The Not So Obvious, Obvious.

Click to Read Other PoolSynergy Columns This MonthThis month of PoolSynergy, John Biddle, has asked us to put together three tips related to pool.  With the NAPL or sometimes just hanging out at a bar, many new players will ask me how they can improve their game.  Usually I go into a fundamentals speech, you know, stay down, steady bridge, 90 degree elbow, etc., but sometimes I meet players that have a good foundation, they just don’t know what to do with it.  So this month, I’m looking out for the newbies out there. This post is about the NOT SO OBVIOUS stuff for newer players.    

Now if you are already a badass pool player, I guess you can just skip this month’s entry and click on that PoolSynergy Logo above to read some gnarly advanced player tips from other PoolSynergy columnists because this entry is for my Rookies out there looking for a straight answer into why this game is so much harder than it looks.  So?  Why is it so much harder than it looks g2?  Well grasshopper, pool has this strange way of taking the logical and throwing in some not so obvious monkey wrenches!

Three Not so Obvious Tips for New Players

1.  Straight in is BAD? 

You have ball in hand and you’re trying to make ball #1 & play position for ball #2.  Straight in shots are easiest right?  So you want to get straight on ball #2 while shooting ball #1 straight too.  Hmmm… Unfortunately Mr. Energy Transfer doesn’t like your pattern.  imageSee, when you shoot a ball dead straight, nearly all the energy you put on the cue ball transfers to the object ball you are pocketing.  The cueball, without energy, doesn’t feel like moving.

Angles are your friend.  I know they can seem scary at first but practicing them will help you move the cueball around more easily.  There is a very helpful technique called the ‘ghost ball’ that’s awesome for angle shots.  imageIn a nutshell, the Ghost Ball is an imaginary cueball ball you envision that represents where the cueball must hit the object ball in order to pocket it.  

 Hint for the ghost ball:  The cueball isn’t a sharp point, rather it’s a small, round fella.  So, point the tip of your cue to the point on the object ball you need to hit then move it back about an inch and an eighth. (See diagram left)  This gives you the center of the ghost ball you’re imagining & aiming for.   

So when you are trying to get from one ball to the next, look for your angles.  You’ll find it’s much easier to move the cueball around.   

2.  Whitey Doesn’t Like to Get Beat Up!

For me, when I first started trying the draw the ball, or REALLY move the cueball around the table, I assumed this requires MUSCLES, POWER, STRENGTH!  WRONG!  Whitey (aka cueball) doesn’t like to be smacked around and often will rebel if you try to manhandle him.  How many times have you tried to put draw on the ball, line up the shot, get ready to hit the living $#!T out of the ball and when you do, the cueball goes .. NO WHERE? 

Whitey is a sensitive soul.  He likes to be caressed, coddled and only likes it rough on rare occasions. 

williamfuentes.comThe concept of power NOT EQUALING action is not new to me, but I still struggle with it.  I think because it goes against my logic for sports in general.  Baseball, Football, Tennis, even Golf, they all ask for power many times in a game.  The stronger you are, the farther the ball goes right?  Not in pool!  For this sport, the grace of the smooth stroke, the accurate hit and knowledge of how to move the cueball is more powerful than any bicep out there. 

Less is more when it comes to your stroke. This seems counterintuitive at first.  All sports lead you to believe that muscle is power and power BE GOOD … (beat caveman chest now.)  Don’t let the beer bellied, sailor talking, chimney smoking hustlers fool you, pool is quite a refined sport when played well. 

So learn to guide the cueball rather than whack her or you’ll find she rebels and does the exact opposite of what you asked her to. 

3.  Poke & hope is a dangerous strategy!

You’ve got your fundamentals working properly, you’re not beating up the cueball, & you’re actually pocketing the ball, so why is the cueball STILL not listening to you.

Maybe it’s HOW you’re delivering the instructions.  Aside from the Pillsbury Dough Boy, POKING at something is usually not well received.  Do you like to be poked? Yeah, me neither.

