People who ask me
whatís so great about pool soon regret doing so as I will invariably begin
listing the gameís features ad nauseam. When the smarter ones ask me for the
one feature that sets pool apart from the other leisure sports, the answer is
always safety. To elaborate I explain that if I go golfing or bowling with
someone and that personís kicking my butt, I have to stand by helplessly and
watch it happen. But if we play pool, I have the power to determine what my
opponent gets to shoot at. The late Danny McGoorty summed it up best when he
said that he tried golf once but didnít see the point when he saw that he
couldnít snooker the other guy on the green.
the diagram we see a common 9-ball situation where we have to shoot at the solid
ball with no good shot. The 9 blocks both the straight shot to the far corner
and any bank, either across side or across corner. Playing the combination on
the 9 would be a difficult and foolish choice that would lead to a loss far more
often than not. Along with no good offensive shot, this setup also prohibits a
good safety shot with a direct hit on the solid ball.
There is however an
effective and easy safety as shown in the diagram. To play the shot as shown you
will hit the cushion first to strike the solid ball from behind and send it
twice across the table while the cue ball stays in place where we see the dashed
outlined ball in the diagram.
In order to make this
shot work you will have to coordinate two important variables. First, after
hitting the cushion the cue ball must hit the solid ball straight on in order to
transfer all of its energy and stop in place. If the cue ball rolls too far
right and into the 9 ball, then you must move your aim point slightly left on
the cushion. You may note however that a little cue ball movement to the right
can enhance the power of this safety by freezing the cue ball on the 9 ball. If
the cue ball glances off the left side of the solid ball to move too far away
from the cushion you will need to move your aim point on the cushion slightly
right. The correct aim point is not something we tend to see naturally, so the
shot requires a little practice to stick the cue ball consistently. The second
factor is correct speed, which tends to come pretty quickly for most shooters.
Practice the shot until the solid ball is returning to the top, side rail
The shot also comes
with an occasional two-way possibility that we should recognize when itís
present. If the solid ball were the 8 ball you would have the option of playing
it once across the table into the side pocket marked with the X. Make
the shot and you have great position for a shot on the 9 ball. Miss it with good
speed and you leave your opponent safe.
One interesting aspect
of this shot is that it works with both draw and follow on the cue ball. When
the cue ball is close to the target ball, as it is in the diagram, I use draw to
hold it in place. When I employ this technique over a long distance, a shot
thatís commonly used to move a ball away from the opponentís pocket in the
game of one pocket, I use a high ball, mostly because drawing a cue over a long
distance requires too much speed. In either case however, I always use a little English
away from the object ball, which helps hold the cue ball in place. For the shot
we see in the diagram, I would use a touch of left-hand English with dra
For a high-speed video
demonstration of a cue ball rebounding with follow, stun and draw, click on the
following link to a video that I shot with Dr. Dave Alciatore, an engineering
professor at Colorado State University.
video clearly shows that a cue ball with follow or draw leaves the rail with
stun, which will hold it in place after a full hit on an object ball in the
slide zone. Note that a cue ball stunned into the cushion picks up forward roll
immediately after leaving the cushion. Note also how the cue ball behaves with
slick conditions and that one with draw picks up forward roll very quickly. So,
on brand new cloth, itís possible that only follow will work for this shot.
Under all conditions or changing conditions itís a good idea to experiment
with a few different setups to determine what makes the cue ball leave the
cushion with stun and how far it will slide before it begins to roll.
we see only one example of a very useful and effective safety technique that I
call a short kick. Learn the shot in the diagram and then try varying the setup
to see how many variations of this powerful shot you can add to your arsenal.