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Controlling the Chaos

Corey Deuel

With a Ph.D. in the science of breaking, Corey Deuel is one of the most creative players. His soft break, which some argue has fundamentally changed the game of 9-ball, is his attempt to maximize control of an otherwise disorderly situation.

WITH SO much happening on a typical 9-ball break, it's easy to lose focus. But take a few minutes to think about how to approach the break. It's not as easy as gripping and ripping. You have to do your best to control what is chaotic situation to maximize the chances of a positive result.

1. Know Your Goals
Perhaps it's such a simple concept that many players overlook it:

"My theory on the break shot? It's just like any other shot: You want to make a ball and get position." Deuel says. "I wouldn't shoot a shot in the middle of the game where I slam all the balls and hope to get lucky, so why would I do that on the break? It makes no sense.

It seems like common sense, but how many times have you sacrificed control for power? That's exactly how Deuel developed his soft break. Reaching a point where he could consistently pocket the wing ball in the corner, he dialed back his stroke a bit so he could focus on the cue ball and playing position for a shot. Once he had a general idea where that cue ball and 1 ball were headed, he could then increase his chances of having a shot.

2. Getting to know the table
When starting to play on an unfamiliar table, Deuel takes a look at the basic conditions, like the size of the pockets and the condition of the cloth.

"If the pockets are bigger and the cloth's new, I know I'm more likely to make the wing ball," he says. From that point, he starts working to find the best spot for the cue ball. Start where you're most comfortable and break a few racks. Deuel, for instance, prefers the cue ball along the rail on the left side of the table (assuming the rules allow the cue ball to be placed anywhere behind the head string).

Starting with medium power, he'll break open a few racks and see what's happening. If a ball is consistently dropping, great. If it isn't, don't be afraid to change things up. "If you're not making balls, you might try breaking from the dead middle," Deuel says. "If the corner ball's not going, I like to go from straight-on. I'll hit 'em harder, as long as I make solid contact on the 1."

3. Keep It On the Level
It's a pretty sight when Shane Van Boening or Mike Sigel pops the cue ball in the air after it drills the 1 ball. But for the average player, it's just not the intelligent play.

"You want stay the cue ball to stay as level as possible," Deuel says. "You're going to increase the force of the cue ball against the rack, and that will help force that corner ball into the pocket.

"We're not going for fancy here, we're going for results."

4. Observe
If you're having trouble consistently sinking balls on the break, don't just squeeze the sawdust out of your cue and try to send the balls into orbit. Keep your eyes open. Look where the balls tend to go.


Take a look the 9-ball rack in Diagram 1. If you are breaking from the left rail, the first object ball you want to pay attention to the 3 ball. If it's not going in the bottom left corner, where is it hitting the rail? If you see a pattern develop, you might be on your way to sinking more balls.

"If it's hitting high (shown in blue), I try a little softer hit, trying to hit the cue ball as level as possible," he says. "But if it's going low (in red), then I try to hit it harder, with a little more pop."

And when everything's working as it should, balls are falling, racks are strung together, and Corey's in complete control of what can be a chaotic situation.

"When I'm really hitting it well, I know how it's going to come out," he said. "Once you've seen how to do it, do it again. Remember what worked in certain situations and stick with it."

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