Tom Simpson ©
May 2000 – All Rights Reserved – PoolClinics.com
Tables and playing conditions vary considerably, but we have to be able to adjust to whatever conditions we’re faced with, and we have to adjust quickly. To adjust, we just need to look at a few things, and shoot a few “Reference Shots.”
We have to deal with enormous differences in table size, ranging from 3 x 6 up to 5 x 10. Big pockets are generous. Cloth makes a huge difference, ranging from very slow and sometimes inaccurate “fuzzy” cloth to very fast and very accurate worsted wool “no-nap” cloth. Cloth will be very fast and slippery when new, and slower and stickier as it wears and as it gets dirty. After all, where do you think all that chalk goes, every shot? It goes into and under the cloth. The liveliness of the cushions affects banks and kicks. Throw affects every cut shot. Here are 4 things to do to quickly get up to speed for any table:
1. Pocket size – Pockets vary in size. Bigger pockets accept more shot error than smaller pockets. Balls are 2-1/4” in diameter. Take two balls and hold them in a corner pocket, side by side, just at the point where they will fall in if you let go of them. How much gap is there between the balls and the jaws of the pocket? If the balls jam into the jaws, the pockets are very tight. If there is a ½” of space between the balls and the jaws, those pockets are buckets. It helps to know what you’ve got.
2. Table speed – Cloth speed varies tremendously. To get a feel for the speed of the table, shoot lag shots. Spend some of your practice time on the lag (cueball behind the head string, shoot down and back, ending up as close to the head rail as possible). You have to get to where you “own” this shot, and can shoot it reliably. Then, when you want to learn the speed of a table, shoot lags until you land several in a row within your typical accuracy range. At that point, declare to yourself that you have the speed of that table, and forget about it.
3. Cushions – Shoot the “geometric kick” from the corner pocket to the side pocket. Start with the cueball centered in front of a corner pocket. Shoot directly at the center diamond on the side rail. Always shoot this shot the same speed, and softly enough that the ball is rolling when it hits the cushion. Did the ball drop in the center of the side pocket? If so, this table is “neutral.” If not, aim a little short or long of the center of that center diamond, and keep adjusting until the ball falls. If you have to aim an inch short of the diamond to make the ball fall, the table banks long. Remember that, and aim your banks and kicks a little shorter than neutral.
4. Throw– Shoot the following Reference Shot to check out the maximum collision-induced throw. It’s mostly going to be related to how dirty or worn the balls are, and how humid it is. The more friction between the balls, the more throw. The more humid, the less throw. Throw is not a curve. It’s an angle change that happens at impact.
Freeze two balls together. Line them up straight down-table (the long way), at the head string, lined up between two diamonds. Place the cueball behind the balls, maybe a foot away, on the half-ball hit line toward the back ball. In other words, line up the cueball so there is a straight line between the center of the CB and the center of the back OB, and that line also hits the outside edge of the front OB (easier than it sounds – it’s 30 degrees off of the line through the frozen balls). Now, shoot the CB directly into the back OB with just enough speed to make the front OB go all the way to the end rail. Note where it hits the end rail. Measure how far it hit from the diamond it was lined up toward. Let's say that was 9”. How far did that ball travel to get to the end rail? Let’s say 6’. That means you can get a maximum 1-1/2” of throw per foot of ball travel (9/6). This is a lot, but it’s not uncommon.
This shot shows you the maximum because a) the 30 degree angle (half-ball hit) gives the maximum throw, b) the softer you shoot, the more throw you get, and c) stun produces more throw than spin does – the OB frozen to the front ball is a stunned ball. (A stunned ball is one that is not rolling at the moment of impact.)
Shoot this Reference Shot to find out the maximum, and estimate down from there.
Once you’ve done these four simple things, you’ll have a good feel for the table.