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Billiards Strategy - Defense and Safety Play

Updated on December 12, 2017
rclinton5280 profile image

Father of an angel, house painter, cryptocurrency student, and billiards enthusiast.

This is a hot topic in pool rooms across America

In America, the many years a lot of people spent playing behind the line 8 ball bread a certain mind state about playing defensive shots in pool. Due to the fact that you could not shoot at a ball that was behind the line without going down the table and back and ball in hand was not an option, a defensive shot was frowned upon in most circles. It was considered to be a dirty play, and many people would get offended.

There have been many a bar fight started over an incident related to this rule. One player gets stuck in position where if they contact their ball they lose, and they don't want to shoot at it. There was no rule to govern such an incident, and thankfully, someone finally had the sense to change it. That occurrence is why I am writing this hub. Hopefully, this information will help to solve any further disputes before they happen.

A good safety can win you the game

This is me in the process of winning a tournament.
This is me in the process of winning a tournament.

Defense and safety play

have always been a part of the more technical cue sports. Games like snooker, one pocket, and straight pool all require both offensive and defensive skill to win, and always have.

However, your average American pool players have been playing 8 ball on 6 and 7 ft pool tables for years and years in bar rooms and they frowned on safety play. The rules of the day were cue ball behind the line on a scratch, which created a conflict when there were object balls trapped behind that line, or on other parts of the table. One could just simply shoot away, not attempting to do anything other than re-position the cue ball. The rules weren't really written to deal with this situation. Thus, if you attempted to play defense, you were doing something less than honorable.

In today's standard rules, there are points written out specifically to deal these instances. Now, every shot must be a legal strike, which includes contacting the correct ball and one or more ball reaching a rail after contact. They instituted ball in hand as well, as a penalty for failing to make a legal attempt at a shot. Together, these ideas laid out clearly a standard definition for what a legal turn at the table is, which makes defensive play much more agreeable to everyone.

The great part of playing safties and defense

is that can help you gain control of a match. Sometimes, your opponent's offense is stronger than yours, and the best option available to you is to slow them down with some safety play. In turn, doing so can also opens up your offense. Much like a football expression I like to use, offense sells tickets, and defense wins championships.

Making the right decision when you are at the table will decide your fate for you before you bend over on most shots. You will increase your probability for success greatly by knowing when to go for it, and when to pass the shot up and leave your opponent in a tough position. This type of knowledge allows you to prevent over working, and attempting low percentage shots. There is usually a relatively easy safety available at any time in a game of pocket pool, and knowing when to use it and when to not will improve your winning percentages.

For instance, you have one ball left on the table before the money ball. So does your opponent in a game of 8-ball. However, you have a very tough cut/bank to shoot, or an easy safe. Don't let your pride tempt you to do something wild at a time like this. Take a measured roll at the ball and shoot the defensive shot instead. Likely, if you succeed in the attempt, you will get a much better look at your next shot. A lot of times this will lead to a win in a game you'd have otherwise lost. You might make that tough shot 1 out of 4. The other 3 times you're likely to leave the other guy an easy 2 ball run out. Pool and billiards are definitely thinking games and safety play is one of the finer aspects of them.


This is just one aspect of pool and billiards. There are many areas of pool that can be studied. If you are interested in learning more about playing the game or the inside information on the best pool cues and equipment, stop by my profile and check out some of my other articles. I encourage you to look through them, and choose the ones you think will help you. Otherwise, I appreciate you taking the time to read my hub, and hope the advice brings you success.

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    • rclinton5280 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Clinton 

      4 months ago from Greensboro, NC

      That sounds a little fishy. Tom Rossman has 100 of his own videos on the subject. Why would he direct you to mine?

    • profile image


      4 months ago

      Dr Cue gave me your website info in Vegas Thursday. I need to work on my safety play , because I know thats how I get put out of tournaments !

    • rclinton5280 profile imageAUTHOR

      Robert Clinton 

      3 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      I appreciate you two taking the time to comment. It's nice to hear from people who appreciates my work.

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Articles like these put the consumer in the driver seat-very imonttapr.

    • AkaashPrasad profile image

      Aakash Prasad 

      5 years ago from Anaheim

      I must say, your articles are always fantastic on billiards. Its informative, interesting and brilliant to read here on hubpage.


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