Close Calls Let the roll of the balls settle disputes.

Close Calls Let the roll of the balls settle disputes.
by Bob Jewett
Close Calls
Let the roll of the balls settle disputes.
THE SCENE: YOU'RE playing well,
the table is cooperating by not surprising you, your shots are scoring dead
center, and your position play is pinpoint accurate. Nothing stands between
you and certain victory.
Nothing, that is, except, "Foul!"
You look up at your opponent in disbelief. The shot he's complaining
about was a little tricky, and you
thought for a moment about having
someone watch the hit, but you were in
rhythm, and shot without breaking
stride. There's really no question in
your mind that the shot was good.
Anyway, you were in a much better
position to see the shot than your
opponent, weren't you?
"You hit the wrong ball first," he
continues, with a case-closed-get-offthe-table attitude.
You wish the match had a referee.
You wish you had stopped to have
someone watch the hit. You wish one
of the spectators would speak up, but
they have all suddenly turned their
attention to neighboring tables, leaving
you alone with your adversary.
How could you have avoided this
situation? The usual way is to call over
a third party to watch the hit. With
luck, he will be both competent and
unbiased. Two other ways out are to
play a safety or shoot some other shot.
Let's look at how the balls can be
your impartial witness in one of the
most common "close call" situations in
pool: Two object balls are close and
you must hit a particular one first. In
Diagram 1 's Shot 1, the 7 and 8 are on
the line (foot string) with the 8 a ball
width or two below the spot. The rules
say to hit the 7 first and you plan to
pocket it in the corner.
This case is pretty simple to judge.
If the cue ball hits the 7 first, it goes to
the right after the shot, while it goes to
the left if the 8 is struck first. Also
notice that the first ball struck moves
faster than the second ball.
There is a third possibility: hitting
the 7 and 8 simultaneously. In this
case, the cue ball will come straight
back at you. This is rare; you might see
a simultaneous hit once in twenty shots
if you try it from a fixed position with
1 4 Billiards Digest • April 1993
small corrections each time. (Hint: If
the cue ball always exits to the right,
even if it looks like you are exactly
splitting the balls, aim a little more to
the right.) Whether a simultaneous hit
is good or bad depends on the particular rules of the game and sometimes on
the referee.
A more complex situation is in Shot
2, where the cue ball has been moved
to make the shot nearly straight. In this
case, the cue ball will stop almost dead
with a good hit on the 7 first, but will
scoot to the right after hitting the 8
first. The 7 can be pocketed either way,
since hitting the 8 first changes the
contact point on the 7 very little. If this
shot came up in a game of straight pool
or one-pocket, you might even try to
hit the 8 first, perhaps to break up a
cluster close on the right, or to get
away from the 8 for position. (If you
find it impossible to pocket the 7,
move the balls farther from the spot, or
use left English.)
Finally, Shot 3 shows a position
where it's impossible to tell from the
action of the cue ball which object ball
was struck first. The 7 and 8 are precisely 0.932 inches apart. If calipers
aren't handy, use a quarter; it's just the
right diameter. The cue ball will stop
dead no matter which ball you hit
slightly first. This can be worked into a
trick shot, using follow to make the 9.
If the balls are the wrong distance
apart, either more or less, it's very difficult to pocket the 9.
Now that you are armed with some
knowledge about judging this kind of
shot, how can it keep you from becoming the victim in the scenario above? A
fourth way to deal with controversial
shots is to discuss with your opponent
whether it can be decided by the action
of the balls before you attempt the
There will always be border-line
calls that rely on the judgment of the
observer, but often the balls speak for
themselves. Make sure they're heard.
Side Pocket Practice
Diagram 2 shows a "progressive
practice" drill that should really
sharpen up your open-table side-pocket
shots. For a general discussion of the
"progressive practice" method, see the
December issue.
