Pattern Play Puzzle

Pattern Play Puzzle:  Quick Improvement by Playing Smarter

© 2010 Mike Fieldhammer,

Mike Fieldhammer

When I practice, I do it at home and usually alone. My routine on my 9 foot Diamond Pro Am with Simonis 860 cloth is mainly straight pool. I always encourage people to try adding some 14.1 into their training. The benefits are many-fold.

  • Learn to build runs of many balls
  • Learn the importance of finesse and fine position accuracy
  • Learn to minimize cue ball movement
  • Learn ultra focus on seemingly simple shots
  • Learn to pocket the object ball and trust the cue ball to take care of the rest of its job
  • Many more to be added here from reader suggestions

All of these things that can be worked on by practicing straight pool will build pattern knowledge that can be applied to any game. I see so many players who can pocket balls well and have a decent stroke get into all kinds of trouble by shooting the balls off in the wrong order.

What order would you shoot these balls off to leave yourself a good break shot for a chance to continue your run?  Examine the puzzle and leave your answer in the comment section of my blog at and see what others have thought.

The balls from left to right are 4, 14, 7, 13, 1, 10, and 12.

Pattern Play Puzzle

Photo Caption:  Pattern Play Puzzle. (Link to larger photo online if necessary)

Learning pattern play through 14.1 practice can be priceless. It also happens to be a great game that challenges players of any ability.

Mike Fieldhammer
Professional Billiard Instructor
Samsara Player Representative / 612.802.0519

Mike is a full time tournament player and professional billiard instructor.  He is available for private instruction or group clinics and events. Check out the new Billiard Coach Store:  Serious Gear for Serious Players. Gift certificates are available.

8-Ball: You don’t have to get out now, just get out

8-Ball: You don’t have to get out now, just get out.

Samm Diep © November 2009

Samm Diep

As our pool game improves, so does our game plan. We discover how much more enjoyable it is when we win. We learn to shoot defensive shots. We realize that sometimes the first one to attempt the run out may not always be the one who wins the game.

Eventually, we appreciate that in order to win more games, patience trumps pride. Sure, it feels great to break and run, but oftentimes tables are just not very run-friendly. We just have to accept that we don’t need to get out in this inning. It’s now that we ask ourselves, “Is it more important to win this game or to be the hero?”

You may have three shots in front of you that you can make, but if none of them help you break out that trouble ball, then QUIT RUNNING! Basic 8-ball strategy tells us when we have one or more balls tied up, it is to our advantage to keep more traffic on the table. If you don’t have a plan to get your guys out of jail, keep as many soldiers around as possible.

League or team play environments do not necessarily encourage to the smartest, game-winning decisions. Far too often, during a team scenario, I’ve witnessed players go for the run out when it’s nearly impossible. It’s stuck in their mind that they must be the “hero.” They don’t want to let their teammates down. They must get the “points” and they must try to run out whenever they get to the table.

In many leagues, the more balls your opponent has left on the table, the higher you can score for that win. This scoring system only promotes super aggressive play. Instead of thinking, “How can I win this game?” their objective shifts to “How can I win this game now?” Many times, this mentality can backfire on them. When they force a run out that isn’t there, true, sometimes they can get lucky, but very often they just clear all their balls out of the way and leave their opponents a back door run out. That’s the worst thing they can do.

It’s critical to analyze the table. Take a good look at where the balls are lying. Do you have more than one cluster to deal with? Do you have a way to address each of them? Are you confident you will make the shot that you’re facing? Are you certain you’ll have something to shoot at after your break out(s)? If you answered “no” or you’re unsure of any of these questions, then you may want to consider ducking for now and running out later.

Think about lagging a ball in front of a pocket and blocking it from your opponent. If you can’t get out, make your opponent have to work for it. Play a safety where you can also bank one of your balls down by the trouble. Position your balls on the table so they are in your favor. Get them ready for you to take advantage later. Lock up safeties that can get you ball in hand are much easier to play when you have more balls on the table to hide behind.

Remember, if you can’t get out now, don’t.  If you can’t run out now, position your balls and run out later. A win is a win whether it happens now or later.

Samm Diep, “Cherry Bomb” (

House Pro at Rack ‘Em Billiards (Aurora, CO)

Author of “You Might Be A D Player If… (101 Classic Moves That All Pool Players Can Appreciate)”

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