Pool & Billiards For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Making Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Fundamentals of Pool

Part II: Controlling the Cue Ball

Part III: Taking Your Shots

Part IV: The Games You’ll Play

Part V: Gearing Up

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Fundamentals of Pool

Chapter 1: Arriving at the Pool Party

Introducing Games You Can Play

Getting in Position

Aiming for Success

Stroking the Cue

Controlling the Cue Ball

Seeing Shots

Playing for Your Next Shot

Playing Defense

Gearing Up

Playing Nicely

Chapter 2: Getting Down: Building a Solid Stance

Keeping Your Preshot Routine Consistent

Approaching and stepping into the shot

Lowering into your stance

Keeping your eyes in line

Eying a Shot

Checking and rechecking your line

Final focus? The object ball

Chapter 3: Handling the Cue

Holding Back: The Grip Hand

Forming a ring with two fingers and a thumb

(Still) no clenching

Building Bridges

Spread or palm down?

Closing the bridge

Bridge adjustments for special cases

Grasping mechanical bridges

Chapter 4: On Target: The Science and Feel of Aiming

Staying Centered: The Line of Centers

Ready, Aim, Shoot: The Contact and Aiming Points

Did You See That? The Ghost Ball System

With a Little Geometry: Aiming with Parallel Lines

From Thin to Full: Aiming with the Fractional Ball System

Chapter 5: Hit It: Creating a Solid Stroke

Practice Time: Warming Up

Getting Comfortable: Rhythm and Routine

Finding your rhythm

Making it routine

Starting the Stroke with the Backswing

Staying still

Keeping the cue level

Making Contact: Swinging through the Ball

Accelerating into the ball

Keeping control

Hitting the cue ball

Grand Finale: Following Through

Holding the elbow in place

Staying down

Chapter 6: Playing Nice: The Etiquette of the Game

Competing Graciously

Set the record straight

Ask when you don’t know

Get extra eyes for close calls

Other little things . . .


Respecting the Tools

Part II: Controlling the Cue Ball

Chapter 7: Getting Control and Stopping the Cue Ball

Going Out from Center

Working the Angles in a Stun Shot

Finding the angle

Using the angle for position

Making the Stop Shot: Straight and Stun

Sitting for position

Stopping for safety

Shooting Stun Shots


Change of speed

Incorporating an angle

Chapter 8: Aim High: Incorporating Follow

Starting on a Straight and Narrow Roll

Rolling Askew

Playing Position with Follow

Hitting Above Center

Speeding Along

Dragging you down

Taking time to take

Experimenting with force follow

Chapter 9: Using Draw: Putting Backspin on the Cue Ball

Figuring Out What Draw Is

Looking at Full Hits

Drawing Cut Shots

Understanding Drag

Stroking with Draw

Playing Position with Draw

Pulling the cue ball back

Bending the angle

Chapter 10: The English Effect: Using Sidespin on the Cue Ball

Getting to Know English

Experimenting with English



Rebound angle

Pocketing a Straight Shot with English

Coming at English from an Angle

Outside English

Inside English

Throwing Object Balls

Finding New Opportunities for Position

Shortening the cue ball’s path

Avoiding obstacles

Part III: Taking Your Shots

Chapter 11: Opening Shots: The Rack and the Break

The Rack: Setting Up for the Break

Location, location, location

Tight is right

The Break: Covering the Who, What, and Where

Defining goals for each break

Positioning the cue ball

Gaining Power on Your Break Stroke

Closing the bridge

Easing into the backswing

Following through in a big way

Throwing your body into your break stroke

Adding Accuracy to Your Break Stroke’s Power

Hitting the head ball as full as possible

Finding where to cue the cue ball

Knowing When to Mix It Up

8 for the game

Soft break

Safety breaks

Chapter 12: Thinking Ahead: Position and Pattern Play

Beginning to See Patterns

Limiting cue ball movement

Staying in control with pocket speed

Avoiding contact

Position Play: Seeing into the Future

Playing three balls ahead

Positioning your cue ball

Playing to a zone, not across it

Getting on the right side of a ball

Dealing with problem balls

Chapter 13: Shot-making: Tackling the Most Frequent Situations

Enough Speed’s Enough

Keep Your Shot Process Simple

Looking at a Spectrum of Angles

Getting used to cuts

After impact: Feeling angles and distances

Dealing with Hangers

Cheating the pocket

Rail-first possibilities

Making a Shot Along the Rail

Chapter 14: Eying Combinations: Making Shots with Multiple Balls

Understanding the Difficulties

Removing your wiggle room

Distance dooms

Cut combinations? Don’t even think about it!

