Every snooker player has the same objective: to win. Many inexperienced players believe the game is all about scoring and they try to become shot makers and offensive players. Being only offensively minded isn’t the only way to play the game. If you understand and use some key principles in strategy and tactics, you can add a new dimension to your game. See some posts below regarding snooker strategy and tactics.

Flow State, Meditation, and the Chaotic Billiard Room

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I discovered something useful tonight about happiness..flow state..and the fragile and sensitive nature of our beautiful game

I often go to play at the local pool hall. I get immense joy playing and competing, when I’m playing well. For me, snooker is as as close to meditation and flow state as I know. Well next to graphic/web design, my other happy place.

I’m fully aware how to get into flow state, and I know under what conditions I probably won’t as well (lots of distraction.. noise.. people). I played someone tonight who “turned me off” by his style.. mannerisms.. edicate…table manners. At first, I blamed him for my poor result. But then I realized he is trying to find his flow state as well.

I tried extra hard to lead by example… hoping it would have an effect on him. It didn’t.

DISCLAIMER: I’m about to take you into some woo-woo, magic crystals, meditation discussion from this point forward. If you can just postpone any doubt for a few minutes, you will may just learning something interesting about the mental side of this game.

The last month or so I have revisited a concept I first heard about 10 or so years ago: Abraham Hicks. Abraham Hicks is closely related to The Secret. The basic premise is that you manifest in your life that which you focus on. Tony Robbins, a world-class performance coach says “Where focus goes, energy flows”. Put another way, happy people see good things, and sad/depressed people see bad things.

So how does this relate to snooker?

Well in snooker, one of things we are all trying to find again – from the amateur right up to the top professionals is “flow state”. Flow state is that beautiful place when you hear nothing and see nothing but the table in front of you. It’s almost like you can feel the object ball floating into the pocket. You can see lines, and angles, and cannons. It’s a beautiful feeling, but it’s often temporary. I believe its one of the reasons we never let snooker out of our blood. That feeling of focus, concentration and flow state is so pure and so rare in people’s lives. It’s almost like we are outside of ourselves for those moments, experiencing something magical, beyond ourselves.

Abraham Hicks, the author I mentioned earlier, talks about flow state in a different sort of way. She calls it “vortex” and suggests that we are always near it, but venture too far out. We think life is supposed to be painful or difficult, but it isn’t. Life is supposed to be joy, happiness, laughter, fun. That same feeling you get when you are in flow state in snooker.

Anyways, enough about Hicks for now. Go hear the audios off Youtube if you like. I know it works for me and I don’t go too deep into the weirder side. It helps me to feel good and get my work done, and that’s all I care about.

Now back to the distractions I experience earlier tonight at the club…

During a smoke break.. I remember that Abraham Hicks said something crucially important in regards to finding vortex (flow state):

“OTHERS don’t need to do anything to help you.. you get to choose.. “.

I went back inside my mind looking for joy.. I tried to remember what was it about the game that made me truly happy. Of course, it was potting balls, seeing lines, making breaks. I stayed there in my mind.. and the result was wonderful.. I played well enough to win, not my best, but I enjoyed it because I found some access to flow state again.. I stopped worrying about winning or losing. Even though there was lots of distraction, I tried to focus back on the game and my own joy. The outcome was what you might expect: I won.

I left the night feeling successful because I found access to vortex even when the world around me was chaotic and full of interruption..I didn’t play to the standard I’m capable of.. but I left the place with a smile in my heart..

LESSON: The tiniest things can throw you off.. when you take your eyes off happiness for even a few minutes… Especially in activities where you think flow state doesn’t matter.. it always does.. always.. The experience tonight reminds me of the poem, “IF” by Rudyard Kipling (http://mayur.ca/if-by-rudyard-kipling/)

I think I need to pursue meditation…I heard it helps you stay inside throughout the day

BONUS Takeaway: How to get your flow state in snooker

Simple. Just ask yourself this one question: Why do you love this game so much? In the answer lies the clue. In the answer lies the reason you go back to the table, and in that answer lies the road signs back to playing well when all around you are distractions and chaos.

Snooker Breakbuilding Tips and How To – 62 Break Explained

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Breakbuilding is crucial to your success in snooker and other cue sports. The best way to win in cue sports is to clear up all the balls. I have been working on my break building for many years and have finally started knocking in several 50+ breaks. I was at my friends last night – he has a 5’x10′ table – and I knocked in a 62 break. I have recorded my commentary and tips in the break and placed them on Youtube so can learn and get better at your snooker breakbuilding and cue ball control skill. Shot selection is crucial in snooker and I have tried to provide some ideas and tips in this break.

Got comments? Leave them below!

WITH Commentary:

WITHOUT Commentary:

How to Fix your Cue Action and Stance – Analysis of Duane

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A commenter, Duane, asked me a number of questions recently as you can see at the following comments on a few of my articles. Duane sent me some videos of himself playing on a pool table and I provided a bunch of feedback through analysis and assessment of his cue action. If you are looking for FREE assessment or analysis of your cue action, stance, stroke, or game play, send some videos of you playing snooker, billiards, pool, or any cue sport. I love watching these videos and learning from my students and providing feedback to help them.

SCROLL to the END of the article to see the video

Hello Mayur
I am working on approach and coming down slowly it does seem to be a key ingredient in great play when you say look at the cueball while feathering do you mean on your practice strokes and then are you looking at the object ball aim point only once at the flow through

Thanks this is great insight into the game

View original comment to reply

 

Hello Mayur
Thanks for responding to my question .It has been very helpful. I am currently implementing some of your suggestions and am having some good results.Yes I am interested in hearing more of your thoughts n this subject. I believe steering is a major reason why I and others miss balls.I in particular fall victim to this because I have difficult looking at the object ball last

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Great instructional video on fundamentals. I learned a lot about what I should be doing and shouldn’t.
Here are some question I have problems with.
One ,what is the best way to make sure your stroking arm is on line ,and straight ,mine tends to chicken wing out off line or in ,but not fall straight on line.
Two what is the best way to release the cue straight( follow stroke) some times I feel I jerk the cue especially on firm strokes I feel aim holding the cue loose but I still am steering. Thanks looking forward to hearing your response

View original comment to reply

 

Hello everyone. Great article on pressure and how to use it. I never thought about it that way And it really shed some light on why I Need to play more safe, instead of just going for it.

