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CueTips Billiards Instruction – Doing Simple Things Well

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

By NYC Grind Contributor, Mark Finkelstein

With all the excitement at the US Open and heading to Florida to teach with Tom Simpson, I’m having a great week of pool. One magic part of the game is watching how simple really good players make the game seem.

Before we look at making things simple, one big shout out to Bob Jewett for a great showing at the US Open! I really admire his efforts and leadership. Thank you Bob for getting in the box and setting the example. You might have lit a fire under me as well!

This past few days I took some time to try and see what it was exactly that these great players were doing so well to make the game look simple. Were they making amazing shots? Or perhaps pin point 5 rail position?

Well, the answer may surprise you. The great players don’t hit those ‘King Kong’ shots much better than a really good player! But what they do though is play those simple shots perfectly every time! They don’t get close on the slow forward rolls, they get perfect. They don’t kinda stop the ball, they stop it dead!

It is in the execution of these simple skills perfectly that lets them string together rack after rack and play such wonderful pool.

Let’s take a look at some old time drills that exercise these basic skills, but with an eye towards perfection, and not just coming close. Take the pains to get this stuff right, and your game will jump by leaps and bounds.

Here is our first drill.

Doing Simple Things Well - Diagram 1

What we want to do here is make the object ball and roll the cue ball forward in a straight line stopping exactly opposite the 1, 2, 3 ball etc. Being a half diamond off is not “close enough”!

Having the ability to roll the ball forward to exactly where you want is an invaluable skill that gets you on the right side of a ball for an easy out, rather than winding up short and having to go three rails with a collision to get back in line. This skill is well worth mastering.

Next up is controlling your draw stroke. Take a look at this diagram.

Doing Simple Things Well - Diagram 2

What you want to do here is pocket the object ball, and draw back exactly! opposite the 1,2 3 ball etc. It is not good enough to get close. Also, it is very important to stay within a diamond of the long rail on this shot. Not only does this help you master your draw stroke, but you also will be practicing the master skill of stroking the cue ball in a straight line.

Imagine having the skill to draw back in a straight line to exactly where you want to be! Please spend the time working on this, you will be glad you do.

We have sharpened our follow and draw skills, and now let’s work a little on our cue ball directional skills. This drill has been around for ages and is still well worth the time you spend on it.

The set up looks like this.

Doing Simple Things Well - Diagram 3

The cue ball and object ball are each one diamond from the long rail, and exactly opposite the point of the side pocket. Your job is to pocket the object ball and hit each of the numbered balls in order. Give yourself 3 tries on each shot and keep score to measure your progress if you are so inclined. This old time drill can be a real eye opener for some of you intermediate and advanced players!

We have looked at follow, draw and direction skills and taken the next step in perfecting these skills by revisiting old time favorite drills.

The last drill is another drill from the past that will combine a lot of what we just worked on and help you develop your pattern skills.

We have seen this before, but as we are revisiting old time favorites, I wanted to include it.

Doing Simple Things Well - Diagram 4

The object here is to pocket all the balls, and not hit another ball or any rail. This will test your thinking ability and cue ball control ability. Be honest with yourself when you do this. How many times out of ten can you run this out?

These drills are the beginner drills, that we have all done many years ago and forgotten. What I want you to do is dust them off, and find those areas in your game that have gotten a little weak or rusty. Sharpen the basic skills and you will see your game flourish.

I think Bruce Lee said that he didn’t fear the man that did 10,000 moves once each, but rather he feared the man that did one move 10,000 times!

Get these simple skills perfect, and you will be playing like the big dogs!


Here is a game for you to play to help you develop your concentration skills, cue ball control ability, and pattern play. The game is called Cribbage and it goes like this. Rack 15 balls randomly and break. You can start with ball in hand.

The object of the game is to pocket two balls that add up to 15. So you might shoot the 1 and then the 14. After that, you can shoot perhaps the 6 and then the 9. The last ball is the 15. See how rolling forward an exact amount makes getting on the 14, 6 and 9 easy. Miss this position and you are in trouble. One more time is that the great players get this easy roll shot exact every single time!

Doing Simple Things Well - Diagram 5

How many racks can you run out? Do you have difficulty running one rack? Where do you get in trouble? What skills do you need to work on?

This game is a great test of your concentration, thinking and execution skills. Try it and you might get hooked.

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

This entry was posted in Pool Instruction, The Latest and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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