**Which pool games are best for you to play? Which will improve your skills the most? In my opinion, Straight Pool is the best choice. For rotation skills, I recommend 3-Ball or The Drill Instructor's progressive 3-Ball game.
Other billiards games that will get you better fast include 8-Ball with its mix of chess-like strategy and action, 7-Ball (far easier and more fun to run out than 9-Ball and a good workout). Cushion Billiards and Carom Billiards on a regular pool table are also a great practice idea.
**Here's a tip applicable to all games in competition. Call all fouls. Your opponents may not seem thrilled but it's best for you and them both.
**Maintain a neutral "poker face" when the cue ball rolls long or short into a bad place, especially since a little more roll and you might wind up happy instead.
Some 8-Ball Help
If you want to break the 8-ball in, start from near the long rail with the goal of kicking the cue ball through the break at the 8-Ball.
Play the correct billiards percentages. Running all 8 balls for an 80% average shooter totals to less than 17% odds or a 1 in 6 chance at the full run. Lie low and wait for easier opportunities by combining a few balls in the pockets with a safety meant to give you ball-in-hand to finish the run next inning.
Guard the key ball at all costs. Like a lightsaber for a Jedi or a Walther PPK for James Bond OO7, the key ball is your life, pool player.
Try my variation of Eight Ball called Gopher Eight Ball and its fun game variations to hone your 8-Ball skills while having a heap of fun.
Gear Up Your 9-Ball Wins In Pool:
Carom, don't combo, the lowest numbered ball. If you are playing the 1-9 or 3-9 or what-have-you, look to kiss the cue ball off the low ball into the nine where possible. Playing straight combinations often leaves a better shot for your opponent should you miss.
The 3 biggest mistakes 9-Ball players make are 1) greed for the 9-ball like the combo mentioned just above 2) missing opportunities to play safe or even an aggressive "two way" safe as smarties let the other guy run to the 5, 6, or 7 to miss and give them the game 3) wasteful play by shooting for very difficult shots instead of playing solid position for easier runs.
Improve your break by working to place pressure where the 5- and 7-balls (or 5- and 8-balls for a leftie) touch one another in the rack.
Be realistic. Recognize that bad players get very high in non-tournament brackets often. Keep a calm head and ride the nine using low numbered balls if you want to scare them a bit!
Try my fun variations including "Nineation" playing the rules of Nine Ball but counting all balls as their number in points. The nine does not win the game but the first one to 23 points wins. No tie games are possible as with Rotation.
Try my Cut Down Nine Ball as well. I think you'll like this very fast-paced invention.
Other Games To Get You Fresh At The Tables:
Mr. and Mrs. Billiards. The strong player shoot in rotation and the weaker player other at whatever they like for points per the numbers on the balls. 61 points wins the game.
Stunt Pool. Shoot any kind of insane kick, bank, jump or masse shot, etc. as long as it's not a run-of-the-mill traditional pool stroke. You can agree with your opponent to include extreme english strokes or whatever else you want to practice. Have fun!
Sharkers. All players and spectators can make as much noise as they like, throw (their own) equipment or do anything they wish to break the shooter's concentration at the table. Besides being more fun than getting arrested for breaking the peace at a poolroom, it's great training for the pressures of silent competition or trying to shoot for the cash while the jukebox blares in the background.
6-Ball and 7-Ball. I've written about these games elsewhere at this site. Search and find out why they're potentially more fun and better for your skill sets than 9-Ball.
Jackpot Pool. I recommend a running jackpot for pool halls needing extra income because the jackpots can bring hundreds of players in a month to increase local business. Take drawing tickets for $1.00 US each and promise your group 100% payback. Place the stubs in a basket and draw a random winner to break (and perhaps run completely) a rack of 10-Ball.
Each ball pocketed legally is worth one-tenth (10%) of the pot. Scratch at any time and the money stays in the pot.
Example: $35 in the pot, player breaks and runs 5 balls and wins $17.50. Few tend to run all 10 balls so the pot can easily grow to a thousand dollars or more in a busy hall.
The same can be done with 9-Ball or another rotation game but the payout math becomes more complex.