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” (DenverCherryBomb.com)

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)”

Player Representative for Chris Byrne Custom Cues, PoolDawg, Predator, Jim Murnak Custom Cases, & Delta-13 Rack

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Ask the Viper

Melissa Little


“Lately I’ve been putting in a lot of table time and I feel as though I’m shooting some of the best pool of my life, but in competition when it really counts, I’ve been missing the key shot to my run out.  I literally can’t seem to control my nerves. I would appreciate any advice you can give on this part of the mental game.”


Sorry to say but there is no quick fix for developing mental toughness. Each day that you practice you should be preparing for that big moment. The definition for practice should be to work on problem shots or areas of your game that you need to be improved upon.

I suggest you participate in as many competitions as possible – over time your tournament game will improve… its called becoming “seasoned”.  Anytime you can feel pressure is a good thing.

My long time coach Henry would say its okay to feel nervous, it means that you’re alive. Everyone gets nervous, I mean everyone!! It’s how you handle the pressure is what matters.

Stay in the present. Being present and not thinking of the past/future when you’re at the table. It is a discipline and it’s a part of the game that everyone needs to spend some time on.

Forgive yourself for making mistakes. The faster you forgive yourself the faster you will stay in the present. If you don’t forgive yourself in a timely manner then it could cost you multiple games.

Best of luck to you,


If you have a question for “The Viper” please e-mail them to Melissa Little at Melissa@melissalittle.com

Melissa “The Viper” Little has been a WPBA Touring Professional for over 10-years, she has represented the USA in Four WPA World Championships, is the current USA Bar Table Champion for 8-Ball and 9-Ball and has over 20 top-10 WPBA career finishes. Melissa is the house-pro at the Wynkoop Brewing Company located in Downtown Denver and is sponsored by The Wynkoop, Jacoby Custom Cues and The Colorado Cue Times. She teaches monthly clinics, gives private lessons, and has created a juniors program that promotes billiards education to the local youth.

For more information about Melissa  please visit: www.melissalittle.com