The 9 ball always is placed on the
center spot for this drill. Starting with
the cue ball in position 1, pocket the 9
ball in the side pocket. Each time you
make the shot, move up one position
for your next. If you miss, move the
cue ball one position down. For positions 5 through 8, place the cue ball so
the corresponding object ball on the
opposite end rail is exactly in line with
the cue ball and the 9 ball.
Shoot 10 to 15 shots in each set. For
the first set, place the cue ball far
enough off the rail to make a comfortable bridge on the bed of the table.
Then try the cue ball a few inches from
the rail, and finally try the shot with
the cue ball frozen to the rail.
After doing that, practice cutting the
ball to the right by shooting the mirror
image of the drill, moving the cue ball
to the right after each successful shot,
left after each miss.
Like other progressive drills, the cue
ball position where you spend most of
your time shooting from is indicative
of where your pocketing average is 50
percent. To further fine tune your play
try the drill again, but move the cue
ball only a fraction of a step after each
shot. The less distance you move
between shots, the more accurate your
x estimated 50-50 point will be.
Boh Jewett is a researcher ut Hewlett
Packard Co. and the 1975 ACU-I billiard
Billiards Digest • April 1993
by Bob Jewett
Close Quarters
NEARLY EVERYBODY HAS a problem when the cue ball stops too close
to the next object ball. Beginners, old
hands and tournament directors all hate
it when something like Shot 1 in Figure 1 comes up, with the cue ball only
a ball from an object ball. Aim, stroke,
and rules are all potential pitfalls.
The main problems with aiming the
shot are that you have little practice at
it and the amount of cut required
changes very quickly with how close
the two balls are. It's hard to get a
good feel for the shot. Fortunately,
there is a system that gets you close to
the right angle.
First, consider the expanded shot in
Figure 2. The two balls are exactly a
ball apart, along the line AB. If the cue
is shot along line AC, it will have the
position of the dotted ball when it hits
the object ball, its center will be at D,
and it will drive the object ball towards
E. Geometry tells us that the angle BA-C is almost the same as angle B-FE. Angle B-A-C may look larger than
B-F-E, but that is an illusion caused by
line AC starting farther back.
Going back to Shot 1, the cue-1 line
is directly towards the 2 ball and we
want the 1 ball to go in the pocket a
diamond to the left of the line of centers. The system tells us to shoot the
cue ball a diamond to the right, or
straight at the 3 ball. Let's refer to this
as a cue ball angle of one diamond.
If there were no throw in the shot,
this would work; but there is enough
throw that the shot will miss badly. On
my table, it banks back to pocket P.
Try it yourself.
There are two practical ways to
compensate for the throw. First, try a
little outside English, in this case right
English. With my tip and cue, half a tip
of English for each diamond of cue
ball angle on this length shot is about
right. Judgment is required, since several factors change the effectiveness of
the English.
Alternatively, you can compensate
by aiming for a thinner hit. This
method is less sensitive to the effects
of the tip and cue. I find that for each
diamond of cue ball angle, two extra
balls of cut are needed. In shot 1, that
means my cue stick is aimed through
28 Billiards Digest • June 1993
the center of the cue ball directly at the
3 ball. If the diamonds aren't conveniently placed for a particular shot, add
one-third more cut than for the "simple" system, since there are about six
balls per diamond.
You're all set if the cue ball stops
exactly 2'/» inches from the object ball,
but suppose it stops two balls away.
Some more simple geometry says to
use only half as much cue ball angle
for a given object ball cut. This is
shown in Shot 2, where the cue, 5 and
6 balls are in a line. The simple system
for a two ball separation would have us
aim towards the 7 ball; but with the
correction for throw, the correct aiming
spot is the 4 ball. Note that for half a
diamond of cue ball angle, only one
ball of compensation is needed, which
is the same one-to-three ratio used in
Shot 1.
As with any system, you'll need to
practice this one if you hope to use it
successfully. The balls usually won't
oblige you by lining up parallel to a
rail and pointing at a diamond, so try
some more random configurations
once you've mastered Shots 1 and 2.
