How to aim at pool in order to make the cue ball strike the object ball at the precise angle that sends the ball into the desired pocket?
If you can play a bit then this will not seem that difficult to do. However, making 2 spheres collide at the exact angle is no mean feat. Professionals and top amateur players make it look easy but they have hit their share of balls on the practice table.
If you ask a professional pool player how they aim you will usually get one of two replies:
This is actually not a lie. It is not these players trying to hide their secrets, most of them genuinely don’t know.
Even worse if you are ever in a position to get some help from a pro player you will soon find out that most of them are terrible at explaining the process.
Pool and billiard aiming systems which is the best for a new player?
An aiming system is a practical method to assist alignment with the object ball. It is an aid to help with cue ball object ball alignment.
The short answer is no, many people including professional players have never used an aiming system but play at a world-class level.
These players learned the angles from hitting millions of balls and using trial and error.
Yes aiming systems can help.
Some systems are used to help illustrate the aiming line in coaching situations.
In particular the ghost ball system is very useful when coaching students.
Aiming systems can help to shortcut the learning process, not everyone has the time to practice 8 hours a day.
I am only going to discuss the systems that I know something about.
A good pre-shot routine is a way of Bridging between the decision making process and the actual execution of that decision.
Players need to separate the conscious thinking process from the sub-conscious execution phase
With my pre-shot routine I do my thinking standing up away from table. This is very important. Then once I have made up my mind what I’m going to do I then start to perform my pre-shot routine and then finally step into the table and get down onto the shot.
As the name suggests it’s a routine that you perform just prior to executing any shots in pool.
It is a series of short mental and physical preparations.
Pre-shot routine tells your brain when the body is about to make an action and helps the brain remember similar instances. It allows the subconscious mind the opportunity to recall similar events that have happened in games and situations in the past.
Your routine puts your mind and body into the best state for performance.
Your individual pre-shot routine should be long enough for you to convey the necessary information to your brain but short enough so as not to slow down your momentum.
Look at your favorite players and try to gauge the length of their preparations. You can initially even pretend to be your favorite professional as they perform their routine. This will help you to understand the process.
It is important however for you to develop you own ritual that fits with you personality and demeanor. A perfect match for you actions.
One of the simplest ways is to look at other players both in this sport of pool and other sports such as a snooker, golf, tennis.
Watch videos of many players. Especially if you like and can relate to the player. Maybe a professional with a similar stroke.
When I used to play tennis I imagined that I was John McEnroe. (Who is that?)
It was a while back 🙂
It might seem a little foolish but after a while I started to take on his mannerisms and attitude as well. Even if I didn’t play as good as John I remember feeling strong and unbeatable.
The most important aspect of a pre shot routine is that it makes you feel ready to take action.
Your pre shot routine should become part of your game both in practice and in the heat of battle. It is no use trying to use it in a pressure situation if you don’t use it in practice.
I often see players who play really fast in practice but in a real game are slow and methodical. Practice is for every aspect of your game including your preshot routine.
I was going to say that this Secret Pool Tip isn’t really a secret but it is and the reason that it is a secret and can vastly improve your game it’s that nobody actually talks about it.
When it comes to aiming most people are talking about the cue ball to object ball relationship.
The secret tip has nothing to do with aiming systems such as the ghost ball, parallel lines, Center to Edge, fractional aiming, or any of the other that you may have heard about.
Those aiming systems or guides have their place but I will come back to them in another article.
I have first-hand knowledge of a situation where learning this technique alone improved the play of one of my students.
The best thing about it is you don’t need to change your Technique.
My secret is concerned with the pocket its shape and size and most importantly the portion of pocket that you can see from the object ball location.
Width of pool table Pockets varies from 4″ up to sometimes five and a half inches but the thing to realize is that we can change the angle of most pool shots by aiming into a different portion of the pocket.
This means that we can almost manufacture a better angle on a shot that looks completely straight by aiming to either to the left side or the right side of the pocket opening.
Most players know this and are able to take full advantage by changing the angle of the shots so long as they are reasonably close to the pocket.
The human brain works best when it aims towards a particular point rather than a range of points in a given opening.
Aiming at the pocket is just not precise when it comes to shooting pool.
This is easily demonstrated by looking at the kicker in an American football game or an English rugby game. His goal is to pass the ball anywhere between the posts to score extra points.
The kicker will pick a precise spot that they want to aim at rather than just anywhere between the two uprights.
This gives the brain a definite spot to focus on rather than a range of vague angles.
