Snooker is a game of points and scoring. You need to score when you have a prime opportunity to do so. Getting into scoring position, however, is where your defense game must have some merit. Playing a defensive game in snooker can mean laying a snooker or trap position for your opponent, or playing safe when you run out of position during offensive and scoring play. A lot of snooker players tend to take more risks than they should during offensive game play and don’t take the time to consider a defensive maneuver when it’s called for. My coach often says that if your offense skills can be matched by defensive skill, you become a dangerous opponent and tough to beat.

Tony Fun – Interview with a Canadian Snooker Player

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I had the pleasure to interview Tony Fun, a close friend, and someone I have learned a great deal of snooker from. Tony has been a competitive snooker player since the 1970’s, is a century runner that visited England, played with Peter Ebdon, and was the recipient of Marco Fu’s first 147 maximum break. Enjoy the interview and please do leave some comments below.

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Tony’s accomplishments and Personal History in snooker

I first saw a pool table at the age of 6 at a friend’s house. I gravitated to it right away. The more I played the more I enjoyed it. I found over the next couple of years I was making friends with just about anyone with a pool table. In 1972 or 73 at 11 or 12 years old I saw a snooker match being played on TV, I don’t know who was but I remember seeing these guys in tuxedos playing on a table the size of a football field. That was it. A year or so later I was playing some straight pool at Brentwood Bowling Lanes on a 4 ½ x 9 ft table and a friend invited me up to a snooker room by the name of Jubilee billiards. The only snooker room in Vancouver with a 24 hr licence, a smoke filled hall boasting 12 beautiful 6’ x12’ snooker tables.

At 13 I didn’t have a curfew and often joined friends to go up and play snooker until very late in the morning. I was playing a game now that was so exciting I couldn’t sit still on the days I knew we would be going up there. In order to get cash for table time I would save birthday money, Christmas money, take in bottles and even wore my lacrosse jersey to go house to house looking for donations to team tournaments that didn’t exist. On days I made enough I would tell my friends to leave me in the pool room at 3 or 4 am and I would take a bus home. I would play until I ran out of money and then brush tables for more practice time. I was not yet playing well but was quite determined. Many occasions I got to watch some of the top players on the front table; this would just inspire me more. I remember once traveling on the bus and whenever I could see my reflection in the windows I would stand, take my snooker stance and stroke looking behind in to the reflection to see if I was cueing straight. Many a bus driver had to wonder what the hell this skinny kid was doing.

By the time I was 15 going on 16, I had left home and in to my first apartment in White Rock BC. My landlord knew I was under age and that I was lying about my age but seemed to like me. I had a mattress, a small tv, 1 pot 1 pan and cutlery for 1. In the town was a small pool room with one snooker table and the rest were 5 x 10’s. No one played on the snooker table so the owner let me practice on it if I kept it clean and freed it up should someone wanted it. Within a couple of months my landlord offered me his push button Valliant if I would put gas in it…back to Jubilee. I played some of the locals and faired ok but then early one morning I was practicing on the front table as there was no one else around. A young oriental guy named Danny Dee stood watching me; I asked if he would like to play. He said no thanks, but this guy will. This was the first time I met Tommy Lee…we played for 2 dollars a game. I remember thinking “wholly crap, this guy only shoots black balls”. I was a quick study so Tommy only took 4 dollars from me and I paid $1.80 in pool time. I began to play him every chance I got and even moved closer to Jubilee so I could bus or walk to the hall. I played with Tommy for 2 solid years and became a first class ball spotter and my math was fast and accurate. Two of the most dominate things in my game came out of the beatings I took from him, one was my long potting game as it was the only way I ever got in. The 2nd was learning to make everything possible when I got in because there was seldom a chance I would get a second opportunity in the same frame. I cannot count the amount of times I had breaks of 60 + points and lost the frame. Over the next 4 years there were endless games of cut throat (or follow) the last whole evenings or sometimes days.

