Draw. Follow. English. Carom. Bank. Spin.
The rock and the hinge. Angle in and angle out.
The table is flat and the ball is round.
These are the thoughts in a pool player’s heart.
I played pool at least 3 nights a week for decades, ending up on a good bar league team, playing nationally ranked amateurs, and even playing in the finals in a back room of a pool hall, bleacher seating and all. I lost that game, though I acquitted myself well. Learning the game, one needs to understand basic geometry (angle in and angle out for bank shots, how the accessible width of a side pocket changes depending on how steep the angle of the shot is), the physics of force (inertia, how a ball will react when it hits another ball), and what spin on the cue ball can do (draw to bring it back to you, follow to make it keep going and stop to keep the cue ball from moving once it hits the object ball.) Playing for position is one of the most important aspects of the game, to keep yourself shooting and to prevent your opponent from winning. Because if you aren’t shooting, you aren’t winning.
The pure joy of the first time you run the table, shooting each ball one by one until the eight drops is one of life’s great joys, a combination of skill and the luck of the break. To get there, one needs to know not only the above aspects of the game, one also has to perfect the rock and the hinge. The rock is your bridge, where the shaft of the cue slides in your hand. This must be solid, as it is the foundation of your stroke, while the hinge is the movement at your elbow. Swinging just like a hinge, this allows you to vary the power of your stroke. The combination of the two gives the shooter the ability to pinpoint the tip of the cue and determine how hard you hit, the parts necessary to give you that spin, that english. Strike the ball on the point just below the centerline, and the ball isn’t actually rolling. It is moving forward solely from the power of the strike, spinning in the other direction. This will cause the cue ball to come back at you after it touches the object ball Hit it hard on the centerline, and the ball is sliding across the table and will stop when it touches the object ball. Just over the centerline and now it is rolling, following after the ball. Left or right spin and the cue ball will react in kind, spinning off the object ball to go where you judge it should.
Remember, the table is flat and the ball is round.
So, what are you playing?
(Picture is Billiard Table by Mark Buckawicki)