Whether you’re a bit of legend on the table or a total novice, everyone wants to win when they play someone at pool. Be it 8-ball, 9-ball or Killer Pool, there’s nothing like that feeling you get when you nail a ball into the heart of a pocket, to the raised eyebrows of the small crowd watching. But while even the most basic of players get the odd ball down, you want to do better than that, don’t you…?
Maybe you plan on heading down to your nearest Rileys and practicing every day until you’re Tom Cruise in The Colour of Money. Or perhaps you just fancy beating one of your cocky mates a little more than you currently do. Whatever you want, we’ve got your back. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to mastering the six most important shots in pool.
So… Have a read, watch the clips and then try ’em out. Keep at it a while and before you know it, you’ll be a full-blown hustler, baby!
Now unless you’re a mother-in-law, you won’t have an innate ability to break balls. You’ll need to learn how to do it. It’s the first shot you’ll be presented with on a pool table and whether you’re playing 8 ball or 9 ball, you have to know how to smash into the pack with the opening shot.
The goal? To spread the balls out across the table and, preferably, pot one of them. You can then stay on the table and continue with your break. Fail to pot from the break and you allow your opponent in.
Two things to consider – power and technique. Make sure all balls are touching and static and, cue ball behind the baulk line and just off centre, smash into the ball at the tip of the triangle, nearest to you.
Aim for just above the centre point of the cue ball, make sure you chalk the tip a fair amount and really give the shot some welly. It’ll take some practice, but you’re ideally aiming to have the white ball remain pretty much central to the table in order to line you up for the next shot.
Plants or ‘combination shots’ are tricky. If you can avoid them, do. They require pinpoint accuracy and they’re twice as likely to miss as a regular shot. Why? Well, you’re striking the cue ball at the object ball and then having the object ball contact a third ball, with the intention of potting it. It’s not easy, but get the shot right and have the object ball hit the third ball sweet and it’s getting holed.
These shots are vital in 9-ball pool as they can win you the game if it’s the yellow 9-ball going down. The best tip we can offer you here is to try and avoid putting any side or swerve on the ball at all. You want the object ball hitting the target ball nice and flush. A little spin on it and it’ll send the ball you’re trying to pot absolutely nowhere.
Play them softly and there’s more chance you’ll pot the thing. Miss, however, and you’ll likely leave your opponent on. Each shot is different, so play it by ear. Again, practice makes perfect with these bad boys.
In any cue sport, you’ll often find yourself tempted by the ol’ Barney Rubble (double). A shot that’s tricky to sneak into a corner or middle pocket can often be potted with ease into the opposite pocket by shooting it off the cushion. They’re not without risks, these shots, but played with pace and you’ve a pretty good chance.
But where are you aiming on that cushion? Well, if you consider that the angle the ball will come off it is going to be the same angle you play it at (provided you don’t apply side), you’re aiming for a point on the cushion exactly halfway between the object ball and the pocket.
These shots are easier than they look and when they go in they make a pretty satisfying noise. Played quickly and confidently, they’re excellent shots for impressing/annoying your opponent too.
The Draw Shot
Anyone with a little hand/eye co-ordination can pot the odd ball. That’s the basics of pool. Getting good, though? That requires cue ball control. Have no idea where the white’s going after the pot and every shot requires luck. Master control of it, though… You’re plotting your way through the balls.
One of the basic shots here is the draw shot. Basically, you’re applying backspin. You want to hit the object ball, pot it and then have the cue ball return pretty much to where it was when you hit the shot (or even further back). It’s actually pretty easy. Play the shot as you normally would, except strike the white lower down on the ball. That’ll set the ball spinning and it’ll come straight back at you after hitting the ball you’re potting. Boomerang style.
The Cushion Shot
Most shots in open play are fairly easy to judge. But when the object ball is stuck on the cushion and you have to nick it in down the ‘rail’, it’s easily miss-able. Catch it too full and the ball comes into open play, but your break is over. But snick it just right and it’ll glide down the cushion and drop in. But how?
Well, your best bet is to approach the shot as though the cushion doesn’t even exist. Hit the ball at the angle you’d hit it if you were attempting to pot it in open play. Have the cue ball contact the object ball and cushion simultaneously and at a medium pace and you should sink the sphere.
The sexiest, most flamboyant shot in pool there is. Also known as the ‘curve shot’ or the ‘banana shot’, a massé shot is useful for hitting balls that look unhittable. Striking the cue ball hard and fast downwards, from an elevated position will cause it to move forward and bend. It’ll take some trial and error to work out the strength you need to apply and the exact area of the ball to hit, but you’ll get there.
Make sure the cue is held perpendicular to the table and don’t be afraid to really hammer the thing. Just, y’know, be careful not to damage the cloth…
There you have it. Now you’re an expert. At least you will be once you head down to your local Rileys and try these tips out and practice a little.