fcsnooker - Top Quality Snooker Coaching and Instruction in association with Mr Frank Callan - Intermediate Level -
"Successful Potting"

In modern professional snooker, today's player's have taken the skill of potting balls to a new dimension. Gone are the days when superb tactical players could defeat the natural potter, as today's players pot too many balls for that strategy to work.

Today it is simply pot balls or lose.

To win any frame, at any level will require balls to be potted. So how do you do it? Where do you start? What technique should be employed? What should the eyes be doing?

In the past the great Joe Davis talked about having one final look at the cue ball to check that he was still addressing it dead center before commencing the last back swing.

His eyes are on the cue ball. Before he actually hits the cue ball, he has to switch his eyes back to the object ball. But in his book he failed to say exactly when the switch took place.

I think this is very important. If you go along with Joe in this, there are three points at which the eyes can make this switch.

  • Having had a last look at the cue ball, switch your eyes back to the correct point on the object ball before starting the last back swing. This would entail having a pause at the front as well as at the back of the last back swing.
  • As the cue comes back on the last back swing, your eyes go forward to the object ball.
  • Complete the last back swing before getting your eyes back to the object ball.

World champions Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths, John Parrott and Stephen Hendry and have all waited at the back. Canadian Cliff Thorburn waited longest of all.

The three methods above assume you are following Joe's principle of having one last look at the cue ball before striking. Some players do not use any of the above techniques.

They simply switch their eyes from the cue ball to the object ball while they are lining up the shot. Some do this a lot more than others; it is something which comes naturally to them. One problem with this method is that as a player gets older, his eyes focus less quickly.

It is in fact a snag with any method, but with an adequate pause at the back of the last backswing, a player's eyes have time to focus back on the object ball.

All we should be concerned with is that the cue ball is struck correctly - in the middle - and that the eyes are back on the spot of the object ball the cue ball is supposed to hit. If your cue has strayed off slightly you can, of course, stand up and begin the preparation for the shot again.

Having taken up his position at the table, a player will glance at the pocket into which he wants to pot a particular ball. He should then look for the spot on the object ball that he needs to hit for him to do so.

  • If it happens to be a dead straight pot then the object ball is fully covered.
  • If a three-quarter-ball pot is being attempted, the cue ball covers three- quarters of the object ball.
  • If a half ball pot is attempted, then half of the object ball is covered.
  • The same logic applies to a quarter ball or fine cut.

The point to remember is that this is a matter of your own judgment because if you miss the shot having struck the cue ball correctly and not put any side on it your estimation of the potting angle has been at fault. You have assessed the potting angle incorrectly.

Only by trial and error can the right estimate be made so regularly that with practice, you will automatically look at the right spot on the object ball and pot it. This is why practice is so important. Players will tend to recognize the potting angle more easily for some shots than others.

Players - not just novices - should regularly practice striking the cue ball correctly using only the cue ball. No object ball is needed. The old method of going up and down over the brown, blue, pink and black spots is not one I use because a player could put a little side on the cue ball which sends it off-line slightly going up the table, only for it to correct itself on the way back.

I personally believe it is better to use the baulk line. You don't even need a cue ball. A player will soon find out whether he is cueing straight just by checking the direction of the cue along the baulk line. The cue should be hiding the baulk line from view as you look from above. It is surprising how many players have difficulty doing this accurately. Begin your waggles and then complete your imaginary shot along the baulk line. Stay down upon completion and slowly lift up to see whether your cue is still covering the baulk line at the end of your shot. This will illustrate whether you are cueing straight.

If the cue starts to go off line as it strikes the cue ball, it means a player is coming through across the line of the cue ball instead of straight through it. A true, straight follow-through is essential to prevent this happening. Keep practicing this. It sounds boring but the rewards will make it worthwhile.

Even players who know only a little about snooker appreciate that if you do not hit the cue ball in the center then left or right-hand side will be applied to it. But even if the cue ball has been struck in the center, side will still be applied if the cue does not proceed through the cue ball still on a straight line. This is one of the most common faults in the game.

After practicing both with and without a cue ball on the baulk line, attempt some straight pots. Four reds are sufficient. They should be placed across the table - not too far apart - some 18 inches (45 cm) from the baulk line and parallel to it on the center spot side.

Place the cue ball on the baulk line and try to pot each red into a top pocket. Make each pot dead straight so that you have to strike the cue ball dead center and, of course, the object ball too. If you make the pot, you know you have played the shot correctly. But if you have missed, you must stay down at the table. Don't get up and don't move the cue until you have found out whether it is pointing at the middle of the pocket you are aiming at. If it isn't, you are not cueing straight.

Once again, the hard work starts as you practice the shot time and time again, setting yourself the target of knocking in all four reds in successive shots (see Figure 1). If you can do that, you are not doing too badly.

To improve even more, the reds can be taken further back and placed between the two center pockets (See figure 2).

The cue ball now has to travel further before arriving at the object ball, and this is where a player discovers that the greater the distance between cue ball and object ball, the more difficult the shot.

Only by constant practice can a player achieve any significant degree of consistency, for the more you progress with this exercise the harder it becomes.

Steve Davis used to place all 21 balls from one middle pocket to the other. He used to try to knock in all 21 and I can tell you that his record is 19. He told me his 'bottle' went as he attempted the twentieth pot.

Steve would rather knock in those 21 balls in consecutive shots than make a maximum. Why? By potting all 21 balls, he, would know he was cueing absolutely correctly, and that is the basis of his game.

When John Parrott practices the same exercise, he puts the 15 reds between the middle pockets, one on the blue spot and seven either side of it.

Again this is good, solid practice and an excellent daily routine to make sure your cue is not only going through on a straight line but is also going through the cue ball. No power is needed.

Just concentrate on good cueing - the foundation of the game.

Frank Callan Suite - 282 Ribbleton Lane, Ribbleton, Preston, Lancashire, England - PR1 5EB - tel. + 44 (0) 1772 702211 - info@fcsnooker.co.uk

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