Pool Break Shot

... strategy, technique, and effects related to a good pool break shot.

Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs),
mostly from the BD CCB and AZB discussion forums

maintained for the book: The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards,
the DVD series: The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) and
The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP), the Billiard University (BU),
and the monthly Billiards Digest "Illustrated Principles" instructional articles


for more information, see Section 7.05 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards
and Disc II and Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS)


ball squat and hop

How do you make the CB squat on the break, and why does the cue ball sometimes hop in the air and/or off the table?

To make the CB "squat" (come to rest near the center of the table) after hitting the rack of balls, it needs to have slight topspin. The larger effective mass of the rack of balls makes the CB bounce back, so slight follow is required to stop that motion. However, due to the force of the power break shot, only slight follow should be used (i.e., the tip should contact the CB only a small amount above center). The following videos illustrate some of the physics involved:

With a firm break shot, the CB will hop or "pop" into the air after hitting the lead ball. This occurs because the cue is slightly elevated (non-level) to clear the rail. With cue elevation, the CB is driven down into the slate, which causes it to jump. Also, because the CB is also often hit slightly above center, this drives the CB into the slate even more (due to downward "squirt"), which tends to make it jump and hop even more (for more info, and demonstrations, see the follow-shot hop resource page).

So with a firm break shot, the CB will always be hopping on the way to the rack, and if the CB hits the rack while airborne, it will hop in the air after hitting the lead ball. This is not something one should try to create (e.g., by elevating the cue even more than normal). However, with a well-struck break (i.e., a square hit with significant speed), it is difficult to avoid the hop. The best scenario is if the CB lands exactly at the same time it hits the 1-ball. Then the most energy possible will be delivered to the rack, and the CB hop will be as small as possible. Although, even in this case, the CB will still hop slightly because the CB will still have a downward motion component when it lands at the 1-ball.

One should hit the CB with the cue as level as possible to minimize how much the CB hops on the way to the rack of balls to deliver as much power as possible to the balls. If the cue is elevated more than it needs to be to clear the rail, the CB would jump and skip more on the way to the rack, possibly causing it to hit the 1-ball even more airborne, which would cause it to hop even higher. But this would not be good because less energy would be delivered to the rack (due to the losses during the initial and any subsequent hops).

Now, if you hit the lead ball very squarely with significant CB speed, the CB will most likely hop. However, the hop is really not a good thing ... it is just the result of an accurate and powerful break.

Significant hop can occur only if the CB is airborne when it hits the lead ball. This can occur if the cue is elevated too much and/or if too much speed is used. The CB can also "climb" the lead ball a small amount with topspin from an above-center hit, but this effect is not significant.

If you hit the lead ball squarely (as you should with a good break), the cue ball hop is not a problem (unless it is high enough to hit the light fixture above the table). However, with hop and a non-square hit, the cue ball can easily fly off the table.

To reduce the amount of hop, try keeping the cue as level as possible at impact with the CB. Also, try to reduce how much you are hitting the CB above center, especially if the CB has too much follow action after landing.

You can also reduce the effect of hop by adjusting your break position so the distance to the rack is just right, where the CB lands just as it hits the lead ball of the rack. By moving your CB starting position left or right or forward or backward in the kitchen, you can control where the hop occurs (for a given break speed, cue elevation, and tip contact point).


drill

What is a good drill from improving my break shot?

Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP) has a good 9-ball break drill for evaluating and improving your 9-ball break.

from Patrick Johnson:

The idea is to learn to aim the break shot as accurately as any other shot so you can consistently hit the head ball dead square, getting maximum power transfer into the rack and planting the cue ball in the middle of the table. It comes from a piece of advice I heard once and have repeated often to players who are learning to break:

Your break speed should be the maximum speed at which you can consistently pocket a straight-in shot with the cue ball on the head string and the object ball on the foot string, and stop the cue ball dead.

And that pretty much describes the drill:

1. place the cue ball in its normal breaking position

2. place a single object ball on the foot string directly in line with a corner pocket

3. shoot the OB straight into the pocket with a stop shot

4. hit the shot as hard as you think you can, but if you miss the pocket or the cue ball doesn't stop dead, slow the next shot down

5. only speed the shot up again when you've made several successful stop shots in a row

6. gradually build your speed up following the above rule

Here's the setup:

break shot drill


8-ball break

What are possible strategies for breaking in 8-ball?

First of all, follow the advice in the break technique section.

An alternative to hitting the lead ball on the break is hitting the 2nd-ball or 3rd-ball squarely instead by breaking from the side rail. These breaks can be very effective. They spread the balls well and often result in pocketing a ball. It is also easier to control the CB since less power is required. One disadvantage with a 2nd-ball break is sometimes the balls tend to cluster on the breaking side of the table.

If pattern racking is not prohibited, you might want to use the Corey Deuel approach (see below).

