Spin and the Tangent Line

Written by David Baranski

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Article Index
The Tangent Line (page 1)
Cue Ball Path (page 2)
Cue Ball Path - Continued (page 3)
Determining Correct Spin (page 4)

Now we know how to alter the path of the CB after it contacts the OB. We also know how to alter the path of the CB after it contacts a rail. We can combine english with draw or follow to result in beautiful CB movement around the table. The purpose of knowing these things is to enable us to get the CB into position for the next shot. There are several steps involved in determining the correct spin necessary to accomplish the goal of position.

  1. Determine the target position area. This means find the area where you want the CB to be for the next shot. It is important to pick out an area that is on the correct side of the next shot. In other words, pick an area so position to the next ball is easier.
  2. Calculate the natural path of the CB. This step simply means find the tangent line. If the CB is going to strike a rail or rails, use the angle in = angle out method to determine where the CB will go after contacting the rail(s). This will give a rough estimate of the natural path of the CB. If the natural path of the CB goes to or through the target position area, the only thing you have to worry about is ball speed, and we can use just a center ball hit to accomplish the goal of position.
  3. When necessary, use your newly discovered knowledge of draw, follow, and english to alter the natural path of the CB to get the CB into your target position area. This may mean using draw, follow, english, a combination of draw and english, or a combination of follow and english. Keep in mind that draw and follow affect the path of the CB after contacting the OB, english affects the path of the CB after contacting a rail. If the CB is not going to contact a rail, there is no need to use english. Use english only when necessary! English introduces many variables into a shot (see the “Understanding English” Lesson); therefore use it only when necessary to minimize the number of things that can go wrong.
    • Try to use the simplest route possible to get to the position area. Use as few rails as possible. The farther the CB has to travel, the finer your ball speed intuition must be. Don’t use 3 rails for position when 1 will work just as well.
    • Try to have the CB travel on a line going into the shot. Imagine a line going through the next OB and its intended pocket. Try to get the CB traveling on this imaginary line whenever possible. Try to avoid having the CB traveling sideways through the position area; this may result in getting on the wrong side of the next shot.
    • If there are too many balls to work around in order to gain good position, try to get the CB into the middle of the table. This may leave a harder shot, but at least it’s a shot. The middle of the table will usually allow you to play the hard shot, or even a safety. The middle of the table is an excellent place to play from to give yourself options. Don’t try to play difficult position and leave yourself without a next shot. This is called “taking what the table gives you.” Having no shot at all can be disastrous, especially in today’s ball in hand games.
  4. After visualizing and plotting your path, get down and stroke it! Maintain a level cue throughout the stroke, regardless of spin being applied.

Rule 3 is not set in stone. Different situations dictate different tactics; use your best judgment. Also, if you only know one way to attain position, do it; use what you know. Match play is not the time for experimentation.

“Spinning the rock” and CB control are necessary to become a good pool player. Beginners should practice using center ball hits to fine-tune ball speed first. Get comfortable with pocketing balls and using the tangent line for position. Only then should english be introduced. English will frustrate, amaze, and astound, but a greater understanding of sidespin will increase run out percentages because run outs are dependent on CB positioning. You can’t run out if you don’t have a shot. Use spin to gain better position and increase your run out percentages.

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About The Author: David Baranski is an instructor and pool player from Raleigh, North Carolina.

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