New Break Rules A Success

In a time where watching or playing in a tournament has become unbearable due to multiple arguments about the rack, how to rack, who's racking, which balls are frozen or not frozen, pattern racking, checking the rack, and reracking over and over again… racking the balls becomes the single point of contention for entire tournaments.  While this problem manifests itself in Eight-Ball, Nine-Ball, and Ten-Ball tournaments, Paul Schofield, 32-year owner of Gold Crown Billiards of Erie, PA, says he has the answer…

Eliminate the requirement to make a ball on the break.

The shocking answer to all of these problems might have you doing a double-take, but with a quarter-of-a-million social games and two tournaments played using this method, the proof is in the results.  During both 40+ player Nine-Ball tournaments, there wasn't a single argument or delay of game due to the rack or racking procedures.  Just ask the winners of the February 28th, 2010 Winter Tri-State Open, Brian Alfredo of Austintown, OH, and the April 10th Spring Tri-State Open, David Grau of Rochester, NY.

Along with some other small modifications discussed momentarily, this single ground-breaking rule eliminates conflicts regarding the rack and racking procedures.  If all arguments stem from whether or not the rack has been racked correctly or “fairly”, this rule eliminates the cause of the contention, whether or not the rack allowed you to make a ball on the break

The simple explanation is that making a ball on the break is “rack-dependent”, not “break-dependent”.  As much as players feel that their good break guarantees that they will make a ball, it simply depends on the rack and a good bit of luck.  A well-controlled hard break does not guarantee a ball will find a pocket.  If you remove the luck of making a ball on the break, then the focus becomes more on the skill of controlling the cue ball (and the 1-ball in rotation games), which is more inline with the intent of pool, a game of finesse and skill, not slamming balls and hoping to slop them in. 

The root of the problem… all arguments stem from one simple motive; the players just want the rack to be fair.  They don't want their opponent giving a “slug rack”, and they don't want to be pattern racked, giving the breaker the hardest possible run out scenarios every time.  They just want a fair chance to break the balls, make a ball, and keep shooting.  If every ball isn't completely frozen to each other, the breaker feels as though he or she has been cheated, thus establishing a very painful approval processes. 

As the racker, you don't want to have to spend more time at the foot of the table than you have to. Depending on the condition of the cloth, the spot, the balls, and the rack, it can be near impossible to get a completely frozen rack.  And if it is possible, it can be extremely tedious, it may require a special gadget, and can take a very long time.  Even if you rack your own balls, arguments still arise if the player knows how to rack to promote the 9-ball toward a pocket.

To be viable in a tournament format, some other more well-known changes fell comfortably into place.  First, they random racked their own balls (a procedure that took about 3 seconds). Second, they alternated breaks.  And third, a 9-ball pocketed on the break was spotted.  These rules, together with removing the ball-on-the-break requirement, completely eliminated the need for a painstaking approval process because there wasn't anything to approve.  Each player got an equal chance at playing, and they never argued about the rack.  It was a very fair and fun approach to the game of pool.