Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs), mostly from the AZB discussion forum
For more information, see Section 7.05 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards, Disc III of the Billiard University (BU) series, Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Nine-ball and Ten-ball (VENT), Disc II and Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS), and Disc IV of the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB).
ball squat and hop
How do you make the CB squat on the break, and why does the cue ball sometimes hop in the air and/or off the table?
To make the CB "squat" (come to rest near the center of the table) after hitting the rack of balls, it needs to have slight topspin. The larger effective mass of the rack of balls makes the CB bounce back, so slight follow is required to stop that motion. However, due to the force of the power break shot, only slight follow should be used (i.e., the tip should contact the CB only a small amount above center). The following videos illustrate some of the physics involved:
To be able to "squat the rock" accurately and consistently, one must have excellent break shot technique with controlled power.
With a firm break shot, the CB will hop or "pop" into the air after hitting the lead ball. This occurs because the cue is slightly elevated (non-level) to clear the rail. With cue elevation, the CB is driven down into the slate, which causes it to bounce. Also, because the CB is also often hit slightly above center, this drives the CB into the slate even more (due to downward "squirt"), which tends to make it jump and hop even more (for more info, and demonstrations, see the follow-shot hop resource page).
So with a firm break shot, the CB will always be hopping on the way to the rack, and if the CB hits the rack while airborne, it will hop in the air after hitting the lead ball. This is not something one should try to create (e.g., by elevating the cue even more than normal). However, with a well-struck break (i.e., a square hit with significant speed), it is difficult to avoid the hop. The best scenario is if the CB lands exactly at the same time it hits the 1-ball. Then the most energy possible will be delivered to the rack, and the CB hop will be as small as possible. Although, even in this case, the CB will still hop slightly because the CB will still have a downward motion component when it lands at the 1-ball.
One should hit the CB with the cue as level as possible to minimize how much the CB hops on the way to the rack of balls to deliver as much energy as possible to the balls (see cue elevation effects for more info). If the cue is elevated more than it needs to be to clear the rail, the CB would jump and skip more on the way to the rack, possibly causing it to hit the 1-ball even more airborne, which would cause it to hop even higher. But this would not be good because less energy would be delivered to the rack (due to the drag losses during the initial and any subsequent hops).
Now, if you hit the lead ball very squarely with significant CB speed, the CB will most likely hop. However, the hop is really not a good thing ... it is just the result of an accurate and powerful break.
Significant hop can occur only if the CB is airborne when it hits the lead ball. This can occur if the cue is elevated too much and/or if too much speed is used. The CB can also "climb" the lead ball a small amount with topspin from an above-center hit, but this effect is not significant.
If you hit the lead ball squarely (as you should with a good break), the cue ball hop is not a problem (unless it is high enough to hit the light fixture above the table). However, with hop and a non-square hit, the cue ball can easily fly off the table.
To reduce the amount of hop, try keeping the cue as level as possible at impact with the CB. Also, try to reduce how much you are hitting the CB above center, especially if the CB has too much follow action after landing.
You can also reduce the effect of hop by adjusting your break position so the distance to the rack is just right, where the CB lands just as it hits the lead ball of the rack. By moving your CB starting position left or right or forward or backward in the kitchen, you can control where the hop occurs (for a given break speed, cue elevation, and tip contact point).
Should I try to make the CB hop in the air when I break?
No; although, with a square hit on the lead ball with good speed, the CB will naturally hop after the hit.
One should actually try to keep the hop as low as possible. For example, one should not add cue elevation (at tip-CB contact) to add more CB hop. And one should not use a break angle and distance that makes the CB hop higher onto the 1 ball causing the CB to hop even higher. Those things will hurt accuracy and consistency, and reduce breaking effectiveness (for a given cue speed).
For those who want to improve their break, the focus should not be on trying to make the CB hop. If one follows all of the recommended break technique and equipment advice and can hit the 1-ball squarely with good speed, the CB will hop (even though the hop is not really helpful).
Will the CB have more speed into the rack if it is airborne on the way to the rack?
The CB is in the air only because it is driven down into the table. Most of the initial bounce (that sends the CB airborne) occurs after the CB leaves the tip. The CB loses speed on this initial bounce. Also, if the CB bounces again before reaching the rack, like it usually does for most breakers, the CB will lose more speed on that bounce also. It turns out that because of the bounces, the CB will actually lose more speed (even though it is airborne much of the time) than it would if it were struck with a level cue (if this were possible) where the CB would be sliding the whole way to the rack. In other words, the bouncing and flight of the CB does not result in more CB speed (although, it really can't be avoided ... however, it can be minimized by not elevating the cue more than you need to). For more info see: cue elevation effects.