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Hello I live in the US. I am a serious student .I have played pool ,snooker and billiards for 25 years. I currently play 8 ball, 9 ball, and 10 ball, and one pocket.I have been recently getting lower on the ball for improved aim My high run back 15 years ago was 69 on 5 dx10 but have not played snooker in several years .I play with a 60 inch cue 19 oz with Predator z 2 shaft 11 3/4 mm. I am trying to make it to the next level and believe that fundamentals is one of the main ways to do this. I would appreciate any help you have to offer. Thanks Duane

View original comment to reply

In the video below, I provided various feedback to Duane, talking about:

  • Importance of having a stable, predictable, and well planned stance and how it’s important to stand in the right place, facing your shot head on, with both feet, and learning to walk into the line of aim correctly.
  • General recommendations on height vs cue size
  • Thinking about how to play safe in 8-ball and 9-ball vs snooker and why playing safe is an inevitability at some point in any cue sport. I also mentioned about the art of safety play on the smaller table. I also mentioned about the push shot in 9-ball off the break.
  • Mentioned some strategies to prevent steering – namely that steering actually starts from the stance and pre-routine.
  • How to think about the ghost ball in you pre-shot routine and mentioned that it helps in identification of the 1/4, 1/2 ball, and 3/4 ball
  • How to prevent aiming when you are down and why aiming in cue sports is so difficult.
  • How to create an approach system for getting into your shots
  • Accuracy in cue sports (snooker, pool, 8-ball, 9-ball, billiards, etc)
  • Talked about traditional cue action mechanics and getting your head down low and why it’s important to actually have your head down vs being a stand up player.
  • What happens when your head is above the cue
  • Slight variance about missing shots
  • Twisting of the wrist and why it’s happening and when Duane’s wrist came out of line on the backswing
  • Conscious vs Subconscious potting and wrist issues
  • How to create a stance that actually works
  • I also mentioned Mark Allen, Mark Selby, and Ronnie O’Sullivan
  • Thinking about the body being a starting point that can either inhibit or enhance your aiming system

There are MANY more comments in the video. PLEASE comment and enjoy!

CLICK HERE to watch on YOUTUBE. COMMENT on YOUTUBE or in the comments below or on Facebook! Thanks!!

CLICK the video below to PLAY

Knowing when you might miss a shot

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We all miss shots. Missing a shot is something you need to learn to accept, evaluate, and eliminate. Missing shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing, but instead as a learning experience that provides you the necessary feedback to improve.

Getting Upset

I see players that miss shots and then are upset with themselves. It’s natural, in a match or in practice to get upset initially, but you should move on quickly from that mistake. It’s history. It can’t be changed. The consequences of that action are already playing themselves out. Once the cue ball is struck, what happens after is not within your control. If you find yourself getting upset often, then your expectations exceed your ability. Or perhaps you lack the emotional control required to deal with failure. Whatever the reason, something you are doing needs to change.

Why you miss

If we could look back at videotapes or ourselves playing, it would be easier to identify why we miss shots. Recently I have been recording my own match play at a friends house. I have had the advantage of seeing a lot of video of myself and it has helped me become more self aware. Some people struggle in identifying their weakness or are unwilling to accept that they lack the skill. They stubbornly stick with the same way of thinking, unwilling to work on their weakness, and then wonder why they continue missing and get upset.

There are many reasons why we might miss shots:

  • difficult cueing – over a ball or near the cushion for example
  • pressure – either in a match, or when trying to reach a new personal best in practice
  • imperfect mechanics – either from your stance, your eyes, your hand, your grip etc.
  • difficult pot – the pot itself is inherently difficult like a long shot, or thin slice or having to pot into only a portion of the pocket
  • unwilling to sacrifice position – sometimes, potting the ball successfully means that you just won’t get the position you desire and need to reassess your outcome
  • equipment issues – kicks, bad cushions, miscues, etc.
  • inadequate understanding – of english, ball striking, ball control, cushions, etc.
  • unreasonable expectations given our level of skill

Everyone is individual and will have shots they are more or less likely to miss compare to someone else. For example, depending on your eye dominance, you may miss “right angles” more than “left angles” or visa versa. Pros on TV are no exception – some are just better at some shots than others.

Some shots, as a general rule, are also missed more than others by everyone. For example:

  • down the cushion
  • very thin cuts
  • shots with the rest
  • long shots

Playing your best vs playing perfectly

What if I told you that you won’t play the kind of snooker you WANT to play, and that you WILL miss shots you didn’t expect to? Most snooker players are always looking to improve their game and so always see a gap between their aspirations and their current ability. Would that make it easier to accept misses? I doubt it. Missing still hurts because its unexpected.

Now, what if I told you that for any shot you attempt (safety or pot) that there is ALWAYS an estimated chance you will be successful? That knowing your past history with that shot, we can guesstimate your success rate for the next one? This success rate is something we all know as snooker players. We know when it’s a tough shot vs an easy shot. For most players, that’s as far as their thought process goes: it’s hard vs it’s easy. It’s nearly impossible, however, to determine success rate on a shot by shot basis and then make a decision based on past performance.

Success Rate

Success rate is an important feedback mechanism in shot planning. I believe one day we might even start seeing success rate for any given shot for pros as they already have the ability to measure distances between cue ball, object ball and pocket on television with the technology available.

Since you have the ability to assess your own individual success rate for every single shot you play, are you able to use that in shot planning? I would venture to guess you probably already are. Subconsciously, you probably turn down shots that others wouldn’t pass up. Are you willing to pass up shots you haven’t yet perfected because you know based on past experience that your success rate is unacceptably low?

Knowing our own success rate from shot to shot often comes into the pre-shot decision making process – going for the pot or playing safe. Our success rate also gets used by our opponents in determining what shots they decide to leave us. I remember many years ago, friends would always leave me side pocket shots because I struggled to pot them until I practiced and overcame my own lack of skill.

We can also make general rules about success rates for different kinds of shots also and suggest that some shots are always harder to execute. For example, I have one friend that consistently plays his cue ball on or near the cushion. He claims that doing so is a defence mechanism against his opponent – as most people have trouble off the cushion, but I also know his success rate off the cushion isn’t that much better than anyone else.

Accept misses as part of the game, and work hard on perfecting your own skill level in the game and improving at your own pace. If you personal high break is 30, carefully monitor what shot you missed, and practice it until you fully understand it. Each time you do this, you increase your chance of beating your last performance.

Monitor your own progress

Watching videos of yourself playing will tell you a lot about your own game. I have also found that practice routines will give you this feedback. One practice drill in particular – the lineup – provides great feedback for most players.

