HomeAbout Billiards DigestContact UsArchiveAll About PoolEquipmentOur AdvertisersLinks
Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• April 2024
Lucky Seven

• March 2024
More for the Road

• February 2024
Four for the Road

• January 2024
Corner the Market

• December 2023
Look Ma, No Cushions

• November 2023
Weíre in the Money

• October 2023
Four-level Drill

• September 2023
More Money Ball

• August 2023
No rails, part II

• July 2023
Look Ma, No Rails!

• June 2023
Triangle To Triangle

• May 2023
Zone Blitz

• April 2023
Money Ball Drill II

• March 2023
Money Ball Drill

• January 2023
The Dreaded Shootout

• December 2022
Alternate Universe

• November 2022
Close Quarters

• October 2022
Corner to Corner

• September 2022
Diamond in the Rough

• August 2022
Draw Bridge

• June 2022
I Detect A Pattern

• June 2022
Stay Close to Work

• May 2022
Amateur Approved

• April 2022
Two for One

• March 2022
The Straight Secret

• February 2022
The Correct Shot

• January 2022
End Game, Part II

• December 2021
Buying Off The Shelf

• November 2021
Look, Ma! No Rails!

• October 2021
The Oval Drill

• September 2021
Getting In Shape

• August 2021

• July 2021
V For Victory

• June 2021
More Pattern Drills

• May 2021
Patterns and speed

• April 2021
See a pattern?

• March 2021
Blind Man

• February 2021
Five Up, Five Down

• January 2021
Donít Lag Behind

• December 2020
Head games

• November 2020
Life on the Edge

• October 2020
The Family Tree

• September 2020
A Dip of the Tip

• August 2020
The Big Diamond

• July 2020
Nine-Ball One-Hole

• June 2020
Youíll Kick Yourself

• May 2020
Tight Quarters

• April 2020
Cue Ball Control

• March 2020
Straight Cueing

• February 2020
Saddle up!

• January 2020
9-ball Crossover

• December 2019
Ride Those Rails

• November 2019
Up and Down

• October 2019
Money Balls

• September 2019
Captain Zig-zag

• August 2019
15-Ball, No Rails

• July 2019
One Extra Ball

• June 2019
Two-Pocket Drill

• May 2019
Up and Down

• April 2019
Ultimate Rotation

• March 2019
In A Good Spot

• February 2019
Center Cut

• January 2019
Breaking Bad Habits

• December 2018

• November 2018
X marks the spot

• October 2018
Striking It Rich

• September 2018
So Many Options

• August 2018
Put Hangers On Rail

• July 2018
Mirror, Mirror II

• June 2018
Mirror, Mirror

• May 2018
ďVĒ for Victory

• April 2018
Up and Down

• March 2018
Kick Into High Gear

• February 2018
Up and Down

• January 2018
Up To The Challenge

• November 2017
Taking A Break

• October 2017
End Game Safeties

• September 2017
Get Comfortable

• July 2017
Shape Up For Summer!

• June 2017
The Selection Process

• May 2017
Two For One

• April 2017
A Ghost of a Chance

• March 2017
Bankerís Holiday

• February 2017
Great Eight

• January 2017
Getting Into Shape

• December 2016
Hocus, Focus

• November 2016
Kicking Into High Gear

• October 2016
More Drill Bits

• September 2016
Hand Model

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

Breaking Tradition
August 2016

Practice your break, but be willing to change your approach.

Anybody who has seen me play knows that Iím a stubborn player. I have a tendency to stick with my plan, even if it is clear that the plan isnít working. That is particularly true with my break shot, which, ironically, is the worst part of my game. I stay with the same break and I fight change. In a match at the Chinese 8-ball tournament earlier this year, I was breaking the balls full in the face. I was breaking well, but because the pockets were really tight, I wasnít making a ball. It was alternate break, and I was down, 5-0, before I finally made a change.

Good players make adjustments. I almost waited too long. I realized I had to shake thing up to change the pattern of play. I decided to break from the side and hit the second ball. It left more clusters and confusion, which is better than giving your opponent the table with an open rack. The games turned from run-out to a grind. At least it gave me more time at the table, and eventually I was able to get the rack back in my favor. My approach became more tactical and it changed the momentum. After I fought back, I started breaking from the center again and it started working. I was able to run a few racks and eventually won the match.

The key, of course, is the willingness to change. That holds true for all games, but it holds true especially when it comes to the break. If your standard break isnít working, be ready to change. That doesnít mean scrapping your normal break after one or two games. It means being able to recognize when a change is needed.

I suggest to all players that you practice, not only your main break, but also practice a secondary break. The mere habit of practicing a secondary break helps you get away from the mentality of stubbornness. And because the break is the weakest part of my game, I practice it a lot.

Letís face it. The break is a critical part of the game. When Iím breaking well, my whole game seems to be at a higher level. When Iím not breaking well, it affects my confidence and that affects my timing.

The process of racking and reracking balls so that you can practice your break is a problem, so I use a break rack. It allows you to practice your break without having to rerack the balls. I use it 20 minutes a day to get my timing and power down.

The break should come natural, but it seems that it is something that you either do well naturally, or you struggle. Top players like Shane Van Boening and Dennis Orcollo have consistently great breaks.

Iíve always stressed to students that watching the top players is a great way to learn. This is true when it comes to the break as well. I always try to study the players who break well to see what they are doing differently. One thing that Iíve noticed is that timing is so important on the break. Consistent timing comes from hours and hours of practice, until it becomes muscle memory. Alex Pagulayan always says we have a pool muscle in our arm! It is pretty universally accepted that Shane is one of the best breakers in the world. He practices the break more than anyone I know. He sets up the same as everyone else, but on his backswing he dips his shoulder a little, which allows him to come through the shot with his cue on a level plane. Coming through flat keeps the cue ball from bouncing back off the rack and still avoid the scratch in the side pocket. Just knowing that doesnít mean you will all of a sudden break like Shane. Itís a timing thing, and his timing comes with an incredible amount of practice. Additionally, Shane really studies the break, and heís a genius at it. His knowledge of reading the rack and knowing where to place the cue ball is incredible. We were teammates in the Kings Cup in the Philippines. After the referee racked the balls, Shane would inspect the rack to see where the gaps were. He would tell me exactly where to place the cue ball. I never broke from the same place twice.

Finally, when you are playing a match, you should watch your opponentís break. If heís breaking from a certain spot and getting a lot of action on the balls, and if you are not getting anything to drop on your break, you have to consider following his lead. Donít be afraid to admit that your opponent is breaking better than you. You still want to win, right? Use common sense.

The break shot needs to be practiced often, and no one works harder on the break than Shane Van Boening.