Finding Makable Combinations


Dead combinations

Aiming for Multiple Balls

Finding the contact points

Focusing on one aiming point

Simplifying the Execution

Never stray from center ball

Playing position

Chapter 15: Billiards and Caroms: Finding New Ways to Pocket Balls

Billiard Shots: Using the Cue Ball After Impact

Knowing when to use a billiard

Finding an aiming line

Caroms: Sending an Object Ball Off Another

Recognizing open chances

Aiming aids

Jumping to a Conclusion with Jump Shots

Knowing the rules

Using jump cues

Setting up to jump

Building a stance

And stroke!

The strategy of jumping

Chapter 16: Banks and Kicks: Making the Most of the Rails

Rail First: Banking an Object Ball off the Rail

Making the decision

Altering angles

Aiming banks

Rail First: Sending the Cue Ball off a Rail

Aiming for the cue ball off a rail

Eying makable kicks

Chapter 17: Thinking Defensively: Playing Safe

What to Achieve: Setting Goals for Defensive Play

Finding blockers

Creating distance

Freezing the cue ball

Bunching it up

Percentage Play: Knowing When to Play Safe

The Two-Way Shot: Taking Out Insurance

The One to Know: Getting to Know Stop-Shot Safeties

Part IV: The Games You’ll Play

Chapter 18: The Magic of 8-Ball

Getting Started in 8-Ball

Producing a playable rack

Making a “break” for it

Choosing stripes or solids

Winning the game

Fouling: Common No-Nos

No hit or illegal hit

No rail

Other common fouls

8-Ball Strategy: Thinking to Win

Choosing your group

Using your balls

Planning your way out

Playing Defensive 8-Ball

Exploring House Rules

Using Handicaps to Level the Playing Field

Chapter 19: 9-Ball: The Hustler’s Game

Winning a Game of 9-Ball

Racking for 9-Ball

Taking the Break

Pushing Out

9-Ball Strategy: Thinking Ahead

Playing position

Playing safe

Handicapping 9-Ball

Chapter 20: Pool’s Many Other Games

Running into Straight Pool


Clearing balls

Making the break shot

Playing safe

Experimenting with straight pool

Focusing on One-Pocket

Winning the game


Using other pockets

Handicapping one-pocket

Popular Variations: 10-Ball and Rotation

Multiplayer Games


Kelly pool

8-ball and 9-ball for teams

Three-Cushion Billiards


Breaking and playing

Snooker’s variations

Part V: Gearing Up

Chapter 21: Equipment Check: Looking for Quality Tools

Finding a House Cue

Wanting a tip?