I have been doing the lineup recently in practice (2 reds below black, 6 below pink, and 7 below blue). In every session I have discovered certain patterns emerging. At first, I was having trouble clearing more than 5 or 6 reds, but once I started assessing what shots I’m missing more than others, I worked on them and overcame the difficulties. The lineup – and any other practice routine – is great for this kind of individual feedback because the balls are always in the same position, and if you play close attention, you can pickup on patterns for yourself. You will, however, need to be disciplined in how you approach practice so that you can gain this additional benefit and feedback: if you miss, or cannon a red, start over. With the lineup start with the 2 reds below the black (nearest the cushion first), and then directly above the black and either side of the pink, followed by all the remaining reds in whichever order you prefer.

Practice is great for understanding what shots you are more or less likely to miss, but what about when you are in a match? I think as snooker players, we tend to have a black/white method in our decision making on shot selection – either we go for the shot, or play safe. This polarity in shot selection, however, doesn’t translate into our success rate on producing the outcome we desire. Overall past success is much more grey and uncertain. Depending on our personality or mood, we might be more courageous than past performance allows.

Should you ignore past performance?

I’m sure some of you are reading this article thinking that past performance shouldn’t be an indicator of future success. I fully understand that courage, determination, and perseverance shouldn’t be ignored and that you need those qualities in match play. I know that you should overcome your fears and doubt, and take the shot on that’s called for, but I also know that you will need to accept failure as a possible outcome, if you decide to take that path.

I have found that it’s very hard to play matches by taking any shot on. Offense has it’s place in snooker, but so does knowing when to play the safety as well. Being realistic about our own abilities, and following our own success formula in match play, and then working on our weakness in practice will reduce the pressure we place on ourselves, and provide a system for improving our offensive and defensive capabilities.

Think through your past results when faced with a difficult shot. Knowing how often you missed a shot in the past, can provide a good baseline to make decisions from. If you decide, in the end, to take the shot on anyways – regardless of past performance – you can at least do so knowing that the results might not go your way.

Request for Next Article

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Hello Loyal Subscribers! I’m getting read to spend some time writing a bunch more articles over the next few months. I really have enjoyed your comments and feedback and I’m getting excited about doing some great articles this year to provide more information and education on the game we all love!  I don’t spend enough time writing because I try to spend every spare moment on the snooker table :) Can you blame me?

I have combed through the comments and here are some indications for topics that I need to pursue further:

  1. Commentor Thiagan asked me about the shape of a tip. I’m thinking about doing a video of a tip change as well as talking a bit about tips.
  2. Commentor Spike has asked about the next article in the series “Snooker Success Principles and Shot Selection”. I got as far as Part 3, but I think Part 4 and Part 5 are very much overdue.
  3. A LOT of comments and live web chats are asking questions like “I’m doing this and this and this with my cue action and it’s broken cause I can’t make balls. How do I fix it?”. This is the most difficult question to answer because it’s so open ended. That’s what coaching is all about – figuring out the particular broken bits, and sorting them out. It would be in appropriate to prescribe any one solution through an article, but I may be able to provide general guidelines.

Do you have some ideas and suggestions for a topic you would like to see written next? Let me know!  After all, I write for you, my subscribers!

Happy Potting!
MJ

How to Win in Snooker

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Everyone has their own theories on how snooker should be played. I’m of the opinion that scoring heavily truly is the recipe for success. Break building is something every snooker player should aspire to work on. By scoring heavily you ensure success for several reasons:

  1. Your opponent has no chance of scoring
  2. Your opponent can’t snooker you or play safe
  3. You increase your confidence

There is one aspect of consistent break building that is often missed by aspiring players: the ability to clear the balls under pressure. If you are a consistent and heavy scorer, that skill helps you to win frames, but it also helps you save frames. Under pressure when you need all the colors to win, being a consistent heavy scorer has it’s benefits:

  1. You become skilled in moving the cue ball into various positions
  2. You know how to play cannons and kisses
  3. You know how to clear the colors at the end of the frame
  4. You aren’t scared of taking chances and scoring heavily
  5. You are willing to split the pack early and clear the balls

So how do you become a good break builder and heavy scorer?

Many snooker players try to approach break building from the perspective of a pro. They go into the pack off the blue and then try to score. The problem with this approach is that they often aren’t ready or skilled enough to clear the table. Often it’s a complex mix of many primary issues:

  1. Lack cue ball control
  2. Lack potting ability
  3. Have poor ball selection
  4. Have poor mechanics
  5. Have poor focus and concentration

Often it’s a complex combination of the above primary skills that let them down. I think it’s actually more important and more useful to break down the individual pieces of a big break and deal with them one by one as individual practice routines:

  1. Clear the colors from a ball in hand position
  2. Learn how to go from black to yellow from different cue ball positions
  3. Learn how to go from pink to yellow from different cue ball positions
  4. Learn how to go from blue to yellow from different cue ball positions
  5. Clear 3 reds, 3 black balls and all the colors
  6. Clear 5 reds, 5 black balls and all the colors
  7. Clear 7 reds, 7 black balls and all the colors
  8. Open a pack of 3 reds below the pink with the cue ball low on the black, clear all reds with blacks and pinks, and all the colors
  9. Open a pack of 6 reds below the pink with the cue ball low on the black, clear all reds with blacks and pinks, and all the colors
  10. Open a pack of 10 reds below the pink with the cue ball low on the black, clear all reds with blacks and pinks, and all the colors

Focus and concentration can’t be worked on directly through any of the individual practice systems. Your focus and concentration develop as a side effect of practice assuming you are trying your best and looking to practice perfectly rather than imperfectly.

Once you have worked on the above practice routines and have had some success with each of them, it becomes much more apparent that you can score sufficiently when in match play because situations will become familiar to you and you will be able to draw on practice experience, knowledge, and muscle memory.

Break building is part science and part art. If you work on the fundamentals of cue ball control, potting, mechanics, and so forth, the rewards of practice eventually pay off in match play because things become familiar. As something becomes familiar in practice, it becomes familiar in match play when you need to “turn it on” and score. As it’s often said in cue sports, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect”.

Did you like this article? Let me know by leaving a comment and sharing your opinion!  Thanks!

Snooker Success Principles and Shot Selection – Part 3

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I started this topic in a previous blog post because I had a visitor comment about some difficulties he faces over shot selection and execution. Namely,

  1. Taking shots they aren’t 100% committed to.
  2. Consciously missing shots by thinking about missing vs thinking about making.
  3. Being stuck in a rut of not stepping back and analyzing the current situation thoroughly.

You can read those comments and concerns here (scroll to the bottom to see the comments).

In Part 1, I introduced some of the mental “mechanics” that you should think about like shot execution for yourself, vs for a pro and mentioned that practice was the jewel that led to greater consistency and confidence in playing the right shot more often.

In Part 2, I introduced the idea of pressure and how it played a pivotal role in snooker and I gave an example of how I chose to focus instead on shot selection, execution, and my own thoughts rather than getting caught up in the match, the opponent, or the pressure from someone else.