Around my 17th birthday I was playing a set on a Friday night with Rene Gauthier (The younger brother of Tom, a very well-known cue maker). The match started out as any other with Rene a very competent potter, missed a first red in and I compiled my first century break of 108. I had worked so hard at achieving this I couldn’t believe it. To me, running a century meant “you are a player”. It was possibly one of the greatest nights of my life; I still wonder if I knew how many points I had through the run would I have been able to break the barrier. I kept the same shirt I was wearing that night for 36 years. Now I wanted every possible century break available, always keeping an eye out if there were 10 or more reds on the table. Always keeping an eye out to clear the black if was hung up somehow because there was a never ending goal in mind. The second century seemed even harder, but more importantly I was breaking many more 60’s 70’s and 80’s. Now you couldn’t get me off a table with a whip and a chair. Over the next few months I had met Brady Gollan from Kelowna who was 15 at the time. We got along well and I had a car…we spent a lot of time together when he was in town visiting different clubs. Around that time I believe he had just won the Jr and under 21 Canadian championships. He was incredible, one of the most naturally talented snooker players I have ever met with an insatiable hunger for action. This is a whole other story.

At the age of 19 I was beginning to enter local tournaments and joined the BC Snooker association. I did ok at starting rounds but up against the stronger players still around like Tommy Lee, Jimmy or Johnny Bear, Jerry Kapchinsky and many more I was a little fish. As I continued to practice, play and gamble the game of snooker was sliding away in interest. Tournaments were getting less all the time; the top players were no longer around or just not playing. It seemed I and a few others were the last of the new generation. There was some action, a few tournaments and the odd head to head matches but nothing compared to earlier years. I was now in my twenties and compiling quite a number of centuries but not against the players of yesterday, this was disheartening as it felt like I missed the opportunity to push past the cliff of being in my mind “average”. So snooker maintained at this “average” for a few years.

At the age of 26 I started to have some tingling in my hands and sore joints, not understanding what the cause as I was in quite good health considering how much I smoked over the years of playing snooker. After 4 months of testing it was concluded that I had a rare spinal disease that was at that time 1 in 900 thousand that were affected. The disease had “no cause and no cure” With an expectation of much pain and an eventual wheel chair. Sometime later I began to lose sensitivity, strength and feeling in my hands and legs. The night before the surgery I had to sign a waiver that because they were working so close to my central nervous system I may permanently lose the use of my legs. Funny that in all that, the only thing I could think of was losing the ability to play snooker. Nothing meant more to me.

The surgery was successful and relieved much of the pressure in my spine; however recovery was about 18 months…no snooker with stitches from the base of my neck & halfway up my skull. As soon as I could walk and move around I would go up to the snooker club to sit and watch all day. This was more painful than the surgery to watch others play; at times I just wanted to jump up, grab my cue and push someone aside off the front table. About 14 months later I would stretch as much as possible, each day trying to get a little further over the table. A total of 18 months later I could get back to my physical form over the balls, but couldn’t play. It felt like starting over and could only stand a couple of hours a day at most. About this time a small golf shop opened next to what was now the new Jubilee, a gentleman by the name of Doug Bogle worked there and was often in the club for coffee. It turned out not only was he a player from the old days of snooker but had spent quite a bit of time with Cliff Thorburn when he was in his prime. I got talking with Doug and it turned out he was monumental for my recovery; he was a great snooker coach and golf coach. He spent many hours in repositioning my body to combine comfort and freedom with a solid platform. It took about 6 months of which time I had never felt so grateful to continue playing this incredible game again, to not only achieve the level of game I previously attained but now starting to surpass it. I had been studying snooker by video tapes for almost 2 years (and actually wore 3 tapes completely out) and was now beginning to learn to apply some of what I had learned to my own game. In 9 months I was playing to a level I had yet to achieve. I was 28 and compiling centuries to the level I quit counting.

At this time I woke up every single day gracious, but again there was not much going on for snooker. I had gone back to work for the most of a year and saved some money. My mother had recently passed and I had a small inheritance so with this combination I was by no means wealthy but didn’t have to work immediately. I thought I may have reached a plateau as I was headed to Calgary to play a tournament at the Crystal Palace, the night before leaving had 2 century breaks over a 2 hr session against Wade Bryant and 1 against Tom Gauthier at the original Alpha billiards in New Westminster BC. Back in Vancouver I was sitting in the Jubilee snooker club daydreaming about when I was 11 or 12 watching snooker on TV and how I had always dreamed of going to England, the home of snooker. The next morning I went to the passport office to get a passport as fast as possible. In such short notice they would only grant me a 6 month passport. 3 days later I was on a plane. I had no hotel or accommodations booked nor did I know anyone. I had a suitcase, a snooker cue with a Canadian flag on it, and on arrival at Heathrow had nowhere to go. Come to think of I had not told anyone I had left. Two weeks later I was playing in a house tournament against Peter Ebdon at Kings Cross, of course not knowing who he was. (He was the #1 amateur in England at that time). From there was 5 months of snooker heaven, playing in sometimes 2 tournaments a day. Peter was such an incredible host…so much more to tell.