Shooting for straight

Lifting weights

Buying Your First Cue

Money isn’t everything

Checking the specs

Cue cases

Maintaining Your Cue

Your tip’s top shape

The shaft: Keep it clean

Joints, butts, and wraps

Accessorize Your Game

Choosing a Table

Know what you get at each price point

Figure out what size fits best

Play on the bed you made

Call the pocket

Dress your table cloth

Consider style and substance

Think about table accessories

Chapter 22: Pool Is Mental: Winning the Head Games

Staying Positive

Projecting confidence

Practicing confidence

Thinking Straight: Keeping Your Head in Line

Choosing a shot

Thinking about execution

Dealing with distractions

Turning up the pressure

Know Too Much: Being Honest with Yourself

Chapter 23: Drilling It Home: Practice Techniques

Making the Most of Practice

Working on the Fundamentals

Tip to tip

Stop shots

Fine-Tuning Your Shot-Making Skills

Controlling Your Cue Ball

The L drill

Circle drill

The center of position play


Making a Game of It

Allen Hopkins Q Skills

Playing the ghost

Part VI: The Part of Tens

Chapter 24: Mastering Ten Trick Shots

The Butterfly

The Hustler Bank

The Snake Shot

Mizerak’s Just Showin’ Off

Life on the Railroad

Prison Break

First on the Three

Frozen Treat

Clearing the Way

Don’t Try This at Home

Chapter 25: Overcoming Ten or So Common Problems

Following the Cue Ball

Miscuing No More

Losing Control of the Break

Failing to Draw

Keeping Focused: Pocket versus Position

Scratching Too Often

Getting Bored with Practice

Rechecking Your Fundamentals

Attempting the Cue-All Solution

Pool & Billiards For Dummies®

Nicholas Leider


About the Author

Nicholas Leider has been playing pool since he bought his father a pool table (with his mom’s money) for Father’s Day when he was 15 years old. But only since joining Billiards Digest as an editor in 2007 has he realized how much there is to learn about pool. With 7,000-plus hours spent reading, talking, and writing about the sport, Nicholas is prepared to answer the two Trivial Pursuit questions about pool. You can contact him at


This book is dedicated to my parents. To my dad, who provided me with first-hand proof that hard work pays off (even if I’m just making boxes). And to my mom, who has no idea what her strength and determination has meant to our entire family. (Well, I hope she has some idea now.)

Author’s Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank those people who learned that I’m only on deadline when it’s the third deadline I’ve been given — acquisitions editor Michael Lewis; project editor Kelly Ewing; art director Alicia South; photographer Brien Richmond; and last but not least, technical editor, “Dr. Dave” Alciatore. Thanks also to John Novi, Jr. for allowing us into his home for the photo shoot. And finally, many thanks go to my agent, Marilyn Allen, who has been nothing but supportive.

And a special thanks to those who have taught me so much about this game, especially Larry Schwartz, George Fels, Mike Panozzo, and the rest of the crew at Billiards Digest.

Also, I’d like to thank my brother and sister for the constant support (and comic relief), my special ladyfriend, Jenny, for putting up with plenty of nights where I was a little less than sunny, and my friends for allowing me to drop out of society for a few months.


Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments at For other comments, please contact our Customer Care Department within the U.S. at 877-762-2974, outside the U.S. at 317-572-3993, or fax 317-572-4002.

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Kelly Ewing

Acquisitions Editor: Michael Lewis

Assistant Editor: Erin Calligan Mooney

Editorial Program Coordinator: Joe Niesen

General Reviewer: Dave Alciatore

Senior Editorial Manager: Jennifer Ehrlich

Editorial Supervisor and Reprint Editor: Carmen Krikorian

Editorial Assistant: Jennette ElNaggar

Art Coordinator: Alicia B. South

Photographer: Brien Richmond

Cover Photos: © iStock

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Patrick Redmond

Layout and Graphics: Ashley Chamberlain, Carl Byers, Ronald G. Terry, Christine Williams

Proofreaders: Laura L. Bowman, John Greenough

Indexer: Glassman Indexing Services

Publishing and Editorial for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher, Consumer Dummies

Kristin Ferguson-Wagstaffe, Product Development Director, Consumer Dummies

Ensley Eikenburg, Associate Publisher, Travel

Kelly Regan, Editorial Director, Travel

Publishing for Technology Dummies

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher, Dummies Technology/General User

Composition Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Welcome to Pool & Billiards For Dummies, where you’ve got an in to the sometimes intimidating world of pool. I’ve written this book to help you develop in all areas of the entertaining and challenging aspects of pool. So whether you aren’t sure which end is which on a cue stick or you’re looking to pick up some tips after hours spent at a pool table, the skill-building and strategic principles in this book will help you become a better pool player.

You may have picked up this book because you’re thinking about taking up pool as a hobby. The game of pocket billiards is a fantastic, low-impact physical activity that incorporates walking and stretching with a boatload of hand-eye coordination. Aside from the physical benefits, pool is a social game. You can play against some friends in a home game room or you can join a league to make new friends. No matter how you see pool fitting into your life, you’ll be playing with other people, which makes the game that much more enjoyable.