 

Should I put balls in certain positions when I am racking for 8-ball?

from CreeDo (in AZB post):

Interesting pattern Corey [Deuel] has come up with for 8b. It not only ensures an even spread for his chosen group, it leaves an ugly cluster for the opponent's group.

He breaks from the corner, hitting the 2nd row ball squarely, maybe 15-17 mph.

In the diagram it's the stripes that spread and the solids that cluster.

8-ball pattern rack

This is what he was left after the break on his own racks. You can see what's happening near the right side of the rack area. Not hard to guess which group he chose in each example.

8-ball pattern rack 1

8-ball pattern rack 2

8-ball pattern rack 3


follow through

Should I use an extended follow through on the break shot?

This is a question of cause and effect. A follow-through strictly has no influence on the cue ball because the cue tip is in contact with the cue ball for only a very short amount of time (approximately 0.001 seconds). The only things that significantly affect the breaking power for a given cue stick are cue stick speed at impact, tip offset (distance away from a center ball hit), and the squareness of the hit on the lead ball. However, if a powerful stroke does not exhibit a big follow-through, it is either not very powerful, or effort is being made to limit the follow-through. If one tries to constrain the follow-through, one will probably not achieve maximum speed at impact. Many authors and instructors recommend trying to "accelerate through the ball" for power shots. This thinking often helps one create good power, and it results in significant follow-through.

Follow-through can also be important in achieving good action on draw shots (although, not always for the reasons people think). For more info, see "Draw Shot Primer - Part V: how to achieve good draw action" (BD, May, 2006). In particular, see item "b" under "other advice" and item "5" under "stroke best practices." I think these points apply equally well to both a power break and a power draw.

from Fran Crimi:

Besides making sure the rack is tight, you MUST exaggerate your follow-through. Even if you think you are following through enough, push through even more. Watch Strickland's follow-through. The cue literally comes out of his bridge hand and is extended all the way down the table. It's difficult to master that letting-go technique with accuracy but with lots of practice, it will pay off in spades.

The other option is to leave the cue in your bridge hand but with an over-extended follow-through, if you lean into the break shot, you will definitely bend the shaft and possibly crack or break it like some other players do.

I prefer the letting-go technique.


making the 8-ball

How can I increase my chances of making the 8-ball on the break?

Not all leagues and tournaments award a game victory for making the 8-ball on the break; but if they do, it is wise to try to increase your chances for pocketing the 8-ball. A good technique for this is to place the CB close to the side rail on the head string, and hit the 2nd ball in the rack squarely. The 8-ball will often head toward the opposite side pocket, and the balls will usually disperse well. Clips HSV 7.8-7.11 show how it works. For illustrations and more information, see Section 7.05 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards.


measuring your own break speed

Is there an easy way to measure your break shot speed without a fancy radar gun?

Here's a phone app that works very well:

http://www.mybreakspeed.com/

You can also measure your break speed with any computer containing a microphone (see below).

from Runnin8:

To find your own break speed:

1) Measure the distance between where your cueball rests on the table for a normal break and the head spot, subtract 2.25" for one ball diameter.

2) Use sound recorder on a PC to record the sound of your break. We used a laptop with it next to the table. Most PCs can record at 44Khz, or 44 thousand times a second, more than accurate enough. Also, forget about having to get it right in the middle. Unless your break speed is near the speed of sound its a nit. Use a sound program like Wave pad to open the file and identify the peak where the cue strikes the cueball and then the peak at rack contact. If you highlight with Wave pad it will tell you to the thousandth of a second.

3) Your break speed in mph is:

(distance-2.25) / 12*60/88 / (measured time)


9-ball break

What are possible strategies for breaking in 9-ball?

First of all, follow the advice in the break technique section.

If pattern racking is not prohibited, you might want to take advantage of those approaches (maybe in combination with a soft break per the Corey Deuel example below).

 

Should I put balls in certain positions when I am racking for 9-ball?

from CreeDo (in AZB post):

Corey will not be satisfied until he completely breaks 9 ball.

First he figured out how to make a ball on the break every time and get a look at the 1. Then he figured out how to get an easy layout so he can run the whole rack every time. Now he's figured out how to leave himself a wired 9 ball combo after running just 2 or 3 balls:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mZa59OiRJd8

He hasn't quite perfected it, and maybe it only works on the barbox. But in this one match he set it up every time and was able to execute it for 5 out of his 9 wins.

He apparently randomizes a few balls so as to skirt around the pattern racking rule, though it's obvious what he's doing. Sometimes he just has to run to the 3 ball, which is near-wired to the 9. Other times to the 4 or 5. Somehow it's never, say, the 8 ball.

Don't get me wrong, the match actually shows some amazing shots by Corey. It's not like all he does is get early 9's and then runs to the bank.

Dennis seems to be racking differently all the time and breaking much firmer. Almost like he wants a random outcome. I dunno if he's trying to stick to the spirit of the law, or if he just gave up trying to imitate what Corey does. He's pattern racked in the past.

