By Howard Smith

The break is a fascinating part of any pool game. Many games, matches, and even tournaments are won or lost because of the break. I have watched many players over the years and studied how they break. Most players are convinced that it is necessary to knock the living crap out of the cue ball and that is what they try to do. Many players have developed techniques that are much like a gymnast or acrobat. At times I have thought a player was going to literally jump up onto the table. Once many years ago I was playing a fellow in Lake Charles Louisiana that slipped and punched his hand into the end of the pool table and broke four fingers of his right hand. Needless to say I won that game.

What makes a good break? First what game are you playing? 8-ball, 9-ball, 10-ball, one pocket, straight pool, they all are different and the strategy of the break may vary. Another consideration is the skill level of your opponent. Example, there are 2 types of breaks I use in 8-ball. If I am playing a run out player I will break to the second ball down on the rack. This will knock the ball to one side of the table and back leaving clusters that are difficult to clear and run out. If I am playing a lower skilled player I break for the head ball to make the head ball in a side pocket or corner pocket and scatter the balls over the table.
Playing 9-ball, it is very important to make a ball on the break. If you don't you may not get back to the table. It is the same with 10-ball. Now one pocket and straight pool are very different. You will seldom break the balls out because you place yourself at such high risk if you don't make a ball.

Well all this says one important thing to me about breaking. If you have played with me you have heard me say often there is nothing to pool except luck and ….. surgical skill. The break shot is no different. It is a shot very much like any other shot that you will encounter in the game. If you believe that if you hit the balls hard and make them roll around enough on the table you have a better chance of making a ball then you are a luck player. I like luck as much as the next player but I would rather depend on logic, reason, and skill just as I do on any other shot that I make. Remember when you break hard you turn the cue ball loose and increase your chances of loosing.

When you break you should be trying to control the rack distribution and the landing point of the cue ball. How and where you hit the rack can increase your chances of making a ball. The more balls you make and the longer you stay at the table the better chance you have to win.

When you break and do not make a ball, remember that even the best pool players in the world make a ball on the break only 56% of the time. They come up dry 44% and that is a big chunck of the games. Therefore your distribution strategy and placement of the cue ball is very important. Have a goal, a strategy, and execute your shot with the same mechanics and methodical precision as you would any other shot and let luck fall where it may. It is not force it is accuracy in applying that force that really counts.

The Break Cue

The break cue is a specially designed cue that delivers force to the cue ball and is made some what different than most playing cues. One of the more important reasons for a break cue is to preserve your playing cue. When you break you usually hit the cue ball differently than when you make regular playing shots. You deliver more power in a tense situation that exerts forces on you tip that could damage the tip for regular play. The break tip is often much harder than a playing tip and may not suite your playing style. The break shot is only one shot of the game. Use a break cue of a house cue and save your playing cue.

The Jump Break Cue

The jump break cue is a compromise cue. It is a cross between a break cue and a jump cue. The jump cue is very light weight and has a very-very hard tip. The jump tip is not a very good break tip. With the jump tip, if you are breaking, you must hit the cue ball directly in the center or you will loose power and may miss cue. If your jump cue has a break tip, you can not jump very well. The tip will compress and not allow the cue to bounce back out of the way of the rising cue ball. There are compromise tips but they don't work very well for jumping or breaking.

Some Good Tips on Breaking
1. Consider the break like any other shot you make in a game. Have a goal, strategy that you want to achieve.

2. Know your opponent and his skill and use that information to help you win.

3. The break shot is not an uncontrolled force or display of luck.

4. Apply your stroke techniques the same as you would on any other shot.

5. Choke up on you cue just a little. This will reduce the tension in your stroke and let you focus on skill.

6. Don't jump into the break shot or kick you leg wildly in the air. These theatrics do nothing for your shot. It may look good to unknowing watchers but will not improve your break.

7. Use a good break stick. (check out the Smith Thunder Chicken, of Super Thunder Chicken)

8. Another consideration is in the weight of your break stick. The formula for force is F=M x V squared. F is force, M is the weight of your cue, and V squared is velocity the cue is moving, speed. The big part of this formula is V velocity because it is squared. If you have a very heavy cue it takes a lot of power from you to get it up to speed. With a light weight cue you can move it much faster there by delivering more force. The cue ball weighs 6 ounces and a 18 ounce cue is more than enough to deliver adequate force to knock ball off the table. What ever weight playing cue you use is sufficient weight for your break cue. Keeping the weight of the break cue the same as your playing cue makes the cue feel more at home in your stroke and makes it easier to control. Like playing with a light weight cue, using a light weight break cue may not come easy but is worth the effort.

The Break Shot