Top 10 Mistakes Made Using Pool English

Billiard Balls Set Up For Breaking Shot
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Putting pool English on a ball is a very difficult move that even professional players try to avoid. Pool English is when a cue ball is hit in a way that gives it side spin, also called English. English can also happen when a ball hits another ball or rail.

Here are 10 of the most common mistakes made when attempting to use pool English and how you can avoid them.

Confirm the Ball

English mistake #10 is not confirming your choice of ball to influence. With rare but possible exceptions, attempting left english on the cue ball should send the next ball it hits to the right and vice versa. An exception might include the fact that an object ball struck with left english has right english and will then transfer left english to a second ball it strikes in turn.

The amount of english transferred to this second (or third, etc.) ball is very small and effects are almost negligible. 

Billiards English Requires a Level Stick

English mistake #9 is failing to maintain a level cue stick. Elevating the cue stick far above a plane parallel to the upper portion of the shooting arm (roughly parallel to the table’s cloth surface, a nearly horizontal plane) can cause the cue ball to curve when struck with english. This would curve a left english cue ball to the left, therefore knocking an object ball further to the right of the shot line.

Therefore, your stick during billiards english must be a fairly level above the table. 

Sidespin Needs to Go Forward, Not Backward

English mistake #8 is striking upon by accident the mysterious sidespin phenomenon called “backwards english”. If a dash of twisting movement is applied with your cue stick very late during a left english stroke, so that it feels as if you are moving the cue tip left after it first strikes the cue ball, the ball can take on the effects of the english opposite the side you strike it on.

The physical explanation for backwards english gets complicated, so suffice it to say the left english you wanted behaves like right english. 

Keep Your Pool Ideas Focused Against Squirt & Deflection

English mistake #7 not watching out for squirt, otherwise known as deflection. When a ball squirts off the tip of your cue stick, it moves in the direction opposite the english chosen; it “squirts” away from that portion of the cue tip it strikes, on a slight miscue. That or a bit of deflection generated by the cue’s shaft flex sends the cue ball to the right (equivalent to a squirted shot, the terms can be used as synonyms) off a left english stroke.

In other words, with every physical action having an opposite reaction, striking the ball on its left side with a tip edge pushes it violently off line to the right. Squirting the cue ball to the right would have its own opposite reaction upon impact with the object ball, sending back to the left as one reader describes as they try to conceptualize these english pool ideas.

Three Kinds of English Techniques

English mistake #6 is using a pivot english stroke. There are three variants on english technique, one of which is the pivot english which is avoided even by pros as it is fraught with risk.

For pivot english, you would move only the shooting hand off center and not the bridge hand. You would be twisting the cue stick excessively before taking any stroke. All too easy to squirt off line (#4 above) with a pivot and mistakenly take an object ball to the left instead of the right side of the table with left-hand english.

For example, when striking with parallel left english, the center of my cue tip effects impact with the cue ball. If you hit left pivot english instead, the right edge only of the tip hits the cue ball, and often, squirts the cue to the right, cutting the object ball left.

Overall—don’t employ pivot english and avoid squirt.

Hitting the Cue Far From the Center

English mistake #5 is hitting the cue ball far from the center. The further to the edge of the ball you play with english, the more likely you are to squirt or deflect the action in error.

How far is too far? Think of the white space that surrounds the numbers on most object balls as a small circle. If this circle was on a cue ball, you’d want to keep tip contact within this circle.

Apply Billiard English With a Proper Tip

English mistake #4 is not reviewing the cue tip after an errant billiard english stroke. Look for telltale black spots on your tip after a bad roll. They indicate where the cue ball was miscued (too close to an edge) and also/or where chalk was incorrectly applied before the stroke was taken. Chalk right.


English mistake #3 is moving the balls not briskly enough to stay on line. A piece of choice billiard instruction--english takes more effect on slow rolling balls. Why? Because the rotational spin dominates over the forward or backward momentum imparted with the stroke.

Never strike a ball harder or faster than necessary, but keep them moving fast enough and they won’t roll very far off line. Which begs the next point of billiard instruction regarding keeping ‘em close to the pockets with english.


English mistake #2 is applying english to object balls over a foot distant from the intended pocket. Doing such hampers and dampens billiard aiming. In most cases, english is best used to influence cue ball path, after the cue ball strikes a cushion and after it has already struck an object ball.

From the above points discussed so far, you can see how english complicates matters, and it is already difficult to judge aim before altering the natural path of an object ball with pool english. Leave excessive pool english for simple billiards aiming, when you have an easy “cinch” of a shot. Which leads us in turn, to the number one point.

Use Less English

English mistake #1 is not leaving english billiards shots to the suckers. Avoid english (more than trace amounts) like the bubonic plague. Sure, it comes into play at times, especially for games requiring vigorous cue ball movement such as 9-Ball. But practicing center ball strokes—and getting better at them—and making more and more cut shots successfully—will help you win more.

In a game of Straight Pool between two skilled combatants, english is employed on perhaps 1 or 2 of every 100 shots taken. Less english, more successful billiards shots.