I realized that I never wrote a full description of a 3-rail kicking system I use when I have to shoot off the short rail first. So, first, here’s the diagram showing the three main paths: (click for larger image)
The trick to this sytem is having just the right amount of running english on the cueball. Too much spin can cause the red track to scratch, not enough spin will send it to the blue track’s end point. And like all systems, it can vary by table, cloth, cueball and humidity.
These are the baseline paths. The nice thing about this system is that is slides/scales really well. For example, look at this situation. Let’s say your opponent just played this lock-up safety on the 8ball:
You see where the 8 ball is, and know there’s a baseline path to that diamond, so from the baseline (through the center of the corner pocket – the blue line), you can parallel shift that line to now go through the center of the cueball further up the table and it will still take you to that same end-point.
Once you know the baselines, you can extrapolate the path to target balls in the middle of the table, or even go the 4th rail. For example, here’s a common 8-ball safety:
You are solids, the opponent realized they aren’t getting out, so they play a safe behind the 13, blocking your 4 ball and your 1 ball. The 9 ball blocks the 1-rail kick at the 4 and the 1, the angle isn’t there to kick behind the 8 at the 1, the 12, 14, 15 and 10 are all in the way to kick at the 1 off the end-rail. This is a bad spot to be in… luckily, there’s a 3 rail kick at the 4 ball: Use the red line base path and parallel shift it up through the cueball – hit it long so it travels to the 4th rail to make contact on the 4 ball:
And just like that! You are out of the trap. Now, your opponent does have an open table from here, but they do NOT have ball in hand; and that’s a valuable trade off.
Of course, these systems are excellent guides – and remember, they are just guides; they need to be tailored to the individual’s stroke, their speed, their equipment, etc. Take this to the table and see what you can do. With some practice, you can start playing these kicks to MAKE the ball, or to hit a certain side of the ball. Start moving the object balls further and further out into the middle of the table, identity a base path, and adjust it to the shot. These take practice, but will get you out some pretty dire looking situations if you make these a part of your game.