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.

Follow Perfection

Follow Perfection

by Bob Jewett

Bob Jewett

Back in 2005 I proposed an exercise in which you tried to make the nine ball with a series of draw shots from an object ball. Here is a new challenge which will help you perfect your follow angles and speed.

The goal is to make the nine ball into the corner pocket labeled “P” by pocketing the one ball in the side and following to the nine. You don’t have to make it in a single shot. Just leave the nine ball wherever you bump it to, put the one ball back in its spot and take the cue ball in hand. To place the one ball consistently, use a small chalk mark or a donut-shaped self-adhesive paper reinforcement.


In the diagram, I show some right English on the cue ball. If the cue ball hits the cushion just before the nine, the spin will help a lot. You can also play the shot without side spin, and that will be best when the nine ball is off the cushion. In any case, you will want full follow on the cue ball — that makes the angle the cue ball takes off the one ball more predictable.

At first, try to just bump the nine a little. If you hit it hard enough on the first shot to get it to the pocket, a full hit will knock the nine to the other side of the table. As you get to know the angle better, you can be more aggressive with the power.

Regulate the path of the cue ball by how full you hit the one ball. Since the one is going to return to exactly the same place on each shot, you should soon know where the cue ball will go when you shoot from the direction of the A or B diamonds, and gradually for points in between. For example, on your table you may find that if your cue stick is over diamond A when you shoot, the cue ball will land on the cushion by diamond C, and shooting from the direction of B will land on the short rail just to the right of pocket P.

Besides having full follow on the cue ball for all shots, you should try drive the one ball into the middle of the pocket. Putting it in the left or right side will change the carom angle a lot, so even though the shot to make the one ball is easy, precision pocketing is required to get the cue ball on the correct path.

If you knock the nine ball out into the middle of the table, you’re going to have to use extreme measures to get it back. Rather than use draw and try to hit the ball on the tough side, let’s say that you can spot the one ball in the middle of the table to herd the nine back to the left side.

To make this into a scored drill, count the number of shots it takes you to pocket the nine. An easy way to do this is to use the solids in order rather than just the one ball as the object ball so you have an automatic count. If you have a practice partner, challenge him to see who can do it in fewer shots. Try playing the strict rules in the challenge: the one ball has to go on the spot shown.