No matter your goals with pool, the game isn’t always easy. But it’s nothing near impossible. Some books cover the subject as if you’ve grown up with a cue in your hand. But break down all the cool pool lingo and boil down some of the complex systems, and pool is a sport that anyone can play proficiently.

About This Book

I know that you have plenty of options when it comes to books on pool and billiards. But I have a few reasons why this book is better than all the rest.

It’s in plain English. This book isn’t a complex treatise on the geometry and physics involved in pool. Instead, this book is a straightforward look at a game that anyone with a little determination and time can master. In Pool & Billiards For Dummies, I have one simple goal: If someone who doesn’t know a cue ball from an 8 ball can understand the subject matter, I’ve done my job.

To that end, I try to keep the developing player — someone who is just starting to play pool or someone who has played for awhile but is just starting to study the game — in mind. When I used to tool around on the pool table in my house as a teenager, I didn’t have much direction, though that didn’t stop me from practicing. But lately, since joining the staff at Billiards Digest, I spend my days reading and talking to the best minds in the game. These two experiences allow me to cover the technical aspects of pool in an everyday way.

It’s a reference. You can read this book cover to cover if you want. But I’m guessing you’re not going to quit your job to take up pool for hours on end. And because it may take awhile before you’re winning world championships, you can use this book as a reference guide. No matter what topic you want to explore on a given night, you can pick up this book and flip to any chapter at any point. If you want to jump to Chapter 20, you don’t need to skim the first 19 chapters. Instead, feel free to explore the subjects that interest you.

It’s comprehensive. Just because this book is written in a way that anyone can understand the subject doesn’t mean that it’s an incomplete look at the absolute basics of pool. Instead, this book drops a lot of the pool jargon while still covering all the information you need on all the different aspects of the fascinating game of pool.

It’s objective. I’m not trying to convince you that you absolutely must get a pool table or spend $100 on a pool cue. This book is about increasing your knowledge of the game. I want you to learn how to become the pool player you want to be. That’s it!

Conventions Used in This Book

Every book has its own conventions, and this one is no different. To make the most of the information I provide, keep your eye out for these conventions:

Terms I use for the first time are in italics. To be sure I keep you up to speed, plain-English explanations or descriptions of these terms are nearby.

When I go through a process in a particular order, I number the steps and put the action part of each step in bold.

Web addresses are in monofont. Note: When this book was printed, some Web addresses may have needed to break across two lines of text. If that happened, rest assured that we haven’t put in any extra characters (such as hyphens) to indicate the break. So, when using one of these Web addresses, just type exactly what you see in this book, as though the line break doesn’t exist.

What You’re Not to Read

When you bring this book home, you’re not signing up to read every single page. You can jump around to find the information you need. You can also skip the sidebars (text in gray boxes) — sidebars are interesting, but they aren’t essential to your understanding of the topic at hand. Finally, you can skip anything marked by a Technical Stuff icon. (For more on icons, see “Icons Used in This Book,” later in this Introduction.)

Making Assumptions

I’m not saying I know everything about you, but here are a few assumptions I’ve made about you:

You like to play pool or are thinking about taking up pool as a hobby.

You either own a pool table or have easy access to one, whether it’s at a pool hall, bar, or friend’s house.

You have little or no experience in learning the proper techniques of a pool stroke.

You may be an experienced pool player who is looking for some additional tips on stroke fundamentals and the mental side of the game.

How This Book Is Organized

As the table of contents shows, this book is divided into six parts. Here’s what you can find in each of them.

Part I: Fundamentals of Pool

Part I is where you discover the fundamentals of a sound stance and stroke. From finding out where your feet go to the proper way of swinging your cue stick from backswing and on through the cue ball, you’ll find all this information in this part. In this part, I also cover some of the social etiquette of pool. All in all, Part I gets you set for some of the more in-depth aspects of pool.

Part II: Controlling the Cue Ball

This part of the book covers one of the most underrated aspects of the game — controlling the cue ball. As any experienced pool player can tell you, the secret of the game isn’t so much making the shot at hand. It’s about leaving the cue ball in position for your next shot. I’ve broken up the different ways of controlling the cue ball, so you can read about each process by itself — all on the way to getting a handle on controlling the cue ball.

