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)

Factors of Proper Execution

The safety is one of the most complex subjects in 9 ball. If you lack the ability to properly execute safeties, your game will surely suffer. Many beginners fail to recognize the safety option, and tend to go for the shot at all costs in all situations. Just as there are factors to running the rack, there are factors that come up when you are faced with no shot options. When faced with no option to pocket the object ball, we need an alternate solution that gives the table back to our opponent - but at the same time limits his options.

The factors that surround the execution of the safety are:

Table Speed
The Layout
Your Ability To Remain Calm when faced with less than desirable situations.
Table Speed

To properly send the balls to the desired locations, you need to know how the cloth is reacting to the surroundings and your stroke. Prior to starting the match, ensure that you check the cloth speed. Many tables play fast in dry heat in areas of the Southwest, but tables are sticky in the Southeastern States such as Louisiana and Florida due to the humidity’s effect on the cloth. Rails react differently in different weather also. In areas of the North and Northeast, I believe the table speed is more predictable due to the absence of humidity and dryness. Though many rooms attempt to protect the playing area with different climate control methods, I believe that areas such as Florida will always pose a special challenge due to the factors that the table conditions throw at the player.

When dealing with safeties, we need to gage the table speed for two important reasons:

  1. We need to place the cue ball or object ball EXACTLY where it needs to be placed
  2. We need to know how we are going to get there

It is one thing to know how and where the ball is going, but we also need to properly execute it. Testing a few multi-rail position shots prior to the match, or performing basic patterns and drills should give you a basic understanding or how the table is reacting. Understand that when playing pool at the top level, you need to have a good working relationship with the table you are playing upon. Understand how the table surface is performing and reacting, learn the speed of the rails, the cloth, and the pockets. Inspect the table for divots and settling around the racking area. Knowing the table is essential to winning any pool game.


When executing a safety, it is essential to inspect the layout of the table in relation to what you are going to do. Walls and clusters are obvious targets to send the cue ball or the object ball, but certain factors will determine which of the two you will send there. To determine which, we look at what the problem is in the situation we are faced with. Here are some questions we should ask when faced with the decision to play safe:

  • Am I faced with a positional dilemma?
  • Am I faced with a difficult shot dilemma?
  • Did I get in the wrong side of the ball?
  • Am I hooked?
  • Is the ball I am facing hidden?
  • Does the object ball have no pocket options?

Identifying the problem is the FIRST STEP in finding a solution to the problem.

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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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