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One-Pocket: My Favorite Pool Game

Play One-Pocket: Improve All of Your Pool Games


It's been described as the toughest and most complex of the pool games. It has also been described as being as exciting as watching paint dry. To those who appreciate the challenge and subtleties of One-Pocket however, there's nothing boring about it. To me, it's the best (and most interesting) of the games. So, what's so great about it? After-all the premise is so simple... each player has a single hole (one of the corner pockets at the racking end of the table) in which to make a total of 8 balls (any balls in any order).

If I had to narrow it down to a single answer, I think it would have to be the number of variables in each shot. In 9-Ball for instance, the number of choices are usually fairly limited: shoot the lowest numbered ball and play position for the next ball or play safe. In One-Pocket a single shot often involves moving a ball (or balls) toward your own pocket and at the same time moving ball(s) away from your opponent's hole. This could represent a winning or losing shot depending on your decision, the execution and your opponent's banking skills. What would make it a good shot is succeeding at getting balls in front of your hole and leave your opponent without an offensive shot. To take this a step farther, it becomes a great shot when you leave object balls above and below your pocket and whitey frozen behind some other object ball: a trap that often takes a creative and equally great shot for your opponent to survive.

The more things that can be accomplished with each shot, the closer you are to forcing an error. Try this: think of each separate goal as it's own shot. If you can make 2, 3 or even 4 "shots" each time you strike the cue ball and your opponent generally only makes 1 or 2... well, after just a few innings the table can be arranged seriously in your favor. At this point a single error on his part can be a game loser. The key to good One-Pocket is definitely cue ball control. Losing control of it is often disastrous: the pool gods rarely favor those who let loose of the cue ball or take ill-advised risks. Difficult reverse banks and multi-rail shots are common but if you can't keep track of the rock it's often a losing proposition. Even if you've carefully moved and spread the balls by your pocket, losing control of whitey by only fractions of an inch, might permit an easy bank and turn the tide against you. At its finest, it's a game of good planning, creative thinking and precision execution. What do you think... would improving these skills help your other games?

A very cool thing about One-Pocket is that it can be more easily handicapped than say, 9-Ball. This allows players of very different skill levels to compete. A friend of mine, an "A" player matched up in 9-Ball with a top road player and was given the 3 ball out (make any ball after the 2 wins) in a race to 7 for $500. Then the out-of-towner proceeded to break and run 6 consecutive racks. If you don't happen to be a run-out player, what is the right spot from someone who is? Regardless of the handicap, if your opponent can run multiple racks and finally makes an error and you are unable to return the favor it's a losing proposition.

I started playing One-Pocket in 1997. A strong local player would give me 10-4 (he needed ten balls to my four). He won so often, when he would ask me to play I would respond: "Why? Are your utility bills due?" (I was embarrassed to ask for more weight, lol.) Over time the spot went to 12-8 and more recently to even on my breaks and 9-8 on his.

Anything done well can be really beautiful. One-Pocket and billiards in general is no exception. Moving balls into advantageous positions and watching whitey roll sweetly and snuggle up behind a cluster of balls: it just doesn't get any better. Uh, well, maybe it gets a little better to see that superior player shake his head over and over as he discards one risky response option after another.

I love the game (both to play and watch). It is popular in many areas and is often preferred by top players for gambling match-ups. The rules are simple and can be found at: One-Pocket Rules. Beyond the basics there are common "moves" that most experienced players know, as well as some risk management issues regarding shot selection that are worth giving some thought to. I advise finding an experienced player who will play cheap to start the learning process. You could also get a match on DVD or check around for an online video and see how the game should be played.

One-Pocket has been described as chess on a pool table. This makes even a generally superior player at a disadvantage (or at least on even footing) in a match with someone who thinks and plans better and manages risk well. Not being a great shot-maker myself, I like that it's possible to still be a contender if I can out-think my opponent.