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Stat question about the break off

Postby acesinc

WARNING! Long, boring, dull, drab post ahead! (Unless you are a numbers nerd.) You have been warned.
_____________________________

In my regular Friday night match with my kid, a question came up that I have a gut feeling about, but really, I have no evidence at all either way and maybe there is not even an answer to be had.

Let me start by saying that this is a "numbers" questions, probably boring to nearly everyone on the planet except us few nerds that get a kick out of this sort of thing. So I am looking for an actual answer with some sort of statistical reference, NOT looking for everybody and anybody's own personal opinion. If you feel you want to chime in with your own opinion about the answer, that is fine, but please give some sort of support information as to why that is your opinion.

On to the actual question, it is about the break off. Playing English Billiards, we string for the break off and playing Snooker, we flip a coin per custom. Now, I have always been of the opinion that if you win the coin flip, you should take the break off. When it comes to a re-spotted Black, if you win the coin flip, you should pass the first shot.

My kid is a fantastic "numbers guy". He can spout off numbers and statistics for all kinds of things, especially sports, even on occasion some sport I may have never even heard of. So to tie this all in, for us, the coin flip is completely irrelevant because when I win the flip, I take the break off. When he wins the flip, he passes the break off to me. Even so, he does insist that we conduct the pleasantries of the coin flip in homage to tradition. It used to be that he would pass the break off to me simply because he was not good at it so he didn't want to do it. But now he takes the break off as well as anyone, but he will still pass it to me when he wins the flip. So I asked why?

He said he noticed that whenever he takes the break off, then I am nearly always the first to score. So by the psychological benefit of being "first on the board", he is statistically better off to let me break off. Huh.........makes sense, I guess. That doesn't mean that he is always first to score when I break off, but statistically, he has a better chance of scoring first.

So this led us to a deeper overall discussion. In some sports, certain actions are obvious benefits to one player or the other. Tennis is probably most obvious. The longest tennis match in history (which, for anyone who may not be in the know, cannot be won by a margin of a single point or a single game) went to a final set and astoundingly to a game score in that final set of 70-68. The reason is because the server is always at an advantage to win the game (or in fact, any individual point, statistically speaking), so in that case, it just kept going back and forth for THREE DAYS with the server winning virtually every single game until someone finally slipped up, the server finally lost the critical game, hence, set and match was finally over.

So are there any serious Snooker statisticians in the audience? Does the record show a relationship between breaking off and winning/losing the frame? Another thing (correctly) pointed out by my kid is that (except in exhibition play; see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vCYf_Z ... dded#at=18) a professional will NEVER take the break off and run the table for the win. The odds are simply too great that a Red will not fall in on the break off so of course, a safety break is the wise move. But time and again, it is not all that unusual that (again, professionally,) the second shot of the frame is a cracker of a pot on Red and the player may go on to win the frame in a single visit. By the same token then, a good opening safety break may well lead to a mistake on the second shot which may then lead to the "breaker" winning the frame in a single visit during his next turn at the table.

Does anyone have access to these stats? Truthfully, I don't even know where or how to even begin looking. Of course, back in the day, we old timers didn't pay very close attention to these type of things except anecdotally, but with today's computational powers, unusual stats seem to creep out of the woodwork so maybe someone can look up that ratio for, say, all professional tournaments for the last five years or something.

By my gut feeling, my assumption is that it is probably a wash, 50/50, doesn't matter whether one breaks off or not, chances of winning or losing any individual frame is probably about the same. But maybe the numbers will prove me wrong. Anyone any good at deciphering this sort of information?



EDIT: I suppose this should be in "General Snooker Discussion" but somehow, I ended up with it here in "Rules and Referees" and I can't figure out if and how it's possible to edit which Forum so I guess I will leave it here...

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby Dan-cat

hehe. Love it.

My mate did the worse break off ever (since we began playing together about two years ago) in our last session. He missed the reds entirely. I broke from where the white came to rest of course, we are sticklers for the rules.

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby PLtheRef

Just playing around with some figures here while I have Statman's Crucible Almanac in front of me.

In the last ten Crucible finals 304 frames have been played the person breaking has won 152 of those. - The person not breaking has won 152 of those.

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby PLtheRef

acesinc wrote:WARNING! Long, boring, dull, drab post ahead! (Unless you are a numbers nerd.) You have been warned.
_____________________________

In my regular Friday night match with my kid, a question came up that I have a gut feeling about, but really, I have no evidence at all either way and maybe there is not even an answer to be had.

Let me start by saying that this is a "numbers" questions, probably boring to nearly everyone on the planet except us few nerds that get a kick out of this sort of thing. So I am looking for an actual answer with some sort of statistical reference, NOT looking for everybody and anybody's own personal opinion. If you feel you want to chime in with your own opinion about the answer, that is fine, but please give some sort of support information as to why that is your opinion.