In this blog post, I want to talk a bit more about pressure as I think it’s such an important topic to fully explore. I will then introduce the idea of control and how we can control the pressure we feel and apply.  In Part 4 of this series, I will cover a game plan and system that will give you a map to work with that solves all the issues we commonly face as snooker players.

Let me ask you a question:

Under which of these situations do you feel the most pressure? 

a. It’s the finals of a major tournament, best of 35, and the frames are tied 17-17. Your opponent just scored a 50 break and you are 50-0 down with 51 left on the table (3 reds). All the colors are on their spots. You have a very marginal red tight on the cushion (which you are likely to miss even in practice) to get in and score.  You could pass the shot up for now and play safe.  The other two reds are in more open positions and if you miss the marginal red, it’s likely your opponent will pot one of them.
b.  It’s the finals of a major tournament, best of 35, and the frames are tied 17-17. You just scored 50 and there is 51 left on the table. All the colors are on their spots. There are 3 open reds left but you can’t get to them now as you didn’t play position correctly from the last color.  You have to play a good safety now. The only reasonable safety shot you can play will leave a red on but in marginal position tight on the cushion. Your opponent would only have the marginal red after you have played the safety shot. The other two reds would be easily available if he misses.

Is there a right answer to the above?  Nope. The actual answer is different for everyone. We all see things differently. Some see the cup half full, and others see the cup half empty. Our entire life experience becomes part of our decision making in snooker. We stop and go, defend and attack, based on our survival instincts and feelings. Some like to play offense, and others like to play defense.  Some might choose option a, while others choose option b.

Let’s explore each of the two pressure situations above a bit more.

Option A – You are 50 down with 51 on (3 reds).  There is only a marginal red available at the moment.  If you make it, you can get on the black and the other two reds are easily accessible, but if you miss, you are likely to lose the frame and match.

Let’s say that option a is where you feel the most pressure.  The first problem you encounter is that you know you must score 3 reds, 3 blacks and all the colors to win. The red your opponent has left you, however, isn’t an ideal shot to begin the break but it’s the only offensive shot you have right now. If you make it, you would certainly be on the black, but if you miss – which you are likely to do even on a practice table – you would lose the frame.

The odd thing about this situation is that, regardless of difficulty, most players still take the red on.  Why is that?

  • Some people are only thinking about scoring and see this marginal red as the one they must play.
  • Some people take it on because they feel that the longer they wait, the less chance they have and they just don’t want to miss this (slim) chance.
  • Some people just give it a go because they are suddenly overly optimistic about their own abilities.
  • Some people feel so much pressure that they just want to take the shot on so that they can release themselves of the pressure.
  • Some people underestimate their opponent and feel that the repercussions are not severe enough. 

All of the above reasons are situations under which we will make an attempt at the red even though it’s a low percentage shot.  Regardless of skill, the odds just aren’t in our favor. This current opportunity isn’t one you created, it’s one the opponent has left you.

Is it possible for you to play safe and develop a chance on one of three reds yourself? Let’s think about it a bit more.

What if I was there with you and we could sit down and have a discussion about this situation you face now?  Let’s think it through. Let’s accept that it’s a tough shot under any circumstances and your chance of winning are slim from this red right now.

Let’s consider another option: that you pass this red up for now and play safe. Do you think you can regain control of the table and earn a better shot?  Do you think you have a chance of winning a safety battle and keeping your opponent from scoring on any of the 3 remaining reds? Are the odds a little better? Even though, you face an uphill battle, the odds might be more in your favor if you pass this red up for now.

The proper approach regardless of the pressure you are under is to evaluate the odds and act accordingly. Your primary aim should be to take control and score on your own terms.  That’s the right way to play this game.

I want you to consider two very important things: pressure and control.  In this scenario, pressure is being applied upon you to score, and control is something that has been taken away – at least for now.  The opponent is currently dictating the terms through the use of pressure and control. If you can regain control, however, through the use of a smart safety shot, you might be able to turn the odds around.

Understanding and using control and pressure in your favor is the biggest secret in this game.  If you have control of the table and control over the shots your opponent plays, then the pressure comes off your shoulders and gets transferred to the opponent.  Instead of being under control, you are in control and instead of feeling pressure, you are applying it.

What shot would I play under these circumstances?  Well because I know the pressure is on to score, and I’m not in control, I’m going to pass that red up.  I don’t want to take it on, yet.  I want to take it on when I’m in control or at least regained some control during the frame.  I want to take the pressure off my shoulders, and give it to the opponent.  If, in the next few shots, the opponent plays a bad safety and leaves me that same red, I might take it on.  Why?  Because by applying pressure on my opponent to play a good safety, I’m turning the pressure and control around.  I don’t want my opponent to dictate the terms all the time. I want to have a say as well. It’s an important point to remember. The moment we start taking control away from the opponent, they start feeling pressure and then they start missing. That’s what we want.

Winning in snooker is all about odds. Either they are for you, or against you and it’s the control and pressure that you apply onto your opponent and release from yourself that can often dictate the terms of how a match will end.

Let’s look at option b now.

Option B – You just scored 50 but there is 51 on (3 reds).  You ran out of position and need to play a safety now. One of the reds is easy to play safe from and would leave it essentially out of play tight on the cushion, but still pottable for your opponent. 

Most snooker players would wonder if you should feel any pressure at all here. What are the chances your opponent could score now? If you feel that this is a higher pressure situation, you are probably in fear of losing the frame even though the odds are in your favor. You are thinking about all the situations under which you could lose the frame and in the worst case, that the opponent would make a miraculous clearance.

What you need to understand is that you are in control.  You now dictate the terms and it’s your opponent that will be feeling a lot of pressure to score.  In reality, the odds are completely in your favor.

Often, the fear we feel isn’t based on truthful information.  A common definition of F.E.A.R, is False Evidence Appearing Real.

In this situation, you need to understand that you are removing the pressure on yourself by having scored a 50 break. For every point we score and get into better frame winning positions, we transfer pressure from ourselves onto our opponent.  Pressure gets further applied when we can stay in control of the table by playing a good trap or snooker.

In Summary

I hope the scenarios above have highlighted something important about pressure and control in snooker: either pressure is being applied upon you, or pressure is being applied by you. Either you are in control, or your opponent is in control.

The best situation to be in, undoubtedly, is to always be applying pressure and staying in control. Eventually, it takes its toll on your opponent.

What happens when we STOP feeling pressure? We start potting balls and playing well.  Our cue action becomes more fluid and natural. We stop seeing danger and start seeing opportunity. We get “into the zone” and we start winning.