Rack 2 -

rack 2

Rack 5 -

rack 5

Rack 8 - backfires, Corey loses control of the rack and Dennis gets the early 9.

rack 8

Rack 10 -

rack 10

Rack 12 -

rack 12

Rack 14 -

rack 14


pattern racking strategy

Should I put balls in certain positions when I am racking for 9-ball?

There are certain ball-motion patterns you can take advantage of, whether you are racking for an opponent or racking for yourself. Some of the basics are covered in this video from Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots:

Joe Tucker's Racking Secrets DVDs also cover this topic in detail.

 

Isn't "pattern racking" prohibited by the rules?

from the WPA rules:

2.2 Nine Ball Rack
The object balls are racked as tightly as possible in a diamond shape, with the one ball at the apex of the diamond and on the foot spot and the nine ball in the middle of the diamond. The other balls will be placed in the diamond without purposeful or intentional pattern.

Obviously, a strict interpretation and strict enforcement of this rule prohibits "pattern racking," where you place certain balls in certain positions for an advantage. However, the rule isn't usually interpreted so strictly. Often (e.g., in most leagues and tournaments), the last sentence is interpreted: It doesn't matter where the other balls are placed. Also, somebody can easily "pattern rack" without it seeming "intentional" or "purposeful." However, a ref or opponent has the right to protest if certain "patterns" are obviously being used (e.g., always placing the 2-ball in the back of the rack).

Obviously, the best solution is to have a neutral party rack the balls (which is done in the WPBA TV events). With "rack your own" or "opponent racking," "pattern racking" is always likely to occur unless each ball is required to be in an exact position, but this would require a rules change and would result in repetitious run-out patterns (especially with new balls on a "trained" table with consistently good racks).

I personally recommend that everyone (including all leagues and tournaments) use the "No Conflict Rules" for racking and breaking in 8 ball, 9 ball, and 10 ball.

Even if the balls are truly racked randomly, the balls will still be in a certain pattern in a given rack. And it can sometimes be useful to know where balls in certain positions tend to go.


sidespin

Should I use english on a power break shot?

The short answer is:
NO, you should not use sidespin on a break.

Here's the long answer:
If you hit the CB off center, some of the cue's energy will go into spinning the CB and less will go into moving the CB forward. Therefore, for a given stroke speed, the CB will have less forward speed when sidespin is used (i.e., you will have less breaking power). Also, if using sidespin, you need to adjust your aim for squirt; otherwise, you won't get a square hit on the lead ball, which is very important for power. Luckily, with a power break shot, swerve is not a significant factor, so if you have a breaking cue with a natural pivot length well matched to your preferred break bridge length, squirt compensation can be automatic for both intentional sidespin (if you use BHE) and unintentional sidespin. For more info, see Diagram 4 (and the related discussion) in "Squirt - Part IV: BHE, FHE, and pivot-length calibration" (BD, November, 2007).


statistics

How often to pros make a ball on a break, and how often do they run out?

from AtLarge AZB post:

Here are some break statistics from the 16-player 2014 CSI Invitational 8-Ball Championship played at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas with pay-per-view streaming by CSI.

The conditions for this call-shot 8-Ball event included: Diamond 9-foot table with regular pro-cut pockets (4½" corners), Simonis 860 blue cloth, Magic Rack, Cyclop TV balls including the cue ball, jump cues allowed, breaker racks for himself, alternate breaks, break from anywhere behind the line, cue-ball fouls only, a legal break requires that at least 4 balls hit a rail or at least one ball is pocketed (no illegal breaks occurred), and ball in hand anywhere after a foul on the break.

Overall results -- The breaker made at least one ball and did not foul 71% of the time (154 of 218), won 64% of the games (139 of 218), and broke and ran 54% of the games (118 of 218).

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the 218 games.

Breaker made at least one ball and did not foul:

Breaker fouled on the break: Breaker broke dry (without fouling): Therefore, whereas the breaker won 64% (139) of all 218 games, Break-and-run games: With alternating breaks, B&R "packages" of the normal type are not possible. But we can still look at the breaks of a given player and see how many he ran on his own successive breaks, and we can call these "alternate-break packages." The 118 break-and-run games (54% of all the games) consisted of 1 alternate-break 6-pack (by Bustamante), 2 alternate-break 5-packs (by P-Y Ko and Orcollo), 3 alternate-break 4-packs ( P-Y Ko, Van Boening, and P-C Ko), 8 alternate-break 3-packs, 16 alternate-break 2-packs, and 34 singles.

8-balls on the break: None.

 

from AtLarge AZB post:

Here are some break statistics from the 2014 WPA World 9-Ball Championship played this week in Doha, Qatar, with free live streaming by Kozoom.

The conditions for this event included: Wiraka 9-foot tables, Simonis 860 electric blue cloth, Magic Rack, Super Aramith Pro TV balls with the measles cue ball, alternate breaks, referee racks with the 2-ball in back, break from anywhere behind the line, jump cues allowed, WPA rules (all slop counts) with the exception that it is an illegal break unless at least 3 balls are pocketed or pass the head string. Apparently no shot clock was used, despite earlier indications that it would be.

