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How to Improve Your 9 Ball Game

Work on The Break

  • Break from the side rail, the side you feel more comfortable with. Bridge hand on the rail.

  • Pull your last stroke back slowly, like pulling an arrow on a bow.

  • Pause slightly before you follow through & hit the 1 ball square, like playing a stop shot.

  • Time the forward movement of your arm with the upward & forward momentum of the body.

Practice Cue Ball Control Drills

Set up a particular shot & then designate 4 different cue ball positions on the natural line. For example a 3 rail inside English shot. Then use a 4 click system of power, 1 being the softest & 4 being strongest to correspond with to each spot. Shoot at least 10 shots for each spot. Then switch sides. Look for a video demo of this drill on my social media soon.

Identify the V Zone

This is where you draw a position zone for the next ball using the lines for where good & bad position exists. There may be multiple different possible V Zones for the layout. This process will help you identify possible position options & help you select the best one based on the right side of the ball. You should choose the V Zone based on your skill level & situation. For example if you’re in an important league match or tournament you might want to play the safer position or easier to execute zone. If you’re practicing you might choose the one out of your comfort zone to learn more.

Figure out the Right Side of the Next Ball

You might hear people refer to being on the right or wrong side of the object ball in 9 ball. So what does that mean? In the most simple of definitions the “right side” of your next object ball is the side that gives you natural position to the next shot. Natural position is being able to move the cue ball with less force into your chosen zone. Since you have to play 1-9 in order the next ball is predetermined so you can, & should, establish a pattern as early as possible. The more you can maintain moving the cue ball around naturally into the largest V Zone for the next shot, the easier your 9 ball pattern will be to maintain. Of course we are only human & pool is difficult! You will often have to come with the shot or take what the table is giving you. Just do your best & always keep learning.

Play the Longest Line into Position

Many professionals are taught with the help of a coach to think about finding the longest line into the V Zone or ideal position zone for the next shot. Others may come to play like this intuitively; however, I find that many average to intermediate players do not understand this concept or put it into practice. Consider that if you can choose to play a 2 rail position shot which puts the cue ball on the longest line into your next shot, as opposed to cutting a cross a very small Zone that has a greater margin for error. I do not believe that professionals always have better cue ball control, instead they choose shots that increase the chances of creating good cue ball position.

The 3 Second Freeze & Sending the Cue Ball with Your Eyes

After your follow through many people have a tendency to move their body to early before the stroke is complete. This results in decreasing the accuracy of your cue ball control. I suggest the “3 Sec Freeze” + “sending the cue ball with your eyes” to fix this issue. Basically after you pause on your backstroke & deliver your beautiful follow through (without dropping your elbow or shoulder) then you simultaneously hold your body in place while your eyes follow the cue ball around to your intended spot. Think of the creepy portraits in a haunted house where the eyes follow you, but the body doesn’t move. This may sound exaggerated or unnecessary, but I promise it will dramatically decrease the bad habit of jumping up & increase executing the intended mark for your cue ball. Depending on your skill level this may have to be done a few or a hundred times very deliberately; however, it will eventually become second nature & that is when your game will jump. See the photo below for an example of the freeze & send.

As a player who began playing young & often, I am lucky to be strong at pocketing balls; however, it was not until I met George “Ginky” SanSouci that I learned that could be a hindrance. I had just moved to NYC in 2007 at the age of 23 to pursue a career in professional billiards.. I had the amazing fortune to play Ginky at the weekly tournament at Master’s in Queens, an incredible 24 hour pool room that had the most action, characters & tournaments in the area. Ginky & I played even since it was an open event & I considered losing 5-3 to this champion a tremendous accomplishment. After the match we chatted, he said “Great match. You really pocket balls strong...maybe too strong.” I looked at him puzzled & asked why? He responded with, “Respectfully, because it makes you lazy. You don’t usually play tight position because you believe you can shoot your way out of it, but imagine if your cue ball control was better. You might never miss.” This conversation had a huge impact on me, I’d only ever been complimented on my shooting & I realized I he was right. It wasn’t until I started training with my brilliant coach Mike Napolitano (2013-2017) that he taught me “You need to get close to your work!” His training helped me to really take cue ball control seriously. With a extra attention to detail & a lot of hard work, I was able to dramatically increase my run out %.

It’s all about pre-shot Routine & Playing Position on the 9 Ball

When you are shooting 9 ball for anything important, you are going to be a little or perhaps a lot nervous. Whether it’s a money match, weekly league, a local tournament or a world championship the adrenaline will be pumping. I have been a non-stop competitive 9 ball player for 18 years, therefore I’ve come with the winning 9 Ball many times, but I’ve dogged it way more times than that! 9 ball is a brutal game that takes training, patience, so much experience & luck. When I was a young & reckless player I would practically run around the table until I got to the 7, 8 or 9 where I would often miss an easy shot. I was inexperienced, immature & overly excited. Thank goodness I loved the game so much to dedicate my life to it. Over the decades I have put the pieces together to consistently play well. When the pressure is on you need a solid pre-shot routine to carry you through. I trained for 6 months on mine until I felt like the terminator, stay tuned for videos on pre-shot routine coming soon! Finally, during a run of 9-ball we are shooting 1 shot & playing position for another, until the 9. At that point so many thoughts can invade our brain…”If you make it you win!”, “Just don’t miss.”, “This is for the $”, “This is for the tournament.”, “ Don’t dog it.”, “You can do it!” Whether your inner monologue at the moment is positive or negative it’s all just noise. It’s just another shot, but all of sudden you are missing part of the shot design that kept you engaged. Playing position on the 9 ball will not only help quiet your dark passenger (nod to the Dexter fans reading), but it will help you to not scratch & possibly create a 2 way shot in case you do miss. 9 ball is a beautiful & painful game that is worth the time & effort. Good luck pool players!

B y Emily Duddy

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