CueTips Billiard Instruction – More Straight Pool Ideas

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

By NYC Grind Contributor, Mark Finkelstein

With all the straight pool going on these days, I thought I’d take a look at some ideas from straight pool that seem to be missed by rotation game players today. The nice part of these ideas is that they apply to any game and will bring your thinking up a ball. Out thinking and out shooting your opponent makes for tough action.

The first idea is to look up table. Look at the diagram here. A lot of players would try to get on top of the balls, but if you look closely, one stop shot up table puts you in a nice triangle to take off the remaining balls and get a break shot.

Taking off the 14 with a stop shot puts you on the 15. A stop shot on the 15 gives you an easy one rail angle from the 5 down the line to the 3. This leaves a nice break shot on the 13. Notice that the cue ball hardly moved at all. And when it did, it was down the line towards the 3 and we could do that with a plain, vanilla rolling ball. Not much can go wrong here, and that is what we like.

The next idea is clearing the rails. We like to get balls off the rails as early as possible. This keeps lanes open for the cue ball and gives us places to push balls towards that won’t get tied up. However, there is one exception to this rule that has bailed me out plenty of times.

This exception is to keep a ball on the end rail until all the balls are separated and you are in your end game pattern.

In this situation, many players take off the 5, then the one to fall on the 9 and separate the cluster from the 3. This leaves the 4 and 6 as the last two and the remaining balls to figure out how to get on them.

But, since the balls are still clustered, I like to keep the 5 on the end rail! Here is why. I can still make the one and fall on the 9 to get on the 3 and break the cluster. But the 5 is insurance if I hit the 13 funny and wind up on the end rail! I have a shot down there to bail me out of jail. Keep this in mind when you still have balls clustered so that if your cue ball winds up on the end rail, you still have a shot.

The next idea is clearing off the corner balls and working your way in to the center. You just hit a great break shot and have this scatter.

Wow, with all those open shots, where do you start? I like chipping off the corners of this type of lay out. The 14 leads to the 7, then the 3 and back for the 11 or 15, the 5 and 12, etc. By picking off the corner balls, you are opening up paths to the pockets, making your pattern problems easier, and giving you easier shots and position. All good ideas to help you run more balls!

The last idea that will help you in all pool games is to walk around the table and look at the whole lay out. It is amazing to me how many good players just get down on a shot and shoot it, not bothering to look and see where their cue ball is going. Please don’t be that player.

Here is an example of this error in thinking.

All you need to do is make the 9 and get on the right side of the 3 to have a great break shot on the 6. So you just roll in the 9 and guess what, without paying attention you find out that the 3 is further off the rail than you thought and you are now on the wrong side of the 3! Now you need to do some work to get on the 6. Yes, we can do that work, but remember that the more work we have to do, the more likely it is we will make a mistake and our run will stop.

Good luck in your straight pool game.


It’s summer time and a great time to take your kids or grandkids to the park for a picnic. The only draw back to those picnics are the ants. I want to look a little at some ants that we have in our pool game. ANTS, or automatic negative thoughts, are a killer to a great pool game.

One of the underlying traits of all great athletes is the lack of negative thinking about their game and themselves.

To help you get a picture of how this works, think about a baby learning how to walk. How many times after it falls down does it call itself a stupid baby, you’ll never be a human being, etc.? Pretty funny image I think.

Well, stop the ANTS and your game will improve.

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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