Pressure and Control are tools that you use.  They are the architects of your success if you know how to use them.

Remember: stay in control and apply pressure either through heavy scoring or good safety play and success becomes more likely! Don’t become a victim of pressure and control, become the master!

In the next and last article in this series, I will bring all of the concepts I have discussed in these first three parts together and talk about a match strategy that will help you win more frames.

Stay tuned!

Playing Poorly? Is it your Snooker cue?

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Are you concerned your cue isn’t up to snuff?  Do you think it’s too light, too heavy, too narrow, or thick, or the wrong tip size? Read on and measure your cue up against my recommendations below.

Snooker requires a delicate, consistent, and precise acceleration of your cue. There are some basic characteristics of a good cue that I believe are a minimum requirement in playing snooker:

Cue Weight

A cue weighing between 17-19oz.  Players with more upper body mass, bigger hands and Popeye arms can probably get away with a heavier cue but I think you can’t go much more than 19oz to play the game properly.  Rumor has it that Jimmy White plays with a 21oz cue and if that’s true, it’s explains in part his inability to control the white ball precisely (although his cue action is to blame as well). If your cue weighs much more than 19oz, you will find it difficult to accelerate the cue precisely and play the controlled stuns and screws required.  Conversely, if your cue weighs anything below 17oz, you may find the opposite problem of over-accelerating your arm to get any consistent cue ball movement.  There are some instances where you can get away with a very light cue.  Some of the old vintage cues you see on Ebay weigh 15-16oz but the wood is old growth Ash and Maple that’s well seasoned and lively.

Cue Length

Cue length is a controversial one to recommend.  A few factors play a role in what length is good for you including the average distance between your bridge and cueing hand, your height (shorter people should actually have a longer cue), and how you cue (a long backstroke vs a short one).  If you tend to have long back swings, a longer cue might be beneficial. If you tend to lock out your bridge arm below vs keeping it bent (what my m8 calls the “broken wing”), then a longer cue is useful to have. I’m 5’9 and although a 57.5″ cue is typical for someone of my height, I tend to stretch my bridge hand out quite far and have a wide distance between my bridge hand cueing hand and so I feel more comfortable with a longer cue.  If you don’t know for certain and are looking to acquire a cue, start with the standard specs of 57.5″ in length. As you learn more about cueing, cue action, and body mechanics, you can get a more appropriate cue, or adjust the one you have.

Tip Size

A tip size between 9.5mm and 10.5mm.  I think right around 9.8mm is perfect.  Tip size is rather important because it determines the contact surface on the cue ball.  In snooker, 9.8mm works very well because it allows for accurate cueing at distance and enough contact surface when you are up close playing delicate stun and screw shots. If you use a tip size below 9.5mm you will find it very difficult to get any consistence on long ball potting as you will often get unintended side spin on the cue ball (and miss the pot).  Above 10.5mm is too large and it becomes hard to find the right contact point to play precise stun and screw shots.  Tip size isn’t a hard and fast rule and if you know what you are doing, experiment and try something different. I do know of at least one player locally who is a very capable century breaker that plays with a 10mm ferrule fitted with an 11mm tip!

Butt Diameter

Butt size is rather important.  If you are just starting to play snooker, go with a standard butt size of 29.5mm.  If however, you have been playing the game a while, and the basics of your cue action have become second nature (someone having played more than 6 months for example), it’s recommended that you stay with the same butt size as was on your previous cue so that your cue action isn’t dramatically affected.  If you have longer than average fingers, or above average height, than a larger butt size may be beneficial.  If the butt size is too big for your hand, your hand won’t release properly from the cue during delivery.  Generally, when cueing you are supposed to have a soft touch with your cueing hand until after the cue ball has been hit.  Think like this when cueing: soft hand feather, soft hand feather, soft hand feather, soft hand backswing, cue ball strike, grip the cue to catch it. The heaving gripping shouldn’t happen until after delivery so a comfortable butt size is important. Conversely, if the butt size is too small, you will find that your wrist starts to twist, turn, and flick.  Some wrist flick is useful to have on certain shots, but if your cue butt size is so small it’s happening on every shot, it’s not good.

Bevel or Not?

On a side note, having a bevel or champfer is something I don’t have a clear answer for. The first 5 years I played the game I used a beveled cue.  Then I stopped for a few years, acquired a few more cues and now am playing with a round butted cue.  I don’t think I would go back to a champfer or bevel now.  I actually believe the champfer could cause more problems than it solves but again, I’m not sure I have the right answer yet.  If you don’t know for certain yourself, or are just starting out and are ordering a custom made cue, have it sent without a bevel.  You can always add it later.

Shaft Taper Characteristics

How a cue shaft is tapered affects how it plays.  I think the “milk bottle” taper is how a snooker shaft should be. This is where most of the shaft is thick until the taper becomes more prominent in the last 12 or so inches up to the ferrule.  This taper provides the strength and horizontal force for long, straight cueing, and the heavier taper in the last 12 or so inches provides just enough flex to get the easy spin and soft touch when in the short game.

Cue makers tend to have a preferred taper they ship cues out with. Some cue makers base their judgement of the taper based on what they believe the wood needs in order to play.  Some like to reduce the cue ball squirt and so thin out the shaft significantly, whereas others like to leave a lot more wood on the shaft and keep the shaft stiff and rigid.

Lower end cues that use less dense Ash and Maple wood tend to ship standard with a very thick shaft. It’s done this way to provide the rigidity but at the cost of cue comfort for the user.  Older vintage cues can be made quite a bit slimmer than average as often the wood is more dense and hardened.

American pool cues come with a straight taper where the last 18-24 inches of the shaft are the same diameter.  It’s done this way because you can impart more side spin on the cue ball – which is standard practice in American pool.  American pool is a top and side spin game, whereas snooker is a screw and stun game. Different shafts are needed to play each game well.  For pool I have a Predator shaft (laminated maple, light weight, less squirt), whereas for snooker, I prefer a very dense and stiff Ash or Maple shaft and am not as concerned about squirt.

I hear players talk about how their cue is “lively” but often, it’s just the way the shaft has been tapered.  You can take a dead hitting cue, increase the shaft flex by tapering it down on a lathe or by hand, and give it a lot more “life” than it had before.

