This article is part of Volume 22 of PoolSynergy, a monthly collection of the best writing on pool. After you read it, be sure to check out the rest of the August 2011 edition of PoolSynergy over at The Tip Jar, Samm Vidal Claramunt’s (aka Samm Diep) blog.

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My contribution to this month’s PoolSynergy topic of 10 Things is 10 Useful (and Fun) Shots. All are relatively easy, with a modicum of practice, and can get you out of many jams. They are also fun, at least to me, since they don’t seem like they ought to work, but they do. They can let you pull a shot out of nowhere, and save a run. There are no secrets here, no new inventions, but you may learn a thing or two, so keep reading.

The first group of shots are based on the concept of throw. The physics of pool is based on perfectly elastic balls without friction, which makes for good thought experiments by physicists but is slightly off from the real world we actually play in. Because there is friction between the balls when they collide, they don’t bounce off each other instantly, but stay together for a tiny increment of time before separating. On all cut shots this means that the object ball will be thrown off line a little by the dragging contact of the cue ball. On shots without any english, you need to cut the ball slightly thinner than the direct line to the pocket would indicate. This effect is increased for soft shots and when the balls are relatively dirty.

#1 – Frozen Ball Throw Shot

Frozen Ball Throw

In a frozen-ball combo, where the two balls don’t point directly into the pocket, you can throw the target ball closer to the hole by hitting the ball that’s furthest from the pocket on the side opposite from where you want the ball to go. In the example, to make the 3 Ball in the side, hit the 4 Ball on the left. The softer you hit the ball, the more throw you’ll get. With a hard hit you get very little if any. Practice will give you a good feel for how much you can throw a ball off-line. You may not be able to throw a ball as far as in this diagram if the balls are very clean.

In this diagram, and the ones that follow, the yellow lines are drawn between the centers of the balls, and along the tangent line between them. This makes it clear where the balls would go based on the 90 degree rule. The lines that are the same color as the balls are the path the balls will actually take, irrelevant paths not being drawn for simplification.

The drawing software used for these diagrams is called CueTable and can be found at Pool Buzz

#2 – Combo Throw

Combo Throw

A variation on the shot above is to shoot an object ball into the side of the far ball of the frozen pair, rather than hit it directly with the cue ball. You might do this if you can’t see the desired contact point with the cue ball, or you might choose to do it to enable you to move the cue ball in a different direction. This comes up often in straight pool, in the early part of each rack, where there are lots of balls in the stack and you get blocked a lot from hitting the ball you want to get to.

The complexity is increased only slightly, the shot is still eminently pocketable. It doesn’t matter how far away the 5 Ball is, it can even be frozen to the 4 Ball. It doesn’t matter what angle of approach the 5 ball comes in on, either. But what absolutely does matter, is hitting the correct side of the 4 Ball.

#3 – Throw It In

Throw to Make

Sometimes you don’t quite get the position you want and the ball you want to shoot is blocked ever so slightly by another ball, preventing you from making contact with the desired spot on the ball to cut it in. Here’s a way to make it anyway.

All cut shots pick up a little throw caused by the contact between the cue ball and the object ball as described above. You can also increase (or decrease) the throw by putting english on the cue ball. Right english will throw the ball further left, and vice versa.

On this shot, since we can’t cut the 7 Ball sharply enough to the right because of the blocking 8 Ball, we apply some left english and throw the 7 Ball right, making what appears to be an impossible shot. More english means more throw, but be careful you don’t miscue. As in contact induced throw, the softer the hit, the more throw you get.

#4 – Basic or Dead Carom

Basic Carom

A carom is when you one object ball into another in order to kiss off the 2nd ball and pocket the first ball. In the example, the 5 Ball is caromed off the 2 Ball to pocket the 5. The simplest example of this is when the two object ball are touching, or frozen.

After it’s collision with the 2 Ball, the 5 Ball will travel along the tangent line (90 degree line), so long as the cue ball is sliding, i.e., a stun shot. If the cue ball is close, you can just hit crisply with center ball, but for further distance between cue ball and target you’ll need to compensate with some draw, just like in longer stop shots (exact same concept).

Remember that it’s the left edge of the 5 ball that travels down the tangent line, so when aiming, make sure the tangent line points a little inside the edge of the pocket, not to the middle.

