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How to Break 9-Ball Billiards

How to Break 9-Ball Billiards

The break shot in many of the various billiard games is perhaps the most important part. Steve Mizerak agrees, and was said in an article he wrote that, "Possibly the most important element in 9-Ball is the opening break. Many times a good player will sink a ball on-the-break and then run out the table, with his opponent never getting a chance to shoot."

How to Break in 9-Ball Billiards According to Steve Mizerak

Mizerak says that there is a common problem in most people's break, so we'll cover that off before getting in to the details. He says that "the major mistake people make on the break is having a wild cue ball." So with that, remember that control is of the utmost importance during a break. Don't sacrifice it for power.

In the 9-ball Break, your main goal is "to sink a ball to have a shot at the next one," says Mizerak. This is unlike the straight pool break shot, where you are simply trying to block your opponents. Additionally, Steve says that "your best chance to accomplish the goal is for all of the balls in the rack to be frozen." He goes on to note that in straight pool, at least the back five balls in the rack must be tight, and in 9-ball, all of the balls must be tight. Since 9-ball is the name of the game, you are going to need to move that ball, which is in the middle of the rack. If the balls are loose, as opposed to frozen, it will not move anywhere. This happens because if the balls in the rack are not frozen, they will not travel as far when your cue ball comes in to contact with them, so you need to make sure "all the balls in the rack are solid-frozen."

When breaking in general, you should keep the following points in mind about how to to a proper break shot:

  • Don't shoot from next to the head spot on the head string and hit the 1-ball in the rack straight on. Here, you will contact the cue ball just above center. some players still do it this way, but most professionals do not.
  • Use "floating cue ball" where you can move it anywhere along the head-string and shoot.
  • Hit the cue ball a tip's height above center and have it strike the 1-ball flush. This will cause the cue ball to carom away from the 1-ball slightly and come to a dead stop. This is what we want to happen.
  • Remember, a major mistake on the break is allowing a wild cue ball, which can fly off the table or scratch in a pocket.
  • The key is to control the cue ball. If necessary, sacrifice speed, but always be sure to get control of that cue ball.

The last bullet Steve emphasizes often, saying that "wild cue balls occasionally plague even the best competitors." He remembers when an opponent's weakness in this important area allowed him to take victory.

"About what seems like a hundred years ago, I played Allen Hopkins. With the score 10-10, he broke, and his cue ball jumped the table. He left me with a 1 and 9 combination. It was a tough shot, but I made it. His wild break cost him the game."

He also repeats his theory on cue ball position for the break, and in fact did so when talking about a Houston tournament. He won that, and he says that cue ball position played a large part in that.

"Early in the tournament, I was breaking from the right side of the head string and not making anything. So I moved over to the left side and started making everything. The one place you shouldn't move it, though, is back near the head rail. That's one of the worst things you can do, because you lose power, and when you lose power you're sacrificing the strongest part of your break."

Mizerak says that If you want to know how to break properly in billiards, you need to remember that Whenever you hit something, the velocity is greatest right at impact. The closer you get to the rack, the better so hug the line. "The closest you can legally get on the break is to have your cue ball stationed along the head string, so get your cue ball as close to the rack as possible and hit it with authority, but without letting it go wild," Steve says.

In a nutshell, you should sacrifice a some speed and power for control, which is the most important thing.

How to Break 9-Ball Billiards

  • Title: How to Break 9-Ball Billiards
  • Author: (Billiards Forum)
  • Published: 11/24/2006 12:28:48 AM
  • Last Updated: 11/24/2006 12:33:40 AM
  • Last Updated By: billiardsforum

How to Break 9-Ball Billiards

The How to Break 9-Ball Billiards article belongs to the Billiard Break Shot and Breaking Tutorials category. Pool playing tips to help you master the art of the break shot.

How to Break 9-Ball Billiards Comments

  1. Whomping FoolWhomping Fool from Sauk Centre, MN on 6/22/2008 4:19:20 PM

    I have an issue with the info you gave on how to do a proper break shot in 9 ball.

