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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• June 2024
Circle the wagons

• May 2024
Rehearse Your Lines

• 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!

• 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

• August 2016
Breaking Tradition

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

The Selection Process
June 2017

Even top players often make a mistake on end game safeties.

How many times have you gotten to the end of a rack of 9-ball or 10-ball and youíre forced to play safe? At that point in the game, it is critical that you play the proper safety, the one that makes you the favorite to win the game.

The thing is, there are certain shots that come up all the time and Iím amazed at how often players ó even pros ó choose a shot that actually makes their opponent the favorite.

Diagram One shows a shot that comes up all the time near the end of a rack. The only remaining balls are the 8 and the 9, and the 9 is between the 8 and the cue ball. The 8 is frozen to the rail. You canít bank the 8 because it is frozen and you run the risk of a double kiss. Even if you could bank it across, the cue ball will run up table, which makes the 9 a very difficult shot.

The most common response from the incoming player is a thin hit on the 8 ball to bank it to the middle diamond along the bottom rail and send the cue ball up off the side rail and up to the top corner pocket (Diagram Two). You would never see Efren Reyes or Francisco Bustamante play the shot that way because they know the percentages. Despite initial appearances, this shot gives you only about a 40 percent chance of winning.

Hereís why: Unless you completely snooker your opponent you are in trouble because the return safety is easy. Simply split the 8, leaving it along the side rail where it originally was and leaving the cue ball on the opposite side rail, hopefully with the 9 right between them. Now your opponent is the favorite to win the game.

Even if the 9 ball is completely blocking the 8, your opponent has the option to kick at it, particularly if it is even a few inches off the bottom rail. In that case, your opponent can simply kick the 8 back up table. Youíre in a lot of trouble then because now he has created a lot of distance.

The proper way to play this safety is to cut the 8 ball to the first diamond on the bottom rail and send the cue ball to the side rail and up near the top rail (Diagram Three). You should be able to easily control this shot, since the balls are so close together to start with. This is either a two- or three-rail shot.

Now look at the result. It is virtually impossible for your opponent to get the 8 ball safe because you have taken away all the angles. The only option he has is to nick the 8 with a lot of spin, but you have to hit that shot perfectly and it is a difficult shot. Most players end up missing it or hitting it too thick and selling out.

As long as you donít leave your opponent the right-hand side of the 8 ball, youíre the heavy favorite to win the game. And even if he can see a bit of the right-hand side of the 8, it is still a very difficult safety because you have to control the object ball and the cue ball. You have to hit it with some speed, so you canít really get behind the 9 ball because your angle is cut down. Sometimes youíre actually better off leaving your opponent a piece of the ball to eliminate the option of them kicking at a speed where the cue ball just lays on top of the object ball. If a player can see any part of the object ball, his mental state says, ďI can see the ball so I have to go directly at it.Ē

I think most players take the first option because they simply think leaving it in the middle of the rail is the safest shot. Plus, it is an easy shot, but in the end they are going to lose a lot more games than they are going to win using that shot.

The option in Diagram Three is a very simple safety, but unless you have the knowledge of that particular shot, youíre going to make the mistake. Itís a very clever shot. Youíre eliminating all the angles and most options. Iíve won so many more games leaving the 8 ball at that first diamond instead of in the middle of the rail.

You see this situation a lot with the last couple of balls, but this knowledge can come in handy even if there are three or four balls left on the table. Itís a great shot.