For those with strong math and physics backgrounds, a detailed analysis of the effects of hopping on the spin and speed on the CB can be found here:
TP B.10 - Draw shot cue elevation effects
The analysis is applied to draw shots with different cue elevations, but the results also apply to a break shots, where the CB is also doing a combination of hopping and sliding.
If the cueball is coming in at a slight angle (airborne) and it hits the 1 ball full from this angle, wouldn't that hit transfer the most power?
That's a good point, but it doesn't make much difference at typical CB trajectory angles coming in (which are very shallow). The downside of hitting the 1-ball at a downward angle is that it causes the 1-ball to bounce down into the slate, which will cause a loss of energy and cause the 1-ball to hop some (more lost energy). However, all of this might be a moot point since the CB usually bounces before reaching the 1-ball, in which case the CB might be more likely to have an upward angle if it hits the 1-ball above the equator. With an upward angle, the higher the CB hits the 1 ball, the higher it will bounce, and the less energy it will deliver to the rack of balls. In this case, the best scenario is to the have the CB land as close as possible to the 1-ball, with as few bounces as possible (ideally, just the 1 bounce off the tip).
FYI, the CB will still hop if it hits the 1-ball just as it contacts the table (because it still has an upward or downward speed component, assuming it hops on the way to the 1 ball, as it the case with a fast-speed break).
What is a good drill from improving my break shot?
Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP) has a good 9-ball break drill for evaluating and improving your 9-ball break.
from Patrick Johnson:
The idea is to learn to aim the break shot as accurately as any other shot so you can consistently hit the head ball dead square, getting maximum power transfer into the rack and planting the cue ball in the middle of the table. It comes from a piece of advice I heard once and have repeated often to players who are learning to break:
Your break speed should be the maximum speed at which you can consistently pocket a straight-in shot with the cue ball on the head string and the object ball on the foot string, and stop the cue ball dead.
And that pretty much describes the drill:
1. place the cue ball in its normal breaking position
2. place a single object ball on the foot string directly in line with a corner pocket
3. shoot the OB straight into the pocket with a stop shot
4. hit the shot as hard as you think you can, but if you miss the pocket or the cue ball doesn't stop dead, slow the next shot down
5. only speed the shot up again when you've made several successful stop shots in a row
6. gradually build your speed up following the above rule
Here's the setup:
What are possible strategies for breaking in 8-ball?
Disc IV of the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB) covers this topic if great detail.
First of all, follow the advice in the break technique section.
A good power option for the 8-ball break is to position the CB slightly off center, and hit the lead ball squarely. As with the 10-ball break, the 2nd-row balls tend to head toward the side pockets, and the corner balls can go four rails to the corners.
An alternative to hitting the lead ball on the break is hitting the 2nd-ball or 3rd-ball squarely instead by breaking from the side rail. These breaks can be very effective, assuming they are allowed under the rules by which you play (e.g., APA rules prohibit a 3rd-ball break). These breaks spread the balls well and often result in pocketing a ball. It is also easier to control the CB since less power is required. Here are some examples from Disc IV of the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB):
The main advantage of the 2nd-ball break is that it will often send the far corner ball to the corner pocket (assuming the balls are not too old, and rack well, and sit well on the cloth). It also has the benefit of causing 8-ball motion, giving you a chance to pocket it on the break, which awards a win under some rules (e.g., the APA league system). The far 2nd-row ball also has a tendency to bank cross side with some equipment and racks.
One disadvantage with a 2nd-ball break is sometimes the balls tend to cluster on the breaking side of the table. Also, not as much CB speed can be used since the hit cannot be as square as with a lead-ball break; therefore, less energy will be transferred from the CB to the racked balls. Also, because the 2nd-ball break is hit from the side rail (where the cue will be a little more elevated or non-level) and since the CB hits the 2nd ball at a slight angle, not as much CB speed can be used as with a lead-ball break; otherwise, the CB will hop and can bounce off the table (which is a foul).
For more information, see "VEEB - Part VIII: The Break" (BD, June, 2016).
If pattern racking is not prohibited, you might want to use the Corey Deuel approach (see below).
Here are some statistics for effectiveness of pro 8-ball breaks. Some additional data is available here: "8-Ball Break Stats" (BD, August, 2016).