Ash vs Maple and the Shaft Wood

What’s important is the wood itself.  Good cue makers have select Ash or Maple that is well seasoned, aged, dried, and less susceptible to warping. Having straight arrows and lines is a controversial subject and it’s worth some mention. Dense shaft wood with bad arrows will generally play better and with more stiffness than young light weight wood with perfect arrows. Sometimes, lines represent the stiffer part of the tree and so a shaft with many lines can hit well but in other cases too many lines from another tree make the shaft soft and whippy which becomes hard to control and doesn’t play well at all. Don’t be too concerned about arrows or lines if you don’t have a preference or full understanding either way.  Just ask the cue maker for dense, stiff, well seasoned wood and leave it to them.  Some cue makers suggest that arrows affect sighting and won’t ship you a cue without at least some straight arrows on the top part of the playing cue.

Even if you have a first rate cue, it’s still possible the cue just isn’t right for you.  The best way to approach this dilemna, is to go and try some other cues for an extended period of time. If you are lucky enough to have a m8 with a quality cue, ask to borrow it for an hour or so on the practice table.  Please don’t “test” a cue on the match table. Your focus is different in a match situation and you don’t get the focused time as you would in practice.

Still aren’t sure?

Do you want some sage advice on your current playing cue?  Do you need some ideas on what cue you should purchase?  Check out my Snooker cue maker list or leave a comment and share your thoughts!

Snooker Success Principles and Shot Selection – Part 2

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I started this topic in a previous blog post because I had a visitor comment about some difficulties he faces over shot selection and execution. Namely,

  1. Taking shots they aren’t 100% committed to.
  2. Consciously missing shots by thinking about missing vs thinking about making.
  3. Being stuck in a rut of not stepping back and analyzing the current situation thoroughly.

You can read those comments and concerns here (scroll to the bottom to see the comments). In the last post, I started discussing what the right shot was at a given moment and how that would affect your anxiety and stress over making the shot.

The example I used in that discussion was a 3/4 blue with angle to screw into the pink and open the reds.  It’s a shot we see pros take and make all the time.  But what about us?  Should we follow the same routine and take that shot on?  What if we aren’t prepared for the repercussions? Playing the right shot – or what we think is the right shot – is an ongoing discussion every player has in their head.

Even the pros face the same challenge of trying to determine the right shot and when to play it. Sometimes, they pass up a long red to get in and score, and other times, they take it on. Why is that? Are they playing by feel? Some might be yes. Are they playing the score? Yes, perhaps that’s taken into consideration as well. Are they surveying the table to see the risks? Yes, probably that plays a role also. Why do pros take certain shots on?  Do they have a system or method for determining when to play a shot? I don’t have a complete answer quite yet.  Keep reading.

The Use of Pressure

At this point, it’s absolutely essential to bring a new facet into this discussion. Namely the use and application of pressure.  Pressure is an absolutely key ingredient that plays a huge role in all cue sports. Pressure is something we feel when we are behind points, or something the opponent feels when you are in the lead.  Pressure comes from being in a snooker (or hooked as Americans like to say), or needing one to keep the match alive. Pressure turns it’s ugly head when we miss a shot we shouldn’t.  It’s like a kettle ready to boil over.  If we don’t understand pressure and how to use it to our advantage, we end up being a victim of it in match play. Let me elaborate further.

Pressure and the use of pressure is something we create in our heads.  The ball layout, the score, the frames won or lost, the skill level of the opponent.  All of these and more add to how we feel and determines where we focus our thoughts on during a match. If we let the pressure get to us, we lose focus, and then the inevitable happens: we start missing.

It happens to the best of us and the worst of us. Every pro has missed a shot they wouldn’t miss in a hundred tries on a practice table.  Just ask Steve Davis about 1985 when he missed the black. How could he miss a routine shot? Sure it’s probably not routine for us, but for him, surely it’s a shot he can make right? But he missed. Why is that?  Did he not prepare for the shot properly?  Was his alignment off?  When you start missing routine shots in match play, it’s likely that pressure played a major role.

I had an experience recently of playing a match as the defending Champion at my snooker club. Last year, I was the champion and took first prize. I played the tournament again this year as it was the proper thing to do and I enjoyed the challenge. Deep down though, I knew my chances weren’t good as I had recently changed cues and have also done some fairly drastic re-construction of my grip and cue action over the last 6 months.

I won my first 3 matches in the tournament. The first match I won comfortably against a better player. My opponent wasn’t in good enough form himself to bring his top game to the table and I played well enough to win. The second match I hoped to be an easy win but the game didn’t go my way. I expected to win the best of 5 match with a 3-1 or 3-0 win, but I ended up being down 0-2 after the second frame. Fortunately, I had some new mental strategies to rescue myself out the match and eventually win the next 3 frames.

My first thoughts at the interval before starting the 3rd frame was my lack of good cueing and poor focus.  I had made the mistake of starting the match immediately upon entering the doors.  I wanted to see, as an experiment, if I could cue properly without some practice prior to the match.  Some of my m8’s at the club had suggested that practicing before a key match can actually turn against you because you start to discover imperfections that you think about during your match play.  Not practicing before a match, however, turned out to be a mistake and it’s something I didn’t do for the other matches I played.

The second mistake I made was assuming the match would be an easy win. The moment we start to overestimate our own abilities, or underestimate the skill of our opponent, we set ourselves up for a lot of pressure coming our way. What if we can’t cue like we expect?  What if the opponent, knowing you might be the better player, raises his game from within himself, zones in, and takes the lead?  It happens more often than you think. The underdog is a good one to bet on in snooker for the simple fact that the better player gets into their head that they are bound to win.

What ended up happening is that I decided to focus on good cueing, proper shot selection, and keeping the pressure on my opponent with good offense when I was in, and better defense when I didn’t have a shot. I changed my focus away from the poor situation I was in, and placed it instead on the things which I could control: my mechanics and my thoughts. I stopped thinking about losing, and started thinking about winning.

I started saying to myself that if I was going to lose, I was going to lose playing somewhere near my best.  Scoring, making great shots, and winning with a strong offense is the game I have chosen to play over the years and it’s suits me to a T. I can play the defense game but I don’t think it’s how this game is meant to be played anyways. Knowing I could lose any moment, also took some of the pressure off me and I started playing my natural game, free flowing, scoring and winning without getting into a protracted safety battle.

Pressure is the funniest thing.  Someone else, being down 0-2 in a best of 5 might feel so much pressure on winning, that they play worse. Maybe they need to win, or have never won, or have a poor record against the opponent, or maybe all their m8’s are watching and they just can’t lose. Either way, they feel so much pressure that they start shaking in their boots, and then their cueing fails them, and then they miss routines shots, and then the pressure get’s worse and worse and worse.  It’s like a kettle you can’t turn off and every time you miss, you just keep adding more water.

