By: Erik Hjorleifson
Hey everybody Happy New Year and all the best wishes for a prosperous 2015. Today I would like to shed some light on an aspect of the game that we all know is very important, which is the break. After playing at the Turning Stone event this week which was a winner breaks event, I was on the receiving end of a set where my opponent John Morra broke and ran about two thirds of the breaks and left me in his dust beating me easily by a 9-1 score line. He also beat Mika Immonen 9-1 in the winners side final with a similarly dominating total of break and runs.
As the tournament went on I was very impressed with how consistently Morra was hitting the rack, as this tournament was a rack for your opponent and break from the box format, you couldn't really rely on making the wing ball every rack. What I noticed from Morra was that he had figured out the proper speed that when he wasn't making the wing he was making the 1 in the side as a back up. Making the 1 in the side is relative to the contact point on most tables when breaking from the side rail the 1 will go near the side pocket on the opposite side of the table you are breaking from. Something very important to note here is that if the one is going short of the side you need to hit the break softer, conversely if it is going past the side you need to hit the break harder. If anything, you want to make sure the one doesn't go past the side because when it does it general banks off the rail and ends up in the middle of the top rail where it is tough to pocket. If it is cutting short of the side that can be an advantage because in this case it will bank towards the top corner pocket.
In alternate break formats I use the opponents break as a way to promote positive mental thinking. For example if the score is 2-1 for me and the opponent is breaking, I focus hard on getting that break of serve and I expect to win my next break. In other words I am pushing to get to 3-1 because if I get there I think I'm a big favourite to make it 4-1 and the cycle continues. When playing winner breaks, something that you have to keep in mind is to not dwell on the score too much. For example if you're down 4-0 its really not that hard to come back and the same is true for holding the lead, you can never let up when it is winner breaks.
Something that I tell people all the time is that if you don't break and run a rack anything can happen, even if you hook your opponent they can still kick the ball in. People think all the time that they get unlucky when they lose and the fact is in the duration of a tournament if you aren't running at least a third of your breaks, the rolls will usually turn against you at some point. For players that aren't skilled enough to run out when they get a shot I would suggest to learn as much as you can about racking the balls and at least put yourself in a spot where you can run a few balls and play safe. Hope this helps, and good luck.