I just had a chance to meet with Tony Robles yesterday and we were talking about all sorts of things pool related. I didn’t realize this, but besides running the predator tour, he is also running the NAPL League. I understand it is on a Wednesday night and doesn’t conflict with other leagues. Check it out, the competition is one of the pillars you need to build a strong game (lessons and practice being the other two for those of you new to my columns).
This week I had a lightbulb go off in my head about something that I want to share with you. I was teaching a lesson at Slate’s and my student just couldn’t understand the concept of throw. I tried demonstrating two balls frozen together, I tried putting three balls on the long rail, two frozen and one off the rail, I tried explaining about hitting something off to the side. She still didn’t get it.
Now my student is an extremely intelligent, dedicated person who works hard at her game and I was getting frustrated. What she said, and the implications changed how I see pocketing balls! I asked her what she wasn’t getting. Her answer was enlightening. She didn’t understand why the ball didn’t go in when you hit the contact point. She had always been told that to make the ball, you have to hit the contact point.
Basically what she said was, “you mean you don’t hit the contact point to make the ball on cut shots?” And, the answer is yes!! You don’t hit the contact point because throw is real and it affects the path of the object ball.
I want you to go to the table right now, or today if you can, and try this shot.
Shoot this shot ten times WITHOUT any english. Please count how many times you make the shot, and how many times you hit the long rail. My guess is that you will hit the long rail at least 6 times, whether you make the shot or not. What this is telling me is that you may intellectually understand throw, and would argue with me if I said you didn’t, but when you are at the table, the idea of not hitting the contact point to make the ball just seems plain wrong! (its not).
Ok, so maybe you think your aim is wrong. Now I want you to try this shot.
The six ball is lined up for the pocket with the one, and the three ball is just outside the line of the shot to the right. How many did you make? Probably none as the six ball will hit the three ball. If you lined up the shot correctly, what is going on here?
Pool balls are not perfect spheres. The have friction acting on them at all times. This is a little like discovering there is no Santa Claus. The visual contact point, the one we have always been taught and believe in is actually wrong. As pool players, we have come up with some “fixes” that help us keep the contact point theory in our head, yet make shots. A lot of players hit cut shots with outside english to minimize the throw effect. Others use inside english so that the squirt thins out the cut a little and compensates for the throw.
But these fixes never seem perfect! Throw depends on the speed of the shot, the angle of the cut, the cleanliness of the balls, the humidity, the spin on the cue ball, stray finger prints, chalk marks etc. Predicting the effects of throw is difficult at best.
So what do we do to fix this? Here is how I compensate for throw.
I aim each of these shots to the inside of the pocket. For me, the point of aim is not the center of the pocket, but the near face of the pocket. Try this today when you practice. Instead of aiming for the pocket, aim to over cut every shot just a little. If the balls are dirty or the room is humid, the throw may even be more than I think. I make sure to compensate. Even though your brain is screaming at you that the shot looks wrong, I think you will like the results. Remember, the contact point that we learned on day one of our pool playing is not correct if you want to pocket the ball. Friction is real and affects every cut shot! If this knowledge improves your game, thank my student.