Positional play: a little improvement goes a long way

The positional success statistic reported by the MySnookerStats application is enormously useful in providing a calculation of your overall snooker ability.

MySnookerStats simply calculates the proportion of times you successfully pot another ball once you have potted a first, taking no account of whether you played your shots with a genuine possibility or intention of getting into position for the next. As a result, your positional success as quoted by MySnookerStats will be lower than would be the case if a BBC statistician was ‘marking’ your game for you. However, the MySnookerStats value does give you a solid approximation of your probability of making a subsequent pot at any time, and this figure can be used to estimate your chance of making breaks of a certain size.

For example, if your positional play is so good that 90% of the time you will pot the next ball, then you have roughly a 1 in 15 chance of making a century when you come to the table early in a frame. On the other hand, if you succeed with the next ball only 50% of the time, you are looking at roughly a 1 in 67 million chance – it might be tough to swallow but you are 5 times more likely to win the National Lottery (1 in just under 14 million)!

The following table demonstrates the compounding effect and hopefully will serve to motivate you to work on improving your positional play – just look at the potential effect of a 5% improvement in your ability.

Positional Success Percentage Chance of 30+ Chance of 50+ Chance of 70+ Chance of 100+

For the mathematicians amongst you, a 100+ break requires a minimum of 26 consecutive pots, the probability of which is approximately your positional success raised to the power of 26 (this should be correct to an order of magnitude). A 30+ break takes a minimum of 8 balls, 50+ typically takes 14 (although, of course, you can do it in 12 if you clear up the last 3 reds with at least 2 blacks and a pink), and 70+ takes a minimum of 18.

For the non-mathematicians amongst you, wherever “E+” appears in the number in your cell, please just assume that such an event is considered “scientifically unlikely”. At this point you should either lower your sights or get practising…

Good luck, all!

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