The 15 matches (255 games tracked) that I watched were as follows.

Overall results -- The breaker made at least one ball (and did not break illegally or foul) 89% of the time (226 of 255), won 61% of the games (155 of 255), and broke and ran 35% of the games (89 of 255).

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the 255 games.

Breaker broke legally, made at least one ball, and did not foul:

Breaker made at least one ball and did not foul, but broke illegally: Breaker fouled on the break: Breaker broke dry (without fouling): Therefore, whereas the breaker won 61% (155) of all 255 games, Break-and-run games: With alternating breaks, B&R "packages" of the normal type are not possible. But we can still look at the breaks of a given player and see how many he ran on his own successive breaks, and we can call these "alternate-break packages." The 89 break-and-run games (35% of all the games) consisted of 4 alternate-break 3-packs, 8 alternate-break 2-packs, and 61 singles.

9-balls on the break: The 89 break-and-run games included just two 9-balls on the break (0.8% of the 255 breaks). With the Magic Rack, the 9-ball tends to remain close to its original position.

Observation: The effects of using the Magic Rack are quite striking. On all 16 scratches on the break, at least one object ball was pocketed. So, in total, the breaker failed to make a ball on the break in only 6 of the 255 breaks (2.4%), an enormous difference from when the Magic Rack is not used. The high stay-at-table percentage after the break means many more opportunities to run out, so the B&R percentage is also high.

 

from AtLarge AZB post:

Here are some break statistics from the 2014 Diamond Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge streamed by Accu-Stats from the Derby City Classic. This was an invitational 16-man, single-elimination event.

The conditions for this event included: Diamond 10-foot table with 4 7/16" (I think) corner pockets, Simonis cloth, Diamond wooden rack, Cyclop TV balls, winner breaks, rack your own (2-ball and 3-ball on the back corners), break from anywhere behind the line, no jump cues allowed, all slop counts (except spot any 10-ball made on the break), and a 40-second shot clock (one extension per player per rack unless at hill/hill, then two extensions per player).

The 15 matches (267 games), all of which were streamed from the same table, were as follows. The figures in parentheses are the Accu-Stats Total Performance Averages (TPA), as calculated by Accu-Stats:

Overall results -- The breaker made at least one ball (and did not foul) 58% of the time (155 of 267), won 52% of the games (139 of 267), and broke and ran 16% of the games (44 of 267).

Here's a more detailed breakdown of the 267 games.

Breaker made at least one ball and did not foul:

Breaker fouled on the break: Breaker broke dry (without fouling): Therefore, whereas the breaker won 52% (139) of all 267 games,

Break-and-run games: The 44 break-and-run games (16% of all the games) consisted of 5 two-packs and 34 singles. No one broke and ran 3 or more games in a row.

10-balls on the break: The 10-ball was made on the break 6 times without scratching (2.2% of the 267 breaks), but it was spotted (with the breaker continuing to shoot) rather than counting as a win.

 

from AtLarge AZB post:

Here are the aggregate break statistics from 34 of the 36 9-Ball matches streamed by Accu-Stats from the 2013 U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship in Chesapeake, VA.

The conditions for this event included: Diamond 9-foot table with pro-cut pockets, Simonis 860 cloth, Diamond wooden rack, Aramith Tournament balls, measles cue ball, winner breaks, breaker racks for himself with the 2-ball at the back of the rack, break from the box (a bit narrower than 2 diamonds wide), a 9-ball made on the break spots up if it went in either of the two foot-rail pockets, no soft breaking (at least 3 balls must pass mid-table or be pocketed), cue-ball fouls only, jump cues are allowed, and all slop counts (except as stated for 9-balls on the break). A 40-sec. shot clock (with one extension per rack) was used on most of the full-production matches beginning with the third match on Wednesday.

Overall results -- The breaker made at least one ball (and did not foul) 63% of the time (370 of 585), won 56% of the games (326 of 585), and broke and ran 21% of the games (124 of 585).

Here's a little more detailed breakdown of the 585 games.

Breaker made at least one ball and did not foul:

Breaker fouled on the break: Breaker broke dry (without fouling): Therefore, whereas the breaker won 56% (326) of all 585 games,
9-balls on the break:
The 124 break-and-run games included just 3 9-balls on the break (0.5% of the 585 breaks). In addition, 18 9-balls (3.1% of the breaks) were made that went in one of the two bottom pockets and had to be spotted rather than counting as wins.

from AtLarge AZB post:

Here are the break statistics from fifteen 9-ball matches streamed by Accu-Stats from the 2013 Southern Classic in Tunica, MS.

The conditions for this event included: Diamond 9-foot table with pro-cut pockets, Simonis cloth, Diamond wooden rack, winner breaks, rack your own, break from anywhere behind the line, no jump cues allowed, all slop counts (except 9 on the break in either foot-rail pocket), and a 40-second shot clock with one extension allowed per rack.

