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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

• 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

• August 2016
Breaking Tradition

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

In A Good Spot
March 2019

Nothing will put some buzz back into your practice sessions like the anticipation of a big tournament. And after a lean playing schedule for me over the past two years, the upcoming U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship this April in Las Vegas has me really excited. It promises to be the biggest and greatest 9-ball tournament of all time.

Itís still more than a month away, but it is all I can think about and Iíve already started preparation. I plan to practice as hard as I ever have and will be playing several tournaments in Europe as part of that preparation, in part because all of these tournaments will be racking with the 9 ball on the spot, which will also be the format at the U.S. Open. I plan on being in great shape come April!

In the past few issues Iíve offered advice and drills for practicing the break in 9-ball and 10-ball, but the 9-ball discussion was based on the 1 ball being on the spot. Moving the 9 ball to the spot completely changes the break, making it more of a random break and resulting in less cue ball control. Still, the break is the key to success in 9-ball, so gaining some consistency is going to be essential. From now until the Open, I will practice and play only with the 9 on the spot and I plan to break for hours on end. When you are preparing for a 9-ball event, I suggest you also spend the bulk of your practice time on the break. Pattern play becomes less important if you never get to the table!

The diagram shows the path I want the cue ball to take. Amateur players might question why I would risk losing control of the cue ball to the right. By moving the 9 up to the spot, making the wing ball (in this case the 4 ball) becomes a lot more difficult. If you hit the 1 ball square in this format, the wing ball will hit the side rail about a diamond up from the pocket.

Additionally, the 1 ball will miss the side pocket to the high side as well.

The most effective break in this scenario is the cut break, but the three-point rule (at least three balls must pass the headstring or be pocketed) makes soft-breaking very dangerous. I will hit the break with medium-to-hard speed and just a fraction below center with a lot of right English. Iíve found that this approach gives me the best chance to pocket either the wing ball or the 1 (or both). What I like about this break is that you can adjust your speed and/or spin to find the best result. Once youíve found it, you are dialed in.

Also, I strike the cue ball like a pop break, aiming slightly off center on the 1 ball. The danger is in aiming too thin on the 1 ball because the cue ball will have a tendency to end up beneath the rack, and thatís no good.

Ideally, I would like the cue ball to come back to the center of the table, but thatís really tough to do consistently. My main goal is to avoid the scratch in the opposite side pocket. That is why the right English is so important.

When practicing, I start with medium power to work on my control. Then I add more power until I get the feel for the shot and see some consistency. The three lines in the diagram indicate my margin for a perfect cut break when the 9 ball is on the spot. Obviously, the key is to make balls on the break, but I like the 9 on the spot because you have no idea which ball will be the lowest-numbered ball remaining on the table. The game becomes more random and you see more strategy, safety play and shot-making than when the 1 ball is on the spot.

Once youíve practiced this break and understand the principles, you can start taking things into consideration like the age of the cloth. On older, worn cloth, I would probably aim around 4 oíclock on the cue ball. But new cloth will result in more slide, so I will avoid a below-center hit and strike the cue ball at 3 oíclock. Again, adjust until you find the contact point that produces pocketed balls and cue ball control.