Almost to the day…6 months later I was home. I kept a pair of 6 month old low heeled shoes as a souvenir as they were most comfortable for playing long hours of snooker. 4 months after buying them I had played so much snooker that I had worn completely through the leather on the right outside portion as this was a pressure point in my stance. My baby toe was sticking through the shoe. Well again, there was not much going on for snooker in Vancouver…but it no longer mattered. Looking back I was fortunate enough to play against these younger players and got a firsthand look at the quality of the amateurs that were on their way up. I won a number of matches based on experience and being on form that day but also lost many matches simply by being outplayed. I was so overwhelmed at how talented and deserving these players were. Their achievements came from nothing short of hard work and dedication. They wanted every point available but played with the discipline in making good choices. The first lesson that came my way was in modesty. Was I disappointed in my outcome, absolutely not…I didn’t go to England in hopes of turning pro, I went to find out what my best was and could be. And I did. After playing on the conditions of English tables that were for the most fantastic and consistent, then coming home to Brunswick Anniversaries where your fingernails were dirty after 2 frames and no one to play…I quit.

A few years later, friends that had a club in Port Moody BC called me up and asked if there was any chance I could come down on the Saturday to their Snooker hall. I said that I wasn’t playing and had a date that night. Bob the owner said “were not looking for you to play, there’s a kid down here we want you to look at, he had to ban from the junior tournament. He’s 13 and knocking in 70 breaks. No one else wants to play”. I immediately considered my date secondary, cancelled it and went down to the club that Saturday night. As I walked in I saw a very typical looking Chinese man with a kid next to him. Bob said “Tony, I’d like you to meet Marco Fu and his father Willie” We chatted for a few minutes, Marco’s English was much better than Willie’s but both were very polite and I enjoyed speaking with them. We decided to have a game on an 18th century Samuel May table. I watched as Marco pulled out a 15 oz snooker cue with about a 8.5 or 9mm tip. The butt looked like a weathered fence post as the stain had worn off. We played a few frames and ended up pretty much even, I wanted to play snooker again. I began to meet Marco for practice sessions (watched intently by his father Willie). Marco was all about offence, not surprizing the way he could pot. Willie asked me to work with Marco but in a very short time I felt I had reached my limit as I too was very much a feel player and had limited teaching capabilities. After watching Marco long enough to know he was something special, there was another strength which was his maturity and ability to concentrate to a level beyond his age. At that point I did not want to cause any complications with Marco’s progression and thought it best I introduce him to Tommy Lee. Much more to tell, but about 18 months later Marco and I both played at the Canadian Championships in Guelph Ontario where Marco was the youngest qualifier ever to play in the event. Marco was not allowed to attend the dinner where there was an honorable mention in his name as his mother heard there was alcohol present.

I played over the next few years as new members on the BC Snooker council were getting more tournaments together. In a practise session at a new club Embassy Snooker where I met Marco for an afternoon session, I expected Marco to beat me up a little as he was starting to excel again. But today was a little different, I broke and he broke his first maximum break…I think he was 15. At this point Marco was winning every match and tournament he entered, at one point I believe Marco had gone 34 matches without a loss. For me it is worth mentioning that Marco ‘s winning streak ended when I won 5 to 3 over him at Western Canadians in Vancouver. The last game came down to a final black. After 3 well played safety’s on Marco’s behalf, I was left on the green side of the table with the cue ball 2 inches up and 1 inch off the side rail and the black 3” up from the top rail and an inch off the side rail. Safety was marginal at best, so bridging over the corner pocket I released my cue as if the black was over the pocket. I did not see the black disappear…but it sound like someone snapped a piece of wood. I would have to say this was a tournament best for me based on Marco’s performance over the last months without a loss.