An amazing result is that as long as the
cue and 1 ball are lined up towards the
2 ball, and one ball apart, the correct
aiming spot remains close to the 4 ball.
Check that for your equipment the
same one-to-three compensation is
needed. Try the outside English compensation method to see how it works
for you, since sometimes you'll need
to use outside for position. Also check
out what happens to the needed compensation if you use inside English
(left English in Shot 1).
For any other cue-to-object ball distance, remember the ratio of object ball
angle to cue ball angle is equal to the
separation distance when measured in
ball diameters. Try to find positions
where the system breaks down, so
you'll know when to apply it.
There are still a few people who
think a cut shot without English has no
throw. Give them a brief geometry lesson, then show them this system, and
see if they change their minds.
Bob Jewett is a researcher at Hewlett Packard and the 1975 ACU-1 billiard champion.
by Bob Jewett
Close Quarters II
IN THE LAST issue, I described a system for aiming when the cue ball is
close to the object ball. This time, I
want to suggest some stroke techniques that will help you avoid hitting
the cue ball a second time when the
object ball is near. These techniques
will be especially valuable in pool's
finesse games, 14.1 and one-pocket.
In Shot 1 is a proposition bet which
I've heard was a favorite of Luther
Lassiter. The cue ball and the 1 ball are
on opposite sides of the line and a
quarter-inch apart. The goal is to make
the 1 ball hit the end rail without the
cue going over the line. You must use a
level stroke.
First, see how short a stroke you can
develop. Start with the cue ball four
inches back — hitting the end rail
should be easy, and if you use draw,
the cue ball should come back without
any forward motion after contacting
the one. Move the cue ball gradually
closer to the 1 ball. I find that by the
time they are half an inch apart, my
arm hurts from the unaccustomed
effort of suddenly stopping the cue
stick. Try this drill on a table now.
At this point your arm should be
sore, you have developed a special
stroke for very close shots, you've
grown to hate the sound and feel of a
double hit, and you're ready to bet that
the shot's impossible when the balls
are only a quarter-inch apart.
Now for the trick.
Place the balls for Shot 1, make a
firm closed bridge with a little draw,
and with the tip about half an inch
from the cue ball. Let the back end of
the cue stick rest on the rail. Without
moving the stick, slide your grip hand
up until your knuckle is pressed
against the outside edge of the rail, and
take a very firm grip on the cue. Take a
short back swing, keeping the stick
rubbing on the rail. Your hand will hit
the rail and stop the cue stick quickly
enough to avoid a double hit. You may
need to adjust the tip-to-ball starting
distance depending on the springiness
of your knuckles and how hard you're
willing to hit the table. Old-fashioned
square rails give a better stop than
modern rails that slope away from the
The bad news: this shot is not generally useful, unless the cue ball is the
right distance from the rail. The good
news: there is another technique that
can be used in many close situations.
For Shot 1, you can make the 1 ball hit
the far rail twice and still not drive the
cue ball over the line.
I first saw the technique when Rene
Vingerhoedt, the great Belgian billiard
fancy shot artist, gave an exhibition in
the room where I was just beginning to
learn the game. He first shot standard
artistic billiard shots. He then
announced that he was going to change
to his masse cue for the second half of
the show, but first he would shoot the
"Spanish Dance." He placed the balls
just like Shot 1, and took a tremendous
stroke, smashing the cue ball into the
red ball. The red took off at a million
miles an hour, but the cue ball just sat
where it started and spun. And wobbled — that was the "dance" part.
Vingerhoedt got out his case, took his
cue apart, and screwed his masse cue
together. The cue ball was still dancing.
How did he do that? With a technique that is well known in Europe but
still a mystery to most players in the
United States. It's called a whipping
stroke. It's rather difficult, so let's start
with something simpler that gives
some feeling for the shot without having to master the strange whipping
In Shot 2, the idea is to find how
close the cue ball can be to the object
ball on a half-ball cut and still avoid a
double hit. The 2 ball is placed so it
would be touching a ball on the spot,
and the three and four are placed on
the diamonds. The 3 ball is there simply to help you place the cue ball on
the proper line. Aim through the center
of the cue ball at the edge of the 2 ball
and slightly into the edge of the 3.