Part III: Taking Your Shots

If you like the sound of a ball hitting the back of a pocket — and who doesn’t? — this is the part of the book for you. In Part III, I dissect some of the many shots you’ll face on a pool table. From the opening shot (the break) to some tricky shots like banks, kicks, and caroms, Part III covers the most important categories of shots that are bound to show up on a table near you.

Part IV: The Games You’ll Play

You might think of pool as 8-ball or 9-ball, but a pool table can host a wide array of different games. In this section, I go into detail on the games of 8-ball and 9-ball — by far the most popular disciplines. But I also run through some other games that you may find fun to try. No matter what your taste, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a game for you.

Part V: Gearing Up

In this part, I handle some of the peripheral aspects of the game. Pool is full of accessories and tools and equipment. Picking a cue out of the rack at your local pool hall seems so easy, but you need to know what to look for when it comes to the hardware side of the sport. Also, Part V deals with the mental side of the game. You’re hitting a cue ball that’s completely stationary, so it’s not about reaction time or instinct.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

This is the part that all For Dummies books are known for — the cool lists of things in the back of the book. In this part, I include lists of ten trick shots that can help you show off for your friends and ten common problems that you may be able to troubleshoot.

Icons Used in This Book

Throughout the book, you come across icons in the margins. These little symbols alert you to specific information. Here’s what each icon means:

tip.eps You can avoid some of the common mistakes made by developing pool players in a number of ways. When I’ve got a particularly useful suggestion that may help you avoid a frustrating situation, I flag it with this icon.

remember.eps Because you were nice enough to open this book, I’ll soothe your worries: You’re not gonna be tested on anything in any of the 26 chapters. This book is only a reference. Occasionally, I do come up with something that’s worth remembering. In this case, I mark it with this icon.

warning_bomb.eps Pool is a game that is wrought with trouble — or at least situations that can be a problem for the uninformed player. So when I put a little Warning! icon on the page, take note. Check out these warnings to keep yourself and your cue in line.

technicalstuff.eps The bits of information marked with the Technical Stuff icon are facts that you may find interesting but don’t need to know. Feel free to skip over the text marked with this icon if you’re not interested in the topic.

Where to Go from Here

This book is a reference, which means you can jump around to whatever section you want. If you’re wondering how to aim a particular shot, check out Chapter 4. If you’re looking for the basics behind the game of 9-ball, flip to Chapter 19. If you’re sick of picking up a house cue at the pool hall and want to get one of your own, Chapter 21 can help. The point is that you’re welcome to flip around the book to where you wanna go.

Finally, send me an e-mail with some feedback or a photo as proof that your pool game is on its way up. You can reach me at

Part I

Fundamentals of Pool


In this part . . .

Within this book, you have all the information necessary to develop into a pretty solid pool player. But if you’re completely new to the sport of pool, this part is where you want to start. In this part, I start with the fundamentals involved in pool. I show you how to get into a comfortable stance, how to hold the cue, how to aim, and how to stroke the cue so that you’ll be pocketing balls in no time. Finally, I also cover basic etiquette so that you’ll know your place around any pool table.

Chapter 1

Arriving at the Pool Party

In This Chapter

Playing various games on a pool table

Becoming familiar with a cue

Pocketing a ball

Minding your manners

The game of pool is all about knowing where you are and where you want to go. You make one shot with an eye on the next one and the one after that one. To that end, you should start your venture into the world of pocket billiards with a roadmap. The sport of pool and billiards is something that can be a lifelong passion that combines physical exercise and substantial hand-eye coordination in a rather social game that is just plain fun. I’ve written this book to be your guide to take all the mystery and mythology out of pool so that you can get the straight story. So when you’re ready, take your cue and start playing.

In this chapter, I get you rolling on the path to a greater understanding of the sport of pool, including stroke fundamentals, strategy, etiquette, and equipment.

Introducing Games You Can Play

You’ve got plenty of options when it comes to what type of games you can play on a pool table. Some use all the balls, while others use just some of them. Some let you use all the pockets; others limit their use. But no matter your style, you’ll be able to find a pool game that’s right for you.

