(This is today's bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.)
Hangers are object balls that, by accident or on purpose, sit in or very close to the jaws of any pocket (usually corner pockets and sometimes side pockets). These are common situations that occur in almost every game.
When a hanger sits in the pocket, it actually becomes a distraction. During table analysis, it attracts considerable attention. Any hanger gets looked at and considered dozens of time, far more than a ball sitting in a dead zone or in the middle of the table. It gets this attention because it looks easy to pocket.
But hangers can be slippery and nasty traitors. The very simplicity hides many potential difficulties - not in pocketing the ball, but in the problems that can occur to the cue ball afterwards. It looks so simple that many players relax their shooting standards when it is pocketed. Afterwards, when the shot was somehow screwed up, the billiard gods get blamed.
You can observe this failure to control in just about every game. The reality and truth of hangers is that few players actually know how to properly shoot them. The slightest incorrect angle or stupid use of side spin throws the cue ball onto pathways that should only exist in the Twilight Zone. When you abandon proper attention to the shot, the many possibilities to fail open up.
There is an easy way to discover just how dangerous a hanger is to your self-esteem. a) Set up a hanger in one corner, and another object ball anyplace at the other half of the table. B) Put the cue ball somewhere in the middle of the table and shoot the hanger with the intention of getting position on the other ball. c) Repeat this five times and then analyze the results. Even with care and attention, at least three of the times you will fail.
8 Ball hanger situations
If a hanger is one of your balls, use it to protect that pocket. If you have the opportunity, set up several. If your opponent is an innocent, you can have three or four pockets blocked before he realizes what happened to him. These easy shots become back-ups when you lose shape on a pattern. When all other balls are pocketed, they become your run out to the win.
On the other hand, if a hanger belongs to your opponent, it could interfere and prevent access for one of your balls. Never allow an opponent to block a pocket that can prevent you from winning. As early and quickly as possible, either combo it into the pocket or knock it away, even if you have to give up a turn or two. To allow it to stay there gives your opponent influence over your shooting decisions. You do not want him to control your game.
There are circumstances when you might want to leave his ball there as a hanger. Here are a few possible conditions:
- When he has a cluster and tries to use the hanger to bust it open. Encourage such attempts. The percentages of failure are in your favor.
- When he has a ball in a dead zone at the short rail, opposite end of the table from the hanger. It can be fun watching him attempt to get shape.
- When the number of balls on the table is greater than his BPI average. He will die and leave you an easier table.
- When his next ball is tied up. There is no way he can advance, so letting him have the shot doesn't hurt you.
9 Ball hanger situations
A higher numbered hanger can block lower numbered balls. Some players think a straight-forward combo can solve the problem, but those are hard to control and results can be unpredictable. If you can get your opponent to address the situation, let him attempt to figure out some clever or complicated shot.
In the early-game, if the 9 ball is a hanger and you can't easily get to it for the win, knock it in directly and give up ball in hand. His BPI should prevent him from running the table. This also works if there is an insurance ball. Regardless, never leave a 9 ball setting in the jaws of a pocket. Get rid of it - the sooner the better.
There are traps that can be configured with a hanger. Here are several situations where you might want to allow your opponent the chance to advance:
- When the next or following balls are tied up.
- When the next and following balls are at opposite ends of the table.
- When his BPI is lower than the remaining balls.
- When you know he has poor control over the cue ball.
When you face hangers - be very, very careful. They are not the innocent little attention grabbers they appear to be. Treat each one with the greatest amount of focus and attention. Consider a hanger to be one of the tougher shots you are forced to play.