Byrne's Standard Website for Pool and Billiards

Tips archive:

    Chapter 1: Getting Started Right in Pool
    Chapter 2: Follow and Draw
    Chapter 3: Sidespin: the Pluses and Perils

Chapter 4: Safety Play

Ball-in-hand anywhere on the table is a devastating penalty for a foul in nine-ball, especially when combined with the loss-of-game rule for three fouls in a row.  Ball-in-hand-anywhere is also becoming more common in eight-ball--for example, see the "World Standardized Rules" as set out in the current Billiard Congress of America rule book.  The moral of the story is that laying down a tough safety is often the best move to make even when the table is relatively open.  (Warning!  Make sure you know the local eight-ball rules, which vary widely.)

    1. Coming to the table with the freedom to place the cueball anywhere, you naturally think offense.  Think defense also, because the same freedom can enable you to completely bury the cueball.

    2. With ball in hand and a cluster that must be broken, consider playing safe in a way that breaks up the cluster.  It may be possible to drive a ball into the cluster and at the same time snooker your opponent.  Such a double-duty safety immediately turns the game in your favor.  (A chapter is devoted to the subject in Byrne's Wonderful World of Pool and Billiards.)

    3.  Practice what snooker players call the "stun run-through."  Hit the object ball full in the face while striking the cueball just slightly above center.  The result is that the object ball travels a long way and the cueball creeps forward only a few inches…very useful in safety play.

    4.  In nine-ball, if you are snookered and have very little chance of hitting the lowest-numbered ball, consider taking a foul by bumping one ball against another, creating a cluster and making it harder for your opponent to run the table.

    5.  In nine-ball, when the nine is in the jaws of the pocket, strategy changes completely.  Both players concentrate on ways to make the nine with a combo or a billiard.  Don't forget the option of pocketing the nine directly if you have no decent shot.  Better to make your opponent run out than to give him an easy combo or carom.

    6.  In eight-ball don't try to run out unless you are pretty sure you can, because if you are left with one or two balls while your opponent has five or six, you are at a great disadvantage.  The table is cluttered with balls that are interference to you and opportunities for your opponent.  Instead of making a ball, it might be better to leave it in the jaws of a pocket, blocking it and leaving you an easy shot later.

    7.  In eight-ball, let's say one of your opponent's balls is jawed, thus making a run-out for you almost impossible.  Consider making his ball by softly driving one of yours into it, thus replacing his ball with yours.  Your inning is over, but, depending on the position of the other balls, you may have greatly improved your position.  Even caroming the cueball off one of your balls into the jawed ball from the other group can be a strong play.  The cueball is left in the jaws which may be a terrible leave for
your opponent.

    8. In eight-ball, it is sometimes worth making one of your opponent's balls directly, even though your opponent gets ball in hand.  Make the move when he or she has only one or two balls left and they are tied up.  If you still have a lot of balls on the table, there may be no legal shot for your
opponent that won't sell out.

    9.  A final idea.  Under most rules of eight-ball, you can pocket one of your balls and end your inning by announcing "safety" before you shoot.  It's rare that you would want to do that, but there are situations when it is the best play.  Let's say you have only one ball you can make, but no way to get position on the next ball.  It's easy to think of layouts where calling safe and  making a ball will leave your opponent nothing.

Billiards | Bio | Novels | Other Books | Quotations
Books | History | Links | Tips | Videotapes

Copyright © 2014 Robert Byrne. All rights reserved.
Please direct questions and comments about this site to