Neglecting throw, the 2 ball will be
driven straight across the table and the
cue ball, if cued on the equator, will hit
the 4 ball.
Practice this shot with a normal follow through, moving the cue ball
closer and closer to the 2 ball until a
double hit occurs and the cue ball hits
the end rail on the far (high) side of the
4 ball.
Next try the same progression using
extreme-right English on the cue ball.
You'll probably find that the cue ball
can start much closer to the object ball
because it starts moving to the left just
after collision, which makes room for
the stick to pass. If you use draw with
the English, you should be able to land
the cue ball on the near (low) side of
the four. If the draw takes quickly
enough, this technique could be used
for the proposition in Shot 1.
Finally, try the shot with outside or
left English. This will result in a double hit even when the balls are an inch
or more apart because the cue ball will
be moving into the path of the stick
after the collision with the 2 ball.
Try the same setup for a fuller shot
on the 2 ball, and you should get simi-
lar results; right English will help you
avoid the foul.
The whipping stroke uses a similar
idea, but it is mostly the stick that's
moved to avoid the second hit. Instead
of using a straight follow-through, the
cue is swerved to the outside of the
shot during the final stroke.
In Shot 1, set up for a lot of right
English with the cue stick aimed
toward the 4 ball. On the back swing,
swerve the butt away from you (if
you're right-handed) and on the forward stroke swerve back, so that at the
end of the shot, the cue stick is pointed
towards the 3 ball. While swerving the
cue, keep your bridge stationary.
This outside-in motion is difficult to
master, since it goes against the standard ideal straight follow-through. It's
not easy to have the tip come back to
just the right place on the cue ball after
having been pulled clear to the other
side of the cue ball. And adding objectball accuracy to this forceful shot will
be even tougher.
Once you've got the timing down,
you'll be able to shoot straight towards
the 1 ball in Shot 1, leaving the cue
ball spinning in place. With a little
draw besides the English, you can
bring the cue ball straight back to the
end rail. Best of all, you'll have the
stroke technique to avoid all forms of
There's one more facet to this shot
—- whip without English. The purpose
of swerving the cue stick is to get it
away from where the cue ball is going
to stop. Swerve down is nearly as good
as swerve to the side. Aim straight at
the 1 ball, starting near the center. On
the final stroke, raise the butt of the
cue so the tip dips down to the cloth
after hitting the cue ball with draw.
The needed stroke is very short, as in
the first drill, since the cue ball will be
drawing back soon after the hit and
you need to give it room.
Don't be discouraged if you can't
get the action right away. It took me 25
years to get a reasonable understanding
and feel for the shot after I first saw it
in 1966. If you can find an instructor
who knows this shot, take a lesson.
Bob Jewett is a researcher for Hewlett
Packard and a former ACU-I billiard champ.
by Bob Jewett
Close Quarters III
THIS IS THE third and last article on
special problems to avoid, and techniques to use, when the cue ball is
close to the object ball.
The first part presented an aiming
system that's useful when the cue ball
is about half a ball to two balls from
the object ball. The second part covered stroke techniques that can prevent
double hits. I discovered another technique recently that will let you execute
Shot 1 of last issue's column without
the rail-banging: Move your grip hand
up the cue so your forearm is nearly
horizontal when you hit the cue ball.
Unless you drop your elbow badly,
your stroke will barely penetrate the
cue ball. This will avoid the soreness
you may have developed by trying to
cut a normal stroke short.
Now we're going to look at the most
difficult aspect of "close quarters"
shots: the rules. There are lots of rules,
all different, and they've changed in
the past six months. Here are some of
the rules I've seen in rule books or
tournaments, that now seem obsolete:
1. Any single stroke is fair, regardless of how many times the stick
hits the cue ball. If you ever play
by this rule, develop a foot-long
follow through, and you'll be set.
