Control it or Ignore it

By Samm Diep © January 2011

Samm Diep

You play pool because it’s fun. There’s also a part of you that enjoys the problem-solving aspect of the game. Your brain looks at the table and begins finding solutions to the puzzle. You can’t control it. That’s just how it works. It’s a game, which means there’s ultimately a winner. Your brain automatically begins to troubleshoot all the possible scenarios and outcomes to determine a way to the finish line.

What it’s overlooking is one significant detail. Your subconscious does not distinguish between can and cannot, e.g. things that you can or cannot control. Therefore, your brain will automatically attempt to fix anything, even if it may be out of your control.

In the problem-solving mode, the brain is involuntarily seeking solutions to ‘problems.’ In most cases, the problems may be how to get from the 3 ball to the 4 ball or should I bank this ball or play a safety? What you may not realize is that your brain will continue working overtime to address your other needs. Such as, the tables are awfully close together or these balls are terribly dirty. There may be other valid concerns that your brain will want to manage.

It’s instinctive to react when you’re uncomfortable or displeased with your surroundings, without considering whether or not they are even within your control. Instead, before changing your behavior to accommodate for the circumstances, ask yourself if what you’re reacting to is in your jurisdiction? If you are reacting to something that you cannot control then you shouldn’t be reacting at all because if it was out of your control to begin with, it will still be out of your control after you react.

Okay, let’s review.

Things you cannot control: Things you can control:
Your opponent plays a safety on you Making the best educated decision possible on how to make a good hit
Your opponent is running out on you Studying the table and being prepared for your next opportunity
The table rolls to the left Making a mental note to yourself and playing your next shot wisely
The spectators are being very loud Giving extra focus and attention to your mechanics and follow-through
Your opponent misses and accidently hooks you Taking deep breaths and remaining calm so you can think clearly and deliberately

The next time you’re in a match and you catch yourself distracted by something. First, ask yourself, “Is this something I can control right now?” If the answer is no, then just do your best and quit inviting unnecessary stress. If the answer is yes, then do what you can to address the issue. Control what you can and only focus on the things that can be controlled.

Samm Diep, “Cherry Bomb” (

House Pro at Rack ‘Em Billiards (Aurora, CO)

Author of “You Might Be A D Player If… (101 Classic Moves That All Pool Players Can Appreciate)”

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Pitching Curve Balls

Bob Jewett

by Bob Jewett

Can you make the object ball curve? There are some easy ways and some other ways that may be


Usually you want the object ball to take as straight a line as possible. This makes planning shots

much easier. Sometimes you would like the ball to curve some, and then you need to be creative.

The table can help in some situations. I first learned to play on a table that was tilted enough that

if you shot a ball off the spot from the kitchen, you could aim full at the ball and by the time the

cue ball got there, it would have moved a half a ball off-line which is just what you want for that

cut shot. When playing a straight-in shot, like the one ball in the diagram shooting with the cue

ball at A, all you had to do was shoot straight at the one ball with the right speed. The cue ball

would curve a little to the left in the short distance to the one ball, the one ball would go to the

right around the two and then take a big curve to the left to get to the pocket. For your next shot,

you could play the two ball slowly along the rail with just enough speed to get to the side pocket,

where it would take a hard left turn and score.

While such conditions can be amusing and even help you trim the suckers, they are not exactly

pool. A more legitimate way to make an object ball curve is to have it hit a cushion while rolling

smoothly on the cloth. Just bank a ball three cushions around the table and watch carefully as it

comes off the third rail — it will hook five or ten degrees right after the rail contact. On new, slippery

cloth, the hook might last for a foot of travel depending on the speed.

Similarly, if you shoot an object ball to travel a fair distance and it hits another object ball, it will

curve after the collision due to the follow it has picked up from the cloth.

On strongly napped snooker cloth, the ball is said to curve depending on whether it is running

with or against the nap, but I’ve never seen a noticeable effect.

But the most interesting kind of object ball curve is the sort shown in the diagram. Is it possible to

get some kind of spin on the object ball, presumably by putting the opposite kind on the cue ball,

to make it curve over enough to go into the pocket? There are some very good players who claim

to be able to do such shots, but I’ve never seen it demonstrated. I played with the shot for hours

after first hearing the claim and the best I could ever do was maybe a quarter-inch of curve in six

feet. Considering how many times I ran the one ball partly into the two in the attempts, one very

slight success is not promising. Maybe I just didn’t have the right idea about cue ball placement

and spin — I put the cue ball as shown and usually used right english. To see your progress, freeze

a third ball to the cushion at B and see how much of it you can hit.

So, here’s deal: if you can teach me how to make the one ball legally and consistently on good

equipment with curve — jumping the one over the two is easy but that’s not what I’m after — I’ll

buy dinner the next time we’re in the same place. You get to pick the restaurant, but your share

has to be less than two Ben Franklins.