Overall results -- The breaker made at least one ball (and did not foul) 76% of the time (157 of 207 games), won 58% of the games (120 of 207), and broke and ran 35% of the games (73 of 207).

Here's a little more detailed breakdown of the 207 games.

Breaker made at least one ball and did not foul:

Breaker fouled on the break:

Breaker broke dry (without fouling):

Therefore, whereas the breaker won 58% (120 of 207) of all games,

- He won 64% (100 of 157) of the games in which he made at least one ball on the break and did not foul.
- He won 13% (1 of 8) of the games in which he fouled on the break.
- He won 45% (19 of 42) of the games in which he broke dry but did not foul.
- He won 40% (20 of 50) of the games in which he either fouled on the break or broke dry without fouling.

9-balls on the break: The 73 break-and-run games included three 9-balls on the break (1.4% of the 207 breaks) that counted as wins. The 9-ball was also made and had to be spotted one time.

from AtLarge AZB post:

Here are some break statistics for all 9 of the Diamond Bigfoot 10-Ball Challenge matches streamed by Inside Pool and Accu-Stats from the 2013 Southern Classic in Tunica, MS.

The conditions for this event included: Diamond 10-foot tables with approx. 4 1/2" (4 7/16"?) corner pockets, Simonis cloth, Diamond wooden rack, winner breaks, rack your own, break from anywhere behind the line, no jump cues allowed, all slop counts except spot any 10-ball made on the break in either foot-rail pocket, and a 40-second shot clock (last 3 matches only).

Overall results -- The breaker made at least one ball (and did not foul) 56% of the time (89 of 159), won 53% of the games (85 of 159), and broke and ran 19% of the games (30 of 159).

Here's a little more detailed breakdown of the 159 games.

Breaker made at least one ball and did not foul:

Breaker fouled on the break:

Breaker broke dry (without fouling):

Therefore, whereas the breaker won 53% (85) of all 159 games,

- He won 62% (55 of 89) of the games in which he made at least one ball on the break and did not foul.
- He won 33% (5 of 15) of the games in which he fouled on the break.
- He won 45% (25 of 55) of the games in which he broke dry but did not foul.
- He won 43% (30 of 70) of the games in which he either fouled on the break or broke dry without fouling.

10-balls on the break: One that counted as a win; eleven that were spotted. Ten of those spotted 10-balls occurred in the last three matches on Tuesday.

 

from AtLarge AZB post for data from the 2012 US Open:

The conditions for this event included: 9-foot Diamond Pro-Am table, Simonis cloth, Delta-13 rack, winner breaks, breaker racks for himself, 2-ball must be racked at the back of the rack, break from the box, a 9-ball made on the break spots up if it went in either of the two foot-rail pockets, no soft breaking (at least 3 balls must pass mid-table or be pocketed), cue-ball fouls only, jump cues are allowed, and all slop counts (except as stated for 9-balls on the break).

The breaking results were as follows:

Breaker made at least one ball on the break and did not foul:

Day 1 -- 51 of 87 (59%)
Day 2 -- 60 of 99 (61%)
Day 3 -- 42 of 90 (47%)
Day 4 -- 85 of 110 (77%)
Day 5 -- 64 of 105 (61%)
Day 6 -- 52 of 93 (56%)
Day 7 -- 41 of 54 (76%)
7-day total -- 395 of 638 (62%)
Breaker won the game:
Day 1 -- 45 of 87 (52%)
Day 2 -- 53 of 99 (54%)
Day 3 -- 57 of 90 (63%)
Day 4 -- 72 of 110 (65%)
Day 5 -- 50 of 105 (48%)
Day 6 -- 43 of 93 (45%)
Day 7 -- 34 of 54 (63%)
7-day total -- 354 of 638 (55%)
Break-and-run games:
Day 1 -- 13 of 87 (15%)
Day 2 -- 16 of 99 (16%)
Day 3 -- 14 of 90 (16%)
Day 4 -- 36 of 110 (33%)
Day 5 -- 24 of 105 (23%)
Day 6 -- 19 of 93 (20%)
Day 7 -- 23 of 54 (43%)
6-day total -- 145 of 638 (23%)

9-balls on the break:

The 145 B&R games include 4 9-balls on the break (0.6% of the 638 breaks). In addition, 5 9-balls (0.8%) were made that went in the two bottom pockets and had to be spotted rather than counting as wins.


technique and equipment advice

What is some important basic advice about the break shot?

Here's a video demonstration of recommended "best practices" for break technique, from Disc III of the Billiard University (BU) Instructional DVD series:

For more info, see: “Billiard University (BU) - Part X: The Break Shot” (BD, May, 2014).

