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22. Dancing. Watch out for excess movement during the backswing. “When my break is off, it’s always because, as my husband says, I started dancing before the music started, which means bringing my body up on the backswing, instead of keeping it stationary,” says Jeanette Lee. “When it works, your torso and head are stationary on the backswing.”
23. Stroke thought. Instead of thinking in terms of striking the 1 ball, “I’m actually trying to drive the cue ball through the back of the 1 ball,” says Shawn Putnam. “I pick a point at dead-center of the 1 ball, and I aim behind the ball. I try driving the cue ball through to that spot. It mainly helps you follow through, and it lets all the power go through the whole rack.”
24. New cloth. “On new cloth, I’ll reduce the speed, because it’s usually very easy to make a ball on a new-cloth table,” says Thorsten Hohmann. “It’s easier to keep control of the cue ball when you hit soft.”
25. Strong-arm tactics. Don’t fall into the trap of breaking as hard as you possibly can. You’re sure to lose accuracy on the head-ball hit, and thus lose power. “Only the young guys try to use 100 percent of their power on the break,” says Charlie Williams. “The experienced players use 70 to 80 percent of their power. You need to take 30 percent off your maximum to control the cue ball. Honestly, if you have to use more than 70 percent, you’re better off changing position on the table.”
26. Break cues. Some players think extra weight will help give their breaks more oomph, but the key ingredient for power is speed. A lighter cue will help you accelerate more quickly and with more control. Some players go a full ounce lighter than their playing cues. “I just went an ounce lighter than I used to break with,” said Stevie Moore in June. “It seems to be working pretty good so far.” Of course, others opt for the same weight as their regular cue, preferring their accustomed feel.
27. Practice, Part I. To get a feel for your break and how the balls will typically react, set aside a few hours and break the balls 100 times in a row. Thorsten Hohmann suggests always racking the balls in the same order and then tracking where each went (at least, which hit a pocket). Make a chart and record the results. Switch positions and/or speed every 25 racks.
28. Practice, Part II. When practicing your break, start slow and focus on accuracy and follow-through. “First, practice hitting the head ball full with a medium stroke stop-shot,” says Charlie Williams. “When you can consistently hit the head ball so that the cue ball stops, or jumps back a little and then stops, add 10 percent more power. Keep practicing and adding power until you’re stroking with maximum power, yet still hitting the head ball with accuracy.”
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Since 1978, Billiards Digest magazine has been the pool world’s best source for news, tournament coverage, player profiles, bold editorials, and advice on how to play pool. Our instructors include superstars Nick Varner and Jeanette Lee. Every issue features the pool accessories and equipment you love — pool cues, pool tables, instruction aids and more. Columnists Mike Shamos and R.A. Dyer examine legends like Willie Mosconi and Minnesota Fats, and dig deep into the histories of pool games like 8-ball, 9-ball and straight pool.
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