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Play the Table, NOT the Player!

Pool Focus is an essential attribute for any top level 8 Ball Player. One rule I instil in my coaching clients is – ALWAYS “play the table, NOT the player”.  During a hand of poker, you can only work with the cards you’re dealt.  On a Pool table you get the balls you’re dealt. For this reason, it is essential to only expend energy on the elements of the game that you can control. which is of course, your game.

To gain an insight into their pool brain, I often ask their thoughts about their strategy and selections during a game. Sometimes, I get a response of “If I was playing (insert name here) then I would play this shot because…”.

Gain Your 8 Ball Pool Focus

Have you ever been guilty of either of these:

  • Played too cagey and defensive against a quality cueist?
  • Played too open and attacking against a lesser player?

The answer is almost certainly Yes. As a by-product of this, you will also have noticed that gave a poor pool performance. The reason that this approach is detrimental to your game is because it reduces your level of pool focus.

You only have control over what YOU are doing. With this in mind you have to give 100% focus to your game and how you can effect the result of that game.  Each frame of pool is unpredictable.  The break-off into a rack of balls is different 100 times out of 100.  When your opponent is at the table you don’t know where (the balls will land) or when your next shot will be. So you need to be prepare for multiple possibilities – even when you’re not at the table.  Plan how you can gain an advantage or even take out the finish at the next opportunity.

You can’t afford to be concerning yourself with how good or bad you think the other player is, or even what the audience are thinking.  This is all wasted energy that will only serve to decrease the quality of your play.  Don’t use even a small percentage of your attention on thoughts of your opponent, because it will cause you to be less effective – and a weaker opponent!

The Exception to the Rule

There’s rarely a system or rule that works 100% of the time and this is one of the occasions.

The only time that thinking about the other player’s qualities has ever aided me is when I’m aware that they are extremely high calibre. Top of the Rankings or a former World Champion are prime examples.  In these situations, it helps me to retain a maximum level of focus throughout because I’m fully aware that any mistakes will almost certainly be punished.  I use this initial awareness to help me to focus 100% on my pool. Motivation to raise my own game and produce a high standard of pool performance.

Playing the table helps you to stay focussed regardless of the perceived standard of your opponent.  This method allows you to fully concentrate on your own game; your strategy and ultimately; your goal of winning.

This one simple tip can help you to eliminate some of those frustrating losses you may have suffered in the past.


Always focus on the table. Focus on where all the balls are currently situated. Use your energy and concentration to plan your strategy and your route to success. Remember to Play the table, NOT the player!