Pool Training - How Pros Really Aim In Billiards

Photo (c) Matt Sherman 2009, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Aim systems for pool are controversial. Can you really plan pool training to teach methods that will work for any cut shot angle?

Some aim systems give false hope, as pros tend to aim by experience, and many teachers I respect say, "Forget using an aim system!" But an aim system helps avoid what I call a "false point" hit, where aiming at the contact point directly will provide a missed cut shot.

Ignoring collision induced throw, shooting cue ball center at the contact point, where the object ball sinks following impact, hits a false point. So beginners instead use ghost ball center, the cue ball projected to the pocket line (For Ghost Ball/Contact Point Diagrams See This Article).

Have You Tried Parallel Aiming?

Aim at an imaginary ball is difficult. Parallel Aim, used by greats including Greenleaf, Mosconi, and Varner, uses real balls and adds imaginary lines. Visualize parallel lines to both contact points. Add lines connecting the points and parallel through cue ball center. Visualize lines that cross the ball equators and don't sight down on the cloth.

Joe Tucker's excellent "Aiming by the Numbers" training aid teaches Parallel Aim without lines, but whether Parallel or Ghost Ball, you aim to pass the object ball as you graze its edge. It's easy to aim a baseball into a catcher's glove, harder to aim to graze the glove's edge in passing.

"Pro Secret Aim"

Try what I call "Pro Secret Aim" instead--aim at the contact point but subconsciously aim correctly through ghost ball center!

Visualize impact. The cue ball is halved to each side of the contact point for a handy ghost edge reference. Focus your concentration on the cue ball "nose" that strikes the object ball, not the edge which passes the object ball. Pros look through the ghost ball at the object ball's real edge, not through ghost ball center into empty space.

It's ghost ball aim that feels like aiming, even stroking, directly at the contact point. You believe cue stick and cue nose are on the contact point line even if they aren't! You pocket more balls than you've dreamed possible and tend to hit shots fuller than with the ghost ball when you grossly overcut balls.

Pro Aim works for full hits to about half ball hits. Beyond that when the nose doesn't look "on", lock eyes on the contact point anyway, but send a cue ball edge other than the nose at the contact point. Do it over and again until this incredibly vital pool training is built into your personal hand/mind/body/soul system.

Pivot Aiming Method

Here's another juicy secret I call Pivot Aim, used by Johnny Archer and Efren Reyes, and taught by me, Hal Houle and others to an elite few before this article. I want to credit Hal rightly so don't confuse Houle's Pivot Aim with his controversial fractions and degrees aim system.

Ignore the contact point and aim at the object ball's edge using one tip of English, aligned with both hands one tip off center ball. Now leave your bridge hand in place and pivot the cue stick to center ball with your stroking arm only. Now you are aimed to cut the object ball to the pocket (for most shots). Seriously, you are.

Some trial and error is required based on your bridge length. I'll let you experiment with left or right ball edge and left or right English and in cutting balls extra thin. Here's a hint - absolute half ball hits use regular Pro Aim.

Swiveling the cue in the stance is not a smart idea, of course, so the pros kept this secret by an "edge and swivel" using eyesight alone before assuming the final, correct stance.

Pivot Aim will refresh your visual appraisal of the relationships between cue ball, object ball, and pocket. Try it, you might like it, but remember, aim system or sheer instinct, a pro locks onto the contact point and not empty ghost space with their vision.

In this article, I've revealed some of the chief pro aim secrets, the juicy secrets I learned early enough during my pool training tenure to become a good shooter. Don't miss my upcoming pool training article filled with stroke secrets. Credit me and About.com for bravery!

Matt "Quick Draw" Sherman has appeared many times internationally in print and on television promoting billiards and entertainment. He has taught hundreds of students and directed pool tournaments, leagues, fundraisers and adult ed courses. Sherman formerly directed pool at the University of Florida, which has produced six national champions.