A Systematic Approach to Aiming and Stroking

Joe Waldron, Ph.D., Psychologist (retired)

Psychologists tend to break down behavior into elements and then reinforce (reward) progress for incremental improvements. This analysis was written in an attempt to improve my own game and any assistance would be appreciated. I have tried to list the elements that need to be mastered. Listed below is a suggested step-by step sequential technique that is intended to develop a consistent game. I have tried to outline all elements, obviously on some shots all steps are not needed such as step one.

  1. Stand behind the object ball and see where it goes into the center of the pocket. Place the cue stick on the table to see the tip reflection in the object ball if needed. This procedure allows one to move the stick back and forth until the cue tip reflection is centered on the object ball and lined up with the center of the pocket. In many situations one can determine the aim point relative to the numbering or strips on the object ball. This initial assessment can be adjusted to the side of the pocket as needed for English, throw etc.
  2. Check the aim point on the object ball from the cue ball position.
  3. Determine the need for cue ball control. The estimate of draw, follow and the result of English can be evaluated.
  4. Determine the distance the cue ball should travel after contact has been made. The resulting position is based on the next two object balls.
  5. Begin the aiming sequence by finding dead center on the cue ball and imagining the line the cue ball will travel to the aiming point on the object ball. The aiming point on the object ball should be a line from the aiming point through the object ball and continuing for at least six inches towards the pocket; longer lines are better but not always practical.
  6. Place stick on the table in roughly the right position for shooting at the aim point and place feet for a stable shot. Any of several stances is acceptable. The primary focus is standing in such a way that there will be no sway once the stroke / aim begins.
  7. Form the bridge hand on the table*. Aim through the center of the cue ball and imagine a line from the cue ball to the aiming point on the object ball. Stroke the shot three to five times. Adjust the stoke left or right by moving the body, the bridge or the rear hand to line up with the aiming point. The stroking line should be observed from the rear hand to the cue ball and through the cue ball to the point of aim. Try to visualize this line. It is difficult to describe but one can become aware of the rear hand?s location and the line of travel if awareness is shifted as needed. This is something like knowing how a hammer head will travel without looking at the head of the hammer.
  8. After this line has been established, adjust the shot for English, and type of cue ball rotation (follow or draw). From this position the adjusted line can compensate for curve, deflection, throw and other factors (See Byrne 1998 and Martin, 1993). For thin cuts use the center line of the cue ball and the edge of the cue ball to determine the line of cue ball travel. In all cases the imaginary line the cue ball will travel should be visualized to the extent possible.
  9. Freeze the body and upper arm while stroking. If there is a tendency to weave then adjust the feet for stabilization. During the stroking process one can feel and observe the result of sway by paying attention to cue stick and the intended line of travel during the stroke.
  10. For most shots the eye should shift its focus from the place the cue ball will be struck to the object ball aiming point until the shot ? feels? right. The last point of focus will be the object ball. (During power shots where it is necessary to elevate the butt of the cue stick it is often best to have a very steady stroke and then watch the cue ball during execution. This type of aiming is also used for the masse and for the hard break shot as in 8-Ball or 9-Ball).
  11. During execution the cue stick should continue through the cue ball for at least 9 inches. The eye remains focused on the object ball until the object ball and the point of contact until the object ball goes into the pocket. The bridge hand and the cue stick remain on the table until the object ball is in the pocket. This procedure allows the shooter to determine what was right or wrong with the shot and it should be followed on every shot during a game.
  12. The only time the shooter watches the cue ball after the hit is during practice when the shooter is learning to control the cue ball.

My personal observations made during local tournament play as an amateur is that it is difficult to focus on one?s own technique during a match. There is a tendency to react to the other player and their needs. I note that many good tournament players ignore or nearly ignore the other player during a match and this is probably what is needed for the best competitive play. There is a time for socializing before or after a game. During the game all attention should be on the table (Earl Strickland, among others to the contrary).

*In a review of Nick Varner's book I noted that in his illustrations he always has the cue stick in contact woth three points on the bridge hand. This professional technique was tried and found to be highly useful.

Byrne, R. (1998). Byrne's New Standard Book of Pool and Billiards. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Brace & Co.
Martin, R and Reeves, R. (1993). The 99 Critical Shots in Pool. NY, NY: Random House.
Varner, N. (1981). The World Champion on Winning Pool and Trick Shots. Published by the author, P.O. Box 2677, Owensboro, Kentucky 42302

Copyright Notice: This article is not copyrighted and may be used for any purpose so long as appropriate attribution is made. Comments and suggestions for improvement would be sincerely appreciated. Email Joe_Waldron<at>comcast<dot>net

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