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:
- HSV B.43 – break squat
- HSV A.123 – power break — cue ball reactions for draw, follow, and skip
- NV D.14 – Pool Break Technique Advice – from Vol-III of the Billiard University instructional video series
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).
Is CB hop a good alternative to using slight topspin to help the CB squat?
No. With a typical break “pop,” the CB is not hitting the 1-ball high enough to prevent the backward motion of the CB (due to the large “mass” of the rack), so slight topspin is still required to hold the CB in the center of the table. If you hit the 1-ball high enough to prevent the backward motion, the upward motion would be very high and any hit on the 1 even slightly off center will cause the CB to hop off the table.
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
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).