Guide to a Billiards Game
Safety first is doubtless an excellent motto in many respects, but I query it in a billiard sense and I rarely advise it when giving any billiard instruction. Safety play at billiards is something of a paradox. It seems easy, and it is easy within strict limitations. But when it is taken beyond the fairly obvious, safety play is the most difficult and problematical part of billiard playing. Suppose, for example, you are confronted by the following position: the cue-ball is in hand, the white is so close to the verge of the middle pocket that it is impossible to play it without potting it, the red lies tight against the side cushion.
I will digress to remark that if the red was somewhere near the baulk cushion, then you have a typical illustration of “safety play made easy.” You pot the white smartly enough to bring your ball back to where you can command the red very comfortably, and arrange a double-baulk you ought to profit by. But, with the red tight against the side cushion, you are faced by a complicated problem. If you pot the white and leave a single-baulk, your opponent, if a good stroke player, has a distinct chance of running through the red into the top pocket, and making a break off your safety move.
If his stroke play is too weak for him to take a chance with the run-through, he can run a coup into a pocket, give you three points, and compel you to play at the badly-placed red under the rule limiting consecutive misses, which gives him the best of the argument, because you gave the first miss to leave your single-baulk.
In every other case, you have to estimate your target in the billiard game to judge for yourself what part of the object-ball must be struck to produce a desired effect. As the full-ball shot is rather infrequently met with, you may say that the half-ball stroke is the only one in constant request which automatically offers its own target on the object-ball. This is a very great advantage, and explains why you can never learn too much about the scope of the half-ball shot.
It is much better to play them as far in the centre of the pocket opening as you can, which is an excellent rule to adopt when playing for any pocket, as it is slovenly billiards to trust to your ball “bumping in” after a perfectly needless contact with the jaws of the pocket. This failing proves terribly costly if a man becomes addicted to it on an easy table and is called upon to play an important game on a standard table. Then, with unfailing regularity, he will see his ball bumping out instead of in the pocket, which is invariably so demoralizing that he has no chance unless he happens to be pitted against another amateur who is in the same predicament. The best remedy, of course, is never to play except on a standard table.
After receiving some billiard instruction, if your stroke play is equal to it, the best thing you can in this situation is to run through the red into the top pocket. It is impossible to say where the red will stop after this shot. It may leave an easy red hazard, it may run into baulk, it may stop safe for you, but in better position for a safety shot.
In any case, it is long odds that if you make the run-through you will be in a position to pot the white and leave a double baulk, which is scarcely feasible as the balls lie. You might do it if you potted the white with a lot of screw and right-hand side on your ball, and cannoned on the red off the top cushion. Then, if you were lucky enough to move the red to advantage, you would be able to leave a double baulk and get the best of the deal.