When you are facing a pocket for instance from the spot to the corner pocket you have a good view of the entire pocket opening. In this instance it is logical to aim towards leather or plastic at the center back of the pocket.
Now let’s take a similar distance shot down the side rail say from the right center pocket to the right corner pocket. Only a small section of the pocket drop is visible.
As you look down the line of the shot into the pocket opening you cannot really see the open section and I will certainly not be in line anymore with the spot on the back leather.
In fact if you aim at the same place you will miss the pocket and hit the side rail about 6 inches or so above the pocket.
So when you aim these shots you should be aiming at the left hand corner pocket facing that is the entrance to the pocket on the left side.
On sharp angle shots to the right you need to aim at the right corner facing
This is now our aim point, which in fact may be a completely different angle from the leather at the back of the pocket.
In conclusion the human brain works more efficiently when aiming towards a definite point.
So pick one spot and then aim at the spot.
It’s important for you to visualize this exact spot when you are imagining your shots Prior to execution.
When the cue ball strikes the object ball during a straight in shot without further movement of the cue ball in any direction.
The stun shot
The Stop Shot
The Kill Shot
It really doesn’t matter what you call the shot so long as we are on the same page. In snooker it is known as the stun shot but in USA pool halls I hear the stop shot being used more often.
I have included a video below…
The stun shot is the main building block for great position play. It is the starting point for game improvement once you have mastered the basics.
If you want to know where your cue ball is going you need to learn the stun shot.
Once you can stop the cue ball without further movement on a straight shot, you can progress onto shots with an angle.
By playing angled shots with the same stroke as a stop shot you will ensure that the cue ball travels down the tangent line. In other words, hit the cue ball with the same tip placement and power as you would for a straight shot but this time on an angle shot.
The tangent line is a predictable repeatable 90 degree angle. So if you know how to send your white down the tangent line every time you have a solid baseline shot on which to build all of your other positional shots.
Yes the same tangent line that your geometry teacher at school was talking about years ago.
However your teacher probably failed to give you a practical use for this line.
So lets look at the tangent line and its practical applications in billiards.
Pay close attention: this could be the one piece of information that takes your game to the next level.
I had heard of this line years before I actually realized what an important guide to position it could be.
The tangent line is the imaginary line which touches but does not cross a circle or curve at right angles or 90 degrees to its radius.
In pool or billiards this line will be assumed to run from the impact point of the balls to a rail on each side of the contact point, as in the illustration below.
If you look through the center of an object ball towards the pocket then draw a straight line towards the pocket as in the diagram, you will construct the line of aim.
In other words the point on the ball at the end of the line nearest to you will be the impact point for the cue ball.
It is necessary to just give a quick note about the ghost ball aiming system:
I am using the “ghost ball” as a convenient method of demonstration both in this article and when actually coaching the tangent line.
It is not the only method of aiming nor do I recommend it above any other method, it is just being used for easy illustration purposes.
So all things being equal, if your cue ball hits that exact point then the object ball will follow the aim line towards the pocket.
Are you still with me this far?
Great, I will get to the “all things being equal” comment later on, just bear with me for now and I will explain in detail later.
The contact point on the object ball will be the same from any location.
The position of the cue ball on the table makes no difference to this contact point.
Please read that Last sentence again….
If the impact point for numerous shot position on the same object ball is the same then the corresponding tangent lines will also be the same.
The white ball will always leave object ball on the tangent line which is great news for you because now you have a point of reference to work from.
In other words the cue ball will always leave the contact point at 90 degrees to the shot line.
In pool we are always looking for easily repeatable patterns.
When the cue ball always leaves the object ball at the same angle we can use that information to calculate or visualize the cue ball’s path with a fair degree of accuracy.
This will help you to know where the ball is going and to predict a likely path to the next shot.
This line is called the “Natural angle.”
You need to know the natural angle of each shot before you learn the effects of spin on the same shot. After all if you don’t know where the cue ball is going naturally then how do you know when you need spin?
It is a base line and foundation skill. When learning to play position, play shape and stay in line.
On all cut shots the cue ball will travel down the tangent line and continue on towards the rail, so long as there is no spin applied to the ball.
So how do we make sure that no spin is applied and that the cue ball takes the predicted path?
You need to practice your “straight in” stop shot.
The stop shot is where the cue ball stops dead. It does not move in any direction following impact with the object ball. No spin at all. No movement forward, backward or sideways.
There is no set way to practice this shot;
Every player’s stroke is different. You must find out what works for you in order to suceed with the tangent line.