On to the actual question, it is about the break off. Playing English Billiards, we string for the break off and playing Snooker, we flip a coin per custom. Now, I have always been of the opinion that if you win the coin flip, you should take the break off. When it comes to a re-spotted Black, if you win the coin flip, you should pass the first shot.

My kid is a fantastic "numbers guy". He can spout off numbers and statistics for all kinds of things, especially sports, even on occasion some sport I may have never even heard of. So to tie this all in, for us, the coin flip is completely irrelevant because when I win the flip, I take the break off. When he wins the flip, he passes the break off to me. Even so, he does insist that we conduct the pleasantries of the coin flip in homage to tradition. It used to be that he would pass the break off to me simply because he was not good at it so he didn't want to do it. But now he takes the break off as well as anyone, but he will still pass it to me when he wins the flip. So I asked why?

He said he noticed that whenever he takes the break off, then I am nearly always the first to score. So by the psychological benefit of being "first on the board", he is statistically better off to let me break off. Huh.........makes sense, I guess. That doesn't mean that he is always first to score when I break off, but statistically, he has a better chance of scoring first.

So this led us to a deeper overall discussion. In some sports, certain actions are obvious benefits to one player or the other. Tennis is probably most obvious. The longest tennis match in history (which, for anyone who may not be in the know, cannot be won by a margin of a single point or a single game) went to a final set and astoundingly to a game score in that final set of 70-68. The reason is because the server is always at an advantage to win the game (or in fact, any individual point, statistically speaking), so in that case, it just kept going back and forth for THREE DAYS with the server winning virtually every single game until someone finally slipped up, the server finally lost the critical game, hence, set and match was finally over.

So are there any serious Snooker statisticians in the audience? Does the record show a relationship between breaking off and winning/losing the frame? Another thing (correctly) pointed out by my kid is that (except in exhibition play; see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vCYf_Z ... dded#at=18) a professional will NEVER take the break off and run the table for the win. The odds are simply too great that a Red will not fall in on the break off so of course, a safety break is the wise move. But time and again, it is not all that unusual that (again, professionally,) the second shot of the frame is a cracker of a pot on Red and the player may go on to win the frame in a single visit. By the same token then, a good opening safety break may well lead to a mistake on the second shot which may then lead to the "breaker" winning the frame in a single visit during his next turn at the table.

Does anyone have access to these stats? Truthfully, I don't even know where or how to even begin looking. Of course, back in the day, we old timers didn't pay very close attention to these type of things except anecdotally, but with today's computational powers, unusual stats seem to creep out of the woodwork so maybe someone can look up that ratio for, say, all professional tournaments for the last five years or something.

By my gut feeling, my assumption is that it is probably a wash, 50/50, doesn't matter whether one breaks off or not, chances of winning or losing any individual frame is probably about the same. But maybe the numbers will prove me wrong. Anyone any good at deciphering this sort of information?



EDIT: I suppose this should be in "General Snooker Discussion" but somehow, I ended up with it here in "Rules and Referees" and I can't figure out if and how it's possible to edit which Forum so I guess I will leave it here...


I'll admit to being one of those who enjoys all the facts and statistics :-)

The gut feeling is that the break-off shouldn't be of a huge advantagein snooker compared to pool where you are able to break off, and clear up (and in some cases for several frames or racks in a row). Like you said that unless it's an exhibition scenario there isn't going to be an attempt to try and fluke a red of the break-off. Later on in a match or if a match goes to a decider then you could argue that having the break is an advnatage if you are able to break off and leave the cueball tight on the baulk cushion. Then again, there's been more than a few deciding frames when someone has broken-off, the other player has produced a great long pot off the break and made a match-winning break

I'm not sure how easy it would be to trace the records of break-offs from different events given that few (if any records are likely to exist) - The World Championships may well be easier to trace than the others. Given that you can find a lot of old clips on YouTube etc. Likewise its going to be easier to trace more recent Championships than older campaigns,

Through looking through the Crucible Almanac by Statman and at old clips of previous World Finals it's possible to trace the breaking records of the different finals. - Since 1984 the only final where its not possible to trace who broke first is the Hendry v Doherty final of 1997.

Of the past 17 World Championship finals since Williams v Stevens in 2000 - 14 (82.3%) of them have been won by the player who broke off in the opening frame, It's only 2006, 2014 and 2016 when the eventual winner broke off in the second frame.

532 frames have been played in the 17 World Finals since 2000. - The player who broke off has won 267 (50.19%) of these frames - compared to 265 where the non-breaker won the frame.

In the 278 frames which have been played on the Sunday of World Final - 138 (49.64%) have been won by the player who broke off. Of the 254 which have been played on the Bank Holiday Monday 129 (50.79%) have been won by the player who broke off.

10 (58.8%) out of 17 winners broke off in the World Championship clinching frame.

And for what I said regarding the break-off being more advantageous in a decider? - Of the three Crucible Finals which went to a decider its only in 2002 when Ebdon beat Hendry that the champion broke off in the deciding frame.

Make of that what you will.

