It can be frustrating when you invest in a high-quality pool table for your house, only to find that your friends and family still beat you on game nights.
If you want to get better at 8 ball or 9 ball but don’t know where to begin, try some of these simple and effective training drills. The best way to strengthen your pool game is to isolate different areas of your game and work on each.
By practicing different types of shots and getting used to clearing specific areas of the table, you’ll find that your pool game goes from weak to stellar.
What’s the Difference Between 8 Ball and 9 Ball?
The 8 ball and 9 ball games are variations of pool that are popular in the United States. When you play 8 ball, you’re aiming to pocket your set of 7 striped or solid-colored balls before sinking the black 8 ball before your opponent.
In 9 ball, you want to hit the balls into the pockets of the table in numerical order, starting from the ball with the lowest value and ending by sinking the winning 9 ball. If you use a combination shot to hit the next suitable ball into the 9 ball, so it hits the pocket, you win the game outright. While there are 15 object balls on the pool table in a game of 8 ball, there are only 9 object balls on the table in 9 ball.
5 Useful 8 Ball and 9 Ball Drills
Whether you prefer 8 or 9 ball, these 5 drills can help you develop your understanding of positional play and improve your control over the cue ball.
1. Carom Games
A carom shot is a special shot from billiards when you want to hit two different object balls with a cue ball. For instance, you might want to pot your 4 ball while landing your white cue ball so it gently brushes the back of the 6 ball. Not only would this shot pocket you a ball, but it would also set you up nicely for your next shot. The longer you keep your potting run going, the more likely you’ll win the game.
Playing carom games is an extremely effective way to master positional play and strategy and to give yourself a better opportunity to keep your opponent out of the game for as long as possible.
When you’re practicing carom games, place the cue ball and 3 object balls on your pool table in a position that resembles the balls after a weak break or a mistake from your opponent. If your cue ball is near the rail cushions and the 3 balls are sitting in a straight line between the head and foot of the table, practice hitting the cue ball so that it pots the middle object ball into the opposite pocket and glances off to the left or right to sit neatly behind one of the outer object balls.
If you’re a beginner, spend more time thinking about your positional play than about potting the ball. Practice the carom aspect of the shot to get better at cue ball control.
2. Diamond Ball Drills
Even the most talented pool players have difficulty getting object balls back into play when they’re flush with the cushions of the table. When any of your balls are frozen to the cushion, you should aim to run them down the rail with your cue ball, so they hit the pocket. You also don’t want your cue ball or your object ball to hit any other numbered balls on the table, as that can mess up your angle for the next shot.
The diamond drill aims to set up all 15 or 9 object balls, so they’re frozen to the rail and are an equal distance apart from each other, then use your cue ball to clear each line, or wall, at a time.
If you’re a beginner, concentrate on potting the balls closest to the table’s pockets.
3. The Square Drill
This drill helps you to make the most of those tricky situations where you have a large cluster of object balls in a single, small section of the table. In these instances, you want to pot your balls without scraping or affecting your opponent’s balls in a way that could give them the upper hand.
A great way to practice your close-quarters cue ball control is to set up your 15 or 9 object balls so that they form half a square around a corner pocket. You can then place your cue ball behind one of the balls that’s flush to the wall. Pot that ball into the corner pocket before moving on to the next object ball that’s slightly further out from the wall. Repeat this until you’ve cleared all the balls into the corner pocket.
For beginners, try doing this drill with 3 or 4 balls to start with so that you have more of an angle to work with.
4. The Cross Drill
If you want to improve your ability to plan ahead during an 8 ball or 9 ball game, set up the cross drill. Place the 15 or 9 balls so that they form a cross on one half of your tabletop. Put your cue ball near the intersection of the cross, then start by running the line of balls that stretches across the width of the table. You can then try to pot the line of balls that runs from the foot to the table’s middle section.
You’ll have to think carefully about where and how hard you’re hitting the cue ball. If you get these factors wrong, you might not be able to pot the next object ball in the line. If you’re a beginner, use 5 balls to make a simple yet functional cross on your table, and try to pot these.
5. Playing the Ghost Drill
Playing the ghost is one of the most popular and helpful 8 ball or 9 ball drills you can try. This game aims to play the balls as though you’re up against an opponent who never misses a shot. That means you have to run all of your object balls, followed by the 8 ball or 9 ball, without making a single mistake. You know that if you let the invisible opponent come to the table, you’ll lose the game.
You can scale this game accordingly. Beginners should try to play the ghost with fewer balls, allowing them to improve their cue ball control and get a better sense of positional play. If you keep playing the ghost perfectly and want to make the game more challenging, add more balls to the table.
Try Out These 8 Ball and 9 Ball Pool Drills to Strengthen Your Game
Both 8 ball and 9 ball games require a high level of skill coupled with a strong understanding of positional strategy. Whether you’re new to pool or you’ve been playing for a while but want to improve your game, you should try some of these drills to bolster your cue ball control and increase your chances of beating your friends.