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Aiming Secrets of the Pros

by Various Pros


From: dwhite1
Subject: Aiming Secrets of the Pros
Date: 03-18-2001

Several people were interested in the Pool and Billiard article that had aiming 'secrets' of several pros. I found the article, which is in the July, 1995 issue. For brevity, I'll just post the relevant points. For my 2 cents worth, I don't see any secrets here. Just look at the spot you need to hit, and practice until it becomes second nature. Anyway, here goes:

Excerpts from article written by Shari J. Stauch

AIMING- THE SECRET OF POOL OR BASIC INSTINCT... Dozens of Top Pros Give Up Their Aiming Secrets.

[Paraphrasing the opening paragraphs]: The "ghost ball" teaching method is best, and several, though not all pros agree. Instinct eventually takes over when aiming, but it is nice to have a system to fall back on when you're not seeing the shots very well that day.


Vicki Paski:
I picture the ghost ball; seeing a ball behind the object ball that I want to replace with my cue ball. This is easier for most people than finding an exact spot on a round object that you must hit with another round object.

Dawn Hopkins
agrees: The way I do it is look at object ball to pocket, and picture the ghost ball, then extend a line straight from the cue ball to the object ball.

Roger Griffis:
slight variation to this. I use the ghost ball and dissect the ball into 90 degrees. Both kind of give you a picture of where you hit the ball, then, once you learn it you begin to play by feel.

Bonnie Arnold:
sticks with visualizing where the ball has to hit the pocket When I'm aiming, I look at the pocket and I visualize where the ball has to go in the pocket. Then I look at the spot on the object ball, and visualize the cue ball to the object ball to the pocket.

Steve Mizerak:
The way I find the target or contact point on the OB (object ball) is to visualize an imaginary line from the back of the pocket through the OB. During my warm up strokes, my eyes move back and forth between the cue ball and the target point. I use one or two low strokes, as if I'm going to draw the ball, on all shots because that gives me confidence in hitting the cue ball correctly -- because the bottom of the cue ball is the strongest foundation to build on. [my note - I still don't understand why some pro's do this] I have no special tricks for cutting the ball or shooting a ball down a rail....It's very hard to tell a person how to aim. Pocketing balls is an instinctive skill that is learned from trial and error. It can't be mastered from playing once a week. Instead of hitting twenty balls to learn a shot, I hit two hundred balls. I haven't found an easier way yet.

BASIC INSTINCTS "Steve brings up a solid point that was repeated by many professionals. Aiming has become second nature, muscle memory has taken over. Trial and error over hundreds of thousands of shots made and missed by top pros over dozens of years of competition -- heck, who needs to visualize anymore?..."

Kelly Oyama:
There is no set way for me. I jsut look at the pocket and look at the ball and assume I then know where to hit it. But I'd like to read the article-- maybe there's a better way.

Loree Jon Jones:
Aiming comes naturally for me, where I've always just known where to hit. It's very difficult for me to teach people to aim because of this.

Mike Massey:
I've tried a lot of systems but mostly you have to play from feel. You have to practice all types of feel, practice all type of hits. To start you can use the angle of the half ball hit a lot because it's easy to judge. You just build your instincts and you muscle memory -- that's what I did.

Tony Ellin:
I would say that aim is basically trial nad error and instinct, using your judgment, I may look at the path from the pocket through the object ball, but I hardly do that anymore. You develop an instinct for aiming from playing all the time.

Howard Vickery:
There's no real way for me to explain it except to hit it with the right impact. Your hand-eye coordination compensates for the difference in the roundness of the balls.

"...whatever your original aiming method...does the hand-eye coordination eventually begin to compensate for failings in your method, optical illusions or tired eyes? If so, how long does it take?"

Earl Strickland:
I've played so much that I don't have to think about it. But I also spin the balls in, as I think many of the pros do; they're using so much english all the time.Pros spin the ball in the hole and that's mostly from feel. If your'e really going to learn to aim, you have to know better how to spin the ball, and what effect that's having on the OB. Amateurs who don't spin the ball will have an easier time with straight aiming.

Mark Jarvis:
I aim by portions of the ball, I don't aim at one particualar spot -- but then again, I'm on the loser's side! But seriously, the portion of the ball I'm looking at depends on where I'm sending the cue ball. For me, most of it is feel and memory from shooting each shot many times.

X MARKS THE SPOT - in contrast to a portion of the ball and basic instinct theory is the "single spot."

Ewa Mataya Laurance
offers the most detailed explanation of this theory. Aiming is a four-step process. First, draw a line from pocket through the center of the ball to find the spot you want to hit. Then make up your mind, before you get down on the shot, as to whether or not you need to apply english. Find your new exact spot and just keep your eye on that. Once you're down on the shot, move your eyes back and forth between cue ball and OB. Everydody says look at the OB, but that's not enough, look at that tiny spot. If you miss then, it could be a problem with your mechanics, not your aim.

Nikki Benish:
This is how I learned, but I doubt if I use it anymore because when you're a pro every shot you see you've seen and shot a least a hundred times before. On the toughest shots I was taught to try to pick out a spot on the OB, combined with the imaginary cue ball method. by finding the spot, I mean like if the OB was a stripe ball, maybe I could mark my aim spot as right at the edge of the stripe and the white on the ball, or say to myself, on this one, hit just to the left of the number.

Allen Hopkins:
"I aim at a spot on the OB with center cue ball. A lot of it is feel, when you play as often as I do. you start finding that spot real easily. Occasionally I'll aim the cue stick toward the pocket through the ball to find that spot.

