Unlocking the Safe

Written by David Sapolis

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Article Index
Unlocking the Safe (page 1)
Your Ability To Remain Calm (page 2)
Do we bank the 2 ball? (page 3)
Offensive Safeties (page 4)
Two way Shot (page 5)
Taking the jump out of the Equation (page 6)

Many players get flustered at the first sign of trouble. To be able to make sound, sensible decisions that aid us in our quest, we need to remain calm when faced with adverse conditions at the table. Your ability to remain calm will reflect in your decision-making and the execution of your safety. If you are angry, flustered or nervous, your chances of being successful are extremely limited. Safeties are not only tools to use on your way towards the winner’s circle; they are also tools of frustration. You can either let the situation frustrate you, or you can use the situation to frustrate your opponent. Dwelling on helplessness solves nothing. Getting angry and reacting to the situation emotionally (as opposed to effectively) exposes a weakness to your opponent. Learn how not to react emotionally and learn how to react effectively. Answer every shot with a shot of your own. Never answer his shot with an emotional outburst. Controlling your emotions and remaining calm throughout the situation will help you think more clearly throughout the game and the match.

When To Play Safe

Knowing when and when not to play safe is half of the battle. Many players play safe in different situations and what they do depends on their skill level, their shotmaking ability, and their confidence. As I touched upon earlier, many younger players tend to “go for everything” and rarely play safe - and when they DO play safe - they execute it poorly. Familiarizing yourself with the different factors of when and when not to play safe is essential to making the proper choice.

One of the classic examples is after the break. Your opponent has broken the balls and has left you no shot on the 2 ball as a result of pushing out. The 2 ball is stranded on the end rail. There is a very low percentage bank shot on the 2 ball cross-table. (SEE DIAGRAM BELOW)

That is the only pocket availability option that we have on the 2 ball - and even then - we need some help from the 8 ball. There is also a cluster caused by the 4, 5, & 6. There is a mini-cluster caused by the 7 and the 8. We have the choice to:

  1. Go for the bank shot
  2. Pass the shot back to our opponent
  3. Control the cue ball and place it behind a cluster
  4. Control the object ball and place it behind a cluster
Unlocking the Safe - Diagram 1
Diagram 1

So what is the correct choice? Let’s break it down by looking at each available option and make our decisions by choosing the shot that holds the best percentages for success. We will first Identify whether or not there is a good chance for a run out. To do this, we must imagine that we have ball in hand on the 2 ball. We look to see if any ball is in trouble. The 5 ball causes a problem, but if we get right on the 4 ball and stay on the lower rail, the 5 ball goes in the top left corner pocket. The key to running this rack is getting straight on the 4 ball for a stop shot so that we can pocket the 5 ball. With the 5 ball gone, the 6 ball is a duck in 4 out of 6 pockets. The 7 and 8 are a mini-cluster, but both pass into the top left corner pocket very easily. Evaluating this layout tells me two important things:

  1. There is a possibility for a run out
  2. Whoever maintains control of the game CAN and WILL get out
  3. My opponent should have played safe instead of rolling out - HE just made an error
  4. I am in control of the table now and I need to make it count - and MAINTAIN control

Notice that I mentioned “maintaining control“. By that I mean that we need to be the “actor” as opposed to being the “reactor” during this game. He has pushed out and left us a lousy shot on the 2 ball. We can hit the 2 ball, and we have two separate safety options caused by a three ball cluster and a two ball mini-cluster. The 7 and 8 balls are more of an obstacle option than a cluster as the balls can be pocketed from where they are. The 4-5-6, though classified as a cluster, can be dealt with if handled with care. The 4-5-6 is also our largest obstacle on the table.

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About The Author: Blackjack David Sapolis played professional pool for 20 years in The United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

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