Over the next few years I had played at the Club 147 in Langley BC on a gorgeous BCE Westbury with a gentleman named Bill Beatle. Bill was from The 70’s and knew Cliff quite well. This table was identical to those played at the World Championships, including the cloth. Bill was a great player and an expert at everything he did – world class target shooter, jewelry maker, wine coinsure and a hell of a snooker player. This club was the last I played regularly at, had quite a number of centuries on this table as well. The last larger tournament I played was at the Western Canadian Championships in Winnipeg Manitoba. I was happy to finish as a quarter finalist with my health again becoming challenging. A thousand dollar check was a nice added feature to the trip. Over the last couple of years of play I had Marco Fu join me in an exhibition match with proceeds going to a local hospital. This was quite close to the time Marco was leaving for Hong Kong and then England. Great to watch his progression over the years, I am not surprized at his success whatsoever.

Summary: Shortly after I met my wife, changed careers and had kids… snooker began to show up in the rear view mirror. I play now and again at Kevin Deroo’s home about 20 minutes from mine, but it feels like little gas is left in the tank. I’ve gained some weight, eyes going and have somewhat taken a spectators seat. I look back at my life in snooker at 55 and feel so incredibly fortunate to have had the experiences I have with the sport I love. Having the privilege in meeting and playing with professional players like Cliff Thorburn, Bill Werbenuik, Jim Wych, Kirk Stevens, Peter Ebden, Dennis Taylor, Willie Thorn, Brady Gollan and Marco Fu as well as a number of the top Canadian players was amazing. The time spent playing the game of snooker and the experiences of what comes with the clubs, the people, the gamble and the never ending curiosity of what the next day brings is hard to put in to words. I always said if I put the effort in to anything else as I did snooker I couldn’t fail. This is true as like the game of snooker only gives us what we put in; it forces us to be honest with ourselves in order to make it to each next level.

Stories you can ask me about

  • The longest follow game I ever played – 42 hrs 7 different players
  • Jubilee Billiards – Standard Sat. night raid
  • Tommy Lee – falls asleep on a perfect game of blues
  • Tommy Lee vs Jim Wych – Seymour billiards – penalty frame
  • Brady Gollan – follow game in Port Coquitlam. Paul Stanton, Reed Unger,
  • Brady Gollan vs Bill Werbenuik
  • Brady Gollan Vs Tom Finstad – Western Canadians Washroom break(Jerry Kap)
  • Bill Werbenuik – pints of lager Ace Billiards trick shots
  • Crystal Palace – Russ Schuster Pranks
  • Jubilee – newspaper set on fire – bet
  • The flight to England – almost kicked off the flight
  • First day in England – Ritz snooker club
  • Meeting Peter Ebden first time in final of house tournament (breakfast)
  • Kings Crossing – Kids & practice
  • Snooker clubs in England – private rooms, sound proofing, tv waiters, block irons
  • My snooker cues stolen and retrieved
  • Baz Nagle & Willie Mosconi
  • My buddy Charlie Brown – gambler, rounder – cards, snooker, 9ball, golf
  • Brady Gollan – Little Paul snooker and golf 400.00

Ton Fun’s Achievements

  • Qualified and played at 2 Canadian Snooker Championships
  • Guelph Ontario, Vancouver BC
  • Qualified and played at 2 Western Canadian Championships
  • Vancouver BC, Winnipeg Manitoba Finished ¼ finals
  • Qualified for pro am Vancouver BC
  • Including Cliff Thorburn, John Bear, Brady Gollan
  • Won BC Tournament at Chenier Billiards
  • Placed 1st in BC Qualifiers for the year 1995
  • Century breaks – unknown played 13 years after my first

Memorable Photos


Tony Fun with Marco Fu at the Black Dog Billiards, a charity fund raising exhibition match


Black Dog Billiards, a charity fund raising exhibition match. The cheque is being accepted for New Westminster Memorial Hospital


Canadian Snooker Championship in Guelph Ontario with Hal Grobman


Tony Fun at the Canadian Snooker Championship in Guelph Ontario solo photo



Thank you for reading!

Do you want me to answer specific questions about snooker?

I’m happy to share what I know and answer specific questions any readers may have. Please feel free to use the comment box below, and I will personally answer any questions you may have. Thanks!


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!

Defense Game: Trap vs Snooker


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!