Why play one pocket?

Why play one pocket?

This is article #2 of The First 5 of the One Pocket Series

One pocket is a game with the ability to transform every pool player into a more complete one. However, not everyone shares that opinion. Many players think one pocket is just a boring game. I’ll preach one pocket with utter conviction and tell you why I think differently. 

I can imagine that not everybody finds his or her peace in playing a game of one pocket, like I do. I therefore don’t want to argue one has to be the over-thinking type of mind to appoint one pocket as the favorite game within their repertoire. I do want to argue that one pocket can be meaningful to every pool player. It’s the game of games because all elements of pool come together in a unique way.

The dominant line of reasoning

Playing one pocket requires specific tactical, strategical, technical, and mental skills. I’ll explain them to you from my own perspective. Acquiring and internalizing these specific skills required for one pocket benefits a pool player in all other pool games. I’ll use this argument as an entry point to this article about why you, future enthusiasts, should play one pocket.

The line of reasoning above dominates the minds of professionals who play the game of one pocket, although there are not many who do. It’s not surprising most others dedicate more time to other pool games, because there’s more to gain in terms of money.

On the other hand, it’s inconceivable to me that a lot of professionals don’t get into the game of one pocket. Someone who calls himself a professional should go all out to get better at what he does for a living, including practicing the game of one pocket. Many players don’t, because they think the game is too slow, too boring, or doesn’t get them in stroke. I feel it’s my responsibility to tell you that’s not true! It’s like Steve Booth said:

Of course if you don’t understand the game, it can look pretty boring – not so once you begin to understand, though!” – OnePocket.org

My line of reasoning

Understanding the game of one pocket and making the right decision isn’t enough. You’ll need well developed basic skills before you’re able to develop yourself into a good one pocket player. A proper technical execution is necessary in order to let the balls follow the desired path, the total annihilation of your opponent.

I don’t want to state that one pocket is only a game for players with advanced skills, but to benefit to the fullest, you must be able to execute shots on a certain level. This leads me to a point where I feel the urge to explain my own perspective on pool in general, because it’s the opposite of the statement I made earlier about playing one pocket being beneficial for other games.

I’m known for regularly shooting balls via a cushion here and there, a bank pool player. My passion for bank pool merely exists in light of one pocket. Banks are a deadly weapon, a head-shot, in one pocket and can give you the upper hand. Just like bank pool, I merely play regular running games in light of one pocket to keep my straight shooting skills up to date so that I’m able to run racks. Eight and out is the best defense. It’s the hole-in-one, the K.O., or the ace of one pocket. For me, that’s about it when we’re talking about the regular pool games. One Pocket should be a regular pool game as well. Unfortunately, that era still has to come in Europe.

The benefits of tactical warfare

Head-to-head maneuvering is the most important element. You need to put your opponent in a difficult situation as often as possible, which, at some point, will result in a mistake. Your task is of course to take advantage of that mistake. I like teasing and taking advantage of the mistakes my opponent makes, but even more to outwit him by knowing his imperfections. You need to look for your opponent’s weaknesses, which can be of technical, tactical, strategical, or mental nature. The trick is to identify them as soon as possible.

One pocket is a game of tactical warfare. The battles are all about patience. A lot of it and that’s a skill that might be hard to acquire if it doesn’t come natural. It’s important to make the right defensive decision, time and time again, to avoid offensive escapades with which you unwillingly sell out.

It’s tempting to admit to the temptation (oh, really?!) to go for a way too offensive shot. You should suppress these feelings in order to reduce risk and to increase the chance of winning. In my opinion, this is what makes this game so mentally intense. The way of thinking is similar to that of a poker player. During a tournament there are a lot of players who permanently fold. They play just a few good hands. That might sound a little blunt. I won’t go into detail about poker and all its strategies. I just wanted to make my point about the comparability between the mindsets.

