How You Use One Hand For Ball/Bridge Control Perfection

Matt's GAP Method Gets You There

Pool Bridge Length: Scientifically Better Pool
Pool Bridge Length: Scientifically Better Pool. Photo (c) Matt Sherman, licensed to

Get Ready To Be Awesome At 9-Ball

What do you need to become a superb 9-Ball player? Great offense and great defense will help. Get ready because this article will give you most of tools you need to become a superb 9-Ball defender.

An reader writes:

“Hello Mr. Sherman,

I hope you and your family are in good health. Mr. Sherman, I am a beginner to billiards. I joined an APA Nine Ball league about six months ago, and I’m having a very hard time. I haven't won a game in three months as a Level 4 player.

I need help at my safety play and shot safeties. Do you have any common-to-9-Ball safety drills that I may practice?

Thanking you in advance, Carl”

Send Matt Your Pool, Cushion Billiards And Snooker Questions

A great question, Carl. I will teach you and my readers in this article how to quickly gain the skills you need to hook your opponent like Captain Hook himself, Mike Sigel. If you want to play “lock safes” in league, all you really need are the following:

  1. My bridge system for automatic speed control
  2. Finger loop power for automatic safety strokes
  3. Fraction aim for separating or bringing together the cue ball and target balls at will

And you’re getting all three in this article, so “Pay attention, OO7!” as Q often tells James Bond. Let us start with bridging for speed control. You’ll be making super safeties with this technique.

Matt’s Bridge System: The Need

Carl, if you want to shoot great defense, or offense, in a Nine Ball match you have to control the speed of the cue ball. You know the kind of shots I mean, for example, the ones where an object ball is close to a rail and the cue ball is nearby.

Say the six-ball is near the corner pocket along the long rail and your opponent has left the cue ball almost touching it. You don’t see an easy way to bank or cut the six to a pocket while playing position for the seven.

You want to make a legal hit on the six but leave the balls quite close to their current positions. You are smart enough to let the incoming player deal with the same safety he left you. Let him or her take a stab at the bad position because most league players will butcher this shot badly, sending the ball off the rail and the cue ball far away, and often so that the other person can easily pocket the six and get out. How do you leave those balls where they are every time? How do you put a superb touch on this play?

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Matt’s Bridge System: Simple, Killer Defense

All you need to do to make this beautiful shot, and better than over 95% of the players who attempt it in league, is to preset your bridge length to a super-short bridge. Your personal bridge length is the distance between the loop of the fingers of your closed bridge (or the place where your thumb and forefinger meet in your open bridge) to the cue ball.

To move your cue ball a tiny distance, hitting an object ball very gently to drive it to a nearby rail, while leaving both balls dead after impact instead of flying away from you, use a one-inch long bridge. But be sure you stroke back to your loop and fingers.

How A Pro Automates Power: Stroking To Their Fingertips

I can teach you, Carl and other readers, exactly what the pros do, to do for yourselves. The pros use what I call GAP methods to play great pool. GAP is my acronym for Geometry, Anatomy and Physics.

A pro plays well because they do anatomically what is simplest using the geometry of pool (or cushion billiards, or snooker) without acting against the laws of physics. Let me show you, on this biomechanical basis, the simple way to play a great safety on that six ball.

The Seesaw And The Sail Away

Do you do what the average player does, hitting that little one-inch safety shot too hard? You are probably shooting pool with a bridge length of between eight and fourteen inches for most shots, which is incorrect. I can use a long bridge and pull the safety off, with a few secrets of stroke that are beyond the scope of this article. But the easiest GAP way is the short bridge. Why?

When bad players try that little safety, they use a long bridge and try to shoot super-softly, just moving the tip of their cue an inch or so back and forth, not only for their practice strokes but the final stroke of the shot. Bad idea! The bridge hand is the fulcrum of the stroke, like the center of a teeter-totter or seesaw, the point on which the lever of the stroke rests and pivots.

