One of the most common questions professional pool players are asked is how do they play such good defensive shots.  Most professionals tend to follow a few guidelines when it comes to playing safe. Today I will discuss the three major components of a good safety.

The first important aspect of playing safe would be to create distance between the cue ball and the object balls. If we can leave our opponent far away from their next shot, it will leave them with a very difficult shot just to pocket the ball, much less get position on their next shot. This brings up an interesting point; a lot of players struggle with long shots. I would suggest spending some extra time working on your execution of long shots, so that it increases your ability to get out of this type of defensive maneuver.

Another very good way to play safe is to leave the cue ball as close to the rail as you possibly can. When the cue ball is frozen to the rail it really hinders our opponent from being able to cue the shot well. The rail can stop them from being able to hit anywhere on the cue ball except above center. This limits their options for position greatly (see diagram). Another way we can use the rail is by putting the object ball as close to the rail as possible. This will force our opponent to make a bank shot. I would rather see my opponent attempt a difficult bank shot than an easy shot out in the open.

Finally the most common of all the defensive shots is the pretty obvious one, obstacles. If we can get a ball, or several balls, impeding the path of the cue ball it will force our opponent to do something difficult such as kicking at the object ball, jumping or even a masse. Most professionals will try and practice their speed control on this type of safety by trying their best to get the cue ball as close to the impeding ball as possible. This effectively cuts off the availability of the jump shot or masse, and pretty much forces your opponent to play a kick shot.

Now if we practice these three techniques on their own we can begin to master each of them and bring them all together in a really great safety. If you watch most professional players play safe, they usually achieve all three of these! They play a defensive shot that has obstacles, has the cue ball on a rail, and is far away from the opponent’s next ball.

If you practice these three techniques you will lock in your safety game. So just remember:
1. Distance
2. Rails
3. Obstacles
4. Bring all of the above together

Keep practicing and you too can play a great safe.
Mikey V.