Should I put balls in certain positions when I am racking for 8-ball?
from CreeDo (in AZB post):
Interesting pattern Corey [Deuel] has come up with for 8b. It not only ensures an even spread for his chosen group, it leaves an ugly cluster for the opponent's group.
He breaks from the corner, hitting the 2nd row ball squarely, maybe 15-17 mph.
In the diagram it's the stripes that spread and the solids that cluster.
This is what he was left after the break on his own racks. You can see what's happening near the right side of the rack area. Not hard to guess which group he chose in each example.
Here's the video:
Should I use an extended follow through on the break shot?
This is a question of cause and effect. A follow-through strictly has no influence on the cue ball because the cue tip is in contact with the cue ball for only a very short amount of time (approximately 0.001 seconds). The only things that significantly affect the breaking power for a given cue stick are cue stick speed at impact, tip offset (distance away from a center ball hit), and the squareness of the hit on the lead ball. However, if a powerful stroke does not exhibit a big follow-through, it is either not very powerful, or effort is being made to limit the follow-through. If one tries to constrain the follow-through, one will probably not achieve maximum speed at impact. Many authors and instructors recommend trying to "accelerate through the ball" for power shots. This thinking often helps one create good power, and it results in significant follow-through.
Follow-through can also be important in achieving good action on draw shots (although, not always for the reasons people think). For more info, see "Draw Shot Primer - Part V: how to achieve good draw action" (BD, May, 2006). In particular, see item "b" under "other advice" and item "5" under "stroke best practices." I think these points apply equally well to both a power break and a power draw.
from Fran Crimi:
Besides making sure the rack is tight, you MUST exaggerate your follow-through. Even if you think you are following through enough, push through even more. Watch Strickland's follow-through. The cue literally comes out of his bridge hand and is extended all the way down the table. It's difficult to master that letting-go technique with accuracy but with lots of practice, it will pay off in spades.
The other option is to leave the cue in your bridge hand but with an over-extended follow-through, if you lean into the break shot, you will definitely bend the shaft and possibly crack or break it like some other players do.
I prefer the letting-go technique.
making the 8-ball
How can I increase my chances of making the 8-ball on the break?
Not all leagues and tournaments award a game victory for making the 8-ball on the break; but if they do, it is wise to try to increase your chances for pocketing the 8-ball. A good technique for this is to place the CB close to the side rail on the head string, and hit the 2nd ball in the rack squarely. The 8-ball will often head toward the opposite side pocket, and the balls will usually disperse well. Clips HSV 7.8-7.11 show how it works. For illustrations and more information, see Section 7.05 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards.
measuring your own break speed
Is there an easy way to measure your break shot speed without a fancy radar gun?
MyBreakSpeed is a phone app that works very well.
You can also measure your break speed with any computer containing a microphone (see below).
To find your own break speed:
1) Measure the distance between where your cueball rests on the table for a normal break and the head spot, subtract 2.25" for one ball diameter.
2) Use sound recorder on a PC to record the sound of your break. We used a laptop with it next to the table. Most PCs can record at 44Khz, or 44 thousand times a second, more than accurate enough. Also, forget about having to get it right in the middle. Unless your break speed is near the speed of sound its a nit. Use a sound program like Wave pad to open the file and identify the peak where the cue strikes the cueball and then the peak at rack contact. If you highlight with Wave pad it will tell you to the thousandth of a second.
3) Your break speed in mph is:
(distance-2.25) / 12*60/88 / (measured time)
What are possible strategies for breaking in 9-ball?
First of all, follow the advice in the break technique section. Generally, the goal on a 9-ball break (either by breaking from the side rail or with a cut break from the "box") is to pocket the "wing ball" and get a shot at the 1 after the break. For more information, see: "How to Break Like a Pro" (feature article, BD, September, 2016).
If the 9 is racked on the spot, there are no easy ways to guarantee success on the break, but the best approaches are to break from the side with a square hit to try to pocket the 1 in the side, or to use a cut break from the side to try to pocket the wing ball or the 1 cross-corner (although, if the 3-point rule is in force, a cut break is a little risky since you can't use as much power).
An advantage of a cut break is that the CB can come off the side rail into the stationay 9, possibly resulting in a "golden break" (pocketing the 9 on the break). Here are some examples:
If pattern racking and ball gapping is not prohibited, you might want to take advantage of those approaches (maybe in combination with a soft break per the Corey Deuel example on the pattern racking page).
Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Nine-ball and Ten-ball (VENT) covers all 9-ball breaking strategy, knowledge, and techniques in great detail. This resource is strongly recommended. The following videos also have some useful advice and analysis of what some top pros do to play well and sometimes cheat:
For more information, see: "How to Rack and Break 9-Ball Like a Pro" (BD, March, 2018).
