Billiards: Adjusting to a bar box from a big table

Posted on 19. Nov, 2009 by in Equipment, Game Strategy

Much as golfers must adapt to weather conditions and different courses, pool players must make a sometimes difficult transition themselves: switching between 9-foot and 7-foot tables.  Many capable big table 9-Ball players have trouble downsizing to a bar box to play 8-Ball.  Keeping key concepts in mind will make the change less challenging and make a player more comfortable on different sized tables.

Keep the cue ball movement to a minimum. Less cue ball movement is advantageous on a bar box.  The 7-foot table has tight quarters. Some players exhibit better control of the cue ball using a slightly more compact stroke.  Shorten or reign in your stroke since most shots can be made without a big stroke.  Punch balls in by focusing on a deliberate stroke.

If you are struggling with speed control on the bar box, consider rolling balls in. Follow and natural position leave less to chance if you have confidence in the table at a slower speed. Simple, natural position at controlled speeds also gives you a better chance to get the correct speed for position. Rails on bar tables are easier to predict at a low speed than high speed.  Just beware of skid and learn to recognize which angles and pace the balls tend to stick.

Select patterns appropriate to the table size. Shot selections should favor stop and stun shots over shots with close distance.  Close distance refers to positional shots with little distance between the cue ball and object ball.  For example, it is better to take a long stop shot over a close range cut where the cue ball will travel two rails back to the center of the table flirting with traffic.  A slight miss hit will still pocket the ball in a stun/stop shot and hold cue ball position. Conversely, the cut may still pocket the ball, but the speed and direction of the cue ball will be altered. This could lead to the possibility of bumping into balls or missing position from too much or little cue ball pace. The saying goes, “Get in line and stay in line.”  If your position becomes a little less than ideal, chances are that the amount of inaccuracy will escalate on the next shot.  This may accumulate over several shots until you are in a self imposed trap and are forced into a low percentage or desperation shot. It’s one of those runs that you wish you could rewind and select another opening shot or play a preemptive safety.

Beware of equipment differences. In bar box pool, you have a much greater chance of finding a subpar (or less than ideal) cue ball, mismatched object balls, a cheap triangle, inferior cloth, and mismatched cushions.  All of these factors hurt the highly skilled player because they introduce unexpected variables into the game.  Under ideal conditions, the more advanced player can exhibit a mind blowing demonstration of control. Such a player can move the cue ball ten feet or more to a target the size of a quarter.  If the cue ball arrives via three cushions, one of which is from a different table, then the player may have to settle for a dinner plate for position.

Pay special attention to the cue ball model and condition. Heavy or large cue balls drive through the object ball and alter the tangent line.  It just doesn’t follow the physics of ball behavior. It is yet another variable that befuddles experts, but doesn’t harm the lower skilled players who may not realize the difference. It’s an equalizer. Ralf Souquet will not even hit a ball on a seven foot table.  He considers it mini-golf compared to a professional PGA approved course.

Souquet, the money leader on tour in 2008, once commented on the bed of a nine foot table where the bed had new cloth, but the rail cloth was unchanged.  He is so sensitive to table conditions that his position play was a tad shaky because draw and follow took differently than the side spin did off the rails.  He doesn’t require new, slick cloth to play well, just the same cloth for the bed and the rails.

A light cue ball is a problem as well.  All pool balls wear down with use.  After all, they are hit with micro sandpaper in the form of chalk impregnated tips (only the cue ball, of course).  That is why players hitting object balls with their cue tip is highly discouraged at finer billiard establishments. Object balls accumulate chalk from both the bed cloth and the cue ball, which can wear them down too.  Cue balls have them all beat.  I’ve seen and played with sets of balls where the cue ball was a full eighth of an inch undersized.  This smaller lighter cue ball draws easily and follows reluctantly. Understandably, it doesn’t break out clusters as effectively as a heavier, regular sized ball does.

The size of cue balls also affects cut shots.  Smaller cue balls tend to overcut shots because the diameter is smaller, as the line at impact is slightly off.  Likewise, oversized cue balls hit everything too thick.  This, combined with the heaviness/lightness of the ball, makes predicting the tangent line (the final path of the cue ball after impact) almost like a guessing game.

If you can run out, do it.  The game at its highest level is very aggressive.  Top players will try to run out even if they have two or three problem areas to deal with.  Many times they’ll put on the brakes if their first crack at a breakout doesn’t work, but sometimes they’ll keep firing away.  Why the testosterone overload?  Players know that a safety is only so good on a bar box.  Balls are so easy to kick, jump, or bank in on 7-footers that the shooter would rather go down firing than lay down a paper thin safety.  Making a good hit on a ball isn’t that tough on a bar box and the chance of getting lucky looms large.  The table can be in worse shape than pre-safety.  After a kick or jump, foul or no foul, balls may be rearranged and un-runnable.  The worst case scenario is the player making a lucky hit and magically getting safe. Many players have scratched their heads and thought to themselves that perhaps the safety wasn’t so wise and a run out would have been more likely to win the game.