8-ball (see Chapter 18) and 9-ball (see Chapter 19) are by far the most popular games among amateur players. 8-ball requires you to make one group of balls (either the stripes or solids) before making the game-winning 8. 9-ball, on the other hand, requires only that a player hit the lowest numbered ball on the way to hitting the 9 ball into a pocket.

But besides these two games, you have a ton of options when it comes to the cue sport. You can play one-pocket, straight pool, and a plethora of multiplayer games on a regular, old pool table.

On top of that, you can venture out to different takes on the traditional table. Three-cushion, a game played on a table with no pockets, requires you to hit one cue ball off three cushions and another ball before hitting the third ball.

Snooker, another pocket billiards game, is played on a bigger table (10 or 12 feet long) with smaller balls and smaller pockets. The goal is to accumulate points by alternatively making red and colored balls (which are then spotted).

See Chapter 20 for details on all these game variations.

Getting in Position

Knowing where you need to put your feet, your hands, and your eyes to give you the best chance at playing your best is absolutely vital. Working from the ground up, when you have a solid stance (see Chapter 2) you are able to

Stay balanced when you’re in your stance, with properly spaced feet.

Feel comfortable while down on a shot.

Know that you’re positioned along the line of the shot.

But positioning your body and legs is one thing. Properly holding the cue with both your bridge hand (in the front) or grip hand (in the back) is a fundamental skill all pool players must have.

Learning how to handle the cue (see Chapter 3) means much more than just picking up the cue and putting its tip to the cue ball. You first have to establish a proper grip on the back end of the cue. You must find the middle ground where you’re not squeezing the cue too tightly, while also not allowing the cue to move in your hand by holding it too loosely.

And when you start to work on your bridge hand — the one up front — you need to establish a firm bridge to allow for an accurate stroke. By growing familiar with open, closed, and many different special bridges that you may need in the course of a game, you’ll be ready for any situation you might face.

tip.eps Don’t restrict your bridge practice to the table. You can practice forming a proper bridge almost anywhere. You can use a pencil or a straw or anything that will help your grow comfortable with forming a fundamentally sound bridge.

Also, in preparing to shoot, you should become familiar with your own preshot routine (see Chapter 2). This repetitive process of approaching a shot should

Establish an order of going through necessary steps to plan for your next shot and getting yourself prepared for the shot at hand.

Create a routine that will help you prepare for stressful shots because you’re so used to the steps along the way.

Regulate the number of practice strokes you take for each shot.

Give you a final opportunity to check that everything feels as it should.

Aiming for Success

After you’re down in position to pull the trigger — or, in this case, swinging the cue — you need to know where to aim to properly strike an object ball so that it heads toward a pocket.

The most popular system for aiming is known as the Ghost Ball System (see Chapter 4). By connecting the centers of the object ball and the cue ball at impact, a line is formed that should point to the pocket. The important idea is that you see where the cue ball should be at impact and then send the cue ball on such a path where it can strike the object ball in the correct spot.

warning_bomb.eps Any aiming system that sounds too good to be true probably is. Aiming is one of the most contentious areas of instruction in pool, with plenty of people claiming to have a secret to repeatedly pocket balls.

Stroking the Cue

Developing a smooth, even stroke not only looks good but is an important step to becoming a consistent pool player (see Chapter 5). When you want to deliver the cue tip to the cue ball in the best way possible, heed these tips:

Keep your cue as level as it can be for a given shot.

Move your body as little as possible, allowing your back arm from the elbow down to do the work of swinging the cue back and into the cue ball.

Establish an even acceleration from the end of your backswing through contact with the cue ball.

Keep your grip hand relaxed as it holds the cue on its way through the cue ball.

Understand that the follow-through is an essential part of the stroke, and an abbreviated follow-through can lead to accuracy problems.

Keep your back elbow in the same position throughout your stroke to minimize movement.

Staying down after your follow-through can prevent you from jumping up during a shot, which will lead to accuracy problems.

Controlling the Cue Ball

Control the cue ball, and you will control the game. It’s easy, right? Knock the cue ball off the object ball (which then goes into the pocket) and then leave the cue ball exactly where you want it to stop for your next shot.

