Controlling the Nine Ball break

Written by David Baranski

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Controlling the Nine Ball break (page 1)
Controlling the Nine Ball break (page 2)

Another method of control would be to use the soft break. This break became prevalent due to Corey Deuel's successful use of it, and the advent of the Sardo Rack. At the 2001 World Pool Championships and the 2002 US Open, the soft break was used almost exclusively, simply because it controls the big three and does so in a consistent, predictable manner. That made for some lopsided matches, because players were running out 5 or more racks at a time! Pool players are getting smarter - they're finding ways to spread the balls and get good chances to run out without having to "smash & hope." "Smash & hope" is smash as hard as you can into the rack, hope something falls, and hope the CB gets lucky shape on the lowest-numbered ball. Smash and hope can work, but it's not consistent. Sometimes you'll pocket a ball and get good shape on the lowest-numbered ball, sometimes you won't. You can't predict what's going to happen. That can lead to more chances at the table for your opponent, which can be devastating when matching up with a good player.

All that being said, there is always a luck factor on the break. Let's say you control the 1 and CB perfectly, and drop the corner ball. You're still relying on luck to make sure no balls land between the CB and the 1. However, minimize the luck factor by controlling the things you can control on the break: the corner ball, the CB, and the 1 ball (the big three). That should increase your ability to maintain control of the table, and thus keep your opponent sitting in his chair, or kicking when he gets out of it.

Good pool is all about working the percentages in your favor. Tilt the percentages in your favor by controlling everything which can be controlled on the break. My break technique is just one example. My break is still a power break, but it's a CONTROLLED power break. I only break as hard as I can while still being able to control the CB. There's no point in over-hitting the break if it doesn't result in a shot afterwards, just as there's no point in pocketing a ball if there's no way to get shape on the next ball. Control is far more important than power, which is why the soft break is being used more and more.

The break is the most important shot in 9-ball. It sets the table (no pun intended) for the rest of the rack. As such, it should be practiced just as much as any other shot. Don't just bash the rack in practice, though. It might feel good to slam the balls around, but it's not productive. When practicing cut shots, bank shots, shots with english, etc., the point is to learn the shots so they can be reproduced time after time. The same mindset should be applied to the break shot.

The lesson here is to use whatever means necessary to keep yourself at the table after the break, with a good chance at the lowest-numbered ball. The hard part is finding the method which works for you. That can only be found by spending many, many hours at the table.

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About The Author: David Baranski is an instructor and pool player from Raleigh, North Carolina.

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