An advanced 10 Ball player will find this information to be moderately helpful. If you are an intermediate player, this advice will improve your win-loss record by about 10% to 20%.
Tactics are the shot choices you make based upon the table layout, your skill level, and the competency of your opponent. Just like a battlefield commander, you apply the knowledge of your abilities against difficulty factors of current layout (and getting to the next shot). These table decisions directly affect your chances of winning (or losing). Good choices help you win more games. Bad choices help your opponent win more games.
There are three types of shots you can make: Offensive (when you have a decent table layout), Defensive (when faced with a low-percentage shot), and Two-way (when the chances of success are in the 50-50 range).
Run-outs by advanced 10 Ball players are a common occurrence. For intermediate players like most of us, not so much. Any run out we do from the beginning of a 10 Ball game is memorable and worthy of post-match celebrations. That means, from a standard, tactical view – in the majority of games, unless your opponent suddenly goes pro on you, both of you are going to have several turns at the table. That means you can break problems of the game into three tactical situations, the beginning, middle, and end games.
The “beginning” part of each 10 Ball game is played with 8 to 10 balls on the table. The middle game begins while there are 5 to 7 balls on the table. The end game (where you really have to get serious about winning the money) is when there are 1 to 4 balls spread across the table.
Strategically, each of these three game situations requires slightly different tactical considerations. With this philosophic approach, your shooting decisions become simpler and more realistic.
Early Game Tactics
For all practical purposes, it doesn’t matter who pockets the first four balls in the beginning of the 10 Ball game. If you don’t have a good shot, it actually makes good tactical sense to simply move the target object ball into position for your opponent. Since your opponent isn’t a pro player, sooner or later his cue ball position will go bad and you are back at the table deciding what to do.
Middle Game Tactics
During the middle game of 10 Ball, your shot choices require more analysis. Tactically, you have to consider a lot of “IF this, THAN that” calculations. Here is a simple way to look at your opportunities. When an offensive opportunity is available, make plans to pocket three balls (no more than that).
Pocket the first object ball and get shape on the second. Make any minor adjustments to properly make the second ball and get shape on the third ball. At this point, work out a new three-ball shooting pattern.
If, at any time, you get off-line and can’t complete the three-ball run, play a two-way or defensive shot based on the layout. If you intend to make the ball, but it’s a low percentage, shoot it as a two-way. If position is really bad, play a pure defensive shot (preferably giving a long bad angle layout to your opponent).
End game analysis
If you make a mistake during the middle game of 10 Ball, you still have a fair chance of coming back to the table for an opportunity to win. But, if you make a mistake during the end game, the chances are excellent that your opponent will win. Your basic end game tactical rule is this: be very, very careful on the shot selection, and the amount of cue ball speed and spin. Regardless of whether you play a defensive or offensive shot, any positioning mistake helps your opponent. Any shot during the end game must be considered to be “life or death”.
Whichever shot you select must be played as precisely as possible. If you have an angle, go for the win. If low-percentage, play keep-away. Above all, pay attention – your life is at stake.
TIP: What to do IF (and this is a big IF), your opponent might be as smart as you are. When two intelligent players play a serious 10 Ball game, a lot of “safety battles” occur. Each shot focuses on setting up conditions that will force the opponent to make mistakes. Most of the time, this simply means that the target object ball is kept away from the cue ball. In such matches, use this simple tip to improve your odds of winning: Consistently play every shot as a two-way. If you make it, you are golden for the next shot. If not, your opponent has reduced chances to run out to the win.
Of course, you still have to regularly practice pocketing and positioning skills. That’s necessary for long term improvements. But these tactical adjustments to your game will significantly improve your competitive capabilities. Oftentimes, playing smarter is the only skill improvement necessary to increase your winning percentage.
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