A VERY SHARP STUDENT of mine recently informed me that more than two basketballs can fit in a regulation basketball hoop at the same time, and that good players actually aim for the ball to go into a certain part of the hoop depending on the situation. Maybe I should not have been surprised, but I was, and I earned an even greater respect for higher level basketball.
This same student of mine was excited when I told him about “cheating the pocket” and demonstrated to him that more than two pool balls can fit into a pocket at the same time, which is true on most tables. Even if two balls cannot fit in, there will still be some room to work with. “Cheating the pocket” is basically deciding what part of the pocket you want the object ball to enter, either to increase your chance at pocketing the ball or to change the cue ball’s rebound angle off the object ball for playing position on the next shot. Professionals do this all the time. Because the pockets on most pool tables are pretty wide, this can lead to a little carelessness and slight loss of accuracy in shot-making. By just trying to make the ball into the pocket in general, it may bobble in a few times and even miss once in a while.
The forgivingness of the pockets may lead to carelessness. Sometimes I have caught myself playing worse on a big pocket table than I do on a tight pocket table. So what I do now is try to pretend I’m playing on a tight table and this helps me keep focused.
No matter how wide the pockets are, I like to make it a habit of picking an exact spot in the pocket as a target for the object ball. Picking this spot helps me find a clean line for the object ball and a clean contact point, which in turn helps me find a clean stroking line onto which I can balance my stance.
It is amazing how accurate you can be at hitting a certain part of the pocket, even when the object ball is several feet from the opening.
As long as there are no obstructing balls in the path, it is important that the spot I pick is in the “professional side of the pocket.” The professional side of the pocket is the actual opening, as opposed to the entire visual entity of the pocket. See Diagram A. This will help you avoid hitting the rail on the way in, something that drove Willie Mosconi mad.
You will need to “Cheat the Pocket” to gain position quite often. The closer the object ball is to the pocket, the more lee way you will have to alter the angle at which the cue ball leaves, see Diagram B.
When the object ball is close to the pocket, your chances of missing are slim, but you will still need to be accurate for the purpose of controlling the cue ball.
When the object ball is a couple feet or more from the pocket, and you need to cheat the pocket to create more angle for the cue ball, your chances of missing are greater.
Yet if you always make it a habit to go for an exact spot in the pocket, even when you have a perfect angle, you will have more confidence and ability in cheating the pocket at a distance when you need to, see Diagram C.
When I do have a perfect angle on a shot, the spot I pick in the pocket will be right in the middle of the professional side of the pocket. If the object ball is near the rail, my spot will be on the pocket facing. If the ball is out in the open, my aiming spot will be in the middle or close to the middle of the pocket, on the rim of the slate.
Try practicing with pool balls on a snooker table for a few minutes if the room owner lets you. Then, when you go back to the pool table, you will see just how much room you have to play with. Have fun.
Copyright 2003 Max Eberle. All rights reserved.