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Stay Out of Trouble

Rodney Morris

When it comes to the break, you have to trust a guy known as The Rocket. When Rodney Morris has things working, the game looks easy. But when things aren't going according to plan, you have to take a step back and examine what's amiss.

IF IT were possible to sink a ball on the break every time, there wouldn't be a need to dedicate so much time on it. So when you're going through a dry spell, it's important to know what you can do to troubleshoot your break. Fundamentally, if you've got a solid foundation, it might just be a matter of making a small change that pays big dividends.

Considering all that can wrong with your break, here are a few tips dealing with common problems:


1. Cue-Tip Contact Point
To gauge the accuracy of your break stroke, mark the cue ball with the chalk. You're going to use this as a reference point to see where your cue tip hit the cue ball, so make a T, like in Fig. 1. You want to place the cue ball on the table so the mark is exactly in the center. After you break open a full rack, pick up the cue ball and look for your cue tip's chalk mark. You should get an idea of the contact point.

If you see a pattern developing, adjust accordingly: "If you think it's dead center, but you're hitting off to the left, aim a bit to the right," Morris says. "Some pros purposely aim left of center on the cue ball. Whatever it is, they're always a little to right, so they compensate by aiming left."

2. Contact Point on the Head Ball
When it comes to transferring as much energy from the cue ball into the rack, nothing beats a full hit on the head ball. You will also have an easier time controlling the cue ball when you hit the 1 ball squarely. More control means less scratches. It also means a greater chance of making a ball and staying at the table.

"If I'm aiming directly at the 1 ball but I'm not hitting the cue ball in the center, it will squirt to the right or the left," Morris says. "Look at your alignment on the 1 ball. Just like you can change your aim on the cue ball, if you're hitting the 1 ball to the left or right, make the adjustments you need."

3. Nothing's Dropping
OK, so you're hitting the cue ball properly and it's squarely striking the 1 ball, so what are you going to do if nothing drops? Three basic things can help you change it up a bit.

Cue-Ball Location: If your favorite spot on the table isn't yielding results, change it up. There are a few clues that can help you find a particular table's sweet spot.

"If it's in the middle of the match, you don't have time to mess around," Morris says. "Look at what your opponent is doing. Is he getting results? It's just another way to get feedback.

"Also, you can look for burn marks from the cue ball. That can give you an idea where other players were breaking from."

Cue-ball Contact Point: Just as Deuel recommended changing the contact point on the cue ball's vertical axis, Morris agrees that that tweak can change the action of the balls. "If you're not veering off to the left or right on the cue ball," Morris says, "you can start playing a little bit with high and low."

Speed: Mix it up with your power. And that doesn't mean more is necessarily better, as Morris learned after tinkering around with his own break recently.

"When I'm struggling with my break, I tend to lay off a bit," he says. "It's easier to get a feeling for the table when I pull back."

The rack: So you're doing everything perfectly, but you're still not getting the action you deserve. Check. The. Rack.

"Nowadays, the rack is almost more important than the break," Morris says. "You have to check it out."

Make sure at least the top rows of balls are all touching - and there aren't large spaces between any other balls.

4. Accuracy Begets Power
And, as four of America's best are sure to stress, true power on your break shot is a result of pinpoint accuracy. All the histrionics mean nothing if your contact points - both cue on cue ball and cue ball on head ball - are off.

"There's no substitute for accuracy," Morris says. "Just keep at it, but never sacrifice your control of the cue ball. When you hit things dead center, you'll get the most power. It's more important to be accurate than powerful."

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