    Hit the cue ball a tip's height above center and have it strike the 1-ball flush

    I would like to think that the last thing you would want to do is put follow on the cue ball when you are trying to control position.

    If anything, I would think that you would want to do a stop shot on the break, meaning a dead center or slightly BELOW center hit on the cue. That would leave your cue ball in the center of the table, theoretically.

    To me, follow on the CB would have the CB drift into the chaos of balls bouncing around after contact.

  2. DalasuxDalasux from Baltimore, OH on 11/23/2008 11:01:48 AM

    Please settle an argument for us.

    I have heard that pro pool players have a 28 mph to 30 mph cue ball speed when striking the cue ball on the break shot in nine ball.

    My friends say this way to slow, and seem to think it is 80 mph or above.

    This is on a 7-foot bar table.

    Any web sites I can find the answer?

  3. billiardsforumbilliardsforum from Halifax, NS on 11/23/2008 1:14:49 PM

    There is no way that 9 ball break shot speeds are approaching anywhere near 80 mph. Likely not even half of that. According to Gerry Kanov and Shari Stauch, authors of Pool Players Edge, you don't need to hit the cue ball at the speed of a baseball pitch. In fact, they say:

    The fact of the matter is that the top cue ball speed of professionals tested reached only 31 miles an hour. Even so, those high-speed breaks had a tendency to mishit the target ball and fly off the table. You must achieve a solid hit on the target ball in order to transfer all that energy to the pack.

    Here are the typical cue ball speed for various shots:

    • "Power shot" 7-10 mph
    • "Powerful break" - 25-30 mph
    • "Ridiculously powerful break" - 35 mph

    And according to a scientific study done in 1989 by IBM research scientist and avid pool player, Dr. George Onoda:

    The speed of break shots ranged from 22 to 26 MPH, the average being 24 MPH. [...] Women's speed averaged around 20 mph.

    He did his tests by looking at time and distance traveled using video from the 1987 Brunswick 9-Ball Team Challenge, and the 1986 Resorts International tournament. This included the likes of Mike Sigel, Jimmy Rempe, Steve Mizerak, Nick Varner, Allen Hopkins, and Jose Garcia.

    The more interesting part of his research paper is this:

    But the tapes reveal that success, where a ball is made, was not strongly correlated with speed. Accuracy was equally important, which meant hitting the one ball in the right place and with the proper English. Often in successful break shots, the cue ball was observed to move about less after hitting the rack than with the unsuccessful shots, indicating that more of its energy has been transferred to the object balls.

    Here is the full article titled Faster Than A Speeding Bullet? - "How fast does the cue ball really travel on a typical break shot?", By Dr. George Onoda.

  4. Elder VaughanElder Vaughan from VA, United States on 2/10/2009 4:57:54 AM

    @whompingfool,

    Remember that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Take notice the Miz didn't say "follow" per say, but rather, hit it "one tip above center". When the ball hits it gets hit. To figure this properly, consider the following:

    When one cue ball hits nine object balls the force back on it is about 9 times greater than that applied. This tip width compensates for the backward force of the nine. How many times have you seen the rack get hit and the cue ball gets knocked back to the head string?

    I have spent hours just breaking the 9 ball rack. Everything is not 100% perfect all the time but try this a while you might like it. You know the weather even affects the action of the cue ball due to many other factors like moisture in the air, etc.

  5. Pete LeviPete Levi from San Fransisco, CA on 7/17/2009 11:39:57 AM

    One thing that every pool player should know about breaking is that not every pool table is the same. Meaning, that a good spot on one pool table could mean the worst spot on another.

    If I am playing on a pool table I am not familiar with and have never played on before, I break from four or five different spots to get a feel for the cloth, etc. Helps immensely when it comes to my turn to break. Not only do I have an idea of the best spots on that particular pool table to break from, but I also have the added mental confidence that comes with having specifically practiced the break shots on that table.

  6. FrybrainFrybrain from Kansas City, MO on 11/1/2010 10:43:37 PM

    I've seen radar guns on break shots before, and the professional women's break shots were clocked at 21 mph - 22 mph.

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