An obvious part of reducing risk is safety play. Safety play in one pocket requires more precision and therefore more control over the cue-, and object ball than it does in 9-ball for example. A good safety in 9-ball is often defined as hiding the cue ball behind an object ball so the opponent can’t hit the required object ball directly. Sticking the cue ball to another ball is better. Hiding the cue-, and object ball in such a way that the object ball can’t be hit in any way, is perfect.

In one pocket there’s no required object ball. When you play a safety where the cue ball isn’t sticking to another ball, your opponent often has a relatively easy way out. Sticking the cue ball to another ball and thereby blocking any possibility for direct contact with other balls, is a good safety. Playing such a safety and positioning a ball in front of your pocket is considered to be close to perfection.

In order to play such safeties you need perfect speed control. You need to know exactly how balls react with different amounts of english and speed as well as what technique you should use for what shot in order to reach the desired outcome. In this way you learn more about the nuances of the game. So, playing one pocket, in which you have to play in packed and small areas, results in better control of the cue ball and object balls. Better control in its turn results in better defensive, and position play.

Creativity and simplicity are key elements

Solving problems during a game of one pocket regularly requires a bank, combination, carom, kick, or a foul in order to be able to take advantage of the situation afterwards. So, it’s important to think ahead and take your opponent’s weaknesses and strengths into consideration. Doing things on the right moment is always important, even more so in one pocket.

You should always keep the ball score in mind. Play the score. When you’re leading, you shouldn’t take any risk. Just defend your lead and wait for your opponent to make the first mistake. Of course, if the opportunity arises to create something when you’re leading, and the consequences of that shot are of low risk, you should take it. When you’re trailing, it’s common practice to approach your shots more offensive. As long as you avoid overestimating your skills. A pitfall many players can relate to.

Often finding yourself in a difficult situation, out of your comfort zone, breeds creativity and puts pressure on positioning the balls in such a way you can turn the tide. It’s the creativity, mostly in the form of a two-way-shot, that compensates the dull prolonged safety play.

Let’s be honest, shooting a stop shot is anything but fun. Pool is much more fun than a stop shot. However, there’s something about a stopshot that fascinates me. A stop shot is easy to control perfectly. Perfect control of the cue ball is a satisfying feeling. Pocketing a kick-bank-combination carom via the rack however, gives every pool player an adrenaline rush. If it doesn’t, quit.

By constantly thinking about how to move balls, it’ll become part of your routine. You will internalize a strategic and tactical way of thinking. Through the internalization of this kind of thinking, you become a smarter, and therefore better player. I won’t elaborate on how people learn in which Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of ‘habitus’ often has been used as an entry point, but I still felt the urge to mention it for some reason. Look it up if you’re interested in the subject.

Gain and share knowledge

As practitioner of a dynamic game like pool, you’ll never stop learning. Let alone as a human being, the total of all our identities. Staggering amounts of information are available in this digital-, and information era. Nevertheless, a lot of information is still inaccessible, which is why there are people fighting for open-access.

You might wonder what the idea of open-access has to do with playing one pocket. Pool players are often egocentric, because they want to be the best and therefore keep their secrets to success to themselves. This seems logical, when you consider yourself a professional.

Sharing knowledge about technical refinements, tactical and strategical pool warfare, mental resiliency and other important psychological craziness you need to master will create better opponents in the long run. Meaning the ones who’ve shared, need to intensify their own labor. For that same reason, players should share what they know. Especially when we’re talking about one pocket, because this game requires the most knowledge of all.

Creating an environment in which people share knowledge, can lead to personal progress in different ways. It motivates you to search for new knowledge that can help you to improve your game. Pool players need to realize it’s necessary to read books and watch video’s about pool to gain new knowledge, instead of ‘only’ playing and practice technical skills, which seems to be the tendency within the entire world of pool. Although, I must say there’s a transition going on, especially in Europe, towards awareness and acknowledgement of the importance of reading, the psychological factor, and mental training.

