Playing Safe

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If you are like me, it is always fun to run a rack out. But the real world is not like that. Sometimes we are faced with a choice of taking a low percentage shot and possibly losing the game, or playing a safe and leaving our opponent in a jam.

Before we talk about what makes a good safe, let’s look at what we are trying to do with a safe. First please realize that playing safe is a lot harder than people give it credit for. The cue ball has to stop in a precise spot in a lot of cases to make the safe worthwhile, you are trying to control how far multiple balls roll, and you are trying to put your opponent into a position that they can’t handle well (they may surprise you!!).

So how do we put our opponent into jail so that we can get back to the table and win the game? Let’s look at some ways we can make life tough for our opponent and stack the deck in our favor.

First is separation. Getting the object ball and the cue ball on opposite sides of the table is always a good thing.

Next is distance. If we can keep the balls far apart and on opposite sides of the table, we are making life tougher for our opponent.

Getting blockers in the way. Forcing our opponent to have to kick at the next ball is another key idea. Once our opponent turns their cue ball loose, we are a favorite to have a shot when we come back to the table.

Taking away kicking lanes. Now we are starting to get to the fun part of playing safe. The closer the cue ball is to the blocking object ball,  the more restricted we are with where we can shoot our cue ball.  Freezing the cue ball to the back of an object ball is the ideal. Our opponent now has only limited options as to where they can shoot the cue ball.

Taking away the bottom of the cue ball either with the rail or another ball. Here is another fun one. If we can put the cue ball in a spot so our opponent has difficulty hitting the cue ball, or is limited in where they can hit the cue ball, we are starting to pile on the misery! All a good thing in a safety.

Taking away the jump shot. Not giving our opponent any air is also part of the fun. We want them to come to the table without any options at all.

We can also use safeties to solve problems at the table and wait our turn. Breaking up clusters and hiding is a good way to maximize our chances to get back to the table and win the game.

And finally we can add an offensive component to our safety play by pushing the object ball near the game ball and hiding the cue ball. Now that puts added heat on our opponent.

Now each of these ingredients is useful in its own right, but, the more of them we can get into one safety the stronger it is. Take a look at the diagram and see which shot you would like to be faced with, the cue ball on the left trying to hit the one, or the cue ball on the right trying to hit the 2.


Have fun with making your own safeties.