2. Same as Rule 1, but the cue ball
must start within a chalk cube of
the object ball.
3. The referee can call a double-hit
foul only if he can actually see the
stick hit the ball a second time.
Try this one yourself with a friend
28 Billiards Digest • October 1993
as the referee. Use the stroke
developed for Rule 1.
4. If the cue ball is still on the tip
when it hits the object ball, the
shot is fair. Do you know exactly
how long or far the cue ball stays
on the tip? Neither does any referee, so this rule is almost impossible to apply. The answer is
roughly one hundredth of an inch
to half an inch, depending on tip
firmness and the shot's speed and
Now for the current rules. The
Professional Billiard Tour Association
has just published its own rule book,
and double hits are discussed on pages
53, 84 and 90. On page 54, in the
General Rules section, the book says
it's OK to hit the cue ball twice (or
continuously, maybe) as long as you
elevate the cue and use draw. Rather,
that's how I interpret it, since the
wording isn't clear. If I'm right, this
isn't much different from Rule 1
above, except why the requirement for
elevation? And how much?
Further along, in the sections on
straight pool and one-pocket, we see
the rule, "If at any time during the
game the cue ball is hit twice during
one shot, it is a foul." This would seem
to take precedence over the General
Rule, but only for 14.1 and one-pocket.
The Billiard Congress of America
rule book also has some changes for
1993. Check out pages i, 41, 45, 98,
108, 114 and 115. An addition on page
41 states: "2.20 Judging Double Hits.
When (the cue ball and object ball are
close), the following guidance may
apply: if the cue ball follows through
the object ball more than 1/2 ball, it is a
foul." If you did your homework last
time, you know that there will always
be a gray area between obviously clean
and clearly dirty shots. This instruction
at least gives referees something definite to measure against.
The main BCA rule is on page 45.
Unfortunately, the wording is again
unclear, but it seems that it is a foul if
the tip is still on the cue ball when the
latter hits the object ball or if the tip
hits the cue ball a second time.
It is especially difficult to apply this
last rule when the cue ball is only a
hair's breadth from the object ball.
There is a special rule on page 98 that
applies to snooker: "...where the cue
ball and an object ball are almost
touching, it shall be deemed a legal
shot if the cue hits the finest possible
edge of the object ball."
The rule is a little clearer for billiards (page 115), even if they've
changed terminology: "A push shot is
one in which the cue tip remains in
contact with the cue ball after the cue
ball strikes an object ball, or when cue
tip contacts the cue ball after cue ball
strikes the object ball."
By now you're wondering what rule
to use. As with all rules, that's between
you and your opponent in a private
match or for the tournament director to
specify. My own preference is for a
combination of the billiard rule with
the snooker "finest edge" rule.
by Bob Jewett
Test Time
THE BCA HAS begun an instructor
certification program, which trains,
tests and certifies pool instructors. The
written tests, which are now being
compiled, have sections on teaching,
rules, equipment, etc. Having raised
my hand at the right (or wrong) time,
I'm doing the compiling, and I'm asking for your help.
Do you think you know enough
about pool to teach it? Would you like
to test yourself against the other readers? Try the questions below. Since
there is no one to administer the test to
you, consider it a take-home; you're
allowed to use any reference available.
You may find the 1993 BCA Rule Book
Write out the answers to any ten of
the questions below and send them in.
The three best sets of answers will
receive a year's subscription to this
magazine. Since the questions vary
greatly in difficulty, you get more
credit if you pick tougher questions.
You can get extra credit by sending
in three new questions you feel should
be on the test, but please include
answers. One last rule: the judge's
decisions are final and I'm the judge.
Good luck, and keep your eyes on your
own paper.
1. When a shot is played with side
spin, several important effects are
noticeable and may cause the shot to
fail if not included in the planning for
the shot. Name three of those effects,
describe them, and describe how you
demonstrate them to students.
2. What are the important factors in
cue selection?
