CueTips Billiard Instruction – What Next?

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

Happy Holidays to all our readers. We wish you the best in health and happiness for the coming year.

Around this time of year we start to look ahead and think about the coming year and what our resolutions might be. This idea of looking ahead is what I want to look at in this article.

Take a look at this layout from a straight pool game.

Most intermediate players would play the nine ball into the corner pocket and go into the six. Now that might work some of the time, but let’s look ahead a little and see how many things could go wrong with this shot. First we could hit the six full and have the cue ball creep forward enough for the 12 to block any shots. The cue ball could also hit the six and wind up scratching in either corner pocket or winding up on the end rail. There is a lot that can go wrong with this shot.

However, look at playing the 5 up table. Perhaps a little more difficult shot, but where ever the cue ball stops, we will have a shot at the 14 in the side with the ten as a key ball to bail us out if we stick in the stack.

Let’s look at another example.

We could just go forward on the 10 as it is easy to reach and pick the 9 off hoping to go below the 9 for a break shot. What can go wrong with that? Well, we could not go far enough or go too far getting to the 9, we might not hit the cue ball hard enough and get stuck behind the 13, or we could wind up straight on the 6 and struggle to get off the end rail.

I like going forward on the 5 and getting under the 9. It is an easier position shot and the cue ball track from the nine to the stack goes right in to that little pocket that will contain the cue ball and not let it get away from me. If I don’t go far enough I can use the 6 to get on the nine from the other side.

The bigger picture here is that I try to take the option that has the least amount of things that can go wrong with it. In a lot of cases it is not bad luck that your cue ball wound up on the end rail!

Taking the extra time to ask what if, and find these traps will help keep your cue ball out of trouble and you can continue your run.

How does this apply to rotation games? Here is a diagram from a recent game I played in.

This looks pretty easy, just roll forward on the one and I’ll have the two in the corner. Darn, I went to far and now I have to over hit the 2 risking a miss, coming across the line of the 3. If I go too far getting on the 3 I’ll bump the 9 and might send it close to the 8, or worse, I can scratch off the 9 in the side.

But if I stop the cue ball or even come back a little, I just have to make the 2 ball with a draw shot and I’ll get a shot at the 3 with out having to hit any other balls. Now granted these shots look a little harder than the first approach, but if you look at what can go wrong, I think you’ll start to like the second way better.

So to review, we really have 3 options on most shots, go forward, stay in the general vicinity or come back. Of course this doesn’t apply to thin cue shots, but rather for the run of the mill 20 or so degree angle shots.

To pick the best option, run through each option looking for what can go wrong. Pick the option that has the least amount of trouble in it. Adopting this approach will keep you out of trouble more often and help you run more racks.


I’m going to spend some time on Christmas with my 3 year old grand daughter. We bough her a book on ballet dancing, “My First Ballet Book”. Now this is the girl that got detention in pre-school for beating up a 4-year-old boy and carries Iron Man around for her doll.

The neat part of the ballet book is that the first pages are devoted to having hair tied up, shoes clean and tied correctly, properly fitted clothes, tights the right size, etc. The attention to detail on the first page was mind-boggling to me.

So what does this have to do with pool you might ask. Let’s see. How many of you take the time to wipe down your cue shaft, dress and shape your tip and scuff it if it needs it, check the cue ball you are playing with to see if it is the right size (you would be amazed at how many cue balls I find that are small or big when they are supposed to be the same size), wearing comfortable clothes, and using good chalk.

The key point for little kids going to ballet class is making sure they have all the correct equipment in good order. They start this attention to detail at age 3 or so! Do us pool players do that?

Please take the time to keep your equipment up to speed. This will save you a miscue every once in a while, and that can be the difference.

Good luck and see you on the road.

Mark Finkelstein is the House Pro at Slate Billiards on 21st St. 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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