8-Ball Layout Strategy- Finding the “Key Ball”

Have you got to the point in your game where your shot making skills are satisfactory, or maybe even above average, but you are still loosing more games then you think you should? Perhaps it’s time to work on your layout strategy.

Have you ever noticed how the pro’s always seem to have the easy shots….most of  the time?  Well the main reason for that is that they play the game out in their head before they take their first shot. Right after the break they look at the layout. They are looking for problem balls first, like balls that are frozen against other balls or the rail. If there are no major problems then they start deciding how to attack the layout.

In eight ball I like to run it through my head in reverse from the last ball I plan to shoot to the first ball. Deciding which ball will give me the best advantage is what I call the key ball. Keep in mind that you will not always plan  a complete run out of the balls. Sometimes a run out (making all the balls) is impractical but you can still plan in the same manner to make a few balls and then play a safety, or get that break out of a certain problem ball.

If you force yourself  to plan out your shots before you start shooting you will eventually start getting those “easy shots” because your position play will improve. I have noticed that in eight ball, you can usually plan a good run out will little cue ball movement. In fact, a good rule of thumb is try not to move the cue ball more than is absolutely necessary. The stop shot is your friend, learn to use it wisely!

Another good rule to live by is this, NEVER, EVER, try a shot in which you have no idea what the outcome is going to be. If you don’t have a clue where the cue ball is going to end up or how it will react after contact, don’t shoot it.

Here are some table layouts you can study and decide what is the best plan of attack for you. Remember, not everyone skill level is the same and there are usually more than one way of doing things. Play the odds when planning, avoid the low percentage shots. Just because you think you can make it doesn’t mean it the best decision.

Table 1;

Solution below

Here I would chose solids and my first shot would be the 5 ball. Here is how I would play it out. Stop shot the 5 ball in the lower left corner, stop shot the 4 ball in the upper side pocket, cut shot the 6 in the upper right corner pocket and let the cue ball go 2 rails landing between the 11 and 14 ball. Then stop shot the 3 ball into the upper left corner pocket, stop shot the 2 ball in the lower left corner pocket, soft cut the 7 ball into the upper left corner pocket and let the cue ball go one rail landing between where the 1 ball is and where the 3 ball was originally. The shot the 1 ball into the upper right corner with a little follow and you are left with a easy shot on the 8 in the upper left corner.

Is it the best way? You decide, but it is how I would do it.

Notice that I didn’t move any other balls in my solution. There is no need to move your opponents balls without good reason. Buddy Hall said it best, ” Don’t move the furniture if you don’t have to.”  I also limited the amount of cue ball movement as much as possible.  Whenever possible, keep it simple.

Here is another one to try.

This one is one of those that can be done several ways. Personally if I was feeling confident I might go for the early break out of the 2 ball by banking the 3 in the upper side pocket. Once this is done it opens up a few possibilities for the solids depending on what kind of roll you get from the 2,10 and 15 after the break out. Where the cue ball lands off this shot depends on how hard you hit the 3, but you should end up with a shot on the 1 ball if all goes right. I won’t go any further because we do not know where the 10,15, and 2 are at this point.

Another option is to shoot the 11 ball in the lower right corner pocket playing for position “A” in the diagram below. Then shooting the safety to get the position “B”.  (not my favorite option)

And yet another way would be to cut the 7 ball towards the lower left corner (not making it) and leave the cue ball stuck behind the 8 ball. This forces your opponent to try something risky and hopefully give you a position with the cue ball on your next shot.

There are probably several other ways to play this layout. Set it up and try a few yourself, maybe you will see something I didn’t.

Feel free to leave a comment on how you did or would do it.


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