How To Cut the Ball in Pool

Playing pool or billiards is all about strategy. In a perfect world, you will probably have to just hit the cueball straight into the object ball (the ball you want to hit), and the object ball goes in a straight line into the pocket. However, the world is not perfect. There are hindrances to your simply being able to pocket the ball in a straight line. First, the cue ball, object ball, and pocket might not necessarily be in a straight line. Second, there will probably be obstructions, either between the cue ball and the object ball, or between the object ball and the pocket. Third, you might be playing under certain rules that might prevent you from hitting a ball out of sequence, which means you might have to hit a ball that’s hiding behind other balls.

Cutting the ball in pool involves hitting the object ball at an angle. This will be important for two reasons. First, you want the ball to bounce off the cue ball at an angle—usually sideways. Second, you want to position the cue ball for your next shot. Or, in difficult shots, you might want to position your cue ball in a place where it will be difficult for your opponent to get the shot (if you don’t get the object ball in the pocket).

Here are some tips on how to do just that.

Geometry. Remember that hitting the ball in billiards will require some knowledge of geometry, particularly angles and triangles. You will need to know where a ball will bounce off when hit at a certain spot. This will usually require much practice. In gist, your object ball will move anywhere from a straight line to an almost 90-degree angle either left or right (depending on where you hit it). The cue ball will then bounce toward the opposite direction. Hit the object ball on the left, and it will bounce towards the right, with the cue ball bouncing toward the left at the same angle. Hit the object ball on the right, and it will bounce off to the left, with the cue ball bouncing toward the right in the same angle. Graze the ball at just the right spot and it will move almost perpendicular to the direction of the cue ball.

You can use your cue stick as a guide to how you will do the shot. Try imagining a straight line from where you will hit the cue ball, to the point on the target ball, which will determine the angle of bounce.

Physics. Aside from geometry, pool also involves physics. You will need to keep in mind the concept of transfer of energy. When you hit a cue ball, energy transfers from the stick to the ball. When the cue ball strikes the object ball, energy will transfer to the object ball, but not in full. How much energy is transferred will depend on the angle with which you hit the object ball, and on how much the cue ball bounces off. The stronger you hit, the farther the object ball goes.

There’s nothing more frustrating than hitting the object ball with the right angle, but falling short of reaching the pocket because your stroke was too weak. Therefore, you will need to practice hitting the cue ball at just the right strength.

Spin. Spinning the cue ball is more of an advanced technique, but it will also be important in positioning the cue ball afterward. You will need to learn to hit the cue ball at different points on the ball. Hitting near the top will cause it to spin forward, which is called “follow.” With a follow, the cue ball will bounce off forward, relative to the object ball. You can also hit the cue ball at the bottom, which results in a back-spin. This is called a “draw” since the ball will bounce off nearer to you once it hits the object ball. You can also hit the ball at the sides, to provide some side spin or “English,” which can help position the cue ball after hitting the target ball.

Billiards is a game of strategy, skill and sometimes luck. You will need to practice your skills in hitting the cue ball and positioning both the object ball and cue ball after the shot.


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