I only had one and a half hours today to squeeze in a short practice session and I wanted to make the most of it, so prior to arriving at the California Billiard Club (CBC) I made a short list of things I wanted to work on. This was my list:
1. The corner pocket drill (Classic 1) – to work on my short game
2. Kicks to the corner pocket – a lot of my kicks have been off recently
3. One-rail kicks – ditto above
4. 9 Ball break shots – I’ve been scratching a lot lately (~40%)
The first lesson I learned today was the power of making a list and sticking to the plan. Today’s practice session was probably my most valuable practice session ever. Ever! I learned so much that I started typing notes into my iPhone to make sure I captured it all. I think I have enough new information to fill a week’s worth of blog posts, but I’m going to cover just one item today: The 9 Ball break shot.
Traditionally I’ve always broken 9 Ball racks from a location about six inches to the right of the head spot. Why? I don’t know. That’s the same location from which I normally shoot 8 Ball break shots, so I guess I just adopted the same location for 9 Ball. Over the last several months I’ve been very disappointed with the number of times I’ve scratched on the break (~40%), and also the number of dry breaks that I’ve gotten. I decided to move my break location today after remembering my experiences playing against Jeff Gregory a couple months ago. Jeff has one of the best 9 Ball break shots I’ve ever seen, and today I started experimenting with variations of his technique. I’ll shorten the story now and just get right to the point: I made drastic changes to my technique, and here’s the data on my new 9 Ball break shot (data from 30 breaks after I honed my new technique):
1. P(sink some ball somewhere on the break) = ~ 86.6%
2. P(sink the 5 ball into pocket 6 on the break) = ~ 73.3%
3. P(sink the 1 ball into pocket 3 on the break) = ~ 36.7%
4. P(sink the 2 ball into pocket 4 on the break) = ~ 20.0%
5. P(sink the 8 ball into pocket 2 on the break) = ~ 10.0%
6. P(sink the 4 ball into pocket 1 on the break) = ~ 10.0%
7. P(sink the cue ball somewhere on the break) = ~ 3.3%
Here’s how I was racking the balls to make it easier to track them:
Here’s my technique (I’m right handed):
1. I leave 3 3/8” between the cue ball and the left side rail on the head string (i.e. the left edge of the cue ball is 1.5 ball spaces from the left side rail)
2. I hit the cue ball about ½ tip below center (no spin)
3. I aim directly at the center of the head ball (actually, just a very slight hair to the left of center)
4. When I stroke, I don’t use ANY body motion AT ALL. I just stroke the shot from the elbow down! Yes, I know it sounds strange…I’ll explain later.
5. I make sure I’ve chalked the tip, and bridge off the side rail.
6. I make sure I think about fundamentals…technique here is much more important than speed.
The stroke that I learned today (not moving any part of my body) is probably unique. It is significantly different from what all other players do, at least that I’m aware of. Why did I adopt this approach? I made the decision to give up a lot of speed to make sure that I hit my stroke with the least amount of variation possible. (My breaking speed decreased from ~23.5mph to ~19.5 mph) The biggest shocker was the unbelievable consistency in the ball pocketing results. On every break, the same balls were taking almost EXACTLY the same path every single time! Even when I didn’t pocket a ball as I explained above, the balls were still very close. It was a little spooky!
I hope this information helps you with your break shots. My plan is to work on this breaking technique, change some of the variables slightly, and see if I can improve upon the results. With a little practice you should be able to replicate this and improve upon it also. Good luck!