So Joe Hustler at your local bar keeps beating the pants off of you at the pool table every Friday night? Want to level the playing field a bit and put ol' Joe in his place? You could quit your day-job and devote forty hours a week to practicing your game at the closest poolroom. After all, the one sure way to win at pool consistently is to practice every day and gamble every night. However, a more practical alternative would be to use some of the tried-and-true methods presented here to give yourself a fighting chance against practically anybody.

People who gamble at pool (often called hustlers, or sharks) know that, no matter how well they play the game, there is always someone better. However, a shrewd gambler can play and win against a superior player. The techniques used to beat a superior player 'at his own game' are collectively referred to as weight. Weight is to pool what a handicap is to golf. The term originated in the sport of handicap horse racing, where better horses are required to carry additional weight in order to create a more even field to attract more bets. A few extra pounds will slow a typical horse by a full length. In a game of pool, the weight is any rule that is decided upon before the game commences which would give one player an advantage over another. There is no shame in asking for weight, and it is a truism in the world of pool hustlers that the best players invariably ask for the most weight (hoping to con some sucker into making their lives easier).

The most common form of weight given during a game of eight ball is 'balls off'. That is, one player may not be required to pocket all of 'his' group of balls before sinking the eight ball. Instead of sinking all seven 'solids' (for instance), the player receiving weight might only be required to sink six (manually removing the last ball after legally pocketing the sixth) before shooting for the eight ball - hopefully to win the game. Obviously, the more balls off a player receives, the greater his advantage becomes. The player receiving the weight can leave the inconveniently-situated balls (those stuck to the rail near the side pocket, or those that are tied up with other balls, for example) and concentrate on shooting easy shots, comfortable in the knowlege that his problem balls will go away at the end of the game. Smart players specify that their balls off will be removed at the end, just before they are to pocket the eight ball. Gullible players will allow their opponent to remove their balls off just after the break. Their opponent will, of course, remove all their easy shots and leave them with an untenable situation. This is a means by which you can appear to be giving weight, while you are actually getting weight from your hapless opponent.

Another form of weight is to specify a pocket into which the eight ball must be played. Corner pockets nearest to the spot at which the balls are racked are usually the easiest since the eight ball, more often than not, stays close to where it was racked. The other two corner pockets are also fairly easy. The side pockets are prohibitively difficult - often there is absolutely no way to pocket the eight ball in a side pocket. The player will have to lag the eight ball close to a side pocket, thereby giving his opponent another turn at the table.

A variation of this form of weight is 'last pocket' eight ball. When you play this game, you must pocket the eight ball into the same pocket that you pocketed the last ball from your 'group'. This game generally favors the better player and there is little you can do to use it to your advantage if you are weaker than your opponent (except perhaps convincing him to choose a side pocket as his last pocket - if he falls for that, you have a major advantage).

Another common form of weight is to give odds on the money involved. If you pay out five dollars every time you lose, and your opponent pays out ten dollars when he loses, you can lose twice as much as he, and still come out even. Calculating favorable odds is an easy way to even things out a bit. Offering to double the bet at a strategic time during a game often plays on your opponent's greed and can reap major rewards against a drunk whose judgement is skewed.

Finally, there are a lot of proposition games that can put you at an advantage. Things like requiring your opponent to shoot behind his back, or with one hand, or under his leg, or without his glasses can all help you win a few games that you might have lost under normal circumstances. There are people who use these techniques almost exclusively to hustle people, so beware an opponent who offers to play you with one of these 'handicaps' if you'll raise the bet. They probably shoot better that way than you'd have imagined possible.

Hopefully, you now have some ideas that you can use to slow Joe Hustler down. Perhaps you'll even beat him for a while until he decides that you're getting too much weight!

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