This is the first article of a 4-part series on pattern play.
Looking ahead is essential to playing top-notch pool. Players that don’t think about their future shots are going to be crushed by an opponent who understands and practices the concepts of pattern play. The goal of pattern play is to use rules of thumb and intuitive judgements to create a plan that gives the highest chance of running out the table and thus, winning the game.
The concepts presented in this series are for offensive play only: how to decide which shot to shoot and how to shape future shots. To fully maximize your chances of winning, you should always consider defensive shots in your plan as well.
Rules of Thumb - Keep it Simple
The primary principle behind creating a good plan is to keep it as simple as possible. Simple shots are much easier to execute and more likely to be made.
Select Easy Shots
Choose shots that are within your abilities, and avoid shots that are difficult for you. Be realistic on your chances of making a shot or positioning the cue ball, and you will be more confident in your decisions. Examples of easy shots include: an object ball close to a pocket, the cue ball close to the object ball (but not too close), and a small cut angle.
Minimize Cue Ball Movement
The less distance the cue ball needs to move, the more precise your positioning will be. Also, a slower stroke is generally more accurate.
Use Follow/Draw Over Sidespin
Sidespin causes inconsistencies due to squirt, swerve, and throw, so try to use follow and draw instead.
- Use Follow Over Draw
The cue ball naturally wants to have topspin when moving on the table, so it is more natural to use a follow shot over a draw shot. Shooting a draw shot takes a good stroke and any accidental left or right spin could cause swerve.
Use Stop & Stun Shots
When the cue ball is sliding on the cloth and contacts an object ball, it will depart on the tangent line. This is called a stun shot, or stop shot when straight on, and is a very consistent type of shot that you should practice.
- Use Less Spin
If you must spin the cue ball for positioning, try to use the minimal amount of spin as possible.
- Avoid Moving Other Balls When Positioning the Cue Ball
Unless you are trying to break out a cluster, you should not let the cue ball touch another ball on the table. It is difficult enough to know the angle and speed off of one ball!
- Keep the Cue Ball Away from the Rail
Shooting from a rail is more difficult because you have limited space for your bridge hand. Try to keep the cue ball at least a few inches from a cushion.
Practicing Pattern Play - One Shot at a Time
Find a particular shot that involves some of the principles above and shoot it over and over again, until you master the shot. Pay attention to the subtleties and nuances of the shot and also to how well you perform.
Sample Shot #32
The following is a sample shot from the Bullseye Billiards instructional game. This is a natural follow, medium speed shot to get down table. You don't need any sidespin, it is all about speed control.