Tips for Playing a Defensive Shot in a Pool

A defensive shot is where the shooter deliberately misses, so as to pass his turn at the table to his opponent.

It is also a shot where there is no intent by a player to pocket a ball of his category.

Examples of defensive shots are;

  1. Leaving your opponent with a long difficult shot.
  2. Forcing your opponent to kick or bank to strike their object ball.
  3. Snookering your opponent, i.e. hiding the cue ball behind a ball that the opponent cannot hide.


To win in game of snooker, one should play on the defensive most of the time.

Here are some of the tips for playing defensive shots.

  • Know your specific skill to make right choices.

You should consider your chances of successfully running the rack before starting to play. If you are not sure re-evaluate and play defensive from the onset. Your specific abilities and weaknesses will also have some impact on your subsequent decisions. The right choice for SVB will not always be the right choice for you. This is because of your skill differences which require constant improvement. If you always fall back on “well I am not good at speed control so I won’t play the safe here even though I know it is the right shot and instead will just try to run out” for example, then it is going to be hard to ever learn that safety, if you won’t ever shoot to make a win. You learn by doing. While you have to keep in mind your specific skills, you also have to push yourself to do things the “right” way with the right plays so you can learn those skills too. When practicing, it is often advisable to try playing the “right” shots, even if they aren’t the best choice yet for your skill level.

  • Hide behind balls

When playing check whether there are any balls you can hide behind. If for example, some balls are positioned in a good spot near the pocket, they will be perfect for hiding the cue ball behind. Also, if there is a cluster of balls where you can squeeze the cue ball in by hitting it softly with a break cue, use them!

  • Consider your opponent weakness

Find out what type of shots your opponents are struggling with during the game. Are bank shots a big trouble for them? If so, leave the bank shots, which they will miss most of the time while you get some shots. Being able to see the problems, patterns, and positions needed to run out the rack is not even half of the equation. The other part, and arguably even more important part (although both are absolutely essential), is being able to accurately weigh risk verses reward, and accurately assess what each of the options available will do to your chances to ultimately win the game, otherwise known as “playing the percentages”. Acquiring the ability to accurately assess the percentages for success with each option will only come through lots of experience, however being able to be honest with yourself is an absolute necessity and can be very difficult for many to do, and making a concerted effort to pay attention to how things turn out depending on the choices you made will shorten the learning curve.

  • Set your opponent for long shots.

Most players struggle with long shots. Those that have mastered the shots usually have practiced for years. When playing, try setting your opponent for long shots. If you can land the cue ball on the rail, that is even better.

  • Are any of your opponents ball’s locked up?

If your opponent has only one ball left and it’s behind the 8- ball, reposition the cue ball to make sure his next shot is hard. On the other hand, if your balls are locked up, your only play on your side to break them up while playing defense. Never go for the run out until you have a pretty high percentage chance of being successful at the run, including sinking the 8 ball too. You have to be able to be honest with yourself in your evaluation.

  • Go for your problem ball.

Go for your problem ball (the one that will be very tough to get good shape on) as soon as possible in your run. If you fail to get good on it, try to get on it again as soon as you can. Saving problems for the end of the game usually leads to disaster because if you fail to solve it when it is one of the last balls you are now out of options and chances, whereas when you go for it early, you will likely get several chances to try to solve that problem throughout the game if needed.

  • Consider having more balls

As counter sensitive as it will sound to someone still learning the game, the person who has the most balls on the table usually has a significant advantage in the game. The reasons being, it’s because there are more interference balls in the way for your opponent, it is more balls for you to be able to play safe, or hide behind if needed. There is a much better chance for you, if you have a good shot and your opponent misses or plays safe, etc. Keep that advantage until it is the right time to run out and win the game.

  • Look for opportunity to winning the game.

As has been mentioned previously, with every turn at the table you are trying to do something that is going to increase your chances for being able to win the game, so always look for those opportunities. Don’t be satisfied i.e. with just looking for a good safe that hides the ball for your opponent, but instead look for a good safe that also solves one of your cluster problems or other problems. The examples here could be endless and you really have to analyze the table to find these opportunities. They don’t always exist but a lot of times they do but aren’t real obvious and you are going to miss them if you are not looking hard for them.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, by carefully marking defensive shots you are not only keeping scores properly, you are also helping to ensure accuracy of the skill levels of the players in your division.