Practice Drills To Develop Safety Skills
From Dominic Esposito, The Drill Instructor
Now pay attention, student! It is not required to make a ball every time you shoot to win a game. It is required that you control the table.
You want to enjoy a balanced pool game. That means you decide when to shoot an offensive or a defensive shot (or both, usually called a two-way shot based on which choice will best control the table.
Take a few moments to consider your own play. The professionals do, and they shoot safeties to devastate their opponents often. TV is edited and teaches us that billiards pros run tables often. They play safe a lot and running multiple racks from the break comes less often than many think.
So when should you play safe? I'll have Matt Sherman, your Guide to Pool and Billiards at About.com, detail some odds for you here.--The Drill Instructor
Matt: Have you used all five of these tactics at the table?
1. Shoot offense and try to run the table. The calculation is balls remaining X % of success for each ball. If you choose to go for the 6- through 9-ball in a rack of Nine Ball, and you can make the 6, 7 and 8 as they lie 80% of the time and you're 50/50 on a tricky 9-ball far away from the eight, your odds are 0.8 * 0.8 * 0.8 * 0.5 = 0.256 or just about a 25% chance of running out. A poor choice since every ball taken off helps your opponent when your inning ends short of the nine.
2. Shoot safe and "hope for the best". A limited option unless you anticipate how your opponent will respond to the safety. Remember shooting a "good safe" in Eight Ball before they left you a worse position and won ball-in-hand on the eight?
3. Shoot a "two-way" shot with offense, using an eye to defense as well. For example, slowly rolling a solid in Eight Ball so that if it fails to pocket it will come to rest inside or near the pocket opening, blocking stripes. That's why "table speed" or "pro speed" in Eight Ball is often soft and in Nine Ball, hard enough to sink the ball rather than leave it for the incoming player. (Still not an excuse to bang the balls hard, though.)
4. Shoot a safety they have trouble returning, while setting up for the final kill.
5. Missing in purpose, such as a) being "on the lemon" (squeezing an opponent by disguising your ability) b) missing a pocket but playing to block balls against your opponent c) missing to setup a teammate or ally in a ring or shake pool game.
Note that ALL five choices above include intending to miss, play safe or accounting for the probability of misses. Thinking about defense continually sounds "weak" to many, but actually translates to top performance on offense.
Examples include bearing down harder on a loose ball when breaking a pack of balls in Straight Pool so my opponent doesn't get a free pass and choosing whether to cut or bank winning 8- or 9-balls in those games. Let's return to this look at #4 and a killer play with The Drill Instructor on the next page--Matt Sherman