How Do Top Pros Practice Pool?

More Insight From The "Masters Of Drill" (Fun Drills!)

How do the top pros practice pool?
How do the top pros practice pool? Using layouts as in the accompanying diagram, and the articles throughout this GuideSite with more information. Illustration (c) Matt Sherman, licensed to, Inc.

How do top pros practice pool? Jump in for more of Donny and Matt's 8-Ball Debates...

Perfect Practice

Question for Debate: What is the best way to practice and improve 8-Ball skills?

Matt: 8-Ball practice stagnates without an opponent of equal or better 8-Ball skills. I like busting a break then running my choice, followed by the other set before the making the 8-ball last.

After clearing my own set, I enjoy the privilege and "free range table" of the other seven on a near-empty table.

An alternate favorite is to play 8-Ball against myself. If I choose not to run, defensive and two-way plans assume new dimensions as I assess "my opponent's" chance to recover.

As one bonus, I pull strange looks from competition at the pool hall. Few understand how I'm practicing.

Donny: For the novice and even intermediate players, playing games of 8-Ball against an opponent is not the best practice. All they are doing is reinforcing their bad mechanics.

It's sort of like trying to play a game of baseball before anyone tells you how to hold a bat or what to do if the ball comes at you in the field. Learning basic mechanics comes first before trying to pocket balls or defeat an opponent.

I've seen literally hundreds of players who have played for years without improving much, because they just play games and never do any practice exercises.

Matt: Well, I tip my cap to's readers, most of whom are much stronger than beginners.

But we need specific 8-Ball exercises. How about practice calling the 8-ball to pockets to avoid slimy opponents who call "Foul!" on you when you don't identify the final pocket? Just joking, my friend, just joking.

In my clinics, I give players the 8-ball and some other object ball in random positions and ask them to shoot safely off the eight to learn defense.

After some time we add another ball from the opposite set as a sort of interference ball on the table-one can learn much about another's mindset from this exercise.

With rank beginners (and okay, some very experienced players also) I'll break open a rack and ask, "What do you look at first?" The invariable answers include "trouble balls near the rails or in clusters," and "which set is easier, stripes or solids".

The correct answer, of course, is "Look at the 8-ball first and see whether it pockets easily and which ball will be the best key ball to complete the game, since if you run to almost the 8-ball then miss it's probably game over against a good or lucky shooter." What about, you, Don?

Donny: I give the cue ball to the beginner and watch them shoot it around the table to make sure they have the fundamentals down. I encourage them to continue shooting the cue ball only until they get some feel for speed and carom off the rails.

To learn basic cue ball control (absolutely critical for 8-Ball), I have them play simple carom. When they have exhibited a respectable degree of cue ball control (I have them rack seven balls (3 stripes, 3 solids and the 8) and practice a run as if it were a normal game, encouraging them to plan the run backward.

This is good to do by yourself and with an opponent also. Other helpful 8-Ball exercises include: slow-rolling a variety of shots to set balls up, and kicking at balls when hooked (from every position imaginable).

A great practice game is one that requires the shooter to get ball in hand at least once a game before they can win the game. An element of "practice" that many forget is watching skilled players. This applies especially to learning 8-Ball strategy. You can't learn much strategy by just knocking balls in the pocket.

The best ways to learn strategy are by watching others and analyzing their moves, reading great books like R. Givens' The 8-Ball Bible, and getting lessons from a qualified instructor.

Donny "The Grumpy Old Coach" Lutz, BCA Certified Instructor, has recorded over 200 league and tournament titles including 43 league MVPs. Reach Donny at his Pool Cool Website.

Matthew "Quick Draw" Sherman is the Guide to Pool and Billiards at, a top five website with 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!

Watch here at for related articles demonstrating how top pros practice pool and billiards.The 8-Ball Debates:
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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