The follow through in your stroke for pool isn’t an obvious concept to many new pool players, especially when learning draw.  It just seems backwards that you need to follow through many inches forward to get the cueball to come many inches backwards. And more confusing is that the longer your follow through, the more draw action your get?  wtf?

Really in most sports, the act of following through is a common denominator.  When you throw a ball, you’ll throw it farther if you let your arm follow through even after you have released the ball.  Why?  Because if you tried to stop your arm EXACTLY when you release the ball, you’d have to start slowing your arm BEFORE you release the ball in order to stop it.  Like brakes for a car, you can slam them at point A, but the skid marks show that you didn’t stop until point B. 

If you slow the accelerator BEFORE you release the ball, you lessen the forward momentum you can transfer to the cue ball.

The poke stroke is you trying to hit the brakes BEFORE you’ve made contact with the cueball, which decreases the energy you apply to the cueball & transfer to the object ball. 

Follow ThroughTo see your own follow through, set up the cueball on the spot and a ball straight to the pocket.  Shoot it and notice how far your cue stick is compared to the spot!  If this is your first time analyzing your follow through, it might not have even crossed the spot  — welcome to your poke stroke!  IMG_4820

The average follow through ranges from 2 –6 inches.  The less action (movement) you want, the less follow through you’ll naturally apply.  Or in layman’s terms, a softer hit.  Want more movement, apply more follow through, i.e. a harder hit.

Your goal in general is to let the cue stick come to a complete natural stop, ON IT’S OWN.  In general, it helps me to think about my follow through when trying to move the cueball around, rather than strength. 

The drill below helped me A LOT in extending my follow through.  Set up the shot below and practice putting low, right on the cueball.  imagePocket the 1-ball, while sending the cueball to the opposing bottom rail WITHOUT touching the long railTrust me, this shot drove me crazy for two days!  But the only way to successfully hit that bottom rail, is to follow through on your stroke.The Cueballs Path Will Actually Be Curved

3+1.  Balls hanging in the pocket are frIenemies.

Yeah, there should only be 3 tips but if you’re still reading this far down, I figured you’re pretty serious about improving your game so why not reward you with a bonus. 

Aside from the winning ball, balls hanging in the pocket are one of the trickiest shots on the table.  Why?  When the cueball hits a ball that is hanging in the pocket, the reaction of the cueball after it pockets the ball and comes off the rail is one of the most difficult things to gauge.  image

It’s not obvious but a drill ALL pool players need to practice is getting position off a ball dangling in the pocket.  I still practice these to this day.  Hang a ball in the pocket and put another ball on the table you need to play position for like the example to the left.  You’re stripes and you need to get on the 8-ball.  Move the cueball around for various scenarios, then try the same drill by moving the 8-ball in various locations.  Are you getting good position on the 8-ball? 

Click to Read Other PoolSynergy Columns This MonthHopefully these tips help!  As you can see, the cueball is really the core to your pool game’s success and demise.  Any player that wants to get better need not focus solely on pocketing balls, and instead learn more about how to communicate with the cue ball.  Like any relationship, communication is everything!  

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~ by g2 on November 10, 2010.

5 Responses to “The Not So Obvious, Obvious.”

  1. Good stuff GG.

  2. c’est magnifique!

  3. Once again, great advice. So many people don’t know this information, or know it to articulate it, but don’t make it part of the game when they’re playing. If they did, they’d improve quickly.

  4. Great ones. For me the most instructive is the one about overpowering the shot. Pool is one of those few sports where all the physics are easily observable in a contained space. You control the action and aren’t asked to react immediately as in other sports.

    So people can see the things they do and see that hitting the ball a 100 miles an hour doesn’t produce the desired outcome.

    But until they really get into studying the game they will never understand just how far they can ratchet the power down and still get amazing results.

    This is why players like Buddy Hall appear to barely hit the cue ball and yet it runs around the table as if by remote control. When Buddy is commentating on matches he often says that the players are hitting the balls too hard.

    Thank you for the great reminder of how critical speed control is and that most of the time amateur players need less than they think.

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