George Breedlove:
I know when I'm shooting, I'm looking at the OB when I pull the trigger, but I find my spot on the ball on the table, looking at the base of the ball where it touches the table, not at any actual spot on the ball.

Tommy Kennedy:
I look at the OB straight ahead, and then look little by little to the right or left of the ball. I keep going until I see the spot where it's going to hit the bigger part of the pocket.

Michelle Adams:
I stand behind where the cue ball and OB are in a straight line, and then I move to where I know I have to hit it. Somebody explained this to me once, and I thought it wasn't very smart, but it works!

Jim Rempe:
First of all you have to aim differently with different cues, because some cues deflect more than others. A cue also deflects more or less depending on how hard you hit the ball. I play with a Meucci, that doesn't deflect, so I aim directly at the contact point. I also use the ghost ball theory, but it's more repetitious in you mind whn you play a lot. In other words, I don't really visualize the ball anymore, it's automatic.

Belinda Bearden:
I pick out the point on the OB in line where the pocket must be struck. Depending on the angle, you can tell which part of the cue ball must hit the OB. But any time english is applied, a slight adjustment for deflection must be made. Depending on the amound of english applied, you will be aiming with a different part of the cue ball to hit the OB.

AIMING WITH WHITEY Another theory, aiming with the cue ball:

Nesli O'Hare:
The technique I use was taught to me by Efren Reyes. According to Efren, there are three kinds of hits on any OB. First, there's looking at the center of cue ball to the point of aim if the shot is a full ball hit. If not, you can divide the OB into four quarters, sighting your cue ball edge to the point of aim. When using inside english with a medium to hard stroke, you don't change the point of aim. With outside english, you aim a sixteenth of an inch fuller on the OB than you normally would. But, all bets are off when using a soft stroke, because of deflection, etc.

Efren Reyes:
further explains...When you put a lot of english on the cue ball you adjust a little bit, often aiming exactly at the contact point of an OB. So it very much depends on my next shot how I will aim.

Sammy Jones:
(husband/coach of Loree Jon Jones) agrees. It depends on the shot itself. When aiming at a straight in shot, you're aiming both balls directly in the center. If aiming at a thin cut shot, you imagine the edge of the cue ball hitting the edge of the OB.

Ray Martin:
I use parts of the cue ball. In other words, if you were to have a straight in shot, you're aiming with the middle of the cue ball to the middle of the OB. Now let's say the OB stays in the same place and you move the cue ball six inches to the left. Now you're aiming with only a part of the cue ball. I'm not going to stress 1/2 ball, 1/4 ball here, because that's way too broad -- the difference could be two degrees or a sixteenth of an inch! The important thing to remember is the spot on the OB never changes. It is a constant.

...Some aim with the cue stick itself, but with a great diversity in their methods.

Reed Pierce:
I take the cue stick and try to line it up in line. I just pick the spot in the center of the OB, and aim towards that. Even if you need to cut a ball real thin, you just still need a square hit, so you aim for the contact point with your cue.

Robin Bell:
When I line up on the cue ball to the OB, I first visualize the actual location on the OB where I need to hit it. Then I put my cue down towards that spot. When I'm down shooting I'm sending the cue straight through the cue ball to that spot on the OB. Picturing it that way allows me to always follow through.

Mary Guarino:
I aim with the shaft of my cue stick. If you're hitting a staight-in shot, obviously, you cue is in the center. I imagine the cue ball is in quarters. In example for 15 degree cuts, you split the quarter. For a thirty degree cut I split the edge with my shaft and 45 degree cuts I use the edges of my shaft.

Nick Varner:
What I do is use parallel lines. The first line I see is a line from the edge of the cue ball toward the contact point on the OB. I keep my shaft on a parallel line to that and if you're cutting the ball to the left of that line, it will be on the right. But if you're using left english, it will be the same line, and with center or right english, it will be parallel. Once I shoot, my eyes are actually focused on the contact point on the OB.

Loree Jon Jones:
Sometimes I look at the angle between the cue ball, OB and pocket, and stroke through to that spot, looking at the OB last.

Jeff Carter:
[edited out first part]...What you look at first or last, the cue ball or OB, varies from shot to shot. On a long shot, of course I'm going to watch the cue ball go up to the OB. Let your eyes do what they want to do naturally, but keep you head down, that's what's most important.

Michelle Adams:
[leans towards looking at the OB last], except on the break shot, or a masse or jump shot, where you need to pay more attention to where you cue tip will contact the cue ball.

Sammy Jones opts for honesty.
"I wish I knew! I'd lean towards looking at the OB last, but I have never figured that out. What's interesting to note is that when the top pros line up, Buddy Hall is a good example, the cue tip is the distance of a razor blade's width from the cue ball."

Loree Jon
then explains that this only proves the OB last theory. "It's like that trick shot where you line up, take the cue out of your bridge hand, slide it back in, look away and shoot. Once you've lined up, you don't need to see that cue ball, a top player is going to know they're there."

Summing up the more commonly heard theory is Allen Hopkins who says, "I look first at the cue ball, then OB, then back and forth from the cue ball to OB, always looking at the OB last."

THE FINAL SECRET There you have it, the secrets of aiming from dozens of the top players who do it best. But then again, is the secret really out? #2 ranked CJ Riley offers that you must aim before you get down on the ball by lining up correctly, of course, but adds that as far as his aiming method itself, "There are certain things you don't tell. Last time I wrote anything about aiming, somebody copied it and started selling it."

I considered Chinese water torture, but I don't think he would've cracked.

I guess the secret may still be out there...somewhere. [End of Article]

The article paraphrased and quoted above was written by Sheri J. Stauch.

Hope it was least I got some good typing practice in.

D. White