(S&D) Safety & Defense - Shooting the Percentages

(About the author)

Safety Toolbox (Advanced)

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

The entire world of insurance (medical, auto, life, etc.) is based on percentages. The Green Game is no exception. In table billiards, the success of every shot can be calculated in percentages of occurring or not occurring. When you include percentages in your calculations of success, these numbers can be used to your benefit and against your opponent.

Every single shot has two separate actions. One is what happens to the object ball(s) that you hit with the cue ball. The other is what happens to the cue ball after contact with the object ball(s). You can assign a percentage of success to the outcome of each action.

For offensive shots, the first percentage is based on your ability to pocket the target object ball. The second percentage number is your competence in moving the cue ball into position for the next target object ball. If you can easily get shape, it's a high number. If it's more difficult, the percentage drops.

The numbers used depend on real-world experiences. In essence, you have to look at a shot and KNOW how many times in 10 tries you can make it and get position afterwards. It might be painful to realize that what you thought was a high percentage shot was actually closer to a 50/50 (or worse).

For defensive shots, most of the time you only have to calculate the success of making contact with the object ball and then rolling the cue ball into your hoped-for position. Or, it is your ability to move the target object ball into the intended location. Usually it is one or the other - a single calculation based on your skills. Only occasionally do you calculate for both the cue ball and the target object ball. The real complexity is the hundreds of defensive options and variations.

For a lot of players, pocketing balls is all they consider to be important. To the smart shooter, both results are critical. You decision on the Mindset matrix (see page 75) requires that you have a realistic number for both. It is the lowest number of these two that is used when calculating offensive and defensive shots.

Percentages are a useful way to determine whether the shot is within your comfort zone or creeping into your chaos zone. It is a factor when using the mindset matrix to select the shot, and the consequences you can expect.

Other factors

Factors that affect your calculations of the numbers:

  • Game circumstances - a casual game offers a different percentage value than money or tournament situations.
  • Personal emotional state - a positive attitude does better, being irritated does worse.
  • Physical condition - the percentages are better when you are in good shape, and less so when tired.
  • Energy cycle - the rises and falls of energy flow are reflected in the Up and down cycles (see page 161).

For example, you have a shot before you. On a practice table, you can pocket it and get shape 6 out of 10 times (60% shot). In a tournament when you are behind, it might be a 40% shot. An end-game shot in an on the hill game might be 30% or less. Do you shoot it, regardless of the playing circumstances - or play a safety?

Percentages apply to multiple ball run situations. Your BPI (see page 108) is an important factor. A two or three ball run out to a win would have a higher chance of success than a five or six ball layout.

Summary

How do you assign a truthful percentage to a shot? When first learning how to separate truth from fantasy, begin evaluating your recent shooting successes and failure. Pay particular attention to shots you missed. If you thought it was a sure thing and you failed, this tells you that the wrong percentage factor was assigned. Consider the shot as if on a practice table. Ask yourself, "If I set this up on my practice table and tried 20 times, would I look good or bad?"

When you first start using the shot percentages as a calculation tool, be pessimistic. One of the problems with guessing is over-estimating your skills. Recall your best day when you could do no wrong. If that is your baseline, you are going to be disappointed many times. Consider your worst days. When you use that as a working standard, you are starting with something realistic. At the least, you will not be overestimating yourself.

As you gain experience, you can start using slightly higher numbers. Always assume you are not as good as you think you are. Make decisions based on that assumption.

 

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