Gimme a (One-Pocket) Break!

Part four of a short series on breaking

Other Gimme a Break! articles:

Frankly, I don’t think there is much wisdom I can impart to you, dear reader, about the One-Pocket break. If you play the game, you probably already know how to break (and are hopefully practicing). If you don’t play, then you’re probably skipping this article and reading some cool new tip from Bob Jewett. Go ahead, I’m not jealous. He certainly knows a few things about the game.

Maybe I can use this space to do a little begging. You see, I have been wanting to get my hands on a copy of Winning One-Pocket…As Taught by the Game’s Greatest Players for a while now. If any reader has a copy they are willing to part with, please feel free to let me know, and I’d be happy to take it off your hands.

And if you do have a copy, read it! It is considered by most to be the definitive guide to the game, including the break.

OK, OK, I’ll talk about the break for a moment. Here’s my two cents:

The One-Pocket break is a safety break designed to do three things: Push balls toward your pocket, protect those balls, and leave your opponent with no shot.

If you play the game, then you should know the standard break shot: Place the cue ball near the long rail on the head string (As usual, I favor the right side). Using inside english, hit the second ball in the rack after grazing the head ball. The cue ball should have enough speed to strike the rack, then the foot rail, and rebound to the side rail, stopping near the third diamond.

And if you’re anything like me, you have messed this break up many times! Sometimes, you miss the head ball completely. The cue-ball dies after hitting the second ball, and you leave your opponent an easy opening shot. Or, you hit too much of the head ball, and the cue-ball caroms off another ball and sinks itself in your opponent’s corner pocket.

Here are a few tips to help you minimize these dangers:

First of all, make sure that the first three balls, as well as all of the balls on the side you are breaking, are touching. No gaps. If there are gaps, have your opponent rerack (or do it yourself if you are racking your own).
Next, where you place the cue-ball on the head string determines how aggressive you’d like to be. The closer to the rail you are, the more aggressive your break is (you’ll break more balls loose, but have a smaller margin for error, and you may scratch more easily in the corner or sell out a shot). If you break about one diamond from the rail, it’s more conservative, but it will be a longer game — the rack won’t release very many balls.

I prefer a middle-of-the-road approach, breaking from about 2/3 of a diamond from the long rail.

To work on your break speed, try racking just three balls and practice making the ball stop at the third diamond close to the rail. This is much easier than constantly reracking the entire rack. Remember, though, that racking all fifteen balls allows you to practice a full, proper break and try different things. Practice both ways.

When breaking, don’t aim to barely skim the head ball. Instead, ignore the head ball; simply aim for a full ball hit on the second ball as if the head ball weren’t there, and use as much inside english as you are comfortable with while still maintaining control. When executed properly, you should end up grazing the head ball just right, sending it near the opposite side pocket; two balls will go near your pocket (hopefully one high, on the long rail, and one low, on the short rail); and the cue ball will end up at the third diamond on the rail.

There are many other breaks you can try as well, and I could probably write 10 more articles on this subject alone. You could try breaking between the second/third, or even the third/fourth balls. There is even a break you can do that strikes the side rail first, and hits the rack from the side! I have never been able to master that one, and many have told me that it’s a low-percentage break.

All I can suggest here is that you try them yourself, and discover what works best for you.

This concludes my series on breaking. If you would like to read the whole series, please be sure to visit to find past issues.

Do you have some tips on breaking that you’d like to share with me? Do you have any suggestions for future articles? Drop me a line at I can also be found hanging out with fellow pool enthusiasts at Come on by and join the discussion!

Posted in Article, Break, Table Talk, The Break / Rackem / Stroke Magazines