Improving your safety play is one of the best things you can do to increase your win percentage. In both 8 and 9 ball, a lock-up safe is often easier than the offensive option and can lead to an easy runout. This drill will help you recognize and excecute common safety routes and also develop your cue ball control. Like the ghost, it is easy to make progressively more difficult and gauge your progress. Spend some time in your next session isolating your safety game and your opponents won’t like what they see when they get to the table.
Break a rack of 9 ball. Take ball and hand and play a safety on the 1 ball. If you successfully leave no clear shot to the 1, mark a point, take ball and hand and play another hook. If you miss, mark a point for the ghost and shoot from where the balls lie. Play to 9 points and then re-rack and try again. Use the variations listed below to tailor the drill to your skill level.
The most basic version of this drill involves using 15 balls and taking ball in hand after every shot. Count a success if you do not leave a clear shot at the lowest numbered ball on the table. Use progressively fewer balls as you become more proficient. Attempt a kick after every safety but do not count them towards your score.
Instead of playing safe off the 1, use either stripes or solids and play safe as you would in a rack of 8 ball. You have more defensive options, but also more balls that you need to hide from. Focus on getting the cueball close to your blocker. To increase the difficulty remove one or more of your group of balls after the break.
The 9 ball safety ghost replicates an early safety exchange of a game of nine ball. This is a key part of the game and it’s worth taking some time to isolate it. At this level, you should shoot for winning a race to 9, even when the balls are not ideal for hooks. Gradually reduce the number of balls used.
When you are consistently getting hooks, attempt a kick or jump and play the next shot from where the balls lie, instead of taking ball in hand. You can choose to count a point only when you can’t get out of the hook, a point against when you don’t get the hook, and no points when you get the hook but escape.
As an advanced player, you likely encounter opponents skilled enough that a simple safety is often not enough to get you ball in hand. In fact, a safety that leaves an easy jump or kick will usually leave you in a worse spot than you were when you started. To replicate this in this drill, only score a point when you there is no available jump. You can also jump or kick at every safety and only score a point when you do no successfully escape. Try to work your way down to 5 or fewer balls to simulate a more difficult (but usually game-winning) mid-game safety.
The object ball is just as important as the cue ball when it comes to playing safe. A hook is no good if you hang the object ball over the pocket and your opponent kicks it in and runs out. Focus on the object ball and try to get it in the middle of the table, or near other groups of balls to cut off kicking routes and for easy follow up safeties to 3 foul your opponent.
Look for easy common shots such as this,
and focus on putting the object ball in the best possible position for either another hook or a runout.
Just like playing position, try to play towards your blocker, instead of across the line, this gives you more margin for error.
Your stroke and technique must be just as precise on safeties as pots. Don’t be lazy with your fundamentals just because there’s no ball going in the pocket. Same with kicks and jumps, focus and you will get the most out of the drill.
When you see a route that keeps coming up but you can’t consistently hide the cue ball, take a break from competing against the ghost and set it up multiple times until your perfected it. If you are struggling with getting the cue ball to go where you want, try the Carom Drill to tighten up your cue ball control.