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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
You’ll Kick Yourself
June 2020

Know the ins and outs of getting out of traps.

Because of safety play (and sometimes because of just plain bad luck!), kicking is a huge part of rotation games. Yet, with all the strides players have made in learning to kick with accuracy, many players still take the wrong path.

The simplest example is shown in the diagrams. The 9 ball is preventing the shooter from direct contact with the 1. Meanwhile, the 2 ball is at the other end of the table. Surprisingly, I still see players take the natural angle off the side rail (Diagram One). While contact looks easy, it is really a dangerous path. It is also the wrong shot. For starters, the 1 ball is deep in the corner pocket, which presents a couple of pitfalls. First, you could completely miss the 1 ball, fouling and given your opponent ball in hand, as shown.

Also, if you go directly at the 1, the cue ball could easily follow it into the pocket (Diagram Two). Even if you manage decent contact on the 1 going directly at it, you will need to get lucky to get shape on the 2 ball.

The correct way to play this shot, of course, is to shorten the angle and spin into the 1 ball off the bottom rail (Diagram Three). To shorten the angle, aim a half-diamond below the natural angle. On shots like this, I hit the cue ball firm and with a half tip (maybe slightly more) of draw.

By taking this approach, you create a better angle to get into the 1 ball. Any concern about the cue ball following the 1 into the corner pocket is eliminated. Missing the 1 ball completely is also very unlikely.

And best of all, virtually any contact on the 1 ball from this approach will take the cue ball naturally up table toward shape on the 2 ball.

Practice shots like these. Some look easy, but you need to work on them to see the subtle differences between effective kicks and disasters. The extra work will elevate your creativity and you’ll be getting out of traps in no time.