CueTips Billiards Instruction – Three Cue Ball Routes

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

By NYC Grind Contributor, Mark Finkelstein

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  It seems this year we all have a lot to be thankful for.

What I want to do in this article is show you three position routes for the cue ball, and ways to practice them.  Just knowing these routes is not enough.  You have to be able to shoot it when you need it.  Master these routes, and you will win more games.

Bruce Lee once said that he didn’t fear the man with 10,000 moves, but the man who practiced one move 10,000 times.  Master these three routes, and you will be feared!

This first route is great for going down toward the end rail with your cue ball, and then getting back up table.  Look at the diagram:

3 Cue Ball Routes - Diagram 1

What you do here is blend the hit on the object ball and the spin to control exactly where the cue ball is going.  The idea is to pocket the object ball, and gently bump each ball on the rail in order.  Once you can do them in order, randomly try to hit a number!  This step is important.  You want to build the skill of being able to come with a shot right now, not after 3 tries.

Once you can accurately hit a spot on the second rail, you are able to project the pathe out when you hit the cue ball harder.

The next route comes up in every 9-ball game I have ever played in, and you need to own this route.  Take a look:

3 Cue Ball Routes - Diagram 2

I have deliberately left out the track that avoids the side pocket!  I don’t want to be practicing failure.

To make controlling the cue ball a little easier here, I like to go in to the rail perpendicular to the rail, and use spin to control the direction off the rail.  This is a little easier to manage than trying to precisely control draw over that much distance.  Also please realize that the effect you are looking for is at the moment of impact with the object ball, and not what you put on the cue ball.  Some spin and draw will be dissipated by the cloth before contact with the object ball.

Another factor that you need to consider is that the cue ball picks up about a half a tip (one tip from the center) of spin on a cut shot, so all your calculations will be a little short if you don’t factor this in.

Once you can progressively work your way up and down this ladder, randomly try to hit each number.  You will be glad you spend time working on this drill.

The last cue ball route I want you to practice is here:

3 Cue Ball Routes - Diagram 3

This is another route that you can play for, and be glad you own.  Most of you can swing around three rails and get somewhere on the long rail, but I want you to be able to accurately pick the spot on the long rail that you will hit.  This will help you avoid unnecessary collisions, scratching, or getting yourself hooked.

Mastering these routes will give you tools to precisely put the cue ball where you need it to be.  One of the main differences between A and B players is that A players always seem to get a little closer to the next shot and on a little better angle.  This knowledge is how you do that!


I don’t know why but I have been thinking a lot about John Wooden lately and the basketball dynasties he created at UCLA.  The story that sticks in my mind is that he would always drill his players on how to put their socks on correctly!  Can you imagine?

But the more I think about that, the more I like it.  Coach Wooden was teaching his players to pay attention to detail.  It is doing all the little things correctly that make a big difference.

Are you putting your bridge down exactly where you want it to be, or are you just putting it on the table without thinking?  Are you chalking your stick before every shot correctly, or do you just chalk up randomly?  Is your stick perfectly level on difficult shots, or is it just close enough?  Are you properly hydrated and fed before a long tournament day?

Paying attention to these little details will win you a game here and there, and at the end of the day may be the difference between winning the whole tournament or finishing just out of the money.  Now about putting on those socks….

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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