Here are some statistics for effectiveness of pro 9-ball breaks.
pattern racking and ball-gap strategy
Should I put balls or gaps in certain positions when I am racking for 9-ball?
There are certain ball-motion patterns you can take advantage of, whether you are racking for an opponent or racking for yourself. Some of the basics are covered in this video from Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots:
Joe Tucker's Racking Secrets DVDs also cover this topic in detail. Here's another video (from Scott Brazier) covering the basics:
For other examples of pattern racking tricks, see the 8-ball and 9-ball break sections.
Strictly, the rules prohibit pattern racking; but if the rules under which you are playing allows it, you might want to try the soft-break pattern-racking trick Corey Deuel uses as demonstrated in the following clip from Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Nine-ball and Ten-ball (VENT):
For more information, see "VENT – Part I: Corey’s 9-ball Soft Break" (BD, October, 2017).
Here's Corey doing this in an actual match (e.g., at the 10:15 point):
It is also illegal to intentionally place gaps between balls while racking. The following video covers this topic fairly well:
For more information, see: "How to Rack and Break 9-Ball Like a Pro" (BD, March, 2018).
from CreeDo (in AZB post):
Corey will not be satisfied until he completely breaks 9 ball.
First he figured out how to make a ball on the break every time and get a look at the 1. Then he figured out how to get an easy layout so he can run the whole rack every time. Now he's figured out how to leave himself a wired 9 ball combo after running just 2 or 3 balls:
He hasn't quite perfected it, and maybe it only works on the barbox. But in this one match he set it up every time and was able to execute it for 5 out of his 9 wins.
He apparently randomizes a few balls so as to skirt around the pattern racking rule, though it's obvious what he's doing. Sometimes he just has to run to the 3 ball, which is near-wired to the 9. Other times to the 4 or 5. Somehow it's never, say, the 8 ball.
Don't get me wrong, the match actually shows some amazing shots by Corey. It's not like all he does is get early 9's and then runs to the bank.
Dennis seems to be racking differently all the time and breaking much firmer. Almost like he wants a random outcome. I dunno if he's trying to stick to the spirit of the law, or if he just gave up trying to imitate what Corey does. He's pattern racked in the past.
Rack 2 -
Rack 5 -
Rack 8 - backfires, Corey loses control of the rack and Dennis gets the early 9.
Rack 10 -
Rack 12 -
Rack 14 -
Isn't "pattern racking" and "ball gapping" prohibited by the rules?
from the WPA rules:
2.2 Nine Ball Rack
The object balls are racked as tightly as possible in a diamond shape, with the one ball at the apex of the diamond and on the foot spot and the nine ball in the middle of the diamond. The other balls will be placed in the diamond without purposeful or intentional pattern.
Obviously, a strict interpretation and strict enforcement of this rule prohibits "pattern racking," where you place certain balls or gaps in certain positions for an advantage. However, the rule isn't usually interpreted so strictly. Often (e.g., in most leagues and tournaments), the last sentence is interpreted: It doesn't matter where the other balls are placed. Also, somebody can easily "pattern rack" or "gap the rack" without it seeming "intentional" or "purposeful." However, a ref or opponent has the right to protest if certain "patterns" are obviously being used (e.g., always placing the 2-ball in the back of the rack).
Obviously, the best solution is to have a neutral party rack the balls (which is done in the WPBA TV events). With "rack your own" or "opponent racking," "pattern racking" is always likely to occur unless each ball is required to be in an exact position, but this would require a rules change and would result in repetitious run-out patterns (especially with new balls on a "trained" table with consistently good racks).
One way to prevent pattern racking and possible disputes (e.g., in leagues and tournaments) is to use the "No Conflict Rules" for racking and breaking in 8 ball, 9 ball, and 10 ball.
Regardless, even if the balls are truly racked randomly, the balls will still be in a certain pattern in a given rack. And it can sometimes be useful to know where balls in certain positions tend to go.
Should I use english on a power break shot?
The short answer is:
NO, you should not use sidespin on a break.
