Last issue, I discussed pattern play in 8-ball. As I mentioned in that article, the number one mistake I see players make in 8-ball is trying to run out when the balls simply don't allow it. That can be a fatal mistake.
So, what do you do when you can't run out? First, you need to determine where the trouble ball(s) is. Then, select from which ball you are going to play safe. I look at every one of my balls as a soldier helping me win a battle. You can pocket balls before playing safe, but everything should be done strategically. Good safety play will win you a lot of games in 8-ball, because most players approach the table with a run-out mentality.
When I decide to play safe, I no longer think about patterns. I have one goal: to make my opponent's life as miserable as possible. If that means tying up the 8 ball with three of my balls, that's what I'm going to do.
One of the keys to safety play is the stop shot or stun-follow/stun-draw. Control of the cue ball is a huge advantage. The stop shot is the easiest way to play safe, parking the cue ball directly behind an object ball. In previous issues, I've discussed the importance of perfecting a stop shot from various distances. Safety play is a prime example of why I stress that my students practice the stop shot.
Another key is the breakout safety. There are instances in which you have ball in hand, but still can't run out, because you have balls tied up. In many instances, you can break up the cluster and, at the same time, play safe by using a good stop shot. This allows you to defend yourself and create an offensive opportunity for the next inning.
For instance, the diagram shows an instance in which the shooter has solids and ball in hand. The cluster at the foot of the table makes a runout very difficult. Instead, play safe by banking the 3 ball into the cluster and stopping the cue ball behind the 7. This shot leaves you in great shape to run out in the next inning.
Finally, when I'm engaged in a safety battle, I try to be sure I have an object ball at each end of the table and one in the middle, if possible. It gives me a better chance of having a ball to hit after my opponent plays safe. I've even banked balls playing safeties just to gain this advantage.