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CueTips Billiard Instruction – Another Gem from Bud Harris

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

By NYC Grind Contributor, Mark Finkelstein

I just came back from Houston.  Great city and lots of fun, but I was stuck in a hotel near the airport, no car and two pool tables at the bar.  Now for most people that would be boring as hell, but I was in paradise.

I could play pool all night and not even have to take a train home!  It was like living in a pool room.  Anyway, playing on those crowded bar boxes had me playing a lot of rail first and ticky shots.  I want to share with you a technique I learned from a great 3 cushion and pool player from the 50’s and 60’s, Bud Harris.

He called this the 7/10ths rule and you will see in a minute where this name comes from.  We will look at some applications of this and how you can use it to play rail first shots and figure out ticky shots.

Another Gem from Bud Harris - Diagram 1

Here is the basic set up for this shot.  The problem we have is to hit or pocket the 1 ball.  Unfortunately, the 9 ball is blocking a direct path to the 1.  I suppose you could jump over the nine, but this close to the rail and the pocket scares me a little as I can scratch.  A massé is also an option, but massé shots are hard to control.

A rail first shot is about the best option here!  There are other methods of figuring out these shots, but stick with me for a little and you will see the beauty in this method as we extend the concept to other shots.

The first step is to find the ghost ball position to pocket the ball we are shooting at.  That is cue ball A in the diagram.

The next step is to mirror that cue ball position into the rail.  The mirror is the edge of the rail, and cue ball B is the mirror image of the ghost ball position we need to pocket the one ball.

Now the chalk is placed at 7/10ths of the distance from the edge of the rail to the mirror image cue ball (B).  Our job is to aim straight at the chalk (7/10ths) position with running English.

You will either pocket the one ball or come really close!  You might have to adjust your speed for how springy the rails are, but once you get the hang of this, you can get pretty close on these one rail shots.

Now, let’s extend this concept to some other useful tools to help us solve problems.

In this diagram, we need to hit the one  ball and it would be nice to pocket the nine and end the frame!  Here is how we figure out this ticky shot.

Another Gem from Bud Harris - Diagram 2

Again, cue ball A is the ghost ball position we want the cue ball to be in.  Cue ball B is the mirror image into the rail.  The chalk is placed 7/10ths of the way towards the mirror image.  Shoot this shot with a rolling ball and running English with speed adjusted to your rails.  The cue ball will come off the back side of the one and pocket the 9!  This is the dead nuts!

Now let’s look at one move example from nine ball where you want to kick behind the one ball and push the cue ball someplace to your advantage.  Again, we can use our 7/10ths rule.

In this next diagram we have a way to play a strong safe and really tie up our opponent.

Another Gem from Bud Harris - Diagram 3

Again, cue ball A is the ghost ball position that we want our cue ball to be in, cue ball B is the mirror image into the rail, and the chalk is at the 7/10ths point from the edge of the rail to the center of cue ball B.  Make sure you always use the center of the ghost ball to make your measurements with!  Use the speed that works on your rails and you will get a result similar to what you see here.

This technique comes up in one pocket, nine ball and eight ball and will help you get out of some sticky situations.

Not only can we use this with the cue ball, but we can also use this with an object ball as well.

Here is an example from a game of 8 ball.

Another Gem from Bud Harris - Diagram 4

Make the 2 with a carom shot off the 14, you’ll free up the 5, and be straight in for the 6.  From here you have the 3, 4, and then the 5, 1, 7 and two rails to the 8 in the side!  The key part to this shot is using the right speed to get the 5 up by the side pocket so you can play it off the 4!

Here we go again with our rule.  Cue ball A is where we want the ghost 2 ball to be.  Cue ball B is the mirror image of the two ball into the rail.  7/10ths of the distance from the edge of the rail to the center of ghost ball B is marked by the chalk.  Now all we have to do is shoot the two ball into the chalk with the correct speed.

We pocket the 2, push the 5 near the side pocket and run this rack out!  Pretty neat stuff.


I learned something this weekend that I want to share with you.  It is the difference between awareness and knowledge.

There is a lot of information out there that gives you awareness of things–have a level stick, keep your head still, stroke softly, grip the cue lightly etc.  What is missing though is the way for you to develop this skill!

Just because a guru makes you aware of something is not enough.  What you also need is a way to develop that skill on your own.  If you are left wondering how to do something, then you are aware of it, but you don’t really understand it in your body.

This is an important concept.  Being aware of things will improve your game a little, but understanding something in your body will make you a much better player.

The key questions to ask any expert that is making you aware of something are, “How do I make that concept part of my game?” and, “ What do I need to practice or do that will get my body doing the right thing?”

As an example, good posture is something everyone tells you to use when you are in the chair.  It is intimidating to your opponent and keeps your mind in the game.  That’s awareness.

Sitting on the edge of your chair with your head up and doing five basic posture exercises every day gives you body understanding.  Doing the exercises will get the good posture into your body.  That’s understanding.

This is an important difference.  Good luck and see you on the road.

Mark Finkelstein is the House Pro at Slate Billiards on 21st Street in Manhattan.

If you have questions, or would like to see a particular topic addressed, you can email Mark at

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