All of these adjustments can seem daunting to the small table game.  Keep your head up. Many advantages make the game seductive.  Larger pockets and less distance on the bar table make every shot makeable. Aggressive and creative play are rewarding and satisfying. Faced with a tough situation, you might dig up some low percentage kiss or carom and open up the rack perfectly.  Bank shots are ill advised on tough 9-footers, but may be the correct shot on a bar box. Make some slight changes to your thinking and start running racks on the bar box.

Mike Fieldhammer
Professional Billiard Instructor

Pool lessons make a great holiday gift. Gift certificates are available.

Mike is a full time tournament player and professional billiard instructor.  He is available for private instruction or group clinics and events.

14 Responses to “Billiards: Adjusting to a bar box from a big table”

  1. Pat O'Connor

    30. Nov, 2009

    Excellent article Mike!
    However, I find that people I know have more difficulty adapting from 7′ to 9′ tables. I’ve seen many AA players on 7′ tables play poorly on 9′ tables. Some of this I feel is psychological, whereby the larger table somehow intimidates the player. Any thoughts?

  2. admin

    30. Nov, 2009

    True, true. But that is an entirely different article. I’ll be working on it… Thanks! Mike

  3. […] have even more unpredictable challenges for players.  Lousy cue balls and mismatched rails. See “Big Table to Bar Box” for more on that […]

  4. Donald reighn

    19. Apr, 2013

    Hi I like playing on a nine ft but where I live at their is only 7 ft tables I see a lot of pros playing on box tables and when you play on a 7 ft and try to go back to 9 ft it’s a little bit harder to ajust .but I found 8 ft table that I play on it seems to help out when I go back to the 9 ft domanater

  5. Dan

    10. Feb, 2014

    On the bar tables in Milwaukee speed is a big factor. Long slow shots on poorly leveled either always go in or never go in depending on the side of table. Medium speed helps over come this problem but at the expense of shape.


    27. Jul, 2014


  7. terry

    03. Aug, 2014

    Going to be going from 4×8 down to a bar(box) table. What are the main challenges I’ll face since I’ve never played on anything smaller than a 4×8?

  8. Mike Fieldhammer

    03. Aug, 2014

    Hello Terry, thanks for the question. You’ll face a bit more congestion and have to be a little more precise on your patterns. Don’t bump into balls if you can avoid it. I’m a fan of 8 foot tables in general. They’re a great compromise between a full size 9 and a bar size 7 footer. To warm up for 8-ball on a bar box, play plenty of straight pool (14.1 continuous) on your 8 foot table. It should sharpen up your play for the tighter confines of a seven foot table. Also, don’t be shy to politely ask for a better rack. Inspect the rack before you break. A good break is one of the best defenses against lots of tricky clusters that can hinder or stop run outs.
    Thanks again,
    Mike Fieldhammer
    Billiard Coach

  9. Mike Fieldhammer

    03. Aug, 2014

    Yes indeed, Eugene. Wisdom and experience can be worth a lot in bar box pool!

  10. Mike Fieldhammer

    03. Aug, 2014

    Excellent point, Dan! Also, players should remember that on Valley brand 7 foot tables, the side pockets can be deadly difficult. Be reluctant to play position for a ball in the side if you can make a small change to your pattern to play it in a corner instead.

  11. Mike Fieldhammer

    03. Aug, 2014

    I’m beginning to worry about the future of our sport due to the slow extinction of full size nine foot pool tables. Every single high level player I can think of has lots and lots of hours on a 9 footer. It is only on big tables that certain shots and accuracy can be mastered. This is priceless advice to anyone who has played for several years and has not put in enough time on a 9 foot table: If you care to get better or reach the next level, you need to mix in some 9 foot table time into your pool workouts.

  12. kenny

    28. Aug, 2014

    Have a 9′ table at home to practice on. Started playing some touraments where their tables are 7′.
    Am learning some differences but costing me games right now. Enjoyed the article and comments.

  13. Jay White

    30. Jan, 2015

    Hail to the King of the old rough slow Bar Tables……thank you Eugene for your input…….indeed the barbox brand of pool is a different WORLD. I can’t tell you how many top players who played on big tables got their tail feathers trimmed on an old slow barbox………Yep…….I have seen top players give a barbox champ the 7 and last 2 on a big table and that same bar table player turn around and give up the 7 and last 2 on the barbox to the same “Champ”…….completely different world.

  14. UHENIO

    04. Aug, 2015

    I think the future of pool will be the bar box. I see the pro’s are playing on the bar box. The only thing is I don’t want to see one pocket and the other games fall by the wayside

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