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Billiard Break Shot Control

Billiard Break Shot Control

"It's not all the power you can muster, but all the power you can control that really makes the difference in 8-ball and 9-ball." by Paul Gerni.

How to Control Your Break Shot

A good break shot determines the outcome of a 9-ball game or an 8-ball game to a large degree, and often influences the chances you have of running the rack, or of stringing consecutive racks. Just how important is your break shot? Without question, the opening break shot is the most important part of any 8-ball or 9-ball game. But it looks so simple, doesn't it? Just splatter the balls with one monstrous, earth-shattering blow, right? Wrong.

A successful break is much more complex than casual observation reveals. Just how good can your break shot be if you don't get the most from each segment of the shot? And how good can it be if you don't control the cue ball to land in the middle of the table for your next shot? It is obvious now that the best players are increasing their percentages in the 9-ball game by approaching the breaking of the balls as an exact science which deserves, even demands, much more concentration and attention.

There are several key factors for making a consistent and efficient break shot

  1. Watch the balls carefully as they are racked. - You may spot some occasional movement in the rack that can affect the performance of your break. You are allowed to check the rack from above. Look for spaces and contact points that can affect the transfer of energy to these balls, as well as their relative speeds and paths.
  2. The mental game is important in preparing yourself. - Before you make your break shot stroke, and after you have paused in your stance, relax, take several warmup strokes, then stop the cue tip close to the cue ball before you give it your final stroke and follow-through. In your "mind's eye", you must be able to "see" the cue ball hit the precise point of your aim. (when you do these mental exercises before such a shot, be sure not to leave out any details in this creative imagery....."see" the proper path and control of the cue ball, "see" the object balls exploding out of the rack and heading for certain areas of the table, "watch" yourself chalk up and take your stance, and "watch" yourself use all the critical fundamental mechanics, "see" the hit, and "watch" the cue ball land right where you want it, in the center of the table after the break, with no hits from any other balls, giving you the ultimate control that every successful game needs.
  3. Your stance. - The right stance for breaking not only gives you the right balance, but used properly, can find you a little more speed, allowing you to concentrate on your cue ball control. Keep your feet spread apart, slightly weider than your shoulders -- no less, no more. This will help to give you a stable stance that will survive the "shove" test, and give you a stronger, more consistent break. (The shove test: If someone can shove on your shoulder when you are down in your playing stance, and can push you off your balance, then you'd better square up and find a more stable stance.) Remember to stand with your feet at about a 45 degree angle from the imaginary line of the cue ball and the head ball or 1-ball. Relax. You know that you'll see the center of the cue ball better now, since your proper break shot stance allows you to position your head, and your dominant eye, directly over the cue stick, though usually higher above the cue stick than your head is during the game. You may prefer to bend both knees slightly, so your weight can be easily shifted toward the shot on the follow-through. I don't want to encourage you to "lunge" at the cue ball, because you'll likely lose the very control we're trying to find here. Don't push off the back foot (let the baseball pitchers do that), but instead concentrate on the proper follow-through. You may find this weight-shifting from the back foot forward to the front foot can find you some extra power without sacrificing the cue ball's accuracy and control. You really don't need to get your stance "down" for a break shot. Some players do that, just like they are carefully sighting a critical shot during the game, but they lose power which they will need for the break. The lower stance and head position is really best suited for those smoooth, accurate game shots, not for the break. For the break, though, a more erect stance can actually help give you more freedom of movement, and help you collapse your body weight into the stroke to build cue speed. You already know that drawing the cue stick back quickly does not make your cue speed any faster, and it will usually have a negative effect on your accuracy and control. Because of this, you should concentrate more on your stroke and follow-through, with cue speed. You can do all this without any excessive head movement and lunging, and you'll do very well because of that, since we do not want such massive, uncontrolled power, but rather controlled, increased cue speed.
  4. Placing the cue ball. - Occasionally I will move the cue ball to another point along the line (the head string) to place it for the break, though I often break from the right near the middle of the head string. I only move the cue ball if I feel that the rack will "open" better with the cue ball coming at it from a different angle. Like many other players, I am looking for the "sweet spot", that mystical point of contact from which the rack will explode and give me a pocketed ball or two and the cue ball control I need. No matter where I place the cue ball, I will still shoot directly at the middle of the 1-ball with a center ball hit on the cue ball. Since I want to transfer all the cue ball's energy to the rack of balls, a full hit is needed, and a glancing blow won't do the job. So I will try to strike the closest point of the 1-ball that is on the imaginary line of the centers of the cue ball and 1-ball, which gives me that full hit. There are some players who like to break with the cue ball placed near the rail on the head string, feeling that they can increased their percentages of popping the 1-ball into the side pocket on the break, or perhaps try to finesse the corner ball of the rack into the corner pocket, but this is strictly preference and not gospel, and you may also find something else with your own personal experimentation.
  5. Doing the deed. - Now you are ready to make it happen. Visualize a line directly through the 1-ball from the center of the cue ball. Take your stance, with your front elbow bent just slightly (about 150 degrees, not the 180 degree straight arm), shift your weight to your back leg, and then shift forward into the stroke, getting more speed. Please don't try to kill the cue ball! Instead, use only about 75% of your normal power, and concentrate on an accurate and solid hit on the 1-ball. You will maintain your accuracy by keeping your cue level. Now hit the 1-ball in the center, and stay away from using spin or english. No follow, no draw, just center ball. This will help the cue ball slam into the rack and jump back with no energy left after your solid hit on the 1-ball absorbed the cue ball's energy. The cue ball then "dies" in the middle of the table, and is usually in the best position to avoid hits from other balls, and to get you the best look at your next shot.
  6. A helpful break shot aiming hint. - You may not feel totally comfortable or confident in hitting the 1-ball full in the face to get your best results. If you want to be sure to hit the 1-ball as squarely as possible, maybe this method is for you: Aim at the bottom (or base) of the 1-ball where it touches the cloth. This can help becuase you may feel it is easier to see that small target, instead of trying to focus on the center of the 1-ball. The results will be the same, since you will hit the 1-ball full in the face, and will transfer the cue ball's energy to the rack. In this situation, the final point you should see when you begin your swing is the point where the 1-ball touches the cloth. After a few successes, you will no doubt feel very com-fortable and confident with this technique.
  7. Break Cue sticks. - Some cuemakers, in the past several years have sold a lot of heavier "break cues" to amateur players, allowing them to keep on believing that a heavier cue was just what they needed for a crunching break shot. Dear friends, this is just not true. Happily enough, nowadays, the scrupulous cuemakers, armed with new knowledge and logic, are changing their position on break cues. Most top players prefer to use the same weight cue, or a lighter-weight cue for their break shots. They have found that a stable and rigid joint and forearm can withstand the force of the break's impact, and that a separate tip used just for the break can save the "game tip" and its accuracy by helping to keep the game tip from losing its important shape because of high impact contact. These are the main features which go with the latest innovations for breaking cues. Using a lighter cue, rather than a 25-30 ounce "warclub", will help you find more cue speed. A bigger, heavier stick will be slower, and more sluggish, though it may not be noticeable to the naked eye. It may give you a lot of power, but it is uncontrolled power, since you may be just a bit more erratic with your stroke using the added weight. Remember, the ball you are hitting is only 6 ounces, and is moved very well, thank you very much, with a lightweight cue. You are NOT hitting all 9 balls in the 9-ball rack, or all 15 in the 8-ball rack, with your cue stick! Therefore, bigger and heavier is just not better. Give up your heavy break cues in favor of the lighter cue, and find that you'll have greater cue speed and better control. That alone is much more important than the weight behind your heavy stick.
  8. Transfer the full force of the cue ball to the rack. - Hit it solidly, square in the face of the 1-ball. A glancing blow here is only a waster of energy, and doesn't solve anything no matter how hard you hit it. Not only is it inefficient, but you may lose control of the cue ball, and you certainly don't want that, or you wouldn't be reading this article! How good can your break shot be if you make 4 or 5 balls on the break, but also cut the cue ball loose to fly around the table, possibly leaving you "hooked" or without a decent starting shot? So take care of your game, and that of course starts with your break shot. Control is ultra-important, which is why we often say, or should say, "Your break shot is only as good as your next shot!"

