The Shape of Cheating the Pocket with Throw
Massé is French for English. Or I should say massé is a French word for putting English on the ball. But I'm not going to talk about that. All I'm going to do is give a few little tips to help novice pool players raise their game somewhere between raw beginner and would-be shark. A couple of these billiards bits players learn for themselves from experience. The bits below might help beginners skip the learn to do by doing process so they can learn from the experience of others instead.
Like any sport, pool has a lingo of its own. Learn these terms. You may not play any better, but you'll impress other beginners as if you know what you're talking about. Like any skill you have to practice. Practice makes perfect, or so they say. Still, if you practice what doesn't work you'll only perfect what doesn't work.
“Cheating the Pocket”
On a shot down the rail to a corner pocket it helps to aim slightly inside the pocket rather than at dead center. This is simply because if you miss to the inside the ball can skip off the rail, catch the jaws of the pocket and still go in. If you miss on the outside... you miss. Deliberately aiming to catch the rail just before the pocket is called cheating the pocket.
Here's a picture that may help. On the top the shooter mis-hits to the outside and misses the shot. On the bottom the shooter mis-hits to the inside and still makes the shot. To cheat the pocket the shooter does the bottom shot on purpose.
This won't work very well on a snooker table which has rounded pocket jaws. These are less forgiving and if you don't hit it cleanly in it will bounce out.
“Weight” and Off the Rail Shots
The harder you hit the ball against the rail the sharper the rebound angle will be. It has to do with how the cushion compresses, but we won't get into that. If my explanation doesn't make sense, perhaps the picture below will help. On the left the shooter makes an easy slow stroke. The red ball comes off the rail at the reverse angle it hit. On the right the shooter makes a hard fast stroke. The blue ball rebounds at a sharper reverse angle.
The harder you hit it the sharper the rebound. Which means you can alter the angle with weight, how hard you hit it. Though hitting the rail at a more oblique angle, as in cheating the pocket above, won't have much of this effect.
Like with the rail shot above, weight can also effect other shots. This one's a little trickier to explain. When the cueball hits an object ball if you drew a line from the center of the cueball through the center of the object ball that's the path the object ball follows. The same thing with other balls colliding, including balls that are kissing.
Well, almost. The object ball will also get some spin or force from the direction of the ball that hit it. So, if two balls are kissing and lined up toward a pocket, if hit hard from an angle the second ball will go off line.
This one definitely needs a picture. On the left the two colored balls are kissing and lined up to just miss the corner pocket. The cueball hits the blue on the side away from the red at an easy speed. The red ball stays on line and misses the pocket. On the right the colored balls are lined up to miss as before. The cueball hits the yellow ball more dead on with speed. The orange ball is deflected opposite the side the cueball hit the yellow ball and goes in the pocket. That's throw.
With throw, a kiss shot lined up to miss can be made, and a kiss shot lined up to go in can be missed. Understanding throw helps you take advantage of the first and avoid the second.
This term refers to where the cueball is in relationship to the ball your shooting at, the object ball. That's the shape of the shot. One of the first things everyone learns about pool is easy shots are better than hard ones. After you make one easy shot you want the next shot to be easy, too. You do this with cueball control, which is getting the cueball to go to a spot on the table for the next shot.
Thing is, good pool players (which I'm not) can make difficult shots, but they usually don't have to. With cueball control good players shape their shots to be easy. This is hardly a revelation. It's pool 101.
The trick is how to figure where the cueball will go after hitting an object ball. The basic rule of thumb, the cueball will go in a line at a right angle to the line the object ball is hit. Examples are shown below. Notice with the shot on the yellow ball the angle the cueball takes into the ball can be different but it comes off at the same right angle.
For beginners it's not always easy to visualize this. It often helps to hold the cue above the object ball at a right angle to the path you want to hit it. Getting your head over the table to take a sort-of bird's-eye view while doing this can be helpful. Sight down the cue and you can get a fair idea of where the cueball will go.
This right angle is only a rule of thumb because the cueball is rolling on a surface, not flying in mid-air. The roll, speed and spin can alter the path. But that's more advanced pool stuff I said I wouldn't go into.
One other helpful hint regarding shape: while straight-in shots are easy to make, they are often bad for shaping your next shot. Moving the cueball around the table for your next shot will be easier if you have an angle to work with.
Just one last tip, which perhaps should have been the first tip. Be like the pros, chalk your cue before every shot. It's a little thing that can make a big difference. After all, the best planned shot won't work if you mis-cue.
© Terry Colon, 2011