3. What are the basic goals of the
stance (foot, arm, hand, and body position)?
4. What are some specific parts of a
good stance that achieve those goals?
5. What is the "dominant eye" and
how can you test for it?
6. What are some symptoms of incorrect eye alignment?
7. What conditions are necessary for
the cue ball to stop dead at the instant
it hits an object ball?
8. What additional condition is necessary for a stop shot (for the cue ball
to remain in position after the instant
of impact)?
9. Give three common things that
28 Billiards Digest • December 1993
cause the cue ball not to stop dead on a
stop shot.
10. Describe the "ghost" or "phantom"
ball aiming system.
11. What other systems give equivalent aiming lines?
12. For roughly what length of shot is
the simple phantom ball system too
inaccurate on a half-ball cut shot?
13. What is required to get a lot of
draw on the cue ball?
14. What is recommended but not
actually required for lots of draw?
15. Describe some situations in which
side spin is required to make a shot
(not counting position requirements).
16. In damp conditions or on dirty
cloth, draw dissipates rapidly. Why?
17. Describe aiming a half-ball shot.
Neglecting throw, what is the cut angle
for a half-ball shot?
18. Describe the simple "mirror system" for shooting bank shots, and at
least three methods of lining shots up
for that system.
19. Give three situations in which the
simple mirror system is not accurate
enough to aim bank shots.
20. How large is a pool ball?
21. With what tolerance?
22. Approximately what fraction of
pool balls are not within tolerance?
23. How large is the playing surface
on 4' x 8' and 4'/i' x 9' tables, and how
is it measured?
24. What is the required thickness of
25. What are the allowed weight and
dimensions of a cue stick?
26. What is the grace period before a
match is forfeited for lateness?
27. What should a referee do prior to a
28. Is a "split hit," that appears to have
been simultaneous contact on both a
legal and an illegal object ball, a foul?
29. At 9-ball, a player is stroking,
about to shoot, the 4 ball. A spectator
shouts out, "Shoot the 3!" What should
the referee do?
30. Is a miscue a foul?
31. At 9-ball, when does an object ball
32. At 9-ball, a player plays the 1-7
combination, pockets the 7, but the 1
ball goes off the table. What happens?
33. A player "pushes out" with the
side of his stick, and is warned not to
do so. Is there any penalty, and does it
change for a second offense?
34. When calling a shot at 8-ball, what
must be specified besides the ball and
the pocket?
35. On an open break, how many balls
must be driven to the rail if no ball is
36. What is the penalty at 8-ball for
failure to make an open break?
37. What is the penalty at 9-ball?
38. With ball in hand after a scratch on
the break, what are the restrictions on
cue ball placement at 9-ball?
39. At 8-ball?
40. Give four examples of how a
player can foul during the other
player's inning.
41. At 14.1, a player fails three times
in a row to drive two balls to the rail on
the opening break shot. What is the
score after those three strokes?
42. What happens if a player unscrews
his jointed cue stick?
43. While playing a bank shot, the
player places the chalk where he wants
to hit on the rail, then shoots. Is that a
44. Describe a push shot.
45. What is the specific criterion used
to judge double hits, when the cue
starts very close to the object ball?
46. If a ball stops at the brink of a
pocket, how long is it given to drop
before it is considered not to have been
47. May either player inspect the rack
prior to the break?
48. If the cue ball is frozen to the
object ball, what sort of stroke is permitted towards that ball?
49. At 8-ball, what happens if the 8 is
pocketed on the break?
50. What happens in 9-ball if the 9
goes on the break?
51. At 8-ball, a player calls safe and
then pockets an easy, obvious shot.
What happens?
52. What happens at 9-ball for the
same situation?
53. At 9-ball, the player pockets the 9,
and cue ball is rolling slowly up the
table towards the middle of the end
rail. The player picks the cue ball up
while it is barely moving and places it
for the next break. Has he fouled?
Bob Jewett is a former ACU-I pool champion and a researcher at Hewlett-Packard.
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