As you have already probably noticed, this is one of the most complete break shot tutorial on the internet. Thanks to Paul for doing such a great job.

Billiard Break Shot Control

  • Title: Billiard Break Shot Control
  • Author: (Billiards Forum)
  • Published: 12/15/2008 2:35:00 AM
  • Source: Paul Gerni via BCA in 1996

Billiard Break Shot Control

The Billiard Break Shot Control article belongs to the Billiard Break Shot and Breaking Tutorials category. Pool playing tips to help you master the art of the break shot.

Billiard Break Shot Control Comments

  1. Lance BastrupLance Bastrup from Lake Arrowhead, WI on 2/8/2009 7:16:26 AM

    Thanks for the info. I usually broke from closer to the rail, but I'll try this. The one thing I didn't know was to hit the cue ball at center. I was using a little follow.

  2. threehandsthreehands from Western Slope, CO on 5/18/2009 3:13:57 PM

    This article makes sense. It is simple, but one of the most sound articles on improving some aspect of your game that I've read. Read it and think about it.

  3. Nursey1313Nursey1313 from Pittsfield, MA on 6/29/2009 5:15:11 AM

    Thank you Paul Gerni. This article was very informative and helpful. I, as many other players I'm sure, actually did think that a heavier cue was better for breaking. I also was told by many that hitting with follow was better. I also know that my stance could use some improving too.

  4. lucyd1lucyd1 from Whitefish, MT on 1/27/2010 1:01:39 AM

    I normally break with a 21 oz pool cue and then play the rest of the table with a 19 oz cue. Do you think a 21 oz cue is too heavy for the break shot?

  5. Marcus UlvenMarcus Ulven from Statesville, NC on 8/31/2010 1:48:20 PM

    Thank you Paul. I am going to try and use what I have read from this in my leagues. If I notice much improvement I'll send you another thank you message. Any other advice will be greatly appreciated.

  6. Christophe BonneryChristophe Bonnery from Nice, France on 1/30/2011 4:27:24 PM

    Reading Coriolis' theoric study (which can be found on the internet), and taking the hypothesis that the cue ball has reached its final state (i.e. is naturally rolling) when hitting the object ball:

    • the maximum speed of cue ball is obtained when hitting the cue ball 1/5 of ball radius above center, so Lance Bastrup might be right by using "a little follow";
    • if the cue ball is hit 1/5 above its radius, the lighter the stick is, the higher the final speed is (validating what is written in this article), but if the cue ball is hit exactly at center, the stick weight has no influence.

    Now, this is pure theory and only practice may validate or invalidate it!

  7. Wendy BrinsonWendy Brinson from Airdrie, AB on 2/17/2013 12:58:48 PM

    I have always made my break shot from the center of the head string, aiming to hit the 1 ball head on. Its the stance that needs work I believe. I was trying to push my weight forward but find it throws me off balance. I will definitely be putting more consideration into my break shot from now on. Thanks for the tips.

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