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Patience in One Pocket. ~ Mark Finkelstein

One of the key skills in playing one pocket is the ability to wait.

Having the patience to wait long enough for your opponent to make a mistake is one of the hallmarks of a strong one pocket player. However, I’d like to put my opponent into positions that make it more likely that they will make an error.

Take a look at this situation. My opponent left me this with my pocket being the lower left corner pocket. I don’t have any shots, but the cue ball is off the rail. As much as possible, we want to leave our opponent on the rail. Before I show you how I would play this, let’s look at how we determine which shot we will take.

Mark Finklestein diagram 1

First we could use the black cue ball to hit the left side of the 11 and then carom into the 5 making it in our pocket.

That is a really risky shot, and it pushes balls towards my opponents pocket—not a good choice at all.

Our next choice is to bank the one ball into the stack, pushing balls towards my pocket and swinging the cue ball three rails to get up near my opponents pocket. Here is what these two options would look like.

Mark Finklestein Diagram 2

So far we have a highly risky option and a middle of the road option. There is a third choice, and it is the one I like the best. I like going thin off the left side of the one and freezing the cue ball on the 12 and 13. The idea of freezing the cue ball on the stack is a key concept in the early parts of a one pocket rack.

Your opponent has to jack up to hit the cue ball, only has the top part of the cue ball to hit, and is most likely limited in the shots they can take. That sort of pressure over time will likely lead to your opponent making a mistake and giving you a shot.

Here is what this option looks like:

Mark Finklesetin Diagram 3

This is the least aggressive of our options, but it does some good things for us. We put the one in a place that will block banking lanes to our opponents pocket. We protect the 5 ball from our opponent and any ball that our opponent hits up the table will most likely push balls toward my side. Most importantly, we force our opponent to take a shot with little to shoot.

All of these things make it much harder for our opponent to shoot a good shot. The mental gymnastics that we do for every one pocket shot is to come up with at least two options. Never shoot a shot unless you have thought of two options and then picked the best one.

Let’s review some of the key ideas so far.

  1. First we want to be patient and wait for our opponent to make a mistake.

  2. Next we want to always try to leave the cue ball either frozen on the rail or frozen to the stack.

  3. Finally, we want to find two shots or more and then pick the best one.

You will be amazed at how often you will struggle to find a second shot, but once you do, you will realize that it is a better option. Let’s take a look at another situation to see what options we can find. Again our opponent left the cue ball off the rail, and we like that. Let’s see what choices we have here.

Mark Finklestein Diagram 4

First we could use draw to hit the one around the table and pull the cue ball under the 13. Our next option could be cutting in the 5 ball. Another option might be to cut the 5 into the 9 and turning the cue ball loose. That would look like this:

Mark Finklestein Diagram 5

The final option would be to take a 3 rail scratch! This protects the 5 ball and the 9 ball and puts our opponent in trouble. Now that we have all these options, let’s see which one is the best shot now. Drawing off the one is not a bad shot, but there are some things that could go wrong. We could hit the one funny and wind up sending it towards our opponents pocket, we could also over draw the shot and leave an opening for our opponent (I think I’ll pass on that option).

Either cutting in the 5 ball or kissing the 5 ball off the 9 is a very risky shot and will send a lot of balls towards my opponent’s pocket. Again, I’ll pass on these high risk moves. That leaves going three rails and taking a scratch! The scratch will cost us one point, but doesn’t lose the game for us. It also protects the balls we have near our pocket and doesn’t leave many answers for our opponent.

You might think this three rail shot is risky, but I’m going to show you how to figure them out so that they become a high percentage move for you.

Mark Finklesetin Diagram 6

First you start from the corner and aim at the second diagram using right spin. You want to find the spot on the rail from the corner pocket and the speed that you can consistently make the cue ball into the corner pocket. Once you have that spot on the rail here is what you do next:

Lay your cue stick on the table from the corner pocket to the spot on the rail that you aimed at. I’ve put the 7 ball on the rail where the line the cue stick is on extends out to. What you want to do is pick a spot on a wall about 10-15 feet from the table that the stick is pointing to. That is your spot on the wall.

Mark Finklesetin Diagarm 6

Now the magic part of this spot is that no matter where on the table you are, if you aim at that spot with the same spin and speed you used to find the corner pocket, you will pocket the cue ball. Let’s pretend the 7 ball is the spot on the wall and I’ll show you how you can figure out a shot. Here are three track lines all aimed at the spot on the wall with the same speed and spin. They all track to the top left corner pocket. The last piece to help you here is how to make adjustments. Since you know how to find the corner pocket, if you want to hit one diamond up the rail, aim one diamond up the rail from the spot on the wall track line.

Here is the diagram:

Mark Finklesetin Diagarm 7

As you can see, aiming one diamond to the left of the black track line to the pocket hits the rail one diamond short or up from the corner pocket.

Have fun with this! It will win you a game. See you on the road.

Photo: Thiophene Guy/Flickr Editor: Dana Gornall
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