(This is today's bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.)
Insurance can be defined as any ball setup or configuration that prevents the other player from running out the table and winning the game. Anything that does this protects you from losing.
By implication, the same setup also means that you can not run out the table. In such a case, the same balls can be insurance for both players. However, because you are the more intelligent player, you know various defensive solutions that place your opponent at a disadvantage.
8 Ball insurance
You only need one insurance ball from the mid-game forward. Anything else you should open up and proceed at your best speed.
Following are insurance situations you can set up or ensure they stay in place:
- Your ball blocks a pocket and one or two of his balls.
- Your ball is tied up with his ball anywhere on the table.
- Two of his balls are tied up.
- He has two balls in different dead zones.
The usual response for a table with balls that are tied up is to attempt to open those clusters while making other balls. The problem with that approach is the opportunity for chaos to enter into the game.
Even if a cluster is opened, there are no predictable results of where the balls will go. If the cluster missed, cue ball control is lost. Both are chaotic situations. Since chaos is your ally, anything that is a problem for him helps you.
If he delays addressing the problem until the end-game, the percentages are on your side. You can let him open it up, or you can open it up. If he is a careless player, let him do the honors. If you have to, delay the game by nursing a ball near a corner pocket. Let him open the problem balls. When he turns the table over, you win.
If he is a careful player, open it up yourself. Use a defensive effort that offers up the opportunity for him to let you win. Play the safety with your usual careful attention.
Here are some options if you face the insurance ball:
- Play a legal shot into a bad angle or distance safety.
- Play an illegal shot and make the mess even more difficult.
- Pick up the cue ball and give your opponent the ball in hand. Force him to come up with a solution.
9 Ball insurance
The insurance ball must be configured in such a way that it prevents your opponent from running out the table. Clusters with the 1, 2, or 3 ball are pretty much useless. They are handled long before anyone gets close to the money ball.
Even with this limitation, there are insurance situations that are helpful. For example:
- A higher ball (7, 8) near a corner pocket can block a middle ball (4,5, 6), stopping an easy run out.
- The 9 ball is tied up in a cluster with a higher ball (6, 7, 8).
At the least, you want your opponent to stop and consider what to do with the problem balls. If he is foolish in his choices, you get an easy run-out. If he is cautious and plays defensively, use a safety battle to force him into giving you the win.
If you don’t have confidence that you can run out (your BPI vs. too many balls), stop a bit earlier in the run. Apply appropriate tactics to manage his opportunities. All he needs to do is fail once and you finish the table.
There are several things you can do:
- Enter into a safety battle. Eventually he will lose patience and make a mistake.
- Early in the game, use an illegal shot to send two higher balls into dead zones. Let him pocket balls until he hits these. That will let you back onto the table with a couple balls to run.
- When you know he cannot run out, even with ball in hand, give him the cue ball and let him try.