To someone who doesnít know the game, push-outs after the break can appear to be shots that require little thought and have minimal consequence. But there is real strategy to push-outs, particularly at the pro level.
When I first started out and wanted to better understand the strategies behind push-outs, I took time to imagine what the table would look like if I pushed out toward each of the six pockets. By visualizing all those options, it allowed me to eliminate certain areas from consideration. I could see that if I pushed toward pocket X, it left an easy safety option. The bonus is that by going through this exercise, I started to see options that I wouldnít have seen if I just went with the most obvious push-out. A lot of players will push out right away, without looking at all the options. Thatís a mistake.
Before I push out, I always ask myself, ďCan I leave the ball in an area where, even if my opponent was able to pocket the object ball, he wonít have a decent shot at the next object ball.Ē Second, I donít even want to leave a shot that allows him to easily tap the object ball and leave me safe. Iíd rather leave a shot that requires my opponent to go two or three rails and be very precise in order to play safe. Basically, Iím trying to make it as difficult as possible for my opponent.
Obviously, you canít leave an impossible shot, or your opponent is quickly going to give the table back to you. If I can, I push out to a shot thatís difficult, but one that Iím comfortable with. There are times, however, where I have to push out to an area that will leave a shot that I may not be as comfortable with. The bottom line, though, is that whenever I push out, Iím doing so hoping to get the shot back, because whichever player is at the table is in control. Iíd rather be the one to have that risk. A lot of players have that approach.
Sometimes a player will push to an area or a specific shot that preys on their opponentís weaknesses. That happened to me a few times with Mike Davis, who is very tall. He pushed to a jump shot in the middle of the table that he knew I couldnít properly reach, because I wasnít tall enough. He did that a few times to me, and he usually made the jump shot. The third or fourth time he did that to me, I just went ahead and kicked at the ball, because at least I was in control of the table.
Most of the time, though, I will accept the shot after my opponent pushes out. The only time Iíll turn it down is if there is a really low-percentage chance of playing a solid return safety. Then there are the instances in which you have a shot at a bank. Iím comfortable with table-length bank shots, so in those instances, I might go ahead and take the shot. A lot of times that decision will depend on the playing strength of your opponent.