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Drills that Develop Safety Skills ~ By Dominic Esposito

This Month We’ll Practice Drills that Develop Safety Skills

Now pay attention, student! Almost always, it is not required to make the winning ball to win a game. But, until you do, it is required that you control the table and control your opponent.

Do you have a balanced pool game? That means you decide when to shoot an offensive or a defensive shot (or both, which is called an ODO Shot — Offensive Defensive Option. As slang, players often call this a “Two-Way” shot.

Take a few moments to consider your own play. The professionals do, and they shoot safeties to devastate their opponents. Too bad many matches are edited to seem that billiards pros run tables often. They play safe a lot and running multiple racks from the break comes less often than many think.

So when should you play safe?

Some pool players claim playing defense makes you "weak," but they couldn’t be more wrong. Defense is 50% of the game. The other half is Offense. That’s why you need to have a balanced game. It is as important to practice defensive shots as well as your offensive shots.

You need to learn defensive shots so when you’re at the table, you’ll recognize the opportunities because you have a full playbook of shots to select from. Most players shoot defensive shots because they don't see any ball they can make with confidence. That’s already too late.

That kind of thinking must be averted if you're ever going to shoot pool at a high skill level. Trying to bank or kick the ball in this diagram for the immediate win is a bad idea that likely sells out the game and match.

Here’s a great safety drill exercise that can be practiced as an 8 Ball and 9 Ball Defense Shot.


1. The game can be 8-Ball or 9-Ball.

2. The object ball is not frozen onto the rail.

3. There is no easy shot to pocket the ball for the win.


1. Play a legal safe using distance to leave a tough shot for your opponent.

2. Using a 2-3 Speed Shot Stroke depending on the size table and cloth condition:

Option A: Thin hit on the object ball.

Option B: Full hit on the object ball

3. Leave the cue ball and object ball frozen or as close as possible on opposite ends of table.

Drill Instructor's Drill No. 1:

Send the object ball downtown and leave the cue ball on the cushion. BAM!

Drill Instructor’s Drill No. 2:

Send the cue ball down table and leave the object on the cushion. POW!

Leaving your opponent like this will greatly challenge them to come with a shot no matter what game you’re playing. Often, they’re response will sell out and you’ll get the win.

How will you know when you have mastered this vital play? Work each drill shot until you can successfully cause the far rolling ball to land within 2 inches of the cushion.

Go to my website at and get yourself the Number One Defensive Drills Book and DVD in pool. If you don’t know the shots, you won’t see them when you’re in the action.

This will take your defensive game to my level of play, the winning pro level.

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