Monday, August 15, 2011

10 Things You Can Learn From Trick Shots

Here's my first post for Pool Synergy, this month hosted by Samm (Diep) Vidal with a theme of "10 Things". I'm writing about 10 Things You Can Learn From Trick Shots to apply to your usual games. Check out the master post to see what other bloggers are writing about!

Trick shots have always been a part of pool, whether for entertainment, proposition shots, or just to show off your skills. One question that often comes up is “Do trick shots help you with ‘real’ pool?” They may not come up during your typical 8 ball or 9 ball game so much, but there are many principles you can learn from them that you can certainly apply to other games. Here are a few of those concepts. I tried to keep the descriptions brief since this was going to be a long post, but feel free to contact me if you need expanded explanations.

1. Kisses, Combos, and Caroms

While many players view setup shots as elementary, they can open your eyes to possibilities when you’re confronted with clusters. Instead of blindly whacking into some problem balls, it’s much more efficient if you can predict where the balls will end up and you may even be able to pocket one. With setup shots like Y Not, you’ll be able to figure out how and why balls go in the directions they do after banging into each other.

2. Throw

One principle that is applied greatly to setup shots is throw. Throw, as defined by Dr. Dave (Aug 06), is the change in object ball (OB) direction due to sliding friction forces between the cue ball (CB) and OB during impact. This can be helpful when you have a combination that’s aligned slightly off where you want the ball to end up, or when you can’t see enough of the OB to cut it exactly where you want it to go. You can use throw to get it on to your intended line. Throw is affected by cut angles (or the line of the combination), speed, and spin. In setup shots like Any Questions, the last ball to go in as significantly affected by throw from the line of the combination. Similarly, in Just Showing Off, the ball traveling diagonally across the table is typically thrown 3-4 inches from its initial line.

3. English or spin

While practicing trick shots, it will also become apparent what effects spin has, not only on throw, but on the reaction of balls coming off rails. Shots like the Triple Reverse or Robin Dodson Jump show extreme examples of what you can do with spin. This can help get you out of jams especially when there’s not natural kick angle to your target ball.

4. Banks and Kicks

Speaking of which, there are plenty of trick shots that involve banking or kicking at balls. Practicing these will help you learn what aim lines you can use and how you can change the path of the balls by adjusting your aim point, the amount of spin you apply, or the speed at which you hit. Some examples include the first part of the Timing Masse, 7 Rail Kick, and Wizard’s Tray Shot.

5. Spin Transfer

This brings me to spin transfer, which is most apparent in certain bank shots, such as the Backward Bank and The Glove's Squeeze. In the Backward Bank, spin is transferred to the object ball allowing it to grab the rail and take a line to the side pocket that is not initially obvious. The other object ball just helps maximize the spin transfer, but check out Vernon Elliot’s Bank Shot to see a more natural (and much harder) version. In The Glove’s Squeeze shot, you have to put draw on the cue ball which imparts a top spin on the contact ball. With the right angle, you can get it to roll straight in to the pocket.

6. Speed Control

Most people think of speed trick shots as lagging a ball toward a pocket and then firing in as many balls as possible in the same pocket before the first ball gets there. Getting the lag speed just right is a skill in and of itself, and some shots require the timing ball to be lagged multiple rails, like in Corner Collation. Practicing these have helped me better gauge my speed for shots to improve my cue ball control. There are other types of speed control shots as well, such as 321-123, which tests your ability to dial in your speed rather quickly.

7. Useful Shots

While it may not happen often, there are certainly times when a “trick shot” does come up in a typical game. I’m not saying it’s always the right shot to take, but it’s nice to know all of your options. Take the Two Rail Reverse for instance. It’s hard enough finding a pocket for the object ball no matter where the cue ball is. With a little knowledge and a little practice, this shot can become a good choice, even if the cue ball position isn’t perfect.

8. Table Adjustments

This is a more subtle skill that’s important to success in pool: adjusting to the table (and other equipment) that you’re playing on. Between tables that play fast or slow, cushions that bank long or short, cloth that’s worn, new, or fuzzy, balls that are dirty or clean, room’s that are hot or cold, and air that is humid or dry, there are a lot of variables that affect the play of the game that are out of your control. The quicker you can identify these issues and adjust to them, the better you’ll play. It’s always frustrating to go to a new table and try a shot that you rarely miss and never be able to make it. Understanding why you’re missing and what you can do to adjust is a big part of the game, especially when it’s your first time playing on a particular table.

9. Patience and Persistence

Practicing trick shots is very much like shooting drills. It can be repetitive and frustrating, but the payoff at the end is worth the investment. Challenging yourself with shots that push your skill limits will only make you better and will teach you how to channel and focus your attention to little details that will improve your game. There have been many times in my career where I would see a shot and think, “I’ll never be able to make that!” Most of those shots, however, I have since made. Sometimes it takes a couple hours, others take a couple years, but having the mental toughness to persist and patience to accept that it may take more time is something that will make drawn out sets in tournaments seem short.

10. Fun

One of the best things about trick shots is that they’re fun. While the process may be arduous, once you learn how to make a shot, it’s fun. It’s fun for you and it’s fun to show off to your friends. It’s fun when you finally figure out a shot that you’ve been working on for a while and it’s even more fun when you didn’t think you could hit the shot in the first place! And fun is what pool should be about!

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant post! Thanks for taking the time to put all this together & contributing this month.