After watching a lot of 10-ball and 9-ball over the last few days, I more and more see how strong safety play really distinguishes the great player from the good player. The great player manages to get the cue ball hooked behind a ball, where as the average player has the cue ball leak out just a little, giving one’s opponent a chance for a hit. It is this fine control of the cue ball that makes the difference.
The question is: “How do we move the cue ball a little as possible, yet hit the object ball with enough force to push it where we want it to go?”
What are the secrets that we need to know to master these skills?
Take a look at this situation…
What I’d like to do is bank the 1 toward the 6 and get the cue ball up under and frozen to the back side of the 2. See how we are separating the balls, taking away the jump, and some kicking lanes and hiding the 1 ball? Most players try to roll this really slow, and what happens is that the cue ball might roll off. What usually happens is that to get the 1 ball up table, too much speed is used and the cue ball passes the 2, leaving a long, but makable shot on the 1.
What we do here is use a drag shot, with low right English. Practice this a few times and you will get the feel for it. Using the drag shot here allows you to hit this 1 solidly, moving it up table, and at the same time, the reverse spin and reverse English, kill the cue ball sending the cue ball slowly up toward the back of the 2! This type of shot comes up all over the place, and is a good way to get ball in hand.
Let’s look at another use of this drag shot when playing safe.
I suppose that in this situation, some might try to make a billiard to the 8, but the best shot here is a drag shot safety with low left spin. The kill gets the cue ball to die right near the 3 and 8, again separating the 1 ball from the cue ball, taking away the jump shot and most of the kicking lanes and giving us the best of this situation. An added bonus putting pressure on our opponent is that the 1 ball is up near the 9 and may wind up with a combination if we so choose! A lot of players will just use a rolling ball here, and what will happen is that the cue ball will have just enough energy to bump the 3 out of the way to give our opponent a look at the 1.
Look for these opportunities to use a drag shot with reverse English to kill the cue ball. It is a game winner!
The last safety I want to look at this week is using spin to move the cue ball. Here is a situation that I see players over-hit all the time.
What we want to do here is slowly roll the 1 along the end rail, and move the cue ball up table. The problem is that when we slow roll the one with the correct speed, the cue ball doesn’t have enough energy to get up the table, and we sell out. What we are going to do is use spin to move the cue ball, and not speed. Aim to just miss the one on the left side with 8:30 English. Make sure your tip is almost at the edge. Your brain will be screaming at you that you will miscue or you won’t hit the 1, but after a little practice, you will get the hang of this.
The little squirt in your shaft pushes the cue ball over just enough to clip the 1, and the maximum spin catches on the second rail and runs the cue ball up table. What you will get is the one ball limping along the end rail, and the cue ball racing up table. This is worth some time practicing this shot. This is another safety that will win you a game this week.
We have looked at two clever ways to use the physics of pool balls to control the cue ball for our advantage. Take the time to practice these techniques so when they come up in a game, you will have the skills to execute the shot correctly.
Next week, I want to look at some clever safeties I have seen over the years that border on the insane. It is amazing what great players think of.
Good luck and see you on the road. I’ll be in Las Vegas for the BCA Expo on July 13-15. Come by and say hello!
Mark Finkelstein is the House Pro at Slate Billiards on 21st Street in Manhattan. If you have questions, or would like to see a particular topic addressed, you can email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org.