Pool & Billiards Safety and Defense

Sometimes the best. offense is a good defense. In the game of pool, especially for beginner level players, you won’t always be running out and clearing all the balls on the table in a single outing. There are times when you are not left with an offensive opportunity. It is in these times that a great safety is the best type of offense and the best option for giving you back control of the table. This section covers some of the techniques for playing defense against an opponent.


After deciding to play a safe, a lot of players have no idea of what to do next. Listed below are some of the criteria I use for executing a safety and hints for good safety play.


  1. Snooker or hide opponent so he cannot shoot directly at the object ball.
  2. Do not put the object ball near a pocket.
  3. If the situation dictates that you cannot hide or snooker the opponent. Leave him a bank shot; preferably long one or a short bank with a bad angle.
  4. On certain safeties leaving a long straight in shot will work.
  5. Leave the cue ball on the rail or cushion, this will cut down the area on the cue ball he can hit.
  6. Another good safety is to leave your opponent over a ball (jacked up), where he is forced to elevate the butt of the cue.


Safety play is essential with most pocket billiard games, especially 8-ball, which we’ll concentrate on here. Most mid-level players have a basic understanding of safeties, but few achieve successful safety shots when an important game is on the line.

The key difference between a typical league-level safety shot and a professional safety shot is that the professional shot achieves two or more things. Simply hooking your opponent behind a ball is not sufficient is most competitive scenarios. We’ve all had instances in games where we hook an opponent, and they simply kick the cue ball off of a rail into their ball. These games usually result in the opponents kicking at their balls until one of them finally has a shot at something. Again, most average players at this point are only trying to avoid a foul, and any goals or plans on how to run the table and win the game are forgotten.

The key to safety play is not only hooking your opponent and making him try a difficult shot but improving your own table as well. For instance, your opponent, playing solids, may have his three-ball blocking a pocket with four of your striped balls sitting around it in a traffic jam. One option for you is to attempt to cheat one of your balls around the three-ball or carom your ball off of the three and into the pocket. Depending on how the three-ball sits, this might be the best option.

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