And here's another helpful video from Colin Colenso (see the quotes below also): NV A.20 - Colin Colenso's power break instructional video

The most important thing to remember is: an accurate (square) hit on the lead ball is the most important factor for a good break. Only use as much power as you can control. In general, you want to use a longer bridge length and stroke for shots with more power (e.g., the break). Make sure your bridge hand is stable and still during the forward stroke (or at least until CB impact), and follow through as straight as possible. Also keep your grip hand as relaxed as possible, and keep the cue as level as possible. In general, try to follow stroke "best practices," even on the break shot.

It is advisable to use a break cue with a "natural pivot length" well matched to your break bridge length. This will allow squirt to exactly cancel stroking errors that cause the tip to hit left or right of center ball, assuming your initial center-ball aim is accurate. For more information, see "Squirt - Part IV: BHE, FHE, and pivot-length calibration" (BD, November, 2007). Also, see the following video from Disc II of The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots:

It also helps to use a hard (e.g., phenolic) tip. This results in more CB speed for the same cue speed (see cue tip efficiency for more info).

Many people raise their body during the break because they also straighten their arm and/or drop their elbow. These two motions counteract each other, keeping the cue close to level at impact. Also, straightening the arm can allow many people to generate more cue speed by getting more of the shoulder muscles involved. However, accuracy (a center-ball hit on the CB and a square hit on the rack lead ball) are much more important than a little extra power, so body motion should be kept to a minimum if accuracy suffers as a result. For more info on the effects of elbow drop, see the stroke elbow drop resource page.

For more info, see BD's breaking tips of the pros and Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS).

Here's a slow-motion video of Shane VanBoening's 10-ball break. Shane's break is very consistent and effective, creating power seemingly effortlessly.

 

from Colin Colenso:

There are a few concrete physical / biomechanical contributors which can add velocity to the cue and hence make for bigger breaks. I'll discuss the main ones in order of what I consider to be the most important.

1. Long Lever: By standing higher during the shot, the effective length of the lever is increased. So just as long golf clubs have higher head speeds, a longer arm allows higher cue speed. One doesn't necessarily have to lunge upward to achieve this, but starting low and then raising the body may seem more conducive to better aiming.

2. Centripetal Force: The lunge upward of the shooting shoulder also produces a force at right angles to the direction of the cue movement. This centripetal force accelerates the cue, in the same way that hammer throwers accelerate the hammer by pulling at 90 degrees against it as it rotates.

3. Forward Lunge: Forward lunging creates additional cue speed also, just as shot putters can throw further with a glide throw rather than just a standing throw. One may be able to lunge at 2-3mph and this component can be added to the overall cue speed.

The trick is working out the technique of these various factors such that they can all contribute with minimal loss of control.

I do believe a good wrist flick can contribute as much speed as the 3 effects above combined and it becomes hard to execute that as well while lunging, so a well timed stroke with minimum movement and with a reasonable length of lever can produce some very powerful controlled breaks.

That said, if one wants to break a world record, they might need to add a lunge to their technique.

from Colin Colenso:

some people can add 2-3 mph to their break by shortening their back hand position. There are two possible advantages of doing this.

1. With a longer arm (lever) on breaking due to being more upright, moving the hand towards the bridge brings it more into a right angled position which makes it more effective (and effectively longer), than having a longer back arm which is at a shallower angle to the cue. Imagine if the arm were stretched to the back of a 7 foot cue and you can visualize that the force is being applied at an inefficient angle.

2. Maybe the main reason is that shortening the back hand means that the pectoral (chest) muscle and front deltoid (shoulder) muscles (which are the source of most of the power) are put in a neutral / mid position in regard to extension / contraction. This is where muscles are at their strongest and can accelerate with more force, allowing a powerful punch with a limited back swing.

To get the feel for how this works, try a Bruce Lee 1" punch, first with arm almost fully extended, next with fist almost contracted back near your shoulder and one midway. The midway position is much stronger at applying a rapid burst of force. Different muscles involved, but you'll get the idea of what I mean by mid/extension power.

from mosconiac (in AZB post):

There is a limit that most players reach (expressed in mph) due to lack of timing, leverage, & weight transfer. Older men & most women seem to plateau around 18-20mph. Most males plateau around 22-24mph. Yes, there are freaks of nature that inherently hit 30+mph, but those guys aren’t reading this thread, I suppose.

To get to the next level, players need to add a seemingly unnatural movement (really a series of movements coalesced into one) to the break routine. Most that try it end up striking the CB erratically and give up. Those that can get past that acclimation stage (through practice) will be rewarded.

All great breakers share these tendencies:

  1. Low initial body position (aids upward body movement) with compact stance (aids weight transfer) & forward hand position (aids final alignment/delivery of cue)
  2. Abruptly raise cue at end of backswing (stores energy in arm & shoulder) and cock elbow behind body (stores more energy)
  3. Upper body releases (forward & up) with hips driving forward (sometimes with a turning motion like a golf swing)
  4. Elbow begins driving down & thru (cue returning to pre-shot alignment)…arm release lags behind body release
  5. At impact, upper body & hips are fully released (driven by rear foot), elbow is fully dropped (& driving forward), and weight shift causes rear leg to rise up for counter-balance.
Hillbilly’s tips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3U-qUPU134

My break analysis videos:
Hillbilly: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N2b7D4DYwjI
Nevel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l0quThyaBeg
Morra: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqjOVOUl1qw

See any similarities in my other videos?:
Buste 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1lGmxqPNd8
Buste 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ysrxi_w6_B4
Archer 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXTA2n-qkwY
Archer 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmWyiZ73ymg

from Patrick Johnson:

As with other major breakers, it appears to me that the crucial feature in Larry's powerful break is the involvement of his upper arm. The elbow drop and standing up are both integral to getting a full-arm swing.