<cool>

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby acesinc

Thank you so much, PL for taking the time to compile this information! The modern age of information is truly a marvel. On its face then, the gut feeling is correct....pretty much 50/50 even-steven chance of winning or losing an individual frame no matter who breaks off. (This statistic of course is based on the premise that the two players are for all intents and purposes equally skilled as is the general case among players of professional caliber.) One of your stats absolutely glares out at me however....

"Of the past 17 World Championship finals since Williams v Stevens in 2000 - 14 (82.3%) of them have been won by the player who broke off in the opening frame..."

That is astounding and defies explanation. When a data set is small, as in your stat about the decider frame going to the non-breaker 2 of 3 times, an anomaly can be expected but it will certainly even out over time. With an expected odds of 50/50 one would think the data would smooth out pretty well by 17 data points. Imagine flipping a coin five times and it comes out "heads" 4 out of 5. Not such a big deal. So five more flips and it comes out "heads" again 4 out of 5. Now you have to scratch your head and wonder. So the next five flips, guess what? 4 out of 5 "heads" again. This is definitely a curiosity. So you do two last flips....and they are both "heads". That almost defies logic and has no explanation I can think of.

Thanks again.

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby acesinc

Dan-cat wrote:hehe. Love it.

My mate did the worse break off ever (since we began playing together about two years ago) in our last session. He missed the reds entirely. I broke from where the white came to rest of course, we are sticklers for the rules.


Worse break off ever? Hell, I do that all the time! I try for maximum spin just to see what I can make happen. I hope to make the white hit the second side cushion on the BLACK side of the table one day! But when a frame actually means something, like a tournament or a wager, then I will play a pretty standard break off.

By the way, you may not be aware....if the pack of Reds is completely missed like this on the break off, it actually is a "Foul and a Miss" scenario (and possibly a Free Ball, but that would need a good looking at. And (God forbid!) three misses in a row like this would be loss of frame (with warning after the second miss). We generally just take it as the FAAM so the original breaker takes the break off again and put back any balls that may have moved.

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby Dan-cat

acesinc wrote:
Worse break off ever? Hell, I do that all the time! I try for maximum spin just to see what I can make happen. I hope to make the white hit the second side cushion on the BLACK side of the table one day! But when a frame actually means something, like a tournament or a wager, then I will play a pretty standard break off.

By the way, you may not be aware....if the pack of Reds is completely missed like this on the break off, it actually is a "Foul and a Miss" scenario (and possibly a Free Ball, but that would need a good looking at. And (God forbid!) three misses in a row like this would be loss of frame (with warning after the second miss). We generally just take it as the FAAM so the original breaker takes the break off again and put back any balls that may have moved.


hahaha :) Yes I meant in the context of our ongoing tournaments that we play. In a 'proper' frame as it were. We play best of 17s, usually over several sessions. In the current BO17 I'm 5 - 3 up. And in the series ongoing I'm 3 - 2 ahead. We have a shield that passes between us.

Of course - it should have been a foul and a miss! We didn't think about that. The white came to rest quite near the pack, I took the four points and played the next shot and tucked him up nicely on the baulk cushion. It was an easy safety shot from that position. Even with the option of a foul and a miss I would have still taken the shot, as effectively I would have been letting him have the break again and he could have put me in trouble (as you pointed out above, if you win the toss, you take the break. Apart from your son - that's just plain weird! hehe.) I have seen professionals give the break to the other player - I think the last time I saw this was Marco Fu last year - not sure who he was playing but I found it remarkable at the time. A little bit of gamesmanship perhaps, or maybe he hadn't been getting good breaks during his run at that tournament.

*It's funny, The Snooker Island spellchecker doesn't recognise the word baulk. Lolz.

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby SnookerEd25

PLtheRef wrote:
Through looking through the Crucible Almanac by Statman and at old clips of previous World Finals it's possible to trace the breaking records of the different finals. - Since 1984 the only final where its not possible to trace who broke first is the Hendry v Doherty final of 1997.



Why is it not possible to trace who broke first in 1997? Even if, by some transmissional freak, no footage of the beginning of the match still exists, in Snooker we have alternate breaks, so surely just looking at who broke the even-numbered frames & who broke the odds would answer this question?

Re: Stat question about the break off

Postby PoolBoy

SnookerEd25 wrote:
PLtheRef wrote:
Through looking through the Crucible Almanac by Statman and at old clips of previous World Finals it's possible to trace the breaking records of the different finals. - Since 1984 the only final where its not possible to trace who broke first is the Hendry v Doherty final of 1997.



Why is it not possible to trace who broke first in 1997? Even if, by some transmissional freak, no footage of the beginning of the match still exists, in Snooker we have alternate breaks, so surely just looking at who broke the even-numbered frames & who broke the odds would answer this question?

There doesn't appear to be any footage on-line.... :sad:
But, as you rightly say, it wouldn't even have to be the first frame - any frame which shows either player breaking-off would solve it!