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Pool/Billiards/Straight-in shot (Beginner, here)


Obviously, a beginner's question:

OK...The object ball is fairly close to the pocket and the cue ball is a long distance away from the object ball.  (I'm talkin' 'bout STRAIGHT-in shots.)  If I just shoot with the cue stick centered on the cue ball, of course the cue ball follows the object ball into the pocket.  If I apply draw, striking the cue ball low, the object ball bounces out of the pocket, even when I don't shoot too hard.  AAARRRGGGHHHH!!!  What the heck am I supposed to do???!!

Hi Gene.

That should not happen (bouncing out). The table obviously has major maintenance issues. If the ball's fairly close you can cheat the pocket (hit the object ball off center) and it will still go down but your cue ball will not follow it in because it's trajectory will no longer longer be directly towards the pocket, even if the cue ball has follow on it.

Also if the ball is quite close, you can go rail first (shoot the cue ball into the rail before it) and contact it at the straight in point to send it home, but your cue ball will be traveling in a path completely away from the pocket (man I wish I could diagram here!) This becomes exponentially more difficult the farther the ball is away from the pocket. In other words, if very close, not only is it easy to pocket rail first, but some players think it's easier than shooting straight in. However, just a few inches more and it can be quite hard, and a few inches more and it becomes extremely difficult.

The real problem here, though, as I indicated, is a problem with the equipment that should not be happening. On a proper table, balls do sometimes bounce out of the pocket, but only when absolutely pounded.

There's only one more thing I can suggest, quite the tail wagging the dog, but if you practice your draw stroke you may be able to hit the cue ball significantly softer (even though you say you're not hitting it very hard now) and still retain the draw, thus avoiding the scratch. It is a maxim that beginner to intermediate players often hit the ball a lot harder than they need to anyway, but some of it is because they need to hit harder to get the same effect. The more you refine your technique, the more action you can get while shooting softer. Lastly, you will get more draw with a softer hit using a soft tip. I mention it only for completeness. You should not be making (or needing to make) tip choices just to accommodate bad equipment.

I suppose one more piece of advice is to nag the owner to fix the damn table, and if they won't, find a new venue.

Okay I lied. One more thing, If the pocket's leather, you can pull a MacGyver and rub some leather softener/conditioner into it yourself.

Best regards,

Pool Teacher


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I have wide ranging knowledge of all the cue sports, with the exception of snooker. I can answer most questions related to playing any of the standard games such as straight pool (14.1 continuous) eight-ball, nine-ball, one-pocket and 3-cushion billiards and the variations on these games. Questions welcomed regarding technique, strategy and rules, history of the sport, trick shots, the mental game, practice, practice drills, pool/billiards publications, and so on. I DO NOT DO CUE OR TABLE APPRAISALS OR IDENTIFICATION. See below.


I have been a dedicated player of pool and 3-cushion Billiards for many years. I have given lessons professionally and have run and participated in too many tournaments to name, including professional events such as the U.S. Open. I am also a cue collector and student of all aspects of the game. Note: I was starting to get far too many questions about pool cue (and pool table) valuation and identification and will no longer take these questions, sorry. I am a player and historian of the sport and the heart of my expertise is not product comparison or appraisal.


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