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CueTips Billiard Instruction – Run Stoppers

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

By NYC Grind Contributor, Mark Finkelstein

I’m off to Tampa to teach another seminar with Tom Simpson. I always enjoy working with people that are improving their game.

This week I want to look at ways that our runs stop, and some ways to eliminate some of these errors. Small improvements over time make for big gains in your game.

First is missing the shot! A lot of misses come about because we shoot the shot with out a clear picture in our mind of what we want to do with the shot, and we jump up. Make sure you finish every shot. Have a clear idea of what you are doing on the shot and stay down on the shot.

This means you have to slow down a little and have a plan. Watch any good player and you will see how much time they take on some shots. They don’t get down until they have a clear picture in their mind what they want to do.

The next run stopper is losing the cue ball. Their are two things to look at here. Play better patterns that don’t have the cue ball moving around so much, and secondly, shoot softer. The less the cue ball moves, the easier it is for you to control where it will stop.

These run stoppers probably aren’t much of a surprise to you, but I want to add 3 other to this list as a lot of advanced players fall into these traps.

Losing the middle ball in a combination stops a lot of nice runs.

What happened in this diagram is that after cutting the one ball to the right, it kept going to the long rail. Our shooter was so focused on making the shot, that the cue ball only went to the end rail, not leaving a high percentage shot on the one. Make sure you take the extra time to figure out how to play position on the middle ball so that your run can continue.

The next area that stops runs is blasting away at a dead shot, and then winding up with no next shot.

This is the kind of cruel fate you that can happen to you if you blast away at dead balls and don’t take the time to play position on another ball. The trick is to know where the cue ball is heading and control the speed and the other balls so that you are left with some options.You’d have to look really close, but this combination might also work if you went in to the 7 first, leaving you the 11 no matter what else happened. The specifics of this particular dead shot are not as important as the idea, when you have a dead shot, don’t just blast away at it, make sure you play position on the next shot so your run continues.

The next run stopper that I want to look at is separating clusters of 2 to 4 or 5 balls. Again, if you are not careful, it is easy to stick on a ball or get left with out a shot.

Look what happened to me the other day. I was on a nice little run. cruising right along, and I thought I was going to hit the 8 on the side nearest the 2 to leave me another shot. I didn’t take enough time and wound up stuck on the back of the 8 with out another shot! The trick is to take adequate time planning the shot so that you don’t make the mistake I did.

The final run stopper I want to look at is bumping in to balls when you don’t have to. Eliminate this error and your game will come up at least one ball. Pay attention for a week how many games are lost or thrown away because the player bumped a make-able ball. Watch how good players take pains to not hit other balls!


The Japanese have an expression called ‘kaizen’, and it means steady improvement. Adopting this attitude for our pool game will help you play better. Every miss, loss or bad game isn’t seen as an ego destroying event, but rather as an opportunity to learn something. As CJ Wiley says, “the game is the teacher”.

After every miss, loss or bad shot, when you have a quiet moment, rather than beating yourself up, ask what the game is trying to teach you. I miss a lot of shots when I am teaching and have learned I can’t shoot and talk at the same time. If you take the time to learn the lesson of each miss, and apply it to your game, you will get better.

This accepting your errors and working on fixing them is the path to mastery in pool!

Tampa Friday!

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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