The Basics of Taking the Shot
Many beginners will approach a table with their eye on the object balls. Without knowing all the intricacies of the art of playing pool, anyone might think that the placement of the object balls on the table and their proximity to the pockets is the most important thing in making a shot. If you just look at the object ball, you may see the line of fire to the pocket, but when you bend down to aim the cue ball at the shot, you may find that there's just no good way to hit the cue ball into the object ball to make that shot. With some techniques in visualization you will be able to find that shot in no time.
There are many different ways to strike the cue ball to make it move on the table the way you need it to. Here are some tips to follow before you strike the cue ball:
Find your shot — develop a preshot routine.
Keep in mind where you want the cue ball to wind up on the table after your shot.
Find the aiming point and the collision point.
Base your stroke on how fast you want the cue ball to move.
Focus and strike.
Finding Your Shot
Finding your shot may take a few moments, or it may be obvious from the start. It's okay to walk around the table a couple of times and eye the cue ball in relation to the object balls from a few different angles. All the pros have what they call a “preshot routine.” Once you've developed your hand-eye coordination and have a better sense of aim, you should start thinking of your own routine.
When you watch the experts play, you will notice that once they bend down to take aim at the cue ball, their stance is steady and unchanging. They may move the cue stick slightly to find their exact aim, but they will not move their feet once their cue is on the table in the aiming position. That is all part of their routine. It shows confidence and decisiveness if you don't shift around once you have your cue lined up on the table. To do so will show others that you're not really sure how you will make your shot. Most of your shot-making first occurs in your head. You look ahead and plan your shot before you bend down and take aim. If you know how the cue ball will strike an object ball, you will be able to show this kind of decisiveness in your own preshot routine.
Controlling the Cue Ball
Part of examining the table in your preshot routine is strategy. Like chess, or checkers, or any other game requiring you to think ahead before a play, considering the location of the cue ball before and after a shot is critical to your game.
If you hit the cue ball simply to pocket the ball without considering its location on the table after the shot, you could be hurting your options for your next move. It's great that you just pocketed a ball (or two), but did you think about your next move before you did it? What if your shot causes the cue ball to stop on the table in a spot where you will not be able to make your next shot? You will have just halted your play. The goal is, of course, to keep control of the table away from your opponent. So, remember to strategize when you're finding your shot.
Figuring out and executing where you want the cue ball to wind up on the table after you pocket the ball is called “position play” or “playing shape.”
Contact and Aiming Points
Mastering the concept of collision versus aiming points is the key to pocketing shots. Before you understand that the two points of reference on the object ball are different, you may spend a lot of time wondering how you keep missing shots. You also need to be sure that your cue stick contacts the cue ball exactly where you are aiming. That sounds a lot easier to do than it actually is and will take some practice.
Physics defines the differences between the contact and aiming points in billiards. The spot you aim for may not be the spot where the balls actually contact.
Just remember that there are two points to consider when you're finding your shot. There's the spot on the cue ball at which you will aim and the collision point where the cue ball actually hits the object ball.
The reason there is a difference between the aim and collision points is a little tricky to understand at first. Because the balls are round and are moving, where you aim is not necessarily where the cue ball will strike.
One of the hardest aspects to controlling the cue ball is gauging the speed of your stroke. It won't be hard at all, however, if you've practiced your stroke enough and have a good feel for it. If you try to control speed without a sense of your stroke, you will find yourself in a bit of a bind. Speed control is a learned art to be sure.
There's nothing worse than having a clear line of vision from the object ball to the pocket, striking the object ball with certainty, and then watching that same ball swirl around the pocket and land right back on the table. This generally means that you've hit the cue ball too hard. The opposite effect would be if you hit the cue ball too softly and you stand there watching it inch its way slowly toward the pocket. The only way to help your shot at this point is to wish for it to move faster or at the very least hope for a strong gust of wind to come along and help it on its way. Rather than praying for an act of God, it's wise to just practice your stroke speed.
Any shot that is not a straight line from the cue ball into the pocket is called a “cut shot.” That means you are striking (or cutting) the cue ball on an angle that will allow you to strike the object ball and sink it in a pocket. Since straight-in shots don't occur that often, most shots are cut shots.
So much of becoming a successful pool player has to do with your state of mind. People have written entire books on the psychology of pool. Before every shot, you have to get your thoughts in line with your aim. Whatever strategies you develop, whether it's to picture a path lighting up on the table from the cue ball to the object ball and into the pocket, or breathing exercises, you must focus if you want to make that shot.
You have to picture your shot. You have to slow your mind and steady your body and then strike. Again, this takes practice. When you first start playing, you're going to be nervous and it will be hard to focus. You may see the shot on the table, and even in your mind, but in order to carry it out and strike the cue ball with confidence, you need to first find your focus.