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Short Article on Using English

Short Article on Using English

On any given billiards shot can you tell me, in less than a millimeter, exactly where the cue ball will strike the object ball? I asked this question to Cowboy Jimmy Moore once and his answer was, "Are you kidding? I just shoot. If I had to think about exactly where I strike the object ball I would go nuts". If you ever saw Cowboy Jimmy Moore play you could easily understand his answer. He was one of the best and most natural billiards players ever to play the game. Many of us 'old timers' thought Jimmy had the best stroke in the game - it was literally magic in motion.

As a consequence of his great stroke Jimmy often played in what I call the automatic mode. He could tune the world out and execute shot after shot with methodical precision - and because he also was a great 3 cushion billiards player he could use the rails as well as any billiards player who ever played the game.

The real point I am making in describing Cowboy Jimmy Moore is at some point in a professional billiards career you have to be able to play in the automatic mode. Aiming has to become as natural walking and you have to understand the rails and how to use them. If you have to consistently think about every shot and how to get to the next shot you are doomed to mediocrity.

Every great professional player understands the automatic mode because it precludes all great billiards play. Imagine making any shot automatically. You do not think you just execute and execute and execute. Played at its best the automatic mode gives you access to oblivion where everything around you disappears and it is only you against the table. It is a state of mind where you believe you can do anything with a cue ball and you do it.

So where does all of this billiards magic come from? First it takes years of practice and a lot of thought as to how to achieve a consistent, fluid cue stroke. You also have to be able to distinguish subtle angles between your pool cue, the cue ball and the object ball - this is essential. Last but not least you have to be able to see or at least understand how your pool cue is penetrating the cue ball.

Most, if not all professional billiards players, realize it is nearly impossible to stroke a cue ball without imparting some form of english, no matter how small, on the cue ball. If this is true then it stands to reason this natural english needs to be put to good use. Once you understand this basic fact you are on your way to developing a much better billiards game.

To amplify what I have just said - many professionals do not see natural english as a problem with their stroke. Quite the contrary. Most professional billiards players use this english to enhance their game. Some even carry it to extremes and rarely take a shot without imparting purposeful english to the cue ball.

To make an illustration on pool cue trajectory - imagine taking an orange and with a felt tip pen make a small dot anywhere on the orange. On the exact opposite side of the orange draw a circle about the size of a quarter. Now take a long needle and penetrate the orange using the dot as your point of entry and exit the orange anywhere inside the diameter of the circle.

Now keep using the dot as your point of entry and the circle as an exit point see how many times you can penetrate the orange and stay within circle. As you can see there are a considerable number of separate trajectories (paths of penetration) through the orange which begin at a single point and still end up within the circle.

So what does this stupid illustration mean? It means that as you are stroking a cue ball there are many ways to penetrate a cue ball and thus many ways to impart english on the cue ball. Granted these trajectory paths are only separated by millimeters but realize this difference (or error) is amplified the further you are from the object ball. This is why great shot making is so difficult. The human being is not a machine which can easily measure angles within millimeters let alone consistently make shots which require precision within millimeters.

Here are 2 important facts to keep in mind when trying to improve your billiards stroke.

Fact #1 - Because the average billiards player can only stoke a cue ball within 3 millimeter diameter accuracy it should be easy to understand why so many billiards players miss so many shots. They are unwittingly imparting english to the cue ball which in turn modifies the intended cue ball path. Likewise the trajectory of their pool cue varies shot to shot adding even more error. I am of course attempting to describe a player with half a cue stroke to begin with.

Fact #2 - Even if you could strike a cue ball perfectly every time without imparting english, the cue ball does not sit the table as well as a cue ball struck with purposeful, controlled english. In short, english can and does supply the control necessary to hold an intended line. Put another way so-called perfect stroking (without english) will splatter the cue ball in unpredictable ways.

I will grant you that novice players need to use much less english than professional players but none-the-less every billiards player must somehow learn to use english to their advantage. If you cannot learn to see how english applied to the cue ball is affecting your shot, you will always be dead in the water.

Because the mental approach to billiards is so diverse trying to tell a player how to think and how to visualize a shot is really impossible. We all see and visualize the world in different ways. All I can really tell you is that if you have a good eye and hand coordination and you practice long enough your shot making will become automatic - meaning you will automatically see the shot with little or no thought. Also you will begin to see english as essential to great shot making.

Here is example of how I personally stroke a long straight shot. If I were to place 2 dots exactly opposite each other and 1/4 inch below center on a cue ball my pool cue trajectory would be through the first dot and come out slightly to the right and just below the second dot. Whatever english this particular pool cue trajectory imparts to the cue ball it works for me. I can make shot after shot when my game is on and not worry about my stroke. On the other hand if I try to penetrate the cue ball dot to dot or from the first dot to just below the second dot I start to splatter shots and thus reducing my accuracy. Please note I am not recommending this particular shot. All I am saying is how I personally use english to stabilize long, straight shots.

On steep cut shots I tend to use outside english and literally spin the cue ball into the cut. Here again using english on cut shots is an art form in itself and varies widely from player to player. It really boils down to a lot of practice and whatever works well for you.

