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One-Pocket: Perfecting the Break

It is generally accepted that a well executed break in One-Pocket offers an advantage of 1 to 2 1/2 balls. In a general sense, this represents the average number of balls my opponent is likely to have in his hole by the time I can neutralize the advantage that the break offers. That's a lot in a race to eight balls and is the reason that the break usually alternates (instead of winner breaks).

The ideal break will move several balls toward your pocket (along the long and short rail) and move none towards your opponent's hole. The key is to combine this with positioning the cue ball on his long rail with the main cluster of balls blocking him from being able to shoot directly at your threatening balls.

The goal for the player responding to such a break is often nothing more than trying to survive the inning and hope for a better shot next turn. In this situation, the choice often comes down to a low percentage/high risk shot or taking an intentional foul by rolling or kicking whitey to that one spot on the table that doesn't offer you an easy opening shot. It's better to lose a point than to lose the game.

The most commonly used break is to nick the head ball (on the side opposite the pocket you choose), contacting the second ball using inside spin. The cue ball goes to the foot rail and bounces a bit more than half way up the long rail toward the side pocket. The inside spin does a couple things: it keeps the cue ball from rolling two rails and out to the middle of the table and it also kills the momentum off the foot rail which allows for a firmer hit into the rack without rolling too far. Ahhh, whitey's on the rail and out of sight of any of the balls by your pocket. (check out the diagrams)


Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this potentially game winning shot can become a game loser in a heartbeat. If you miss the hit on the head ball and hit the second ball full, whitey will limp forward only a little and the corner ball on the same side will roll nicely in front of your opponent's pocket. Take that! If enough other balls come free from the rack, you're history. Not quite as deadly is if your "nick" on the head ball is a bit too full: whitey's headed straight to the corner pocket. No fun but not too expensive since in this situation the balls usually don't move toward your opponent's hole for an easy opening shot from behind the head string.

The solution is to either practice this shot until you can get it right most of the time or choose a more conservative break. You can mostly avoid these risks by hitting a ball lower on the rack. However, this rarely produces the strong results possible from the riskier choice. I can understand making the more conservative decision but I have to say that I am always relieved when someone breaks conservatively against me. Their breaks are generally easier to neutralize which reduces or eliminates their break advantage. It's kind of like the serve in tennis. Which would you rather receive: A 140 mph shot that lands near the line or a medium hit in center court. That 140 mph streaker may go long sometimes but it's the only way to get an ace. For my money it's the way to go.

Take another look a the graphics and give it a try. Then try to figure out the best way to survive it. There are several options - I'll tell you what I'd try in the next article.
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