Rules for APA Play in Billiards

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The APA break rules can be a blessing or a curse as can other pool league and tournament rules. Is pool's open break an advantage in 8-Ball strategy? How are APA league players affected on an APA break?

These questions from the 8-Ball Debates touch on a sensitive issue. There is little that hurts a pool player more than making a crushing break without sinking a ball, and especially when the incoming player runs out right in your face.

You might ask whether the pros and pool hustlers consider the 8-Ball break an advantage or disadvantage, but they play the game only a little and not often in public view either.

8-Ball is as good for your pool brain as any game save Straight Pool or One Pocket, perhaps, but smashing the balls to Hell and back is the sort of mindless error I want readers to hold back from making.

Matt and Donny Debate and Discussion

Donny Lutz: First we must consider the condition of the table. If the rack spot is depressed from abuse, you have a problem. Even a tight rack could jump the cue ball on contact with the head ball, forcing the breaker to forego a power snap.

Matt Sherman: My response is to use a more level cue, my back hand quite long and low in movement. Great results come from using a long, level cue stroke breaking an 8-Ball rack, even with a bad spot. Most players simply move the rack slightly ahead of the spot or where rules permit; they aim at the second row to sink the 8-Ball for the win.

Donny: I'm afraid a level cue won't help much with the head ball in a deep divot. And the cue should be as level as possible on any break, any condition, for any game. The opponent may not wish to rack "high" or "low" at your request either.

The break is no advantage if the balls won't rack tightly. I also don't recommend going for the 8-ball with the second ball hit unless the balls other than the head ball are tight AND you're on a fast table.

Exciting? Yes. Dangerous, too. You increase your chance of sinking the eight but scratching for a loss. The World Standardized Rules make this a moot point, of course; only APA break and old-time bar rules allow for the win or loss on the billiards break.

Matt: Not to mention that many readers are APA members, but I respectfully disagree, as a medium strength but accurate snap against a tight rack works, and against a loose rack if you explore the potential caroms and combinations we 14.1 players exploit.

Loose or tight, it's an advantage to keep the break. I want to control whether I get stripes or solids if open table rules allow, and if I scatter the rack yet sink nothing, at least I can run either set later.

Donny: I see why they call you "Quick Draw"! You respond to comments fast without thinking. If you "scatter the rack yet sink nothing" you'll be reaching for the rack against any good player.

Think of it all this way. When you break you may:

*make a ball and run the table for a win
*make the 8-ball and win under APA break rules

Or, you may:

*not make a ball and give up the table
*make a ball and scratch, giving up the table
*make the 8-ball and scratch, losing under APA rules
*make a ball and not have a good second shot, more likely under APA rules

For these reasons alone, the break is not a clear advantage. I've had substantial success giving up the break in 8-Ball. The only time it's a really bad bet is if your opponent clearly has a better break than you.

You have another option, of course, and that is to play a legal but soft break, thereby reducing your opponent's chances of running out. This is a bad billiards choice too if your adversary is a better safety player than you!

Matt: A thoughtful analysis if lacking 8-Ball psychology. I'd rather break than watch, especially when they break well or lucky.

You wrote it's a "...bad bet... if your opponent clearly has a better break..." Can you guarantee their next break won't clearly be better than my next break?

Double Hill or any pool pressure situation and you'll want the break, whether it's an APA break or in most other leagues--I'm certain of it.