Break-Off return

General Points

This shot has been included in the Basic Billiards Syllabus because you will play the shot on a regular basis. However, it is a tricky shot so do not be dismayed if you find it difficult.

Set the cue ball for a true half-ball cannon. A slightly thinner contact (than a thick half-ball ) on the white leaves more momentum on the cue ball and enables you to play the shot with less pace.

Although the true half-ball is ideal, you may have to adjust the setting if you judge that you will get the double kiss on the white. In this case you will have to tighten the angle and play a thinner contact on the white.

Do not play the shot too hard or if you get the cannon you will bounce the red off the baulk cushion and leave nothing. The ideal pace is to nudge the red towards the baulk pocket.

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The pot white

Sometimes your opponent will play a very good beak off and leave the white tight on the side cushion. In this case the cannon is not on, so play a drag pot white and leave the cue ball on the side cushion as safety if you miss. If you get the pot, play a double baulk; if you miss the pot, you will leave a difficult cannon. You may also choose to play this shot when your opponent leaves the white off the cushion but you do not fancy the cannon.

Standard shot

Set the white off the side cushion and about 1/3 way from the top cushion to the middle pocket. The key to this shot is to avoid the 'double kiss' with your opponent's ball after the cue ball has rebounded off the top cushion. You may have to adjust the contact of the shot and play with more or less running side, to avoid this kiss. It is generally better to play a true half-ball or even slightly thinner than this. Play at a strength that is not too hard and that will leave a shot on. Practice the shot from both sides of the table.


Set the balls up in various positions and see if you can make the cannon. It is important to learn when the cannon is a low probability shot, and in this case, it is better to try to pot the white in a match.

Practice Targets

Beginner 1/10

This is a difficult shot, not least because of the risk of the double kiss off the white

Club Player 3/10

An average player will be able to get the cannon but is more likely to miss it

Professional 6/10

A top player would expect to make the shot most of the time. However, when the shot does go wrong it's often because it is the first shot of the match and players are 'cold'.


  • Play a true half-ball (or thinner) and avoid the double kiss
  • Use running side as required
  • Concentrate on the pace
  • Play the 'drag' pot white if the shot is not on

Common Mistakes

  • Too thick a contact and getting a double kiss
  • Incorrect pace