In closing I want to point out that many professional players will disagree with what I have said here and this is fine. The refined use of english in billiards has always been a very debatable subject with all top players. The important issue is that you at least understand the alternatives english brings to the billiards table. Also note that sooner or later you will have to learn to use english regardless of your shooting methodology. This means you will always have a choice as to how you use english to best enhance your billiards game.

Good luck and good shooting.

Short Article on Using English

Replies & Comments

  1. sundownrpool tyre on 11/12/2012 8:14:10 AM

    parting spin on the cue-ball catches the eye of the spectator, it's difficult to explain in words when to use spin on what shot, the ideology i would like to stick to is when necessary apply half tip width off centre spin at near medium pace.

  2. sundownrFenwick on 11/16/2012 10:04:44 AM

    "Most, if not all professional billiards players, realize it is nearly impossible to stroke a cue ball without imparting some form of english, no matter how small, on the cue ball. If this is true then it stands to reason this natural english needs to be put to good use. Once you understand this basic fact you are on your way to developing a much better billiards game."

    True for us amateurs as well. I add right hand spinn almost always. Here's what helped me correct it.

    By Patrick Johnson

    One of the most important (and most overlooked) ways to improve your game is also one of the simplest to understand and do: hit the cue ball more precisely.

    Most of us tend to hit the cue ball with "high right" or "a little left" or "lots of draw" without paying really close attention to exactly where our tip is making contact on the ball. After all, "a little left" isn't really that much different from a little more or less, is it? Yes, it is - in spades.

    The obvious reason is that small changes in where we contact the CB make significant differences in where the CB goes after making the shot. There are also less obvious, but maybe even more significant, impacts on the effectiveness of our stroke and even on shotmaking itself.

    Ever notice that when you're "in stroke" it seems almost effortless to make the CB do things that you usually struggle more with? And that you can see and hit cut angles much more accurately, also with less effort? Hitting the CB precisely where we intend to is a big part of why this is so (I think the biggest part).

    It isn't so much that things are really easier; it's that things are more often turning out just like we intended them to - because we're giving the cue ball precise "instructions", not just general "suggestions". This closer relationship between what we want and what we do also increases the speed at which we learn - in the same way that we learn to aim more quickly as our stroke gets more reliable: things happen the way we intend them to, so we can more quickly and accurately identify the source of problems and ways to improve.

    The quickest way I've found to elevate my shotmaking and cue ball control, both immediately and permanently, is to focus more intently on exactly where I'm hitting the cue ball.

    pj chgo

    P.S. This also has many beneficial "side effects", like being more aware of the straightness of your stroke (because you're looking at it), seeing more clearly the precise alignment of tip/CB contact point and CB/OB contact point (especially good for aiming with spin), etc., etc.

  3. sundownrZeke on 11/16/2012 6:24:43 PM

    How true!

  4. sundownrMitch Alsup on 12/16/2012 12:54:14 PM

    One of the fundamental drills is to place teh B on headspot, shoot at center diamond at the opposite end, and have the CB come back and stop on your still extended cue tip. When you can do this 10 times in a row, you are hitting the CB where you think you are.

    A more difficult version places B again at headspot, but you aim at one diamond (L or R) and use spin to return the CB to the still extended cue tip. When you can do this one 10 time in a row, you will have control over english.

    Then the most difficult drill places CB at head spot, an OB at center spot. You stroke the CB, hit OB towards center diamond, it returns to hit CB back onto you still extended cue tip. If you can do this one 3 out of 10 you have a great stroke.

    As to OP: " If you have to consistently think about every shot and how to get to the next shot you are doomed to mediocrity."

    Here, I disagree. The great playes take a lot of time to "think about the shot". They are not thiking about where to strike the CB or where to strike the OB, that much has simply become rote. What they are thinking about is where do I want the CB to end up, how do I manouver past the x-ball to get shape, is there an easier path to the shape I want,...

    When they get down on the shot, they do 'just execute'; but while standing, they are doing a lot of thinking.

    Secondly, consider the process of the obvious shot becomming rote:: One has to learn the mecahnics and learn how to perform a fluid stroke. This takes actual thinking. So the APA SL-3 is doing a lot of thinking about the mechanics while the APA SL-8 is not, they have progressed to the point where the shot will simply happen, and are worrying about other things like table position, CB position, when to duck, when to run out.

  5. sundownrsundownr on 12/16/2012 3:00:32 PM


    Good advice. Thanks.


  6. sundownrallanpsand on 4/23/2013 2:43:26 PM

    It is the ability to exactly place the tip onto the CB that defines the difference between player skills. When first picking up the game, you are happy just making the CB go in the general direction towards the intended OB.

    When you finally understand the necessity of getting the CB into position for another shot, you start getting a glimmering of what it takes to become a good player.

    If you want to see perfect precision on tip/CB contact, watch some of the more difficult trick shots being performed.

    If you want to get some practice learning precision control, check out the Cue Ball Control book and some of the drills in the Drills & Exercises book.

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Short Article on Using English

  • Title: Short Article on Using English
  • Author: (Jim Osborne)
  • Published: 11/13/2010 7:07:57 PM