot twice.

Easy money in the bank! "Heck with this diesel mechanic work Bobby, let's hit the road and play some pool!" I figured I would do the dealing and he would do the heavy lifting on the tables.

That was the last time I saw him string two racks together!

Hu
 
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