Much is made of the "lunge" of these power breakers, and I'm sure that contributes significantly, but I believe the straightening of the arm for the full-arm swing is the most important element in getting more power - and, of course, the main difficulty in hitting the CB accurately.

from sfleinen:

Here's of one of the most powerful (and controlled) breakers in the world -- the mighty Russian, Evgeny Stalev:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=PkCG3q2PDa4#t=560

He's all of 150lbs soaking wet, yet clocks in 35+ mph breaks (he was averaging that in the U.S. Open the video above was taken from). Evgeny (pronounced "yev genny" with a hard "g" sound in the second syllable, for those Russian-pronunciation-challenged like us Americans) uses shoulder, elbow, and his pectoral (chest) muscle to achieve this power. You'll notice he doesn't use any "lunging" motion at all, but rather a very smooth "forward drift" motion in his stance. ... And he does all this with his playing cue!

In my opinion, Evgeny's got one of the smoothest, most powerful, and, for what's going on in his arm, accurate breaks around. Ask yourself, have you ever heard that kind of sound from a break? It's one thing to hear it in this video; quite another to hear it in person (the video lacks some of the auditory fireworks that seeing/hearing this live gives).

from KMRUNOUT:

Having studied the break for some time now, I've watched most of the great breakers. You might notice that Evgeny Stalev is remarkably similar to Shane VanBoening. They both have that "forward drift" thing going on. However, both also gently stand up as they *back stroke*. Another similarity is that they both keep their bridge hand pretty well anchored to the table. The result is a setup that allows for a very gentle relaxed building of power. This, I think, is the reason why they are able to consistently hit the rack so square and control the cueball.

As for the body movement, here are my thoughts: can someone hit the rack in the high 20 mph range using just the arm, without moving the body? Not too likely. However, even if they could, it would seem to have to be a very aggressive movement. It would certainly be a very *short* lever and would require explosive power and speed. Remember that this power does not occur in a vacuum-there will be an equal and opposite force acting somewhere. This will require effort to keep the shoulder and the elbow from moving, and I think this can cost accuracy. By rotating the body slightly (the hips then the shoulders, like in a golf or baseball swing), you can provide a (moving) platform from which to execute this arm swing. You will notice a lot of breakers kick their leg back. This really has little to do with generating power. It is a *counterbalance*. The leg is rotating around the body in the opposite direction as the shoulders. This makes it easier to keep the spine in the same location as the shoulders (and leg) rotate around it. This can be practiced. The trade off is that initially you will have less cue ball control on the break. Soon, though, the benefit will be that it is *easier* (requires less effort) to swing the cue fast. So if you wish to break at, say, 25 mph...you *might* be able to achieve this with an arm-only swing (highly doubtful), but I would really like to see that motion result in quality cue ball control, because I doubt I would see that. If your goal is to break at 18 mph, then sure, use only your arm and you can have great cue ball control. 18 mph, though, is not always the best speed for a given table, especially in 8-ball.

I guess in summary what I am saying is that while you may get decent cue ball control at lower speeds with an arm only motion, I believe it is easier to develop good control at higher speeds using a more effortless technique, more like Stalev and VanBoening.

from Cornerman:

I notice that players that are stronger in the arm can break big with a short bridge. Others get great control with a super long bridge. Anyone who discourages the long bridge needs to step back and really really really make sure they understand the mechanic and why some players can indeed get better control with a longer bridge.

The longer bridge allows you to get to a higher speed while maintaining a lower acceleration. That is, you might be under more control with a longer bridge in getting the final desired stick speed. The shorter bridge, you'll need to have a higher acceleration for the same final stick speed. And that will need more arm strength to keep under control.

At the [2006] Derby City, I watched intensely some of the hardest breakers. The timing and coordination is something that if it's not natural, it would take some work. Again, add a few things at a time, and it could work wonders.

