People are always talking about the importance of knowing tangent lines and they’re absolutely right.  However, what they tend to overlook are those odd paths that happen after contacting a rail – after the tangent line calculation.  Sometimes english plays a major role, sometimes it doesn’t.  Speed always plays a role.

Let’s start with a classic amateur mistake:


We’ve all been there.  Shooting a duck in the corner pocket and needing to back down table for the next shot.  Our experience tells us that we want the cueball to “run” or “go forward” so we hit the shot with top spin, expecting that it will take off after making the 1-ball.  But what happens is something entirely different.  We put too much top-spin on the ball; so much so that after the cueball bounces off the headrail, it still has top-spin on it, but now the direction the cueball is moving is the opposite of the direction of the spin.  The friction from the spin of the cueball reacts with the direction of the ball which makes the cueball stop dead – on the wrong of the side of the table.

Solution: Use center ball.  The natural roll picked up by the cueball over the cloth will maintain the speed required for position and not interfere with the rebound off the headrail and send the cueball back down table.  Advanced players will help this effect by adding side-spin to the equation, sending the cueball around 2 or 3 rails to get back down-table.  You can’t use draw because the object ball will significantly absorb the forward momentum of the cueball, leaving just the backspin on the ball – and then altering the tangent line; which in turn, leaves the ball heading dangerously close to the other corner pocket.  A “stun” shot would be ok, but again, the speed required to hit a stun shot with enough leftover velocity to get around the table increases the difficulty of the shot exponentially.

Let’s look at another classic mistake:


This typically happens when the player has learned to draw the cueball pretty well, but still hasn’t quite figured out how to control it with precision.  You can hit this shot with pure draw or draw with outside spin, hoping to avoid this disaster; but neither work without serious pro-level draw control.

Solution: Let the cueball go forward and in/out of the corner.  You can look for a bank, or you can draw with inside english so that the cueball still has the effect of going forward off the side rail, but forcing it to hit the bottom rail instead of the pocket (this is an advanced stroke, and will take quite a lot of practice).

While you’re learning these sorts of tricks, keep them in the back of your mind as sometimes, they will come in quite handy.  For example, last night in league, I came to the table looking at the wrong half of the 7 ball (playing 10-ball).  I couldn’t make the 7 in the corner, I couldn’t cross-bank it at the 10. I couldn’t cross bank it up table.  I could have tried to bank it in the upper right corner.  Then I noticed where the cueball would go if I did try that.  So, then I abandoned the idea of making the 7 and focused entirely on where the cueball was going.  I called the 10-ball and my opponent looked like I told him a joke.  I know I had to a little of a stun shot , but that would send the cueball to around the 2.5 diamond, but I needed to hit around the 3rd diamond, so I added some outside english to “stiffen” the rebound a little more.  I got down, and pulled the trigger and watched with absolute glee as the cueball bent off the side rail and twirled right into the 10-ball, sending it into the pocket.


My opponent and teammates all congratulated me on an excellent shot and I explained that I just had to help it a little – no matter how I hit the 7, the cueball was heading that direction.  It is, to date, my best carom in a competitive setting.

So, the next time you scratch in a place you never thought you’d ever scratch, remember what happened with the cueball.  Catalog how you hit it and what the cueball did in your brain – someday you will be able to use that information to your benefit.