CueTips Billiard Instruction – Learning to Control Cue Ball Speed

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Happy Holidays to all of our readers.

What I want to do in this article is to give you some ideas about learning how to control speed when you need to roll the cue ball to a specific spot. We have talked about playing good patterns and how to pick out triangles to make our job easier. Our focus was how to take the balls off without moving the cue ball too much.

However, when we play rotation games, a lot of the time we have to move the cue ball around the table. Judging the speed and how to get better at this speed control skill is what I want to look at here.

First, let’s look at a drill we have seen before from Bert Kinister. What we are doing is rolling one ball from to the end rail and then have it bounce off a little. The next ball rolls just a little further and so forth. If we hit the second rail or the ball doesn’t go as far as the last one, we start over. We have looked at this drill before and I hope you have been doing it. Here is what this drill looks like with 5 balls.

Once you get really good at this you will be well on your way to mastering speed control. Here is the secret. The thinner you hit the object ball, the less speed the cue ball loses. That means if you can hit the object ball thin, and use the speed to just roll the cue ball to the location you want, you will probably fall just a little short.

What that means is when we have good triangles and can play patterns with the cue ball moving only a little, we try to get as straight as we can on the next shot. However, when we need to roll the cue ball to a specific place, we would like to have as thin a cut as possible so that our problem is just rolling the cue ball to where we want it. The thin hit means that we lose very little of the cue balls energy when it hits the object ball. This simplifies our problem considerably.

Here is an example of how this works.

Cue ball A is hit with the speed to bounce off the end rail about one diamond. If we pocket the one ball, and use the same speed with a thin hit, the cue ball will travel about the same distance. What that means is that if you can control the speed of the cue ball by rolling it to the end rail, you can use a thin hit on the one ball and roll the cue ball to the end rail with the same speed of stroke!

Let’s see how that works in a real game.

In this layout, I could have drawn back from the one to get straighter on the 2. From the 2 I could draw or stun cue the ball into the short rail to get the cue ball up table for the 3. There is a lot that can go wrong with that approach.

What I think is a lot easier is to stop the cue ball on the one. That leaves me a thin hit on the two ball into the side pocket. Now all I have to do is figure out the speed to roll the cue ball from where it is using one rail to where I want it to go. Once I have that speed, I hit the two ball thin using that speed, and the cue ball should roll to just about where the end of the red arrow is. You will be amazed at how accurate your cue ball control will become once you get this down.

One more example before I turn you loose to practice this skill.

The cue ball pockets the two and come back to position A. I plan on playing the 4 in the side so I can roll down for the 5. If I go too far, I run the risk of getting on the wrong side of the 4. If I don’t go far enough, I have the scratch to contend with. I really need to put the cue ball on a dime.

Cue ball B in this diagram shows the speed I need to use. If I can figure what speed it would take to bounce off one rail and get to the middle of the table, I have the shot wired. Using that speed with a thin hit will get the cue ball to where I want it!!

Use this approach when you need to move the cue ball around and I think you will start to like the results.

As a final idea, you can use this thin hit idea when you have ball in hand as well. Setting up for a thin hit makes your speed control problem a lot more manageable.


Are you having fun playing pool? I’m serious about his question. Remember, pool is a game and we play it for fun. If you get angry at your mistakes, you are missing a great learning opportunity. Pool is a game that is too difficult to play perfectly. Everyone misses or makes mistakes.

How you handle those mistakes is what separates the great ones for the rest of the pack. The great ones learn from their mistakes, the average player gets mad and misses the lesson in their error.

When you miss a shot or make a position error, file it away for after the game. Attach no emotion to the error. After you match, review how you played and the errors you made. You can then design a practice session to help you get better.

No little child learns to walk without falling down, nor do they learn to ride a bike without falling off.

Good luck and see you on the road.

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

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

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