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Dear Jeanette
By Jeanette Lee
International billiard icon "The Black Widow" answers your questions about life, love, and everything else that happens in the poolhall.

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VIDEO: Pool Fundamentals

February: I'm Stuck at 14
February 2008
Q. I know that straight pool is the best game to play for beginners wanting to develop position play and touch, but I'm stuck at 14-ball runs. What am I missing?
S. Rao
New York, N.Y.

A. There are two balls you need to focus on in order to extend your runs. The first is known as the key ball, which will be the second-to-last ball remaining on the table. When you sink this ball, you want to be sure that you have good position on the next ball, which is known as the break ball. The break ball is the ball that truly determines your ability to extend your run. That is because when one ball is left on the table, your opponent reracks the other 14 balls, to keep the game going. Once the balls are reracked, you want to sink the break ball and have the cue ball carom into the rack, spreading out the balls so you have another shot. This is pretty easy, if you have planned in advance where your break ball will be. Here's the secret: When your turn at the table begins, examine the layout and select your key ball and break ball. The break ball should be near the point where the balls will be reracked. When you have those two balls in mind, just work backward. You know that the break ball will be last, and that the key ball will be the one just before it. Now devise a pattern that will get you around the table, in position for those last two shots. This mental exercise isn't easy at first, but that's what it takes. And you'll be flummoxed by balls that cluster together, but that's a topic for another day.