Here's the long answer:
If you hit the CB off center, some of the cue's energy will go into spinning the CB and less will go into moving the CB forward. Therefore, for a given stroke speed, the CB will have less forward speed when sidespin is used (i.e., you will have less breaking power). Also, if using sidespin, you need to adjust your aim for squirt; otherwise, you won't get a square hit on the lead ball, which is very important for power. Luckily, with a power break shot, swerve is not a significant factor, so if you have a breaking cue with a natural pivot length well matched to your preferred break bridge length, squirt compensation can be automatic for both intentional sidespin (if you use BHE) and unintentional sidespin. For more info, see Diagram 4 (and the related discussion) in "Squirt - Part IV: BHE, FHE, and pivot-length calibration" (BD, November, 2007).
technique and equipment advice
What is some important basic advice about the break shot?
Here's a video demonstration of recommended "best practices" for break technique, from Disc III of the Billiard University (BU) Instructional DVD series:
For more info, see the break shot handout, "How to Break Like a Pro" (BD, August, 2016), "Billiard University (BU) - Part X: The Break Shot" (BD, May, 2014), ball hop and squat, and the following helpful video from Colin Colenso (see the quotes below also): NV A.20 - Colin Colenso's power break instructional video.
Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Nine-ball and Ten-ball (VENT) covers all 9-ball and 10-ball breaking strategy, knowledge, and techniques in great detail. This resource is strongly recommended.
Here's a technique analysis of Shane Van Boening's 9-ball break:
For more information, see: "How to Break Like a Pro" (feature article, BD, September, 2016).
Here's a great example of an effective 10-ball break, also from Shane Van Boening:
Here's a slow-motion video of Shane Van Boening's 10-ball break (and here's another). Shane's break is very consistent and effective, creating power seemingly effortlessly. Here's another slow-mo example of Francisco Bustamante. And here's a good 10-ball example of Jeffrey Ignacio showing how you don't need to crush the rack to get good results (6 balls pocketed on the break!).
The most important thing to remember is: an accurate (square) hit on the lead ball is the most important factor for a good break. Use only as much power as you can control. In general, you want to use a longer bridge length and stroke for shots with more power (e.g., the break). Make sure your bridge hand is stable and still during the forward stroke (or at least until CB impact), and follow through as straight as possible. Also keep your grip hand as relaxed as possible, and keep the cue as level as possible. In general, try to follow stroke "best practices," even on the break shot. And it is also very important to know how to get a tight rack.
It is advisable to use a break cue with a natural pivot length well matched to your break bridge length. This will allow squirt to exactly cancel stroking errors that cause the tip to hit left or right of center ball, assuming your initial center-ball aim is accurate. For more information, see the natural pivot length resource page.
It also helps to use a hard (e.g., phenolic) tip. This results in more CB speed for the same cue speed (see cue tip efficiency for more info).
Many people raise their body during the break because they also straighten their arm and/or drop their elbow. These two motions counteract each other, keeping the cue close to level at impact. Also, straightening the arm can allow many people to generate more cue speed by getting more of the shoulder muscles involved. However, accuracy (a center-ball hit on the CB and a square hit on the rack lead ball) are much more important than a little extra power, so body motion should be kept to a minimum if accuracy suffers as a result. For more info on the effects of elbow drop, see the stroke elbow drop resource page. An extreme example of what can be done with shoulder motion to create more power is in the following video of Xiaoting Pan:
For more info, see BD's breaking tips of the pros and Disc V of the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS).
from Colin Colenso:
There are a few concrete physical / biomechanical contributors which can add velocity to the cue and hence make for bigger breaks. I'll discuss the main ones in order of what I consider to be the most important.
1. Long Lever: By standing higher during the shot, the effective length of the lever is increased. So just as long golf clubs have higher head speeds, a longer arm allows higher cue speed. One doesn't necessarily have to lunge upward to achieve this, but starting low and then raising the body may seem more conducive to better aiming.
2. Centripetal Force: The lunge upward of the shooting shoulder also produces a force at right angles to the direction of the cue movement. This centripetal force accelerates the cue, in the same way that hammer throwers accelerate the hammer by pulling at 90 degrees against it as it rotates.
3. Forward Lunge: Forward lunging creates additional cue speed also, just as shot putters can throw further with a glide throw rather than just a standing throw. One may be able to lunge at 2-3mph and this component can be added to the overall cue speed.
The trick is working out the technique of these various factors such that they can all contribute with minimal loss of control.
I do believe a good wrist flick can contribute as much speed as the 3 effects above combined and it becomes hard to execute that as well while lunging, so a well timed stroke with minimum movement and with a reasonable length of lever can produce some very powerful controlled breaks.
That said, if one wants to break a world record, they might need to add a lunge to their technique.
from Colin Colenso:
some people can add 2-3 mph to their break by shortening their back hand position. There are two possible advantages of doing this.
