This is today’s bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.
Being able to make choices with successful outcomes requires a lot of brain work and practice. Among top players, pool has been compared to chess. A player must consider hundreds of options and choices before selecting a single shot. A poor decision in the early-game can cause a loss.
Your better choices are made based on experiences successful and unsuccessful. A player who doesn’t learn from mistakes will always be a bar-banger. A thinking player, on making any mistake (analysis, shot choice, execution, etc.), always stops to figure out why.
It takes effort, time, and practice to change the habits of table analysis. If you were like many players, those analysis habits were heavily weighted towards offensive choices. Previously, you may have considered defense only in the most dire circumstances. Even when the idea crossed your mind, lack of experience meant that only a few obvious options were possible.
Conservatively, to get competent with defensive consideration, you need to process approximately three to five thousand pre-shot defensive analysis efforts. That is what it takes to get comfortable with your new thinking habits. If you only consider layouts that occur when it is your turn, your learning process suffers.
There is a shortcut to make the process faster. Apply defensive table analysis at every layout you see. Here is the short list of opportunities:
- Every shot you have.
- Every shot of your opponent.
- Every shot when watching others.
- Every shot watched on video or TV.
These are the steps you would apply to any table layout:
- Select the target ball. (If multiple balls, apply this process to each ball.)
- Determine the realistic chances of success as a percentage (how many times can you make the ball if given 10 tries).
- If the pocketing percentage is workable, what about getting position?
- If the chances for getting position are good, play the shot as an offensive effort.
- If the pocketing or positioning number is barely acceptable, play the shot as a two-way.
- Play a defensive shot if nothing looks good. Consider the ways to improve the layout to help you and hurt your opponent.
For training purposes, you already have sufficient experience in offensive thinking. To properly develop your critical thinking processes, you want to go straight to steps 5 and 6. In other words, instead of looking for ways to win, look for ways to protect yourself from losing and make your opponent suffer.
Remember that a defensive choice must have one overriding purpose – to limit, reduce, or remove the chances of your opponent to advance to the win. Regardless of how well or clumsy the result was, if it achieves this, be happy with the shot and learn from any miscalculation. And even if it failed to be perfect, your heart was in the right place. Practice and experience will improve future efforts and move reality closer to your fantasy.
When considering the many ways to play defensively, the choices start numbering in the hundreds and even thousands. Here are some questions to help:
- What safety tool (or tools) can be applied to the target object ball?
- For each tool (bad angle, distance, etc.) being considered, where are the best places to move the balls?
- Focus only on the cue ball?
- Focus only on the object ball?
- Attempt to manage both balls?
Once you decide what to do, use these calculations:
- Ideal scene (a mental image of perfect results).
- Acceptable tolerances.
- Planned angle of the cue ball into the object ball.
- Planned cue ball speed and spin.
Your cleverness provides the many ways to challenge, confuse, divert, and otherwise prevent your opponent from winning the competition. This way of thinking takes time to develop. Fortunately, you have an entire future lifetime of playing pool. As you gain better control and make wiser decisions, the game becomes much more fun.