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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• July 2024
V for Victory

• 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
We’re 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
Don’t 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
You’ll 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
“V” for Victory

• April 2018
Up and Down

• March 2018
Kick Into High Gear

• February 2018
Up and Down

• January 2018
Up To The Challenge

• 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
Banker’s 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

Taking A Break
November 2017

When league season heats up, start by fine-tuning your break.

All players start the year enthusiastic and driven to have a great year. The year is long, though, and players tend to slog their way through the summer months and into the fall. But from September onwards, players tend to catch a second wind. We all want to finish the year playing at the top of our abilities.

For some reason, the last quarter of the year has always been my most successful. Because of all the big events, I really tend to focus.

The first thing I work on to prepare myself for the stretch run, of course, is my break. In all rotation games and 8-ball, the break is the most critical shot, so I will practice it everyday for at least 30 minutes. One of the benefits of devoting that much time and attention to the break is that it gets the pool muscle in my arm loose and locked in.

When practicing the 9-ball break, I usually break for five minutes from the rail on the left side of the table and five minutes from the rail on the right side of the table. Your goal is to hit the 1 head on and keep the cue ball in the middle of the table. Of course, you can get unlucky and have an object ball kick the cue ball to a rail, but you are always trying to keep the cue ball in the center of the table to give yourself the best chance of a shot on the first object ball.

With the 1 ball on the foot spot, I don’t want to put any spin on the cue ball. I do, however, want to cue a tip or two below center. Start with one tip below center and see how the cue ball responds. Make adjustments from there, always trying to park the cue ball around the center of the table.

In recent years, it has become popular to rack 9-ball with the 9 on the foot spot. That has a big impact on my approach to breaking. With the 9 on the spot, I usually practice the “cut break,” on which I hit the 1 slightly less full. The result is that the 1 ball goes to the side pocket and the cue ball comes off the side rail to the middle of the table (Diagram One). Hitting the 1 ball full with a lot of power is pointless when the 9 ball is racked on the foot spot. Your chances of making the 1 in the side or making the corner ball are almost impossible.

I find it best to hit around 4 o’clock on the cue ball. Of course, other factors come into play, like the age of the cloth and balls. If both are relatively new, hitting 4 o’clock on the cue ball should be sufficient if you are breaking from the right side. If you break from the left side, 8 o’clock on the cue ball will work. If the cloth and/or balls are older, simply move to 5 o’clock from the right side and 7 o’clock from the left side to add a little more draw to the cue ball. It is also important that you aim just off center of your line from the cue ball to the 1 ball. Aim slightly to the right and the spin will throw the cue ball a bit. That should result in the cue ball hitting the side rail near the diamond as shown. Keep practicing these break shots so that you instill the shot into your muscle memory.

After practicing this way for a while, I spend five minutes breaking with the cue ball a couple inches left of the center spot and five minutes breaking with the cue ball a few inches to the right of the center spot (Diagram Two). This is good preparation for 10-ball and 8-ball.