1. With a longer arm (lever) on breaking due to being more upright, moving the hand towards the bridge brings it more into a right angled position which makes it more effective (and effectively longer), than having a longer back arm which is at a shallower angle to the cue. Imagine if the arm were stretched to the back of a 7 foot cue and you can visualize that the force is being applied at an inefficient angle.
2. Maybe the main reason is that shortening the back hand means that the pectoral (chest) muscle and front deltoid (shoulder) muscles (which are the source of most of the power) are put in a neutral / mid position in regard to extension / contraction. This is where muscles are at their strongest and can accelerate with more force, allowing a powerful punch with a limited back swing.
To get the feel for how this works, try a Bruce Lee 1" punch, first with arm almost fully extended, next with fist almost contracted back near your shoulder and one midway. The midway position is much stronger at applying a rapid burst of force. Different muscles involved, but you'll get the idea of what I mean by mid/extension power.
from mosconiac (in AZB post):
There is a limit that most players reach (expressed in mph) due to lack of timing, leverage, & weight transfer. Older men & most women seem to plateau around 18-20mph. Most males plateau around 22-24mph. Yes, there are freaks of nature that inherently hit 30+mph, but those guys aren’t reading this thread, I suppose.
To get to the next level, players need to add a seemingly unnatural movement (really a series of movements coalesced into one) to the break routine. Most that try it end up striking the CB erratically and give up. Those that can get past that acclimation stage (through practice) will be rewarded.
All great breakers share these tendencies:
- Low initial body position (aids upward body movement) with compact stance (aids weight transfer) & forward hand position (aids final alignment/delivery of cue)
- Abruptly raise cue at end of backswing (stores energy in arm & shoulder) and cock elbow behind body (stores more energy)
- Upper body releases (forward & up) with hips driving forward (sometimes with a turning motion like a golf swing)
- Elbow begins driving down & thru (cue returning to pre-shot alignment)…arm release lags behind body release
- At impact, upper body & hips are fully released (driven by rear foot), elbow is fully dropped (& driving forward), and weight shift causes rear leg to rise up for counter-balance.
Hillbilly’s tips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3U-qUPU134
My break analysis videos:
See any similarities in my other videos?:
Buste 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1lGmxqPNd8
Buste 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ysrxi_w6_B4
Archer 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXTA2n-qkwY
Archer 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmWyiZ73ymg
from Patrick Johnson:
As with other major breakers, it appears to me that the crucial feature in Larry's powerful break is the involvement of his upper arm. The elbow drop and standing up are both integral to getting a full-arm swing.
Much is made of the "lunge" of these power breakers, and I'm sure that contributes significantly, but I believe the straightening of the arm for the full-arm swing is the most important element in getting more power - and, of course, the main difficulty in hitting the CB accurately.
Here's of one of the most powerful (and controlled) breakers in the world -- the mighty Russian, Evgeny Stalev:
He's all of 150lbs soaking wet, yet clocks in 35+ mph breaks (he was averaging that in the U.S. Open the video above was taken from). Evgeny (pronounced "yev genny" with a hard "g" sound in the second syllable, for those Russian-pronunciation-challenged like us Americans) uses shoulder, elbow, and his pectoral (chest) muscle to achieve this power. You'll notice he doesn't use any "lunging" motion at all, but rather a very smooth "forward drift" motion in his stance. ... And he does all this with his playing cue!
In my opinion, Evgeny's got one of the smoothest, most powerful, and, for what's going on in his arm, accurate breaks around. Ask yourself, have you ever heard that kind of sound from a break? It's one thing to hear it in this video; quite another to hear it in person (the video lacks some of the auditory fireworks that seeing/hearing this live gives).
Having studied the break for some time now, I've watched most of the great breakers. You might notice that Evgeny Stalev is remarkably similar to Shane VanBoening. They both have that "forward drift" thing going on. However, both also gently stand up as they *back stroke*. Another similarity is that they both keep their bridge hand pretty well anchored to the table. The result is a setup that allows for a very gentle relaxed building of power. This, I think, is the reason why they are able to consistently hit the rack so square and control the cueball.