Earlier in the article I stated:
So all things being equal, if your cue ball hits that exact point then the object ball will follow the aim line towards the pocket.
On cut shots, at the point of impact, the cue ball and the object ball tend to momentarily cling together. This causes the object ball to take a slightly different course from the one predicted.
It will be as if the contact was “thicker” than intended.
Hence the name contact induced throw.
Slow speed and or an elevated cue will make the throw worse.
The main ways to adjust for CIT are to aim a little thinner than calculated. This will counteract the throw effect and send the cue ball along the desired path.
Some better players will add a small amount of outside english to the shot. In this case the contact induced throw will be countered by the throw caused by the outside english.
Most players as they improve their game do not aim shots in a mechanical way. These pool players have played these shots so many times in the past that they “just know” where to aim.
Subconsciously they choose the right line and do not need to make adjustments.
How to perfect the stop shot. If you were hoping for this to be some kind of fantastic trick shot you’re going to be disappointed it’s probably the simplest shot to perform on a pool table period.
However to play this shot well every time requires a great deal of effort and repetitive practice. Simple is not always easy
I am of course talking about the stop shot or the stun shot as it’s known in some places. This is the shot where the white ball stops on contact with the object ball.
This is a straight shot with a full ball contact. The pocket, object ball and white ball need to be on the same straight line.
There should be no movement after impact in any direction. No forward roll or backspin and no drifting to the left or right.
So it is important to strike the cue ball in the exact center. This will ensure that no spin is imparted.
Of course if only it were that simple.
Every player can achieve the stop or stun shot but each player will use a slightly different technique. Results are the same but the method is different.
Here is a list of factors that can change the end result of the stop shot:
All effect the outcome of the shot.
It is not enough to pick out a spot on the cue ball, for instance “just below center.”
With regard to distance the white ball when hit with zero spin will initially skid on the cloth and then pick up forward spin due to friction. The white will only stop on impact if it reaches its target whilst still skidding.
Conversely when the ball is struck below center it will spin backwards. After a while it will stop spinning and skid along the cloth. Further distance will result on forward spin as friction comes into play
Greater distance between the balls will call for a lower hit on the cue ball or more speed to achieve the same effect.
You need to master the stop shot at varying distances between the balls and pockets.
It is the secret to consistent position play.
Once you can stop the ball perfectly you can apply stop shots when there is a cut angle involved. The ball will then follow the tangent line in a predictable fashion by following the tangent line.
In this video you will learn how to play inside English, left and side, off 3 rails to get position in the middle of the table.
The middle table area is just a target that I use for judging my progress and consistency.
Feel free to choose another spot or vary the target position during practice. So long as you can finish near the target area it is not that important.
The shot needs to be played with topspin and left (inside) english which will cause the white ball to deflect to the right and hit the object ball thinner than you are aiming. On its way to the object ball the white ball will return towards the line of the shot but usually not all of the way.
Well that sounds a lot easier than it actually is doesn’t it?
If you apply side spin to the cue ball it will cause the ball to move off line consequently making a different contact with the object ball.
So you need to aim fuller or thinner to allow for this movement.
The distance between the balls also affects the shot because after the white ball squirts off line it will tend to return to the intended path.
The amount of power or force used in the shot will also affect the amount of squirt, usually the more power the more shaft deflection and the more squirt.
So with all of these variables this may seem like a difficult task but practice will help you to get a feel for these shots.
Your practice needs to be easy and repeatable in order to get the best results.
Now it is time to reproduce the good result over and over again until you cannot get it wrong and the shot becomes a natural part of your game.
If you play with a low deflection cue or shaft you will probably have to make a small adjustment nonetheless. Just a quick note, because this isn’t really the place, every cue and every shaft is unique even if they look the same. Always play with the same cue so that it becomes a part of you and not a separate tool.
Generally speaking the harder that you strike the cue ball the greater will be the deflection.
Play the shot smoothly and follow through all the way.
The cue ball should finish in the center of the table for this exercise although from this position it is possible to extend the track line further to the balk end of the table.
Although I do not use a low deflection cue shaft myself I would strongly advise all new players to buy one early on and put in the time needed in practice and drills to get accustomed to the way that your shaft reacts during the shot.
These cues definitely will reduce the learning curve for shots off the center line.
Having said that, I do not advise players with years of experience to switch, I tried this myself and personally found it very time consuming and ultimately unsuccessful.
I guess I am just too used to the shaft deflection after many years of practice.