When you practicing by yourself and have done all the drills you can handle, it is fun to rack up the balls and try to run as many as you can. When playing alone, you should always have a purpose.
The rules to "play the ghost" are to break the rack (8 Ball or 9 Ball) to start. Then pick up ball in hand to begin the run, regardless whether or not a ball is pocketed. Start pocking balls to the best of your ability. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to run the table, so make playing decisions with that in mind.
You are actually playing against an imaginary shooter (the ghost) who is so good, that if he could play, you lose. He never really plays, this is an assumption. Keep in mind that many of the better opponents, if given a chance to shoot do run out the table. It's a sad fact of the game that we are most often beaten because we handed the opponent the chance to play, which allowed him to run out to the win.
For the purposes of this exercise, you SHOULD get only one chance to run out to win the game. If you miss anywhere along the line, chalk a win up for the "ghost".
Being able to win, even once in a while is a real accomplishment. It is real demonstrable proof that you are improving. Your skills growth will be something like this: you can beat the ghost once out of 10 games. Three months later, you can beat the ghost three out of 10 games. A month later, the best you can do is two out of 10. This back and forth will go on for a while, but eventually you will see a solid numerical increase.
But when you first start using this as a measurement of your skills. the basic rules might be a bit too restrictive. You can try these handicaps:
- Beginning level: four balls in hand per rack
- Intermediate level: two balls in hand per rack.
- Advanced intermediate: one (maybe two?) miss, but play the table as it lays.
Run this exercises as a break between other drills and exercises. It's a great change of pace - and it does help This is a progressive process. Progress can be slow - but it will come.
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