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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

• 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

• August 2016
Breaking Tradition

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

Donít Lag Behind
January 2021

The recent Mosconi Cup showed the importance of the lag.

Fast on the heels of the recently played Mosconi Cup, the big topic in pool is the lag.

No matter what the race is, the lag is critical in any alternate break format. Obviously, the importance is heightened in the Mosconi Cup, where 10 of the best players in the world battle in races to five. And, with the chances of making a ball on the break being 80-90 percent? Well, enough said.

If you watched the 2020 Mosconi Cup, you noticed that the lack of lags won by Team USA proved to be fatal in a number of matches. Team Europe won 11 of 14 lags and won four out of five hill-hill matches. Three of those Europe wins were decided by break-and-runs in the case game. Thatís a massive advantage at that level. It would seem that one team put some work into the lag and one team didnít. We can all guess which was which.

If lack of attention to the lag was, indeed, part of the problem for Team USA, I find that staggering. In every Mosconi Cup in which I played, we spent a lot of time on the lag and working on the best way to lag. Itís never easy to master the lag on brand new tables with new cloth. You rely so much on feel and touch. My plan was to always get the cue ball to hit the second rail and try to keep it between the end rail and half a diamond out. This way I know I would rarely be short. Thatís what got the best of Team USA on a number of occasions.

The thing about the Mosconi Cup is that you are not allowed to practice on the match table, so you donít have the luxury of getting a feel for the table and rails before you lag. What we always did was try to make the conditions on the table in the practice room as close to those of the match table. I donít know about Team USA, but Team Europe polished the cue ball and put a heater under the table in the practice room. Preparation is key at any level.

When I lag, I like shooting to hit the second rail because that approach allows you to let your stroke out a little more. Trying to be perfect on a super-fast table is very difficult. It makes you tentative with the lag, which adds a little tension in the arm.

The importance of the lag is amplified in short-race, alternate-break formats like Mosconi Cup.

In events in which I do get to practice on the match table, I always try a few lags. First, I like to hit the ball against all the rails to get a feel for the rails and the speed.

A lot of people ask where I hit the cue ball on lags. I always play with follow to get the cue ball rolling naturally forward. I see a lot of players hit center cue ball. Thatís a no-no because the cue ball will slide before it begins rolling forward and will make it a lot harder for you to get a good feel for the shot and for you to be able to judge the speed. And again, I try to hit the second rail and get the cue ball to stop in the area between the rail and halfway to the first diamond. Do that consistently and I will guarantee you will win at least 75 percent of your lags. And that consistency will show up in your overall results as well.

Over the years, Iíve played in hundreds of hill-hill matches, a number of them in tournament majors. Iím pretty sure I broke in the hill-hill game 75 percent of the time, and I probably have a 75 percent success rate. I think thatís a pretty good percentage, but a success rate that high is only possible by winning the majority of lags. There is nothing worse than sitting in your chair and hoping and praying for another opportunity at the table. We would all rather have our destiny in our own hands, and that starts with winning the lag.