If you let pressure take control, it can have a terrible affect on your game.  Sometimes, when we don’t play well in one match, we carry that poor performance on the next day or the next frame, or onto the next shot. As my m8 often quips, it’s better to play this game like a dog: forgetting what happened 10 seconds ago and just sniffing out the next opportunity. But we aren’t dogs.  Pressure will always play it’s role.  Some people understand it, embrace it, enjoy it, and thrive on the challenge. Others, let it control them, and under pressure, they can’t perform.

If you watch pro-level snooker and listen to the commentary, you might hear Steve Davis say the now famous quote, “Play like it means nothing, when it means everything”.  Many of the commentators also have talked about playing each shot, and forgetting about the frame, the score, the match, the opponent.  Focusing on the shot at hand and playing it to your best ability.  They are all eluding to pressure and how to ignore it.

I’m going to continue this discussion in Part 3 of this series. Specifically, I’m going to talk about 2 things which can turn pressure around in your favor:

  1. A systematic approach to match play
  2. A shot selection system that accounts for your current skill level

Did this blog post help you?  Let me know!  Leave a comment and subscribe!

Read Part 3 of Key Success Principles and Shot Selection

Snooker Success Principles and Shot Selection – Part 1

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I’m starting this blog post in response to a visitor’s comments concerning shot selection and committing to shots they aren’t completely prepared for.  You can see those comments on the previous blog post, A Snooker Player Life Cycle, here (scroll to the bottom to see the comments). The main concerns, the commentor had were:

  1. Taking shots they aren’t 100% committed to.
  2. Consciously missing shots by thinking about missing vs thinking about making.
  3. Being stuck in a rut of not stepping back and analyzing the current situation thoroughly.

I’m going to make an attempt in this blog post to provide a clear answer on how to avoid the problems above. I caution you, however, that if you come here looking for a complete answer, I might not satisfy you.  This topic opens up an entire area of the game concerning shot selection, mental approach, committing to shots and more, and I think it’s going to create just as many new questions as answers!

What is the right shot?

First of all, let’s talk about taking the right shot vs taking the right shot for you.  It’s a good one to discuss.  If we look at how professionals play snooker, and if we tried to emulate their style of play and ball selection, we might think we should do the same. Maybe we should.  After all, if a professional does it, we should too right? Makes sense.  If we follow the same principles they do, we should get the same results if we do it enough times right? Is that how that works? But then should we be following their lead verbatim?  Are we supposed to play the way the pros play?  What if we can’t?  Or should we be doing something different until we reach that level of skill?  Does that even make sense? After all, how do we reach that level if we don’t play the way they do? It’s a conundrum isn’t it.  Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? Can this be solved? Do we play differently until such time that we play like them? Does that happen? I believe I have some of the answers. Read on.

Let’s start with a good example of a shot we have all seen played, and probably tried ourselves. In most cases, when professionals are 3/4 on the blue with an angle to open many reds by potting the blue with pace and screwing into the pink, they usually opt to play that shot. Quite often, they win frames directly as a result and so it’s deemed to be the right shot to play under most circumstances. As far as the pros are concerned, it’s the right shot and they take it on.

There are exceptions of course (like anything else in an individual sport) like Stephen Lee, who isn’t as flamboyant (or courageous or daring) and is well known to pass that shot up. Stephen Lee often opts for a softer cannon into the side of the pack or leaving the pack alone altogether.  Is it fair to say that because he isn’t as aggressive, he hasn’t had the level of success in snooker that most believe he should have had?  I’m not entirely sure I can say as I don’t know Stephen personally nor how his game has changed over the years.  Perhaps he learned a different way to play and has his own reasons for passing that shot up. I can’t say. On a side note, it’s remarkable he doesn’t open the balls up more often, given his tremendous skill at potting and his superb cue action.  Personally, I think with someone of his caliber and superb skill, he should open the balls up much more often.

The important question to ask right now is, “Should we play the same shot under the same circumstances? Is crashing into the pink the right shot for us too?”.  My gut instinct says yes but you need to understand you take more risk than a pro does in playing that shot.

The first and most obvious risk is that you miss the blue all together, and open the reds up for your opponent. That’s a complete disaster. If you can’t reliably pot the blue with pace and screw into the pink, then you shouldn’t be playing that shot at all.  Yes, I’m actually saying it’s the wrong shot for you. I mean, think about it.  What is the point of taking what’s considered the right shot, if you can’t do it yourself?  All you end up doing is frustrating yourself which in turn makes you miss more shots.

The second risk you take in playing that shot like a pro is that you don’t follow up that shot with a frame winning break.  Scattering the reds everywhere serves you no useful purpose in winning the frame if you can’t score heavily enough to win.  So then it’s not the right shot for you either…. or is it?

We are starting to run into a chicken/egg problem again.  If you can’t reliably pot the blue and open the reds, or you can’t consistently win frames with heavy scoring, then how on earth are we supposed to get into frame winning positions?  Is the shot the pros play the right shot just for them and not for us? Should everyone play the same shot, even if they can’t execute and follow up like a pro?

Let me give you a few things to think about.

Firstly, if you decide you want to give yourself the best chance of winning the frame by scoring heavily, and you want to play the shot the ways the pros do, then take the shot on.

In regards to that shot in particular, I want to give you some cautionary guidelines.I’m not a big fan when nearly all the reds are in tight formation under the pink. Under that condition, the black get’s tied up too often. I only think it’s the right shot when you are fairly certain you won’t tie up the black – like when there are only a half dozen or so reds under the pink.

In any event, be prepared for the less desirable circumstances that may occur for you if you still choose to play the shot:

  1. You might miss the blue altogether, open the reds, and lose the frame
  2. You might not score heavily enough and lose the frame
  3. You might not be able to commit to the shot 100% because you understand the repercussions stated above
  4. You might think about missing the blue, and actually miss it

Do the last two above sound familiar?  Yep, that’s exactly what one of my visitors had to say about their own concerns with their current level of play and it’s the reason I started this post.

Is there a path to reducing our anxiety about opening balls off the blue and playing like the pros?  Yep.  It’s called practice.

Practicing shots we aren’t familiar with is the only way of reducing anxiety when in match play. In the meantime, start accepting that if you choose to play shots you aren’t ready for, that you won’t be fully committed, or you might doubt your skill when faced with a tough shot.

Believe me, even the pros hesitate on shots they aren’t familiar with.

Eventually though, they head over to the practice table and work out their own issues with shots they don’t like. Practice is truly the ONLY way we can become more comfortable with shots we have fear over.

Think about fear in other areas of life that you had to overcome – moving jobs, public speaking.  A lot of the time, it’s practice that reduces our anxiety and fear. As we do it more often, we become better at it and eventually, master the challenge instead of having the challenge master us.