Practice the shot with the cue ball relatively close to the object ball to guarantee getting a stun shot. You don’t need any complications while you’re figuring out how to aim this shot. When you’re proficient, you can back it up.

A much harder version of the carom shot is when the two caroming balls (the 2 and 5 in this case) are not touching. As long as the 5 slides into the same spot on the 2 the shot works, but finding the spot, and hitting it with the 5 raises the difficulty substantially.

#5 – Carom Long

Carom Long

Sadly, all pairs of frozen balls don’t point directly into pockets (dead ball) or at exactly 90 degrees to the pocket (dead carom). If a pair points close, but short of 90 degrees, you can make an adjustment by what cueing you use.

In this case the carom is pointing short of the pocket, so you need to lengthen the trajectory. You do this with draw. I know, you thought follow, right? Well, it’s draw. The more draw, the more you can change the angle. As on all these shots, speed and ball surface play a role.

#6 – Combination Carom

Combination Carom

This shot is a variant of the basic carom, also called the dead carom. The frozen balls must be at 90 degrees to the target pocket. The combo ball, in this case the 4 Ball, needs to be close enough to the 5 ball that it will still be sliding at the collision. Otherwise, you have to hit it hard enough so that it does. You don’t want the 4 ball to pick up any natural role.

#7 – Basic Billiard

Basic Billiard

A billiard is similar to a carom in that it’s based on a kiss, but in the case of the billiard, it’s the cue ball which continues on to then contact the next ball, not an object ball. In our diagram, the cue ball billiards off the 3 ball in order to make the 9 Ball.

The tricks to making these shots are to use a stun shot and lining up the outside edge of the 1st object ball with the inside edge of the second. Aim to hit the outside edge spot on the 1st ball (the 3) with stun and the cue ball will travel down the line and sink your target.

If you have a hard time visualizing the spot on the 1st ball, then when you are lining up the two edges, check where the 90 degree line points to (yellow line with arrowhead). Aim to drive the 3 ball in that direction and the cue ball will go where you want, if you use a stun stroke.

#8 – Ticky


Tickys are very cool. They are common in 3 cushion but much less so in pocket billiards games. Basically, a ticky is a rail first shot into a ball close to the rail. The moving ball will be sent on towards the corner to make the otherwise inaccessible hanger.

This is the toughest of the shots detailed here, but comes up often enough to be worth knowing. Whether you shoot directly into the rail with the cue ball, as here, or shoot an object ball into the rail, the result is the same, though harder if you’re forced to use an object ball.

#9 – Pocketing a Blocked Ball

10 Useful (and Fun) Shots

This is common in 8 ball, where your opponent will often block the 8 ball’s path to the pocket. If you make the opponent’s ball but leave the 8 Ball, there’s a significant risk they’ll run out on you. With this technique you can make both balls and eliminate the risk.

The two keys to this shot are hitting the blocker ball squarely, and using draw to get some follow
on the blocked ball (the 8 Ball) after it’s collision with the blocker (the 1). If the two object balls are far enough apart for the 8 Ball to gain forward roll, and the 1 is very close to the pocket, you won’t need to use draw. When the balls are close together, draw is what imparts forward roll to the 8 Ball.

If you don’t hit the blocker ball squarely in line with the pocket, the 8 Ball will carom off line and miss, even if it has the requisite follow.

#10 – Nip Draw

When the cue ball is very close to but not touching the object ball you are aiming at, it is tricky to hit the cue ball without making the dreaded double hit foul. This is because the cue ball stops momentarily upon contact with the object ball, which is very close to it, and is in the way as the cue moves forward.

This shot is all technique, but a little practice can get you proficient quickly. Unlike most shots, don’t use a level cue, elevate the back end significantly (30 – 45 degrees). Hit the cue ball a little (1/4 tip) below the apparent center (meaning as you look down on it), and hit it hard enough to create the back spin you need to bring the ball back. If you hit it too hard the cue ball might jump a little, something we don’t want here.

Remember to pull back on the cue as soon as you’ve gone about 1/8th on an inch into the ball. This is opposite to what you’ve been trained to do on all other draw shots, where pulling back is poor technique and follow-through is much more effective. Here, however, any follow-through will cause a foul.

Once you learn to do this correctly you’ll be more likely to see the double hit fouls of your opponent, another benefit of learning this shot.