The Break Shot
Depending on your level of play, the break shot can be the single most important shot in pool, no matter which type of game you’re playing. In 9-ball, for instance, for you to give your gambling opponent the snap is to give him or her one of the biggest weights of all. The higher percentage of racks you can run after the break, the more important that shot is to your chances of winning.
There’s a lot that can be said about the break shot, including where to place the cue ball, what spin to put on it, how hard to hit it, and—in 8-ball—which ball to hit first, along with other questions. The goals of the break are to pocket at least one ball, spread the rest of the balls around the table, and leave the cue ball as close to the center of the table as possible. To do this you must transfer as much energy as you possibly can from the cue ball to the rack of balls by hitting the head ball as full as possible with dead center English. If the cue ball doesn’t move after hitting the rack, then it transferred all of its energy to the rack.
For the break shot you’ll want to have your break stick about as parallel to the table as possible. When you practice this shot, you’ll need to learn how fast and with what kind of hit is best so that the cue ball is on the green at the moment it hits the head ball. That’s when the maximum force is transferred to the rack from the cue ball. When this happens your cue ball will not fly off the table.
The speed of your warm-up strokes should be related to the force of the hit, as with other shots you take. These strokes will also be speedier. You should develop a particular cadence to this shot. Count everything out as you practice this shot so it can be second nature to you. Then you have less to consciously concentrate on. You should rock back and forth with your body, placing your weight on the front foot as you stroke up to the cue, and rocking your weight to the back foot as you bring your stick back. Then explode forward shifting your body weight forward along with the forward motion of the stick, and snapping your wrist at the exact moment you hit the cue ball. The wrist action together with the body thrusting will send that cue ball toward the rack very fast.
But never forget this: The break shot is a controlled break, not an out-of-control break. If you lose control of the cue ball, you’ve hit it too hard. Try easing up on the hit, because it’s more important to get as full of a hit as possible than it is to hit the ball hard.
Let me stress this. An accurate solid hit on the head ball is more important than the speed with which you hit the cue ball. If you cannot hit it with controlled accuracy, then you are striking the cue ball way too hard. Since you can’t count on a ball going in the pocket on the break, you should at least have control over the cue ball so it doesn’t scratch. Scratching on the 9-ball break, for example, is considered a cardinal sin. It’s as sure of a way to lose a game of 9-ball as one can get.
Ease up. Very few people can strike the cue ball with all of their power and still have accuracy. But to increase the speed of your break shot you need to start at the point where you have cue ball accuracy. You should only increase the speed as you develop more accuracy. You’ll know when to slow it down when the cue ball flies off the table, or you scratch often. If that happens you’re just hitting the rack too hard for the kind of control you have developed. Slow it down consistent with your degree of control.
Now rack ‘em and break ‘em.