Now that you have a basic idea of where the cue ball goes after contacting the object ball and perhaps even control the position where the cue ball halts to a stop, you are now ready to learn these basic principles to play position of the cue ball the right way. This simply means that there are many ways to position your cue ball for your next shot but there are a few ground rules for playing it right.
Okay, now let’s start with identifying some of the things you need to do in order to have a smooth run-out of your object balls.
CONTROLLING THE SPEED OF YOUR CUE BALL
This is a very important principle in position play and cannot be overlooked. You have to learn to gauge the speed of your stroke and know how much speed is needed for your cue ball to travel to the desired position. Beginner players normally tend to hit the cue ball too hard and as you gain experience you should pay special attention to the different speeds you need for the cue ball to travel where you want it to be. Let’s look at an example illustration in Figure 1.
In Figure 1, a medium speed is necessary to position the cue ball around the area where we want it to be indicated by the gray box area. Hitting too softly (position A) might place the cue ball behind the 10-ball and hitting too hard (position B) might place the cue ball behind the 11-ball. Hitting even harder (Position C) might place the cue ball farther giving you a very thin cut on the 8-ball which is a very difficult shot!
Keep in mind that the following factors affect the speed of the cue ball:
- The type of the table cloth, the rougher the surface of the cloth, the more friction therefore less speed. The smoother the cloth, the less friction, therefore more speed is required on your cue ball. If you use the same stroke speed for both types of cloth, your cue ball will obviously not arrive at the same location on the table. So you need to be able to adjust your stroke speed depending on the playing conditions presented to you.
- The condition of the cushion. Newer cushions have more bounce therefore the cue ball travels longer after bouncing off the cushion. Older cushions become soggy and less “bouncy” therefore the cue ball travels at a shorter distance after bouncing off the cushion. Again, try to adjust your stroke speed accordingly.
- The condition of the balls. Same thing with the balls, the older the balls the less bounce they have therefore the cue ball travels less.
- Follow shot and Draw shot. Shooting with follow or top spin will make the cue ball travel farther because the cue ball has forward momentum. Using the same speed of stroke with draw will make the cue ball travel less because of the reverse spin on the cue ball. Take note of this when you are trying to gauge the speed of your stroke.
- Clean and dirty tables. Dirty tables have more dust and small particles that make for more friction thus the cue ball will travel at a shorter distance. Always clean the table before playing.
Let’s say for example you made your object ball and you have a nice position for the next object ball, however your cue ball is on the WRONG side of the table to be able to play position for the next object ball! This is illustrated in Figure 2.
Notice that you had good position on the eight ball to make it on the side pocket, however look at the path the cue ball has to travel. The examples given above are just two examples that show you that you are faced with the possibility of scratching! It is still possible for you to make good position on the 9 ball but your margin of error is very small making your shot more difficult. The problem here is the cue ball is on the wrong side (i.e. it is on the left side of the eight ball in this case). It would have been easier if the cue ball is on the right side of the eight ball as shown in the next illustration below.
So to sum up this discussion, you should always be aware where you should position the cue ball. Think ahead 2 or more balls and try to find the easiest route. As you gain more experience, it will become second nature to you and you should be able to think ahead 2, 3, 4 or even more balls.