Pattern Builder – 01
Pattern Builder #1, Finding and Comparing
This deceptively simple drill can be very effective in helping you to learn to see different patterns and to learn, through experience, why one might be a better choice than another. My belief is that there is no one correct pattern to run out a series of balls; multiple acceptable ways may certainly exist. What is important for us all to learn is what makes one pattern easier than another and what makes one more dependable than another.
By practicing with a number of different patterns the way this drill advises, you’ll see through experience that you are more successful going one way than you are going another. That is a clue to figuring out something important. Notice why you are failing each time you miss. Was getting the shape you wanted too hard? Did you have a problem judging the angle of the cue ball path? Were you moving the cue ball across a slender part of the position zone rather than across a wide part? Were you positioning yourself for a shot you don’t have confidence in? Etc.
Start out by randomly throwing out the 1 through 4 balls onto one half of the table. Mark the location of each ball with a donut (loose leaf hole reinforcing circle) or a chalk mark so you can repeat the exercise exactly multiple times. Plan out how you would run these balls (in no particular order) given that you have ball in hand.
Move the balls so that each one is in the spot that matches your planned run out order from page 1. That is, move the One Ball to the spot so it’s the ball you plan to shoot first, put the 2 Ball on the second spot, etc, so that if you shoot the balls in order 1, 2, 3, 4 you’ll accomplish your plan.
Now, take ball in hand and run the balls out in rotation, just like you planned. Pay attention to how well you’re able to move the cue ball to its intended destination. If you’re off by a little, is the runout still reasonably easy? Are there any obstacles to avoid? Run this pattern a number of times until you can complete it successfully multiple times in a row.
Without changing the order of the balls, is there a different path from one ball to the next you could take instead of the one you’ve been shooting? In the diagram, after making the 3 Ball, instead of trying to hold the cue ball so you can shoot the 4 Ball into the lower right corner, you could hit it a little harder and roll past the 4 Ball and then shoot it into the upper right corner. Your example will be different, this is just to illustrate the concept.
How did this variation on your pattern compare to the first one you shot? Why was it easier or harder? By experimenting like this, and actually trying out different options and experiencing the difference, you’re much more likely to make the learning a part of your game, rather than something you know but don’t use.
Now, take another look at your run out plan to see if there’s a place you can adjust your target location for the cue ball to get a better angle on the next ball from the one you’ve been aiming for. For example, on page 4 of the diagram, we used stun when making the 2 ball to get on the 3 Ball, but didn’t hit it too hard to ensure that we didn’t scratch. Here on page 5 we could instead use a little follow and leave the cue ball a little closer to the far rail, making getting position off the 3 ball for the 4 ball easier.
After you’ve worked through some alternative choices to go from ball to ball, it’s time to take another look at running these 4 balls using a different pattern. You can change the order any way you like, but it’s most illuminating to do so making the smallest change you can. That way you can focus more strongly about the effects of this small change, much like you did earlier changing the cue ball target for one ball at a time.
Here we’ve changed the order of the balls a little bit to create another simple pattern where we don’t have to move the cue ball very much. Though we switched 3 balls around, it’s much like our first pattern, using stun a couple times and keeping cue ball movement to a minimum.
Here’s an example of going a little more afield, and trying slightly more adventurous patterns. Notice the much longer cue ball travel when going from the 3 Ball to the 4 ball. This is not an inferior pattern just because of this longer route, it’s just different. You want to get comfortable with this kind of variation because many times you won’t have a choice, or making a choice on one ball requires you to take a route like this on another.
When you’ve mined all the ore from your first layout, roll the balls back out randomly and do it again. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at home much you learn this way and how much of what you learn stays with you, and gets used in your games.
You can take the next step, namely using the whole table for the random layout, whenever you choose. Another way to extend this drill for those a little higher in the ability pecking order, would be to increase the number of balls in the layout. Add them one at a time, though, and don’t move on until you can routinely make the full run out at least 75% of the time.