by Jeff Soo
Back in part II of this series, Bisque Basics, I stated that you should use your bisques for four-ball breaks and not for two-ball breaks. Here’s a simple exercise you can use to show why. (It is also a good practice routine in its own right.)
Starting with a dolly rush to #2, play a two-ball break, taking bisques as necessary to keep going. Continue all the way through rover, keeping track of how many bisques you have used. Repeat the exercise, then add the total number of bisques you used for the two breaks.
Then try four-ball breaks. Put two balls in the same starting position as before, but this time also place a ball at #2 and a ball near the stake. In other words, start with a perfect set-up for a four-ball break. Make a break through rover, again using bisques as necessary to keep the break going. Repeat the exercise and add up the total number of bisques you used for the two four-ball breaks.
Now compare the two numbers. Unless you are that rare player who needs no bisques to make an all-round two-ball break, you would naturally expect to find that the first number is higher than the second. That is, you need fewer bisques to complete a four-ball break than a two-ball break.†
You knew that already, right? You hardly needed to work through the exercise to learn that two-ball breaks are harder than four-ball breaks. I still encourage you to try it, though, for any number of reasons. For one, it is instructive to see just how many more bisques you need for a two-ball break than for a four-ball break. For most players, this difference is going to be more than one or two bisques. A player who needs five bisques to go round with four balls will likely need eight or more bisques to go round with a two-ball break. (This is a guess; readers are encouraged to send in their results from the exercise. If possible, do the exercise several times and send me the full results. No names will be published!)
This is obvious, but the implications for handicap play are more subtle. If it takes more bisques to complete a two-ball break than a four-ball break, bisques have a greater value when used for the latter than for the former. That is, a bisque used in a four-ball break gives better potential for scoring points than a bisque used in a two-ball break.
When you use bisques to keep a two-ball break going, you are losing the opportunity to use those bisques for a four-ball break. You are not getting the most value from your bisques. You are decreasing your chances of winning the game. You are squandering your bisques.
Unfortunately, four-ball breaks do not usually come gift-wrapped. More often you have to do some work to create them. Without bisques, high-handicap players do not have the skills to do this. This is the beauty of the new USCA bisque rules. Because you can use continuation bisques in succession, and because you can take a continuation bisque even without first making a roquet or running a wicket, you can now use bisques to create four-ball breaks from all sorts of positions. Given enough bisques, you can make a break out of anything. Put each ball in a different corner and you can still do it, although it will take quite a few bisques.
Of course in a game you do not have unlimited bisques. So the key to successful bisque use is to learn to recognize those opportunities where one or two bisques will get you a four-ball break. It is worth spending a bisque or two to get a four-ball break started, because the value of a bisque used in a four-ball break is so much higher than any other way of using a bisque, as we learned from the exercise. Once you have the break established, use bisques as needed to take the break as far as you can. You must make four-ball breaks the focus of your game.
This, then, is the basis of sound handicap tactics. Any time you can use one or two bisques to set up or continue a proper four-ball break, you should do so. Just as important is the obverse: do not use bisques for anything other than a four-ball break.
In future articles we will look at some of these opportunities to use bisques to build four-ball breaks.
† You might also find that the second number—the number of bisques you need to complete two four-ball breaks—is about the same number as your handicap. Indeed, the four-ball break part of this exercise is a good way to make a rough determination of handicap. So if the number you got is much higher than your handicap, this is a clue that you need to work on four-ball breaks.
To see all articles in this series, browse the Reference: Handicap Play topic
Last modified on 3 March 2017