Practice: Potting with Side
Many players are confident of playing fairly simple pots, but ask them to play those same shots with side-spin and that confidence can quickly disappear. Playing with side pushes the cue-ball off the line of aim, and you have to know how to allow for that to have any confidence in the shot you're playing. So how do you make this allowance?
This article should help you understand the process a little more clearly.
THE BASIC PRINCIPLE
The first diagram shows a simple pot into a middle pocket. The line of aim is quite clearly through the centre of the cue-ball, the centre of the red, and continues through to the centre of the pocket
In the second diagram both balls are a little to the left, and if you played this the same way, aiming through the centres of both balls, the red would obviously hit the jaw of the pocket and the pot would be missed.
The third diagram shows the line of aim to pot this red when playing with right-hand side. The line of aim is now a little to the right of the centres of both balls, and runs parallel to that original line of aim. So essentially you're playing the same shot described in the second diagram, aiming for the left hand jaw of the pocket. But by striking to the right of centre the cue-ball will be pushed slightly to the left, and so the correct contact will be made to pot the red.
Diagram 4 shows the same pot red but the cue-ball is further to the right. You still aim for the left-hand jaw of the pocket, and if you were aiming through the center of the cue-ball that's where the red would be directed. But by moving that entire line of aim slightly to the right, you again push the cue-ball slightly to the left, and the correct contact will again be made to pot the red.
Before moving on to some examples for you to practice let's discuss the aiming process a little more thoroughly.
As with any other shot, the aiming process begins BEFORE you get down to the playing position. So to play WITH side, stand behind the shot as though you were going to play WITHOUT side. This gives you the line of aim through the centre of the cue-ball, the centre line in the diagram.
You now need to move that imaginary line to the left or right to play with left or right hand side, this is shown by the dotted lines in the diagram.
So stand back so you can get a good look from behind the shot, and then move into the playing position so your whole body and cue is parallel to that original line of aim which was through the centre of the cue-ball.
The centre line in the diagram shows the line of aim for a half-ball contact.
The line on the right shows the line of aim when the shot is played with right-hand side, this will push the cue-ball slightly to the left, and so a slightly thinner contact will be made on the red.
The line on the left shows the line of aim when the shot is played with left-hand side, this will push the cue-ball slightly to the right, and so a slightly thicker contact will be made on the red.
This principle holds true when there is no great distance between the two balls and the stroke is played at medium strength or above. More aiming problems occur when there is a significant distance between the two balls, but this article will concentrate on medium range shots.
Another aspect to consider about side-spin is that it's most dramatic effect is when the cue-ball strikes a cushion. But if the cue-ball strikes the cushion very gently, or arrives at the cushion at a narrow angle, then a noticable or useful effect is rarely gained.
So in most of the examples that follow side is played in combination with top or bottom to pull the cue-ball onto the cushion, which can then grip the ball and allow the spin to take effect.
This diagram shows a very pretty little shot and one that always seems to impress those who are watching.
There's no angle to run through for good position on the blue, so you need to play with top right-hand side. The top spin pulls the cue-ball forward onto the cushion and the right-hand side then flicks the cue-ball over to gain position on the blue.
As you're playing with right-hand side aim a little thick on the red, as though you are trying to hit the left-hand jaw of the pocket. This thicker aim compensates for the right-hand side that will push the cue-ball to the left.
You need to push the cue through to apply the spin, and the cue-ball needs to run through to strike the cushion just hard enough to allow the right-hand side to grip the cushion. This is not a powerful shot, but it needs to be played firmly and smoothly.
These two diagrams show how good position on the black can be gained even though each of the reds are almost straight pots.
When the pot is almost straight, the object-ball takes most of the momentum out of the cue-ball. So strike the cue-ball high to create the top spin that will pull the cue-ball towards the cushion. Providing the cue-ball strikes the cushion with a little force the side-spin will flick it off to the right, and you should then be left with good position on the black.
The positions of the red and the cue-ball shown in the top diagram are probably the maximum distances they can be from the corner pocket where this shot can be played with any confidence.
The next diagram is simply a variation of the one above. The shot is too straight to stun over to the black, so right-hand side must be used to pull the cue-ball away from the cushion to leave good position on the black.
This is a fairly gentle stroke, but the cue needs to be pushed through to apply the spin.
In both these examples the top right-hand side will push the cue-ball slightly to the left, but will also pull the cue-ball back onto line quite quickly. This will need to be allowed for depending on the exact distance between cue-ball and object-ball. These two shots are well worth practicing, they can make the difference between ending or continuing your break, and you will learn a huge amount from your efforts.
The diagram explains this shot quite nicely. It's a fairly simple pot red, played with right-hand side to cannon the black and push it towards the opposite corner pocket.
This is a fairly thin cut, and the right-hand side will push the cue-ball a little to the left, so aim a little thicker to allow for that. Aim as though you want the red to just graze the near cushion before it enters the corner pocket.
It has to be played strong enough to push the black towards the pocket, but it is still a fairly gentle stroke. If you play it too strongly there's a chance you might pot the black.
Potting the black with screw and side-spin to force the cue-ball towards the baulk area defeats many club players, but the stroke is by no means difficult for any player who can play the screw stroke fairly well.
Place the black on its spot, and the cue-ball behind it so a straight line through the centres of both balls ends about an inch or so away from the edge of the corner of the pocket.
Stand behind the shot so you see the line of aim through the centre of both balls, and now in your mind move that line slightly to the left, as shown in the diagram to the right. This is your line of aim for the shot, and the left-hand side will push the cue-ball slightly to the right so you make the correct contact on the black to make the pot.
Depending on your own particular cue-action you may need to alter the distance you aim away from the pocket to make this work for you. Practice this before you use it in a match and experiment with slightly different positions for the cue-ball, but always take your initial line of aim to a point about an inch or so from the edge of the pocket.
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