As for the body movement, here are my thoughts: can someone hit the rack in the high 20 mph range using just the arm, without moving the body? Not too likely. However, even if they could, it would seem to have to be a very aggressive movement. It would certainly be a very *short* lever and would require explosive power and speed. Remember that this power does not occur in a vacuum-there will be an equal and opposite force acting somewhere. This will require effort to keep the shoulder and the elbow from moving, and I think this can cost accuracy. By rotating the body slightly (the hips then the shoulders, like in a golf or baseball swing), you can provide a (moving) platform from which to execute this arm swing. You will notice a lot of breakers kick their leg back. This really has little to do with generating power. It is a *counterbalance*. The leg is rotating around the body in the opposite direction as the shoulders. This makes it easier to keep the spine in the same location as the shoulders (and leg) rotate around it. This can be practiced. The trade off is that initially you will have less cue ball control on the break. Soon, though, the benefit will be that it is *easier* (requires less effort) to swing the cue fast. So if you wish to break at, say, 25 mph...you *might* be able to achieve this with an arm-only swing (highly doubtful), but I would really like to see that motion result in quality cue ball control, because I doubt I would see that. If your goal is to break at 18 mph, then sure, use only your arm and you can have great cue ball control. 18 mph, though, is not always the best speed for a given table, especially in 8-ball.
I guess in summary what I am saying is that while you may get decent cue ball control at lower speeds with an arm only motion, I believe it is easier to develop good control at higher speeds using a more effortless technique, more like Stalev and VanBoening.
I notice that players that are stronger in the arm can break big with a short bridge. Others get great control with a super long bridge. Anyone who discourages the long bridge needs to step back and really really really make sure they understand the mechanic and why some players can indeed get better control with a longer bridge.
The longer bridge allows you to get to a higher speed while maintaining a lower acceleration. That is, you might be under more control with a longer bridge in getting the final desired stick speed. The shorter bridge, you'll need to have a higher acceleration for the same final stick speed. And that will need more arm strength to keep under control.
At the  Derby City, I watched intensely some of the hardest breakers. The timing and coordination is something that if it's not natural, it would take some work. Again, add a few things at a time, and it could work wonders.
There are two distinct power breaks that I've seen: Elbow Drop and Elbow Rise.
Elbow Drop Breakers: most hard breakers. For pros, this might include Bustamante, Sigel, Strickland, etc.
Elbow Rise Breakers: Archer, Breedlove, Lil John, Sparky Ferrule, Sarah Rousey.
In either case, the elbow drops, but since the Risers rise, the tip dips down on the back stroke, and shoots up on the final stroke. So, Elbow Risers aim at the center or a hair high on their setup.
For Droppers, most will aim low. Really low. Some aim right to the base of the ball or lower. Since they do this, and they get good contact, I assume the elbow is dropping before the tip contacts the ball.
Most of the hard breakers seem to be able to take that tip all the way to the bridge loop, often actually passing through it. This ensures the longest travel to get up to higher speed, without having to bully the stroke.
I notice that most hard breakers take the final backswing relatively slowly, like they're drawing a bow. Players like Sarah will actually pull it back to the loop and almost freeze with her raised elbow high in the air. Archer also freezes with the elbow higher, but not nearly as high as Sarah's nor for as long a time.
There is definitely something to be said about rocking your hips back slowly on your final backswing and then leading with the hips on the final stroke before you start the forward swing. Pagulayan is a good example of this. On video, this might cause you to think he's pausing his stroke because the stick stop at the full back position while his hips start their move forward. This is probably the most difficult timing transition. The hip lead is part of the aforementioned freeze.
A lot of today's breakers follow through by letting go of the bridge hand, and bring the cue forward past the center of the table (if they can reach). I don't know if this really helps, but the act of following through helps to not check up your stroke. I still follow through to the table like Sigel, but not so pronounced.
So, even if you do any of the above in small controlled doses, rather than the wild lunge like Breedlove or Sarah, it will add power.
Whatever you do, if you find the cueball going forward after hitting the rack, either lowering your tip at address, or raising your elbow during the backswing can prove helpful.
from Colin Colenso:
Firstly, the long bridge will help but so can these, but they may be tricky to control for accuracy until you practice it a bit.
Firstly, transfer some of the force to the more powerful muscles, the pectorals. You can do this in three ways.
Turn your body more side on to the shot.
Stand up a little higher.
Move your body away from the cue an extra inch.
You'll start to get a slight discus version of a swing which can produce much more power than standard cueing which relies a lot on the biceps.
Also, relax you wrist and focus on letting it flex back in the early part of your forward delivery.
When I put these together and time the wrist, my biggest problem is keeping the CB on the table. The CB can land by the center pocket and bounce off the table from being only a fraction off center on the break.
But give it a try, coz at even 80% effort, if you can time these things using more of the pecs and wrist, you'll get plenty of power and can still control the accuracy.
