(This is today’s bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.)
Based on the table layout, you can usually reach an immediate decision whether to play an offensive shot or start figuring out defensive choices. If you can’t quickly decide which intention to use, default to the defensive mindset.
Applying the decision breakpoint
The following considerations play a factor in your decisions. This can change depending on other factors. If the match is very important, you would crank up the numbers 5, 10, even 15% higher.
- Against lesser players, go offensive with a lower percentage of success. For example, a 50% shot number and a 60% positioning number could be used to play offensive mindset. Anything less than these two numbers would apply the defensive mindset.
- Against an equally skilled player, a 60% shot number and a 50% positioning number could default to the offensive mindset. If either number was smaller, go with the defensive mindset.
- Against better players, a 70-80% shot number and a 65-70% positioning number could default to the offensive mindset. Less numbers would use the defensive mindset.
This is the mindset you are most familiar with using. Here is an overview of the process:
- Select the target ball to be pocketed. (If multiple balls (in 8 Ball), apply this procedure to each ball.)
- What are the chances of making the object ball? Be brutally honest. You are not doing yourself any favors by over-estimating.
If acceptable, go to the next step.
If not, consider a defensive shot.
- What are the chances of getting shape for the next ball in a pattern? (If multiple possibilities, consider shape for each.)
If not feasible, consider a defensive shot.
If acceptable, go to next step.
- Mentally plan an offensive pattern. When ready, proceed.
At any time when you feel that the chances of success are less possible, consider the options in Two-way shots (on page 129 in the book).
The complexity of the game is maximized when considering defensive options. For that shot, you must evaluate the possibilities and consequences of dozens and hundreds of shooting choices. It does get easier the more experience you have in playing safeties.
There is no basic procedure or process in deciding how to play a defensive shot. The decision is made mainly by evaluation of the different shots against a series of conditions. Here are bullet points that help:
- Allow for your opponent’s skill level.
- Allow for your skill level.
- Does the table layout suggest ideas?
- Consider possibilities that you have already practiced.
- Reduce or eliminate billiard god luck (chaos).
- Simple is always better.
- Slower speeds are better, higher speeds can kill.
- Any helper balls around?
- Select large target areas. (It is easy to get a ball into a two-square diamond area, harder to get it a quarter diamond square.)
- Work up in complexity from one-rail to two-rail to three-rail until you are beyond your ability to execute.
- If confused, backtrack to the simpler or easier shots.
Given various circumstances, modify the numbers. The key to making this matrix a success is reality-based expectations. Smart choices keep the table under control. Careless choices reduce the chances of winning.
Overestimating your competence is just plain being stupid. Fortunately, reality has a way of correcting such mental mistakes. You want your opponent to overestimate his skills. It doesn’t hurt to compliment him when he is successful on a lower percentage shot. They might help him decide to try more of the chancy situations.
You may not lose because of one poor mindset decision, but you open the opportunity for billiard god luck (chaos) to enter your game. You want chaos to be common for your opponent, not for you. As long as you are calm and logical, the matrix increases your wins.