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...
- Posts: 111
- Joined: 20 October 2014
- Location: USA
- Snooker Idol: Alex Higgins [on table]
- Highest Break: 55
- Walk-On: I Like Beer - Tom T. Hall