You want the cueball to have some topspin when it meets the rack. This will act like a brake and stop it from rebounding back too far.
It doesn't necessarily mean hitting above center. The cueball will tend to pick up some topspin after it leaves your tip, even if it sails all the way to the rack. It gets it from the first bounce off the bed just after tip/ball impact, and of course, any subsequent bounces. (In fact, to my understanding, if it is airborne all the way, it should pick up more topspin from the one bounce than if it slid along the surface the entire way.)
Exactly where to strike to get the right amount of topspin depends on ball speed, cue elevation and cloth/ball conditions. But, it's going to be near centerball.
The adjustment, in theory, is very simple. If the cueball is following too far forward, hit lower; if it's rebounding back too far, hit higher. If it's badly inconsistent, shorten your bridge length and/or slow down some until you get better control.
What is a good approach for the 10-ball break?
Below is a good summary of what seems to be a good approach (e.g., used often by Corey Deuel and others). Here's an example of a very symmetrical 10-ball break pocketing both 2nd-row balls in the sides:
For more information, see Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Nine-ball and Ten-ball (VENT) which shows in detail how to control the directions balls head in a 10-ball break.
See also: "How to Break Like a Pro" (feature article, BD, September, 2016).
Here's a great example of an effective 10-ball break, from Shane Van Boening:
And here's another from Jeffrey Ignacio showing how you don't need to crush the rack to get good results (6 balls pocketed on the break!):
Here are some statistics for effectiveness of pro 10-ball breaks. For technique advice, see the break technique and equipment advice resource page.
From spoons (concerning Corey's break at Valley Forge in 2009):
He broke from slightly off center and seemed to be trying to hit the 1 ball as squarely as possible, with what appeared to be a hint of draw on the cue ball. The draw should help him make the 2 and 3 in the sides. It also brings the cue ball to the head rail out of the traffic, and back to the middle of the table for position on the 1. It was not a "soft" break like he uses in 9-ball. He was hitting them hard enough to send the 6 and 7 around the table 3 rails, but not much harder than that.
What he was playing
He seemed to be clearly playing the 2 and 3 balls in their respective side pockets. Those are the two he made most often. But, as a secondary option, he seemed to be playing the 6 and 7 in their respective corners. By breaking from a few inches off of center, he should send those two balls around the table at slightly different speeds and give them a chance to miss kissing each other near the head rail.
The rest of the rack
Racking the 4 and 5 where he did leaves those two balls together and uptable which would be the most natural place for the 2 and 3 balls to head if he doesn't make them in the side, and racking the 8 and 9 where he did leaves a 3 ball cluster near the foot spot for him to finish the out. If the 6 and 7 don't fall, they're likely to end up down at the foot of the table which gives him a couple of balls to work off of to get position on the 8,9,10 cluster.
He rarely made more than a ball or two on the break, but if he ever made all four of the ones he was playing, it would be a throw in rack. Regardless, he left himself similar, and often simple racks to work with.
If all of the balls were perfect and racked perfectly, how would the balls move after a perfect break?
Here is an interesting analysis and simulation showing the results of a perfect break with perfect balls by Jim Belk of Bard College. Here is one of the results, assuming everything is perfect, with elastic (Hertzian) compression of the balls:
How do you get a tight rack for the most effective break?
If a racking template is allowed and is available, it can provide the best rack possible.
Another effective method for getting a good rack every time is to train the table as demonstrated in the following clip from Disc I of the Video Encyclopedia of Nine-ball and Ten-ball (VENT):
For more information, see "VENT – Part II: How to Train Your Table" (BD, November, 2017).
If using a traditional racking triangle instead, try the following things:
If the balls are old and worn, it may be impossible to get a perfectly tight rack (with all balls frozen). For example, if the center ball (the 8, 9 or 10) is smaller than the others or not perfectly round, it will not be possible to freeze it with all of the surrounding balls.
And if you want to place the balls in a certain order or place gaps in beneficial locations (if allowed by the rules under which you play) to take advantage of ball-motion patterns, see pattern racking and ball-gap strategies.
Here are some printable racking templates from Craig McWhorter for both an 8-ball rack and a 9-ball rack. Just print them actual size (i.e., make sure "Fit to Page" is not selected in the printer dialog box) and use a 1/4-inch hole punch to remove the spots. The spots are 0.045" (1.15 mm) closer together than the ball positions to help create a tight rack. If you want the template to last longer, print it onto a sheet of mylar (e.g., at a FedEx Office store). Here are some additional 9-ball racking templates from Bob Jewett, with various hole distances.
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