Playing Better Safeties

Written by Mark Finkelstein

I just had a good week of pool playing last week, with lessons, parties and an exhibition in New Jersey. At one room on Long Island this weekend, I watched two really good players lock horns.

They were going back and forth and after the break this is how the table came up.


Figure 1

A quick look here shows the rack is hard to run, the nine is close to a pocket, and there are blocker balls available. The player at the table rolled into the one, drove it down the table and tried to get behind the 6 and the 7. As you see in the diagram, the naturally rolling path took the cue ball across the line of the blocker balls. As you can guess, he over hit the shot a little and the cue ball leaked out from behind the blockers.

I have added another cue ball to this diagram. Notice how this cue ball is drawn a little to change the angle so that the cue ball is coming down the line of the safety rather than across it. I tried this shot a few times and the results were very good. In a few cases I broke up the cluster, I got safe every time, and a couple of times left the cue ball up against the 6 or 7. In all cases, the one ball went to a place that I would have a shot at the nine with ball in hand.

I'm sure you know this concept when playing position, that coming down the line of the shot gives you a much bigger target and margin of error than rolling across the line. The same concept applies as well to safety play, but I rarely see players use this idea.

A good way to think about this is to first think about where you want to put your cue ball. Then look at ways to get there. One way to develop your pool thinking skills is to practice seeing at least two ways to play a shot. For an afternoon when you are practicing safeties, play your second choice. This forces you to get out of your mental rut and see some new possibilities. For example, in this diagram, you might like going off the right side of the one, either with a lot of right spin, or with inside spin. Perhaps you like going behind the one and kicking it up table and pushing the cue ball over behind the 6 and 7. I happen to like the approach of drawing the cue ball a little off the left side of the one and coming down the line toward the 6 and 7, but that is me. You might have a different and better approach for you.

The key point isn't which is the correct answer, but for you to start looking at all the possibilities, remembering that it is easier to come down the line of the shot, rather than across it.

Think about this idea the next time you are looking to hide your cue ball.

See you on the road.

About The Author: Mark Finkelstein is a professional pool player, a BCA Master instructor, an American Cue Sports (ACS) level 4 instructor, and house pro at Slate Plus in New York. Mark can be reached via phone at 347-545-1916, email at nycpool<at_char>gmail<dot_char>com or thru his website at www.mfpool.com.

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Author Info - Mark Finkelstein