Speed is an important factor when trying to control the cue ball. By understanding how much speed is necessary, depending on the distance the cue ball must travel and the angle it is going to hit the object ball, you can develop a feeling for hitting the cue ball at the correct distance.

tip.eps Players have a tendency to overhit shots — that is, to use too much power on a specific shot. Don’t be afraid to hit a ball with barely enough speed to get the cue ball in shape for your next shot. You’ll find that you will underhit a shot far less than you overhit the same one.

A second way to control the cue ball is by understanding what happens when you hit the cue ball in different places (see Chapters 7–10). If you hit the cue ball above center, it will behave differently than a cue ball hit to the left of center. Understand and control the spin of the cue ball, and you’ll be a long way to knowing where the cue ball’s going to stop.

It’s also important to know why you want to use spin during a shot. The ultimate goal is to change the cue ball’s path before and/or after contact with the object ball so that you can get a better angle at the next ball.

warning_bomb.eps Using any kind of spin on the cue ball to pocket a ball is rarely a good idea. Hitting away from center complicates a shot, which you don’t want to do unless absolutely necessary.

Here are a few things to know when you’re hitting the cue ball:

If you hit the cue ball below center, it will begin to move toward the object ball while spinning backward. Conversely, a cue ball hit above center will quickly begin to roll.

When the cue ball has no spin at impact, it will head in a direction 90 degrees in the opposite direction from the object ball’s path. If the cue ball hits the object ball fully, it will stop in its place.

If you hit a cue ball away from its vertical axis, the cue ball will move off of its line in the opposite direction (to the left if hit on the right).

A side spin will pull the cue ball back to the other direction.

Top spin and back spin change the cue ball’s path both after impact with the object ball and after contact with the rail. Side spin, meanwhile, can have a dramatic effect on the cue ball’s path after hitting a rail. You can use a combination of these spins to achieve the desired path for your cue ball.

Seeing Shots

Playing your best is as much about execution as it is planning. Along with the physical process of putting cue to cue ball, you need to be able to see certain shots that you can make and see certain ways of getting in position for your next shots.

You could play pool for your whole life and see a particular shot only once. But other shots will pop up time and time again (see Chapter 13).

The break: The break shot is a way of starting a game (see Chapter 11). In 8-ball and 9-ball, the break shot means hitting the cue ball into a stack of balls at a rather high speed. In Chapter 11, you discover how to develop a solid break that will give you a good chance of winning any game you play.

The straight shot: Even when a ball is lined up perfectly with the cue ball and a pocket, the shot may not be so easy (see Chapter 13). When faced with a perfectly straight shot, you have to focus on your fundamentals. By minimizing the possibility for an error in aiming (you know exactly where the cue ball must go), missed straight shots often expose errors in your stroke.

Angled balls: From a straight shot to one that is as angled as can be, you’ll face a large amount of shots at plenty of angles. Over time, though, you’ll begin to see certain shots that look similar. Grouping certain shots together allows you to get a feel for that particular set of angles.

Hanging balls: When an object ball is sitting right near a pocket, you still have plenty of planning to do. You need to make the shot and figure out exactly where the cue ball will go.

Shots using multiple balls may give you an opportunity to pocket a ball when it may otherwise look like you can’t. Combinations (see Chapter 14), kisses and caroms (see Chapter 15), and kicks and banks (see Chapter 16) are just a few ways to make balls that are more complicated than just hitting a cue ball into an object ball into a pocket.

When using these types of shots, you have to plan accordingly:

Because these shots often involve more variables than a simple one-cue-ball, one-object-ball shot, these shots are often difficult to position with the cue ball.

Aiming shots with multiple balls is similar to aiming regular shots. The only difference? Usually, multiple-ball shots require you to take an extra step to go from the cue ball to the ball that will be pocketed.

Understanding which multiple-ball shots are makable is important. Often, these shots can be fairly easy if laid out in a certain way.

