"Pick Your Poison"
In fact, most pool shooters who choose 9-ball do so at their own peril, assuming that because the pros play Nine on television they can emulate their heroes and so grow from strength to strength.
Pros who can consistently run racks of 9-Ball likely honed their skills on other games, including Straight Pool, Carom and of course, no amateur's favorite, billiards drills!
But 8-Ball will sharpen your pool strategy at a minimum and is more of a pool purist's game. Several hours of thoughtful Eight Ball play can do more for your skills and planning than months of Nine Ball play-and will ultimately, of course, make you a stronger competitor at Nine Ball going forward. Good luck, pool fan!
Donny Lutz and debate some of the relative merits of 8-Ball and 9-Ball below.
Q. Which is the tougher game to master, 8-Ball or 9-Ball?
Donny: For openers, the two games require some different skills.
Matt: I've found 9-Ball adds more frustration for beginners and intermediates when it comes to creating run-out opportunities.
Donny: That's certainly true, but beginners and intermediates actually run very few racks in either game. Since 9-Ball is more of a shooter's game and 8-Ball more of a thinker's game, I think 8-Ball is harder to master.
Eight Ball is the better game for the novice because they can more easily cover up their mistakes with a little strategy. Nine Ball is less forgiving, and demands more shot-making skills.
At the pro level, the shot-maker generally wins more at 9-Ball, while the thinker wins more at 8-Ball. Physical skills are rather finite, but the options in shot selection are almost infinite, so imagination and experience are invaluable.
Matt: Agreed... but it does seem like 8-Ball novices cover their mistakes with luck more often than strategy. The 9-Ball player in the diagram has sunk the 3-ball but badly missed his opportunity to shoot at the four and has limited his chances; change the game to 8-Ball and the same stroke on the three missing position for the four leaves choice of the 5-, 6- or 7-balls.
Missed shape rewards the unthinking novice rather than leaving them stymied!
Donny: Missed shape by the novice can also leave them hooked behind their opponent's object balls! That's why 8-Ball is sometimes called "the equalizer game".
Luck does often help the novice more than the intermediate player. But at the other end of the spectrum, the intermediate player will consistently lose to the strategist who knows "when to go and when to fold".
Matt: Thinking until our heads hurt is why we love 8-Ball, Donny. Eight-Ball mastery further requires Itzhak Perlman's touch, the 1990 NY Giants' defense, and avoidance of 7 table enemies. But I find it harder to run 15 balls at Rotation, not Straight Pool.
Rotation games like 9-Ball require complex skills. A miss of one inch could ruin an 8-Ball position. But glorious three-rail kicks and combos save the day in 9-Ball-pros run five racks of 9-Ball far more often than 8-Ball.
And intermediate players? Novices upset league players more at 8-Ball than 9-Ball. Ironically, this happens as novices are not thinking clearly and get good rolls. No?
Don't hustlers avoid 8-Ball because they fear lucky players, not thinking players?
Donny: Yes, pros run more racks of 9-Ball than 8-Ball, which proves my point. They don't go for the run in 8-Ball as often! Hustlers choose the game after watching the mark play a few games.
They would rather play 9-Ball because the games go faster and the money comes faster. But they will jump at the chance to play a novice at 8-Ball, especially if they are playing call shot.
Don't forget the luck factor in 9-Ball as it is usually not call shot. Eight-Ball remains the best bet for the master strategist!**
Matt says: "8-Ball or 9-Ball, you decide!"
Donny "The Grumpy Old Coach" Lutz, BCA Certified Instructor, has recorded over 200 league and tournament titles including 43 league MVPs. Reach Donny at poolcool.zoomshare.com.
Matthew "Quick Draw" Sherman is the Guide to Pool and Billiards at About.com, a top five website millions of unique visitors monthly.
Donny and Matt live on opposite sides of Gainesville, Florida and are on opposite sides on many issues, but have somehow managed to win 5 doubles titles in recent years!The 8-Ball Debates:
Run Or Not Debate
Straight Cue Sticks Debate
8-Ball Or 9-Ball Debate
Bar Pool Tables Debate
Practice Methods Debate
Time Outs Debate
8-Ball Point Of No Return Debate
Break And Run Or Safety Debate
8-Ball Rules Debate
Break In 8-Ball Debate
Fantasy League Debate