Learn How To Generate (Or Avoid) Pool Throw

Throw In Pool Can Be A Boon Or Bummer - We'll Show You Both

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Taking a confident stroke hinges on knowing how accurate you shoot to start. Photo courtesy of Mike Mattice
Pool throw refers to the physical act of billiard balls clinging together long enough to ruin--or cinch--a shot. We'll show you how to use pool throw to do either in this article.

Pool throw is a nasty little beast of a physical action that can take (on occasion) an otherwise good shot and send the ball to the wrong spot. Did you get that? Due to pool throw, you made the correct shot but the ball walked off line anyway.

You see, pool balls cling together at impact for thousandths of a second before releasing apart and heading on their way. Outside english allows the cue ball to roll or "gear" around the circumference of the object ball so there is reduced "cling" and therefore, throw, otherwise, "The President would have sunk the thirteen, but throw induced by the First Lady's makeup (she touched the cue ball after touching her makeup) ruined the shot."

That's right, dirt or chalk on the balls--yes, chalk from your cue stick that lingers on the cue ball which in turn chalks the object ball at impact--can knock a shot off line.

You ought to learn that the average stroke has a bit of sideways action to it, and that the spin frictating can help pull off a successful shot, as with the touch of sidespin or body english the pros add to shots to make them more securely and avoid excessive throw.

Even better, Mike Mattice of Ohio shows us a way today to eliminate the unwanted sidespin that can enhance pool throw and cause shots to wander far afield in error.

See the next page for more.

One of the most common errors, even by experienced players, that I have observed and made is applying accidental spin on the cue ball (and therefore the object ball as well). Shots are missed and position ruined because of this. Although there are some game situations that require spin, either to pocket the ball or to get position for the next shot, the great players are striking center ball for about 80% of the time. Even those shots requiring draw, follow, or English seldom actually need as much as many players apply. Any time you strike the cue ball more than a cue tip's distance from center, you are increasing your chances of miscuing.

Accidental Spin

What do I mean by "accidental spin"? Some players will think they are hitting center ball, but they are not. There are two basic reasons for this:

1) Visually, they are not accurately seeing the center. I recommend practicing a center ball hit using a striped ball. Set the ball so the number is parallel to the felt. Aim to strike directly on the number. Stroke very gently, not even enough for the ball to travel more than a few inches. Then look at the ball to see the chalk mark that your cue tip made on it. Is it dead center on the number? Congratulations! You hit center ball. Now, repeat this exercise until you are consistent.

2) There may be a mechanical problem in your stroke.

There may be a hitch, or you may be standing up as you shoot. A crooked stroke can be corrected by focusing first on your stroking arm (the back, or right if you are shooting right-handed). Your shoulder and upper arm should be as level and parallel to the floor as possible. Your grip should be loose.

If the cue is touching your palm, you are holding it too tightly. Your wrist should be straight and the cue cradled between your curled fingers and thumb. There should be no shoulder nor upper arm movement. Your hand and lower arm should swing like a pendulum as a unit. Always try to keep your cue as level as possible. Any time you raise the butt of your cue, you are applying masse (curve). This is okay as long as you understand what you are doing to the cue ball, and know how to adjust your aim accordingly. If the cue ball is against or close to a cushion, use a rail bridge and back it away from the cue ball, so that you can level your cue as much as possible.

Whether you use an open or closed bridge is purely personal preference, as long as you are forming a ridge through which the shaft slides smoothly and snugly. Practice the stroke, carefully observing these fundamentals before ever stepping to the cue ball (much the way golfers will take practice swings before stepping to the ball).

Center Ball Exercise

Place two balls in a line parallel to the side cushion, spaced about 1/4 inch wider than the cue ball's width (see photo #1), and approximately 10 1/2 inches from the cushion (this should be in line with the first diamond on the end rail. We are continuing Mike Mattice's center ball exercise to sharpen your stroke. Mike has worked with some of the best players and teachers in Northeast Ohio...

Step 2 of Center Ball Exercise: Now place the cue ball about 12 inches further from the side cushion (see illustration).

Aim to shoot the cue ball between the gap to the side cushion, with just enough speed to return back to your cue tip (see accompanying photo).

If the cue ball hits one of the balls, you did not hit center ball. If it passes through and back, returning to your cue tip, you hit center ball. Congratulations! Now repeat until you can do it every time.

Spend some time and effort to play games or practice shots using only center ball hits.

You will miscue less often. You will successfully pocket more object balls. And you will discover how much position play can be simplified by cue ball speed rather than spin. You will play better pool. It’s also easier to predict the path of the cue ball after striking an object ball.

Thanks to Mike Mattice for the photos and direction on a quick and enjoyable stroke straightener.