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We all know a seesaw has fun uses, like jumping down hard on one end so that leverage makes the person sitting on the other end fly high into the air! But the six-ball safety shot we’re fixing doesn’t need leverage, it needs a delicate touch. The player with the super-long bridge length wobbles around on that final stroke, they can’t help doing so, and the cue ball clangs into the six and ruins the shot. Here’s a smarter way to play this shot:

Take a one-inch bridge and stroke firmly and fairly quickly.

Be sure to measure your bridge length with care, a one-inch bridge looks very short and is shorter than most players think it is. With that super-short bridge, the fulcrum is much closer the cue ball now, and you can take a real strong stroke—all the way back to your loop—and then come forward at your regular pace. No wobbling about like a crazy person trying to control the end of a long seesaw from the other end, and blip! The cue ball darts forward with little momentum for a perfect safety shot, 100% of the time.

Warning: Don’t try to make a super-soft stroke with a one-inch bridge. Take your regular pace of stroke and let the physics and anatomy of the shot do the work.

Warning: Don't Confuse Natural Roll With The Natural Tangent Line

And so, science does it for us, with a little help from yours truly. Now, let me give you another huge part of Nine Ball safety play, separating or combining the cue ball and object ball.

Fraction Aim For Outstanding Defense

Just like the pros we watch on television, many times we need to send the cue ball one direction and the object ball far away in a different direction. Again, physics helps us because cutting a ball to one’s right drives the cue ball away to one’s left and vice versa. But again, let me give you speed control help.

Divide The Object Ball To Send It Where You Want

I’m going to give you a rule governing ball speeds that is approximate to real physics, but certainly close enough to do all you want to in pool. The fraction of the ball you hit is the fraction of cue ball speed imparted to the object ball. Let me put that in plain language for you to use, Carl.

Observation has told you that if you hit the cue ball fully into the object ball, most or all of the cue ball’s momentum goes into the object ball, like when a straight-in shot kills the cue ball and the object ball rolls away. Here’s an example of a so-called “full hit” with the cue ball for you to check out.

Observation has also told you that cutting an object ball very thinly makes the object roll away quite slowly from impact while the cue ball flies along its way. We can convert this knowledge to a math rule and examples to move the balls for safeties at will:

  • As said already, hit a shot full in the face and the object ball gets (about) 100% of the cue ball speed while the cue ball stays put (let’s not worry about spin effects for now).
  • Hit a half-ball cut shot and the cue ball and object ball leave impact at (about) the same speed.
  • Hit a ball as a quarter-ball hit and three-quarters of the cue ball speed is retained.
  • A 20% thin cut leaves 80% of cue ball speed, a 76% cut puts 76% of speed on the object ball and 24% of the speed is left with the cue ball, and so on.

Do you see the magic move now for safety play? You want to hit the 7-ball legally, leave it in place and send the cue ball faraway to the other end of the table, to create a nightmare shot for your competition? Simply graze the seven thin and most of the speed stays with the cue ball. You want to strike the 3-ball in its position near the middle of the bottom rail and drive both balls to opposite long rails (to leave only a difficult bank for the other player)? Simply choose a half-ball hit aim line and stroke.

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Combine Both For Deadly Speed Control

Now use all three techniques together for killer safeties (and yes, for killer speed control for offense, too):

  1. Bridge length
  2. Fingertip power
  3. Fraction aim

You want to cut a ball to a corner pocket with a nearby cue ball and drive the cue ball to the middle of the table? Use a five-inch bridge length and cut the ball softly and full. Stroke back to your finger loop or V-loop to get the full value of the five-inch bridge.

You want to hit a ball fairly full into a corner pocket, again with the cue ball close by, but this time you want the cue ball to die in that section of the table? Use a three-inch bridge, stroke back to your finger loop, and firmly, not wobbly or super-softly, all the way through. (This method of firm but pure speed control is why all pool instruction materials say to stroke soft, medium or hard and not slow, medium or fast.)

You want to cut another ball, but this time, drive the cue ball all the way off two or three rails to the other end of the table? Use a seven-inch bridge, stroke all the way back to the loop of your hand, come through gently but with a firm follow-through.

Record Your Nine Ball Safety Practice As A Drill