By Erik Hjorleifson
Good day everybody, hope you are all doing well. This weekend I was in Ottawa for an 8 man bar table event. Although I haven’t played much in the last 10 years, as most of the events in the Toronto are nine foot 9 ball events, I do have a fair bit of experience playing bar table 8 ball in Western Canada and the Northern Midwest dating back to when I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. For this week’s article I thought I would write about some of my views and strategies of playing 8 ball on the small tables.
As with many pool games the most important shot is the break. In 8 ball the break is particularly important because if you pocket a ball, you will have the choice of any of the remaining balls on the table to begin your run with. Where as in 9 ball or 10 ball you only have one ball to shoot after the break.
When I was younger I played a lot of competitive 8 ball with players like Shane Van Boening, Jesse Bowman, James Baraks, Chad Vilmont, Rory Hendrickson among many other good players from Western Canada and Minnesota. At that time I can tell you that at least half of the top players were using the second ball break. Personally I have been more attracted to the head ball break, but have won tournaments with both.
In any break you are looking to execute one that will pocket the same balls consistently. For the second ball break you are looking to pocket the balls in the very corner positions of the rack directly, in either of the bottom corner pockets. If you are not pocketing these balls consistently I would tend to move away from this break. It can be a very effective break but in general your chances of fluking a ball other than the two corners balls is lower than when breaking from the middle of the table.
In preparation for the tournament this weekend in Ottawa I practiced breaking from the middle and also a little bit on the second ball and found I had more success from the middle. I was talking to a knowledgeable friend of mine who had recently been in Vegas for the B.C.A.P.L and he tried to convince me that the top players were breaking second ball. I was skeptical so I went online and searched the 2014 U.S bar table 8 ball championships to see where the best players were breaking from. After watching Skyler Woodward, Shane Van Boening , Thorsten Hohmann and Jayson Shaw all breaking head ball from the middle of the table, I figured that was enough evidence for me and decided to go with and stay with the head ball break this weekend.
The one thing I did notice that was different was the way that they were breaking from the back rail instead of breaking closed bridge from the head-string. I’ve seen some good players do this lately playing bar table 10 ball, but this was the first time I saw it playing bar table 8 ball. My feeling is that they are doing this because they were playing on a diamond table using the magic rack and felt like the balls behind the one were wired straight back in the side. It is easier to execute a break from the back rail than a break with a closed bridge from the bed of the table but I feel like you can’t hit the balls as hard from the back rail. Under the the conditions at the U.S. bar table championships the top players chose to use a more controlled break rather than hitting the break harder and relying on fluking a ball.
This weekend in Ottawa the conditions were valley tables and the format was rack your own. Every player in the 8 man invitational tournament chose to break head ball. John Morra chose to break from the back rail and I chose to break with a closed bridge from the head string. I would say the main difference in my two victories against John this weekend was that I made more balls on the break. I definitely understand the merit of breaking from the back rail under certain conditions but it is still my belief that on a valley table or even a diamond table without a magic rack, breaking for power rather than control is more beneficial.
Some other quick points in 8 ball:
-Take your break outs as early as possible
-Move the cue ball as little as possible
-Identify balls that will be tough to play position for and react accordingly
I will cover these points in more depth in future articles, thank you every body and stay tuned as we are looking forward to the launch of our website platform cuesportnation.com in the very near future.