Elbow
There are two distinct power breaks that I've seen: Elbow Drop and Elbow Rise.
Elbow Drop Breakers: most hard breakers. For pros, this might include Bustamante, Sigel, Strickland, etc.
Elbow Rise Breakers: Archer, Breedlove, Lil John, Sparky Ferrule, Sarah Rousey.
In either case, the elbow drops, but since the Risers rise, the tip dips down on the back stroke, and shoots up on the final stroke. So, Elbow Risers aim at the center or a hair high on their setup.
For Droppers, most will aim low. Really low. Some aim right to the base of the ball or lower. Since they do this, and they get good contact, I assume the elbow is dropping before the tip contacts the ball.
Tip
Most of the hard breakers seem to be able to take that tip all the way to the bridge loop, often actually passing through it. This ensures the longest travel to get up to higher speed, without having to bully the stroke.
Backswing/Pause
I notice that most hard breakers take the final backswing relatively slowly, like they're drawing a bow. Players like Sarah will actually pull it back to the loop and almost freeze with her raised elbow high in the air. Archer also freezes with the elbow higher, but not nearly as high as Sarah's nor for as long a time.
Hips
There is definitely something to be said about rocking your hips back slowly on your final backswing and then leading with the hips on the final stroke before you start the forward swing. Pagulayan is a good example of this. On video, this might cause you to think he's pausing his stroke because the stick stop at the full back position while his hips start their move forward. This is probably the most difficult timing transition. The hip lead is part of the aforementioned freeze.
Follow Through
A lot of today's breakers follow through by letting go of the bridge hand, and bring the cue forward past the center of the table (if they can reach). I don't know if this really helps, but the act of following through helps to not check up your stroke. I still follow through to the table like Sigel, but not so pronounced.
So, even if you do any of the above in small controlled doses, rather than the wild lunge like Breedlove or Sarah, it will add power.
Whatever you do, if you find the cueball going forward after hitting the rack, either lowering your tip at address, or raising your elbow during the backswing can prove helpful.

from Colin Colenso:

Firstly, the long bridge will help but so can these, but they may be tricky to control for accuracy until you practice it a bit.
Firstly, transfer some of the force to the more powerful muscles, the pectorals. You can do this in three ways.
Turn your body more side on to the shot.
Stand up a little higher.
Move your body away from the cue an extra inch.
You'll start to get a slight discus version of a swing which can produce much more power than standard cueing which relies a lot on the biceps.
Also, relax you wrist and focus on letting it flex back in the early part of your forward delivery.
When I put these together and time the wrist, my biggest problem is keeping the CB on the table. The CB can land by the center pocket and bounce off the table from being only a fraction off center on the break.
But give it a try, coz at even 80% effort, if you can time these things using more of the pecs and wrist, you'll get plenty of power and can still control the accuracy.

from Jal:

You want the cueball to have some topspin when it meets the rack. This will act like a brake and stop it from rebounding back too far.

It doesn't necessarily mean hitting above center. The cueball will tend to pick up some topspin after it leaves your tip, even if it sails all the way to the rack. It gets it from the first bounce off the bed just after tip/ball impact, and of course, any subsequent bounces. (In fact, to my understanding, if it is airborne all the way, it should pick up more topspin from the one bounce than if it slid along the surface the entire way.)

Exactly where to strike to get the right amount of topspin depends on ball speed, cue elevation and cloth/ball conditions. But, it's going to be near centerball.

The adjustment, in theory, is very simple. If the cueball is following too far forward, hit lower; if it's rebounding back too far, hit higher. If it's badly inconsistent, shorten your bridge length and/or slow down some until you get better control.


10-ball break

What is a good approach for the 10-ball break?

Below is a good summary of what seems to be a good approach (e.g., used often by Corey Deuel and others):

From spoons (concerning Corey's break at Valley Forge in 2009):

The break

10-ball break - part 1

He broke from slightly off center and seemed to be trying to hit the 1 ball as squarely as possible, with what appeared to be a hint of draw on the cue ball. The draw should help him make the 2 and 3 in the sides. It also brings the cue ball to the head rail out of the traffic, and back to the middle of the table for position on the 1. It was not a "soft" break like he uses in 9-ball. He was hitting them hard enough to send the 6 and 7 around the table 3 rails, but not much harder than that.

What he was playing

10-ball break - part 2

He seemed to be clearly playing the 2 and 3 balls in their respective side pockets. Those are the two he made most often. But, as a secondary option, he seemed to be playing the 6 and 7 in their respective corners. By breaking from a few inches off of center, he should send those two balls around the table at slightly different speeds and give them a chance to miss kissing each other near the head rail.

The rest of the rack

10-ball break - part 3

Racking the 4 and 5 where he did leaves those two balls together and uptable which would be the most natural place for the 2 and 3 balls to head if he doesn't make them in the side, and racking the 8 and 9 where he did leaves a 3 ball cluster near the foot spot for him to finish the out. If the 6 and 7 don't fall, they're likely to end up down at the foot of the table which gives him a couple of balls to work off of to get position on the 8,9,10 cluster.

He rarely made more than a ball or two on the break, but if he ever made all four of the ones he was playing, it would be a throw in rack. Regardless, he left himself similar, and often simple racks to work with.


theoretical simulation

If all of the balls were perfect and racked perfectly, how would the balls move after a perfect break?

Here is an interesting analysis and simulation showing the results of a perfect break with perfect balls by Jim Belk of Bard College.


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