A rules change in 9 ball pool?

I was watching pool on ESPN not too long ago and noticed something new:

Before, when I watched pool, the person breaking would wind up by leaning back a bit, then put his/her body all the way into the cue. This resulted in a tremendous break worthy of the Big Bang (well, maybe not that much…), a good bounce or two from the poor cue ball, and, often, a ball or two sunk off the bat.

This match, the exact opposite happened: The man breaking stayed in the same position and gave a firm shot, but nothing that was powerful. Have I seen something out of the norm, or has there been a change in rules, perhaps taking in mind the dangerous nature of such a specialised break?

I believe the manner in which the break is performed is strictly a matter of personal preference. I’ve looked at both the WPBA and Billiard Congress of America sites, which contain the rules of play. The rules are identical and make no mention of how the break must be done; it only states which ball must be hit (the 1), how many must be pocketed or hit rails (4), and what to do in the event of a scratch or foul ball.

Most pro pool players seem to favor the explosive-type break shots, but I always chalked that up to it yielding a better spread of the balls on the table. I think the fellow you saw was just old school, preferring softer breaks.

I have seen this as well. I suppose that it is a stategy thing. The rules state that at least one ball must touch one cushion (OK, that’s from my college-days memory, maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that is a rule.) Anyway, you aren’t garanteed a ball will drop, no matter how hard you break, thereby forcing the other player to play from a bad position.

More importantly, if you start with too hard a break, you may sink balls of more than one color, which necessarily benefits your opponent. I used to be a fan of the big macho break when I was a kid, but since I started actually thinking about it, I usually go for a somewhat controlled one, myself. Of course, I’m quite far from being a pro-caliber pool player, so YMMV.

Well, in 8-ball, yes. But in 9 ball the object is to sink the 9 ball. You must first hit the lowest ball on the table. You may either sink that ball, or use it as a combination shot to drop the 9 ball.

Eep. S’what I get for not actually applying Ye Olde Reading Comprehension Skills to what I saw.

:0 X10[sup]100[/sup]

From the Official APA 9-Ball Game Rules Booklet:
To be a legal break . . . at least four object balls must be driven to the rails or a ball must be pocketed
I don’t think professional rules are different. Many players choose to sacrifice speed and power for a solid full hit on the 1-ball; in fact this is recommended by many pros. An explosive break often results in loss of control of the cue ball; with ball in hand, your opponent can more easily run out. I play APA league 8-ball on the big tables. The break is not as pivotal here–a runout is less likely with your balls still on the table.

Question about the OP: how old were the players? I’d imagine some young up-and-commer to be more apt for the powerhouse breaking technique, whereas someone on the senior tour may be more inclined towards finesse.
Or not throwing their back out.

I think this is probably the most likely reason. I watch 9-ball tournaments almost every other week on TV, and from observation, it seems to me that guys with the super-ultra-power break end up with their cue ball skitting off the table. And. as tleama stated, ball-in-hand is a huge advantage at this level. I would say at least a good half of games end with the entire table being run.