Anxiety,stress, fear and all the other mental factors that get a hold on your subconcious are all part of the game.  It’s normal. The pro’s don’t show it, but they feel the same anxiety you do in certain situations. Just not as often!

Anxiety is something we need to embrace and get comfortable with. It teaches us and shows us where we are weakest. As we face our fears, practice on our weak areas, and learn from those ahead of us, we get better. That’s how snooker works. Coincidentally, that’s how life works too.

I’m going to continue this discussion in a future blog post and spend more time on the particulars of practice, coming up with a game plan and system to follow, solving the shot selection dilemna, and overcoming challenges. Subscribe and stay tuned!

Read Part 2 of Key Success Principles and Shot Selection

 

Defense Game: Trap vs Snooker

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Hi readers. I’m starting this post both to share my thoughts and also to see what others think about the defense game in general. The discussion revolves around which is better (the snooker vs the trap) and when to play each during a frame. I walk you through a frame that I won tonight all because of a good defensive shot.

I had a session with a m8 tonight who more often than not will play the trapping game when playing defense positions into baulk or neutral areas. His theory is that few opponents can score frame winning breaks and so he opts to take that gamble on. In addition, because he knows my approach to the game (ie: if I’m not sure, I try to pot my way out), he will more often leave me in trap positions where I have to either pot a difficult red/color to get in and score, or find a safe route out (often even harder).

When in trapped positions, I have always taken Hendry’s approach to the game. Hendry stated in an interview some years back that safety was over-rated and that if he was trapped, he would pot a ball (and I guess often did). Hendry’s approach probably did work in an era when there were few century makers playing and when his reputation preceded him. Looking back on my own game now, I don’t think it’s the best match strategy any more. I still take on the odd low percentage shot to keep my opponents on their toes, but I think on balance, it’s not the best way to win because I allow my opponent to put me under pressure instead of dictating myself.

In the last few months, I have decided to take a more measured approach to the game (thanks in part to coaching from my m8). I’m starting to learn that traps and snookers can often leave you in excellent frame winning positions, when played at the right time. Yes, snooker is a game of scoring but you don’t have to be offense all the time.

This is how one frame in particular went tonight: 

I broke off, opening about 4 reds. After some minor scoring, and several missed shots and pack opening safety shots from each of us, he managed to trap me with the reds fairly wide open. During safety play, the pink and blue went out of play and the black was partially tied up near the cushion with reds near by. I was near the baulk line and had no easy pot to take on. I could see almost all the reds, but only one or two went, and both had no easy way out so there was no clear benefit gained from taking the shot on. I decided regardless of the risks, to take the marginal red on anyways and send the white crashing into more reds which further spread them open.

Predictably, I missed but was lucky to leave him little to shoot or break build from. A few more safety plays later and I managed to take the upper hand when he scratched the white. I had ball in hand and made a middle distance red stopping near the blue which was now on it’s spot. Instead of taking on the blue on the wrong angle, trying to maneuver tied up reds, and never using a black that didn’t go at the time, I decided to bring the pink into play instead which was on the side cushion 12 inches from the baulk line, I left him trapped on the baulk cushion with only a few 10 foot back cut reds to shoot into the far corner. These reds would open up the black to go into the same pocket later which was part of my plan also. I purposely left him those 2 reds even though the risk was high I could lose the frame or be behind in points with the pink now somewhat in play. It was either his frame to take or potentially mine if he missed.

Of course, under the pressure, and with the difficulty of making either red, he did miss and left me in close range with reds everywhere. I had at least 4 reds to shoot into the corner and middle pockets and a chance to get on pink, blue, and the black, which now went. I took a red, got on the blue, and then maneuvered and played some good cannons and positional shots to re-spot the black. In total, I made 1 blue, 5 blacks, and 1 brown scoring 51 before losing position from the brown back to a red. The score was now 60 to 8 and I was in a good position with 3 reds gone earlier in the frame, 7 reds gone from my break, and 5 reds on cushions and in odd positions. Of course, I eventually won the frame potting the last two reds and winning by a long margin. I kept the pressure on my opponent and I think he was pretty deflated by the break I made.

Post-frame thoughts:

Traditionally, if I made a red like the first one I tried, I would have tried to pot my way into a break using the blue and baulk colors to get into scoring. This time, however, I decided to play the odds, take a small risk, and open the pink which could help me score later on. It turned out to be a very good decision and left me in a good position after the 51 break.

I think because we see pros playing snookers at the very first opportunity if they can’t continue a break, we think we should do the same. Perhaps, at pro level playing the snooker is the better shot because the pros are such strong potters that a trap won’t bother them. At league and in local clubs, however, that’s not always the best approach. I believe most people (pros included) are actually better at coming out of snookers than they are potting in trapped positions. Why is this? Well for one, there is small sense of relief that you are snookered because you have options and potentially ways to play so you don’t leave much. That gives you some semblance of being in control and as snooker players, we like that. We like knowing we can still participate in the frame and have some choice. When trapped, however, the dynamics change and you feel the pressure of either potting the ball your opponent wants you try, or finding a safety way out. I think in most cases, traps lead opponents into playing the marginal shot anyways because their ego and mind tells them that’s the only reasonable way out of the situation. Their minds become so focused on potting that ball they don’t consider playing a 2 cushion or 3 cushion safety, dump or anything else – which of course is a shot they could always have played from that position.

There are, of course, times in a frame when playing a snooker actually is a better option. For one, if there are only a few reds and the points are close. Even when there is a big spread with only a few balls left, the odds become greater someone can string a run together. As long as you or the opponent is well ahead and not requiring snookers, a full on snooker is sometimes the right call. It all comes down to pressure and keeping your opponent tied down and on the ropes.

What you have to assess when deciding which type of defense shot to play is how you want the frame to proceed. Firstly, the table conditions. Do you need reds off cushions? Is it beneficial to leave the opponent trapped so some other balls may come into play? Are the colors in play and him likely to clear if he gets a chance? Are any colors tied up and out of play? Secondly, you need to assess your opponent’s state of mind and ability. Will he try an offensive shot if trapped? Does your opponent attack when cornered? How good is your opponent at hitting balls when snookered? Can they hit a ball and still get safe? What are they likely to do given the current situation at the moment? Are they behind frames and need to win? Lastly, you need to know your current level of play at the moment. Are you ready to score if you get in? Are your nerves under control? Are you tense? Can you win the frame at the next visit? Do you need only a few more to secure the frame? Are you prepared to score heavily?

Ultimately, defense creates opportunities for offense. You can’t have one without the other and if your defense is weak compared to your offense (for most younger players that’s the case), think about adding some strategy and tactics to your game. It really will allow you to score. I proved it tonight!