The books ‘Winning One Pocket’ and ‘Shots, Moves, & Strategies’ by Eddie Robin can be considered the bibles of One Pocket literature. Next to that, the One Pocket tutorials ‘Power One Pocket’ by Scott Frost, the book ‘Banking with the beard’ by Freddy ‘the Beard’ Bentivegna, and the new book ‘One Pocket: A game of controlled aggression’ by Tom Wirth are a must see and read for any pool player. YouTube is the grand master in visually teaching One Pocket (Check out the Poolhead YouTube Channel). Another valuable source of information of different nature is OnePocket.org and their forum where world’s best one pocket players share their insights and discuss situations on the table. You don’t have to do it all by yourself anymore, as I was told by a lot of old-school pool players who shared their thoughts with me. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented. You only need to spin it the way you want.

Gain and share knowledge: the bigger picture

An environment with well skilled players leads to a higher morale, which can result in better perseverance. By actively sharing knowledge you remind yourself about what you know. Explaining one thing sometimes lead to finding the key to forgotten knowledge locked up in wandering brain matter somewhere in the back of your head. In this way your own standby knowledge increases. You know what you didn’t know you already knew by telling others what you know.

So, you can share knowledge with others, create better players around you, and be egocentric at the same time. It only requires a different perspective. Another reason why one pocket is the game of games for me. I belong to that group of egocentric players with a competitive spirit and a different perspective.

Crucial to creating groups of knowledge-sharing pool players, is the willingness to ask questions and to be open-minded. Ego seems to be a common obstacle for personal progress. Not only in sports. I guess it’s a common phenomenon related to all things in life, which makes it even more important. I feel like people don’t want, or don’t dare to ask questions about all the different aspects of the game. Can I classify that as ego? Is it pride? Fear? Disinterest? No expectations of getting better at what you do? Something with a different name? An obstacle nevertheless. Just ask!

I think, it’s important to be open-minded towards something that seems unconventional to you. Don’t care about your ego, or whatever it is that’s holding you back to learn. Especially ask the advanced players about what you can do to become a better player. They probably know a thing or two about it.

It’s not only beneficial for you and the players around you. It’s also beneficial for pool as a sport when people gain more knowledge about the game and get more creative in obtaining and sharing knowledge. The sport and the pool players need some new incentives. I believe the game of one pocket can be part of a transition towards a greater pool community, because it provides players with new insights and perspectives about our beloved game of pool.

A game for every pool player

Even though one pocket is the most difficult game of pool, it’s a game for players of all levels. In One pocket it’s easy to compensate skill level differences with handicaps. Normally each player has to make 8 balls (written as 8-8) in the predetermined pocket to win the game. Common handicaps are 9-8, 9-7, 9-6, in which the better player obviously is obliged to make 9 balls to win and the weaker player less. When the difference between the skill levels of two players is really big, the handicaps can go up to 10-6, 10-5, and 12-4. In some extraordinary circumstances the handicap can be even bigger.

I have preached; to advocate, or to give earnest advise in a moralizing way. My task is fulfilled. Now go and read about, watch, and play one pocket! The sooner the better.

One Pocket Series

One Pocket Series is a project in which I advocate One Pocket and try to inspire others, in the Netherlands and eventually in the rest of Europe as well, to start playing One Pocket, to share knowledge and ideas about the game ,and to set up more One Pocket tournaments across the continent. The One Pocket Series, a Dutch One Pocket tour, came forth from this project.

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About Pepijn de Wit

I’m an adventurous 30-year-old from the Netherlands. I started playing pool as a nine-year-old standing on an empty Coca-Cola crate to be able to reach the cue ball and grew out to a hobbyist with 15 national titles on his name. Now, I consider myself a one pocket enthusiast and push for one pocket to electrify the Netherlands and Europe. I therefore started the One Pocket Series, a national tour to promote the game. Next to that, I've studied cultural anthropology, I currently work at a casino, and truly love the outdoors. My ambitions are big, my dreams even bigger.