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George Fels

Instruction Articles:
Playing Safe in Straight Pool
Like good sequence play in straight pool, effective safeties are mostly a matter of your ability to read the balls correctly, and to think defensively as well as offensively. Both come with practice and confidence.

Safety options and opportunities are almost as infinite as pool sequences, but the objective is the exact same as most other safes: Leave your opponent not just shotless, but answerless. Your best allies for these safeties, logically enough, are just those areas where you don't want to be when you're shooting to pocket something, namely, the stack and rails.

Balls that are still clustered should be your first object of attention when you get left safe in an open table. It's quite possible you will be able to find "bunt" opportunities by dropping the cue ball into the stack, even if it's not regularly shaped.

Diagram 1 is a perfect example for what I mean. Just as you learn to examine a stack for possible dead combination shots, you must learn to examine it to see if it offers you natural safety opportunities. Here, by dropping the cue ball into the stack, you leave no insurance balls for your opponent, which is why it's so effective.

If you can't bury the cue ball in what's left of the stack, though, it's just about mandatory that you get it to or very near a rail some place; if your opponent is to be left any shot-making opportunities, the least you can do is make him work. A frequent open-table ploy is to select a nearby object ball that is both unpocketable and near a rail, and duck the cue ball in between that ball and the rail.