This question has been asked to players of many levels. Several pro-level players, when asked, recommend concentrating on playing the table. Their rationale is based on the fact that since you are on the table, and your opponent isn’t, so just run out the balls and win the game. Their competence makes this a viable approach to competition. There are several thousands of professional players. There are millions of regular players. Their approach works for them because, when given an opportunity to shoot, the table gets run out to the win.
Let's leave the rarefied atmosphere of professional playing philosophy and put some reality into the question. Most games finish after four, five or more innings. An opportunity to shoot doesn't necessary mean a successful run-out.
Most innings end when the shooter finds himself in a layout that is impossible to advance. That means the opponent is going to have a turn at the table.So, let's consider things with a broader set of considerations.
Now you have a problem. If you don't know how good your opponent is, you can make a mistake and give him a chance to win. HOWEVER, if you know your opponent's weaknesses (long shots, banks, sharp angles, shooting off the rail, etc.) you would be a very smart player to make sure the table you leave him is tough. Knowing this helps you make cue ball placement decisions. It's even better with he has balls tied up. You KNOW that another opportunity to shoot will come your way.
Therefore, spend some time watching your opponent. Pay close attention to situations that he obviously dislikes. Observe what types of shots kill his turn at the table.
His capabilities become a major consideration on your shooting decisions. Average shooters have lots of weaknesses. Advanced shooters, not so many. The higher the skill of your opponent, the more care and attention is needed when selecting and executing shots that let him come to the table. You WANT to set up your opponent to hand back the table to you.
In summary, when the table layout favors you, take the best advantage you can. When there is no generosity from the billiard gods (you screwed up somewhere), play the shot that leaves your opponent with little or no opportunities.
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