As I’ve stated before, the ability to execute a good safe can easily mean the difference between winning or losing a match against a tough opponent. Very few people practice safes. Don’t fall into that trap! If you practice your safties, you’ll have an advantage over more skilled players and you will win many more matches.
The Rolling Safe Drill
Here’s a drill I invented a few months ago to help me work on my rolling safes. See the setup in the diagram below. The cue ball is on the head spot. The object ball is one diamond down table from the cue ball. The objective is to shoot the cue ball through the object ball using normal follow, and make the cue ball come to rest in one of the ghost ball spots. Start on the far right side and try to hit each ghost ball spot. This is not as easy as it looks, but with practice you will develop a feel for it.
The Half Ball Safe Shots
The situation: The game is 9 ball. You broke and ran, but lost cue ball position on the 9. Now what? Play a tough bank and hope for the best? Are you kidding me? Just play a safe and let your opponent take the risky shot. Sure, he might make the bank, but 70% or more of the time he will sell out and give you the win. Those are pretty good odds in your favor!
The drill: Just aim for the rightmost edge of the 9 ball (a half ball hit) and address the cue ball with high right (running english) with speed to make the object ball stop in the middle of the short rail. The cue ball will stop somewhere down table, leaving your opponent with a very tough shot. Practice this shot many times as it comes up very often and you want to have a good feel for it. Once you develop a good feel for this shot, try it’s cousin in the diagram below. The shot is the same, but you will be trying to stick both the cue ball and object ball on opposite points on the long rails. Just like the shot in the diagram above, the opportunity to make this shot comes up often, so practice it.
The One Ball Safe Drill
The situation: The game is 8ball. Your opponent broke and ran but jawed the 8. You ran down to your last solid but lost cue ball position. Now what? Play a bank and hope for the best? Don’t take a risk like that. Just play a safe and get ball in hand for an easy win!
The drill: You want to hide the cue ball behind the solid and force your opponent to hit a 1 or 2 rail kick shot. Start at cue ball position 1 with the solid 1 inch off the rail. Hit the solid softly and drive either the solid or the cue ball to the rail. Ideally, the cue ball comes to rest against the solid in such a manner that your opponent is forced to attempt a two rail kick shot. At the very least, make sure the solid ends up between the cue ball and the 8, forcing your opponent to try a 1 rail kick. If you don’t accomplish either, you lose the game. Once you master cue ball postion 1, try positions 2-5. To make the drill more difficult, move the solid from position 1 to positions 2 and 3. Good luck!
The Stop Shot Safe Drill
The situation: The game is 8ball. Your opponent broke and ran but jawed the 8 in the corner. You ran down to your last two solids, but can’t figure out how to run the last two balls. Now what? Do you play the seven ball in the side pocket and hope for position on the 1 ball? Why take that chance? Just play a stop shot safe and get ball in hand for an easy run out! To make the shot, just stroke the cue ball gently into the one ball by hitting the cue ball a half tip below center. The one ball will bounce off the rail and stop in front of the corner pocket. The cue ball will now be hiding directly behind the 7 ball. Now your opponent must attempt a tough 1 or 2 rail kick. If he misses, you get ball in hand and an easy run out for the win!
The Safety Game
Playing this game will dramatically improve your performance in nine ball. Guaranteed. You will start to see new safeties and develop a feel for hitting them and begin to hone your ability to answer that super critical question we always ask ourselves in tough situations: “Do I play a safe here, or do I go for the shot?” Try The Safety Game and then tell me what you learned. You will be very happy with the results. I highly recommend playing with a partner because your partner will almost certainly come up with solutions to safety and kicking problems that will differ from your own. These differences will expand your knowledge base and teach you additional ways to escape from tough situations. When you play this game, play it as a race to 10 or 20 games.
– You must lag to determine who will break the first rack. If you’re lazy, you can just flip a coin, but you’re not lazy, are you?
– The winner of the lag can choose to break or defer the break
– After the initial rack, the winner of a game must break the next rack
– On the break shot, the breaker MUST play a safe
– The break shot must always start EXACTLY as diagrammed above (i.e. cue ball on the head spot, object ball 2.25 inches off the bottom rail)
To win a game:
– You must legally pocket the object ball in a called pocket
The following situations are an immediate loss of game:
– Pocketing the object ball on the break is a loss of game, even if you call it.
– Pocketing the object ball in any pocket other than a called pocket is a loss of game
– A scratch at any time is a loss of game
All other general pocket billiards rules apply.