Playing for Your Next Shot

Making the shot at hand is one thing, but you also need to plan ahead for the next shot (see Chapter 12). When you’re figuring out how to plan for your next few shots, these tips can help you develop a proper pattern:

Minimize cue-ball movement. You’ll be best served by minimizing the distance the cue ball moves. Usually, a player gets in trouble when the cue ball has to travel a significant distance. When you can, keep the cue ball on a short path from one ball to another.

Limit the speed. Similarly, you don’t want to use extra power when a soft hit on the cue ball will work. Hitting the cue ball hard increases the chances that it might get out of line.

Plan three balls ahead. You want to plan to pocket the ball you’re aiming at so that you can get a good position on the next ball and then the third ball. Always play three balls ahead, planning to pocket each ball in a way that keeps you at the table.

Avoid other balls. When possible, you want to avoid sending your cue ball into other object balls (other than the one you’re trying to pocket). Hitting other object balls only makes position play more difficult, so try to avoid them if possible.

Playing Defense

You need to play defense (see Chapter 17). Forget anything you’ve heard about defense and safety play as the wrong way to play. Playing effective safeties can keep you in control of the table and in control of the game.

When you don’t have a viable option to pocket a ball, here are some ways to keep the cue ball in a spot that will tie up your opponent:

Blockers: Try to put an object ball between the cue ball and your opponent’s object ball. This blocker ball(s) can keep your opponent from hitting the ball directly.

Distance: If you can’t put a ball between the cue ball and the object ball, distance will make any shot more difficult.

Obstacles: An obstacle can be a rail or a ball your opponent has to cue over, making a particular shot more challenging.

One way to play defense is by imagining where your opponent would have a difficult time hitting one of his object balls. If you can put the cue ball in this safety zone, you should be in good shape.

tip.eps The goal is to make the game more difficult for your opponent. Combining any or all of these safety guidelines can help you stay in control of the table, so always look for new and different ways to put your opponent in jail.

Gearing Up

When you walk into a bar or pool hall, you need to find a house cue that works for you. Here are a few hints to help you pick a winner:

Look for a one-piece tip, not a plastic tip that is slipped on over the edge of the tip. A one-piece tip will give you a more solid hit.

Try to find an evenly rounded tip. You want one somewhere between the curve of a nickel and a dime.

After you find a quality tip, test the cue to see whether it’s straight. Roll it on the table. If it jumps around at all, it’s not very straight.

Observe whether the cue feels heavy or light in your hand. Cues come in many weights, usually from 18 to 21 ounces. Experiment with different weights until you find the number of ounces that works best for your game.

Should you ever be in the market for a table, you need to consider several factors:

The size of the room you have available dictates the size of table you can fit. Tables come in 7-foot, 8-foot, and 9-foot models. Seven-footers are common in home rooms, simply because of spatial constraints. Tables in pool halls tend to vary, with many establishments offering a few different sizes.

Be sure you know what thickness the slate is on the table. Anything over an inch should last for as long as you’ll play on it.

Pockets can either be drop pockets (balls stay in the pocket) or ball-return (balls funnel back down to a collection area). Home tables are more likely to feature drop pockets (which usually make for a less expensive table). Tables at the local pool hall, though, will probably have return systems.

A table’s cloth will be important to the quality of play. Look for professional-grade worsted wool cloth.

Tables come with a ton of accessories, including cue racks, table lights, bar stools, chalk, and matching furniture. Be sure you know what you’ll need before buying premade packages.

For more on purchasing equipment, see Chapter 21.

Playing Nicely

Pool comes with its own set of social conditions (see Chapter 6). Here are a few of the common no-nos on and around a pool table:

Agree to any special rules before a match begins. Clearing the air early keeps you and your opponent on the same page.

If you don’t know, ask. Ask a ref, another player, or your opponent if you have any questions about a rule or situation.

Steer clear of drinks or food on or near the table. A table’s cloth can be pretty expensive, so you don’t want to drop a pizza slice on it.

Avoid distracting your opponent in any way during a match. When one player does anything to get an opponent’s mind off the match, it’s considered a high crime.

Respect the table and cues. Don’t dump a full tray of balls on the table and don’t use a cue for anything but hitting the balls as intended.

When in doubt, try using a little common sense. Social graces go a long way at the table.