(S&D) Safety & Defense - How to Use Comfort & Chaos Zones

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Safety Toolbox (Advanced)

(This is today's bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.)

When pocketing balls, you (and every other player in the world) have shots that are within comfort zones and chaos zones. When a shot can be made 8 out of 10 times (80%), it is in your comfort zone. When your chances of pocketing the ball are around 3 or 4 times in 10 tries (30-40%) or less, it is within your chaos zone. At 50-60%, it is on the edges.

When getting position for another shot, you must move the cue ball into a comfort zone. The least amount of cue ball travel, the better. The more you have to force the cue ball to move, the easier it is to finish with the cue ball in your chaos zones.

When you consider an offensive shot, these are the two percentages used to calculate whether to proceed offensively, play a more cautious two-way, or shoot a safety. For example, if you can pocket the ball 8 out of 10 times, but only get shape 3 out of 10 times – that shot falls into your chaos zone. (It also indicates an area that needs practice time.)

When you need to play defense, you want your opponent to have one of these tactical playing situations:

  • A shot in his chaos zone – the deeper the better.
  • A shot (or two) within his comfort zone, but with a positioning problem in his chaos zone.

General observations

Closely watch how he handles these shots:

  • Long distance shots with various angles from straight-in to sharp cuts.
  • Medium distance shots and cuts of various angles.
  • Cue and object balls very close together.
  • Cross-side, cross-corner, and long-table
  • Cue ball draw, follow, speed and spin control.

With this knowledge, you can carefully craft selected safety tactics that are to his greatest disadvantage. This ensures much greater table control. And that is what improves your chances to win the game.

Your limitations

It is very important to know exactly where your shooting and positioning comfort zones are and where the edges are. This requires a level of personal truthfulness that many find painful to admit. Your best tool - the Mindset matrix (details in an upcoming post) does not work unless you can acknowledge your true and realistic skills.

Without this reality-check, you could select offensive shots that you “feel” are within your comfort zone, but actually have a much greater chance of failure. If you constantly select these kinds of shots, you are going to hurt yourself by allowing billiard god luck (chaos) to enter your game. This can be a blind spot in your calculations. The more honest you are with yourself, the better your chances of winning against almost any opponent.

Self-honesty ensures you can make smarter decisions more often. Your choices can be rational and the results match your expectations. This self-knowledge can also be used to configure your practice sessions.