Do you just aim for the middle and swing as hard as you can?
Do you try to hit the perfect spot in the rack?
A good break can make the difference between running the table or losing your turn at the start and watching your opponent run the table.
If you want to get better, check out these tips on how to get a good break in pool…
Pool Break Setup
Make sure the rack is tight. All the balls should be touching each other. As the player breaking, it’s your job to ensure a good rack.
Any spaces between the balls will result in lost energy transfer and a lower probability of sinking a ball.
Pool Break Rules
The United States Professional Poolplayers Association sets outs specific rules on how to rack for a break on both 8 and 9 ball games.
Rule 2.1 How to Rack
“To begin the game of 8-ball, the 15 colored balls are placed randomly in a triangle, called a “rack”. The base of the rack is parallel to the short end of the pool table and is positioned so the ball in the tip of the rack is located on the center of the foot spot. The balls in the rack are pressed together tightly to acquire a solid rack, and remain in contact after the rack is removed. Within the rack, the 8-ball is centered while the two corners are occupied by the two opposite groups (one solid ball and one striped ball). The game begins with the cue ball in hand placed anywhere behind the head string. The head string is the quarter of the billiard table farthest from the rack, or an area also commonly referred to as the kitchen.”
Rule 2.1 How to Rack
The balls are racked in a diamond shape with the 1-ball on the foot spot at the top of the diamond, the 9-ball in the center of the diamond, the 2-ball at the bottom of the diamond, and the rest of the balls randomly dispersed throughout the rack.
Where To Aim The Cue Ball On A Break
Of course this is really the main difference between 8 ball and 9 ball, so let’s break this down by game.
8 Ball Game
There are two popular approaches to aiming for a break in 8 ball.
The most common, and easiest to execute, is a hard hit direct on the center of the lead ball (aka the “nose” of the rack). This will give you the maximum energy transfer from the cue ball to the rack. You can set the ball up anywhere on the line for this method, although I would recommend about halfway between the side and the center of the table.
An alternative approach is to aim for the second ball. For this shot you want to set up as far to the side as you can comfortably get a hard solid hit. If you have the skill, you should also try to give the cue ball a little bit of spin into the rack. Only hit this shot as hard as you can and retain good control. It requires a more precise hit so typically will be a softer hit than the straight on approach.
Hitting the second ball increases your chances of sinking the 8 ball on the break. On a good strike, the cue ball will hit off the side rail and probably strike one or more of the balls again, increasing your chances of sinking one or more. However, an imprecise strike, especially one that is too thin, can result in a scratch in the far corner. So this shot has greater risk and greater reward.
Both approaches are worth practicing to see which you like better.
These approaches work when breaking for a straight pool game too.
9 Ball Game
For 9 ball, you want to aim straight into the center of the 1 ball.
It can also help to place the cue ball in a position such that you are hitting the 1 ball on a slight angle. Unlike an 8-ball break, you do not want to make that angle too much. There are less balls in 9-ball and you would do better to hit the rack closer to straight on.
As with any of these tips, experiment to find out what you are comfortable with and what works best for you.
Where To Hit The Cue Ball On Break
This depends on the approach you are taking.
Most players will try to hit it right in the center. If you make a solid strike in the center of the ball and hit the lead ball then the cue should end up somewhere around the middle of the table. Ideally, this should give you access to strike the next ball.
Some players aim a little higher than center to have the cue ball chase forward after the break. You’ll have to experiment with your own preference as far as this goes. It can enable the cue ball to strike one or more of the balls again, maybe helping to sink one, but it can also leave you stymied by getting too close to a cluster of balls. So do some experimenting.
If you are trying to hit the second ball in an 8 ball game, then you’ll need to hit the cue ball a little above and left of center (assuming you are shooting from the right side of the table…reverse this if you are shooting from the left). This will help generate the right to left spin you need to tuck it in to that target spot.