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Aggressive Safety Play In Billiards

Learn To Win More Often Than You Did Before

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Aggressive Safety Play In Billiards

Get tough minded and your opponents will melt

Photo (c) Matt Sherman
Learn about aggressive safety play and how the pros and amateurs do it.

Matt, My pal started playing pool just over a year and a half ago. His immediate handicap was a 5 and he goes back and forth between about a 4 and 5 average in our APA league, but has not improved this year overall.

I have been trying to help him with his stroking and aiming and they are a little better. Some of the advice I've given him from your website has helped him to be smoother than before. I still need some advice on how I might get him to play safe more often. I mean, it is completely true that there are shots we must shoot safe, right?

When we shoot in practice together I try to tell him when and how to play safe. We argue and he does the right thing sometimes and the wrong thing most of the time in my opinion. And God forbid he plays safe and I get out anyway! This confirms his little theory about safety play being a total waste of his time.

In Eight Ball, when he gets stuck, he thinks he can bank and keep the run going every time. Maybe an even bigger problem is that he sinks balls that tied up his opponent and etc. He says, "The best professionals don't play safeties and I want to practice playing aggressive until I don't safe either." He's still my friend, Matt, but I wish he wasn't my teammate sometimes! What advice can you give him? Would you recommend any videos he can watch or books to read? Any good articles online that can speak to him against his playing like a total idiot all the time?

Thank you.

Thanks for writing. Your problem with your friend, unfortunately, is a common occurrence. An analogy to golf comes to mind.

The mighty golf teacher, Harvey Penick, had a son-in-law who was lettered in school on three other sports and came to him to learn golf. Penick told him "No!" and then told him to play on his own for six months and get back to him, after which time he was humbled enough to learn golf after other sports had come far more easily to him!

I suggest you compliment your friend on how well he shoots and tell him there's a pro or two he reminds you of--then send him to a Youtube video session watching two pros shoot a lot of safeties in their match. He is of course 100% incorrect in saying "pros don't safe".

And I understand he wants to play aggressively. The concept of different kinds of safeties, aggressive and not aggressive, may appeal.

As a nice addition to watching the pros "defend their titles", he can better learn when to be aggressive and learn when to hold back by learning to calculate his percentages on a run.

Say I'm playing a rack of Eight Ball with three balls in my set plus the eight remaining for a total of four balls for the win. If I'm about 50/50 on each of the shots as they lie on the table, my odds of a run are 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 * 1/2 or 1:16 to run out for the win. At an expert level, a winning player does very similar calculations even though they are more likely to run four balls and so on. As a matter of fact, change my shot percentage to 80% like a strong league player, and I'm still only 4 in 10 to run out and therefore, more than half the time all I've done is clear more enemy balls out of my opponent's way.

Here's An Article On Playing Percentages

When he's on that bank in practice, ask him if he's good enough to make that bank half the time--which is what he thinks and why he's arguing with you, right? Then ask his odds of making the next shot. If you get half and half it's a 1 in 4 run; when practicing together remember the ball locations and let him try four times--he'll start to get the picture.

You can visit The 8-Ball Debates section of my site, including articles specifically on when to block and duck, for example. When do you run out and when instead do you simply roll out to block your opponent's pocket?

The debates are written from an expert perspective. My debate opponent has run 10 racks of Eight Ball before in major competition, so hopefully when he says "Here's when to play safe!" your partner will take notice.

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