How to Play Pool With Safety Valves

When you’re first learning how to play pool, your goal is usually just to get as many balls into pockets as possible each turn, and hope that you’ll somehow get to the eight ball before your opponent does. The easier the ball is to shoot in, the more likely you are to shoot at it. Your plan is to tackle the really tricky shots last, and you probably aren’t even worrying about them or how to deal with them until you absolutely have to. But if you want to have more success in your billiards games, you will need to adjust your thinking in regards to those shots that are marginally easy to very easy to make. Those shots can serve a better purpose.

Those shots can be used as safety outlets for when things go wrong, or for when you might need a ‘filler’ shot to get you back on track in a run-out pattern. Almost every pool game can have at least one ball in your suit that is easy to shoot in from almost anywhere, and that, because of its nearness to the pocket, offers a variety of positional choices from it to somewhere else on the table. You do yourself a great disservice when you choose to clear those easy balls off the table too early. Instead, I challenge you leave them hanging around, and imagine ways that they can be put to use to improve what might otherwise be a very difficult table.

One choice is to decide which balls in your suit are the trickiest to get position from to somewhere else you need to get the cue ball to. You know you could probably make the shot, but you’re thinking “Then what’s next?? Maybe I’d better just leave that shot for last…” when you could be thinking “How about if I take out that trouble ball, but instead of trying something fancy and difficult, I’ll just let the cue ball roll naturally over to that spot there…” and that spot there gives you a good line on the ‘safety valve’, an outlet-shot which, even though it might be farther than you’re normally comfortable shooting, happens to still be so close to the pocket that you can make it easily, and it gives natural position to two or three other balls at once.

Your other choice could be to simply build your shot-pattern around that ‘safety valve’. Pick off a few shots that you know have some margin of difficulty for position from one to the next, always with an eye on that easy shot. Stay aware that if you mess something up with the other balls at any time, you can always choose to use the ‘safety valve’ to get you back on track without much fuss. Having that outlet can let you breathe a little easier while working on the tough stuff, knowing there’s always second exit away from trouble.

So, to sum up: there are a lot of little tricks you can learn about how to play pool smarter. Instead of just snapping off the first few easy shots you see on the table, take a moment to analyze things and see if some of your object balls are accessible from more than one or two positions. Work on selecting a ‘safety valve’, or even two or three outlets, that don’t necessarily need to be shot in right away, and that can potentially help you out of trouble later on if things suddenly look ugly. The more possibilities a single ball has for shot-choices and positional choices, the more flexible and creative you can be in navigating your way to victory.

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