CHOOSE THE NATURAL PATH OF THE CUE BALL
The term “natural path” here means that when the cue ball is hit with center ball stroke (the natural stroke), the cue ball will then travel its natural path. You are probably wondering why this is important. The main reason why most good players choose the natural path of the cue ball whenever possible is because it is very easy to determine exactly where the cue ball will travel. You know that hitting the object ball (at an angle) with center ball stroke and medium speed on the cue ball will result in the cue ball to travel at a 90 degree angle from the direction of the object ball (refer to this lesson on basic position play). Playing the natural path is the only way for you to be absolutely sure where the cue ball will travel, where it will hit the rail, etc.
Hitting the cue ball above center or below center or with english presents you with a lot of different combinations of where to hit the cue ball. For example, hitting the cue ball with left english… you can hit the cue ball with 1/2 tip on the left of center or a full 1 tip off center. Now, these varying degrees of left english that you will put on the cue ball will generate different paths that the cue ball will travel after hitting the object ball therefore it is difficult to predict exactly where the cue ball will travel and how much angle it will create off the rail.
The sample illustration above shows you the natural path of the cue ball (indicated by the black dotted line) and the path that the cue ball might travel with left english applied on the cue ball (indicated by the white line) and also the probable cue ball path with the cue ball hit above center (indicated by gray line). You’ll notice that with center ball stroke, you’ll know exactly what path the cue ball travels… all you need to worry about is your speed control to position the cue ball exactly where you want it to be.
POSITION THE CUE BALL ON THE LONG SIDE OF THE TABLE WHEN POSSIBLE
The basic idea behind playing position is to make it easy for you to pocket the object balls in succession. You probably notice that professional players don’t usually have any difficult shots… and that’s exactly what they intended to happen and they accomplish what they want by playing perfect position all the time! With this in mind, here’s another important principle for position that will make your life easier on the pool table. With this in mind, let’s look at the example below.
In example A, the object ball is close to the top corner pocket. Positioning the cue ball on the short side (indicated by the shaded box “no”) will make the shot more difficult. First, the cue ball will be too close to the object ball and that makes aiming a little difficult (refer to the previous lesson regarding the ideal distance between the object and the cue ball). Second, there is not much room for proper follow through because the cue ball is too close to the object ball… and without proper follow through, it limits your options for controlling the cue ball and even decreasing your chances of pocketing the object ball.
Therefore, for example A the ideal position of the cue ball will be on the long side (indicated by the shaded box “yes”). In this position, you have ample distance between the cue ball and the object ball giving you the chance for a proper execution of the shot with follow through thus increasing your chances for making the object ball as well as controlling the cue ball. Another advantage of positioning the cue ball on the long side is that the object ball is actually closer to the designated pocket therefore it needs to travel less towards the pocket thus increasing your chances for pocketing it. Generally, the closer the object ball is to the pocket the more margin for error you can have therefore the more chances for success.
Let’s look at example B. The same reasoning applies here. Although positioning the cue ball on the short side will still give you enough distance between the object ball and the cue ball, you will be faced with the fact that the object ball has to travel a long way to get the the opposite end of the table towards the top left corner pocket. Again, it is easier to pocket this object ball to the top right corner pocket because it is closer to that pocket.
This principle is not always going to be the right way to play for position. Some situations will require you to play the cue ball on the short side in order to play position on the next object ball. You should apply good judgment depending on the situation presented to you. Once again, only with practice and experience will you be able to automatically know what to do.