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Potting Howto

Pool is a fun game. It combines aspects of board games and sports. You need to strategise, theres a random element to it, and you need hand eye coordination to hit the ball where you want it to go. Its the last part of these three elements that this page is about, making the object ball go where you want. A howto guide for beginners on hitting a pool ball.

The Easy Bit

The first part to hitting a ball in is knowing how to get the white ball to connect with the object ball, so that the object ball goes where you want, usually into a pocket. This is pretty simple because with a round object, if you want it to go in a given direction, theres only one spot to hit it on. It doesn't matter where the white ball is on the table, the point to hit the object ball to make it go into a pocket is the same. We will call this the 'Sweet Spot', and knowing it will make you a better player.

In this picture the ghostly green ball is a representation of where the white ball has to end up to hit the red object ball to make it go into the pocket. As you can see, regardless of the angle from which you are hitting the white ball, it has to end up hitting the same spot to make the red object ball go in.

The Sweet Spot
The Sweet Spot

To find a balls sweet spot, stand behind the ball you wish to pot, with it in between you and the pocket in a direct line. As you can see in the above image, the dead centre of the back of the ball in a straight line to where you want to hit it is its sweet spot. I often walk up and pretend I am going to hit the object ball in directly with my queue to find its sweet spot, though its better to eventually do this just with your eye.

The Moderately Difficult Bit

Pool would be an easy game if it was just hitting balls straight in with your queue, thats all the sweet spot really tells you. Its the addition of the white ball and having to have two round objects connect at an exact point that makes it difficult, and fun.

So its not as simple as finding the sweet spot and aiming straight for it with the white ball, the sweet spot is where the balls have to CONTACT, not what you aim for. As the angle of the pot changes, you have to think about the angle at which the white ball contacts the red object ball.

The image shows the differences in angles between aiming at the sweet spot, and aiming for the balls to contact at the sweet spot. The red lines showing the angle of aiming at the sweet spot, and the white line showing where you actually need to hit the white ball so that it and the object ball contact at the sweet spot. Understanding this difference is the key.

Showing the change in angles as angle of pot changes.
Comparison of Angles between aiming at sweet spot, and contacting at sweet spot

If you have the white ball, the object ball and the pocket in a straight line, you can just aim straight at the sweet spot and if you hit it, the ball will go in. But as the angle of the pot increases, you need to make the angle of where the two balls contact increase as well (as you can see by the difference in the numbers between the straighter pots and the more angled ones in the above image). The wary might note that the 45 degree pot in the picture is not physically possible (without spin).

The Hard Bit

Finding the exact contact point changes according to the angle at which you hit the ball.

This image shows the basic theory for how that angle changes. I know the angles are a little weird in this picture, but it shows the concept and I can't be bothered doing it again. Whim made me use a purple ball instead of a white ball....and a white ball instead of a coloured object ball, go figure, but I guess if this confuses you too much, this part won't make any sense anyway.

The basics of the shot are that the white ball we want to hit and the purple ball to hit it with are at a 45 degree angle to each other. To make the white ball go in the direction we want (in this case straight down), we need to hit the purple ball onto it at a 35 degree angle.

Where the white ball has to contact
Angle to contact sweet spot

We divide the ball up into four quarters, in a line of sight from where the queue will hit the purple ball to go onto hit the white ball. It is the quarter which will be contacting the white ball that we are concerned about, so ignore the others.

The point in that quarter where we want it to hit our (white) object ball, is mirrored by the angle at which we are hitting the ball. So if we are hitting the ball on 35 degrees, we want the ball to hit the object ball exactly at the 35th degree on the face of the quarter. We want to contact the sweet spot of the object ball on an angle in that quarter that is the same as the angle we are hitting the ball on.

The angle ranges from 0 degrees when the pocket, object ball and white ball are all in a straight line, to 90 degrees when the white ball is at a right angle to the object ball. Somewhere in between them is the perfect spot to hit every possible shot on a pool table.

So thats about it really. If you can understand what is in this page, then you can get about learning the other fun parts of the game. Basically I did this page as I sort of knew the theory in my mind, but I didn't know it precisely. I did the drawings to force me to put it down logically, and thought others might find them useful. As I mainly did this for myself, its not as precise as it might have been otherwise, the angles and the colours of the balls in particular need to be standardised. If all this really bothers you, send me a fat cheque and I will do it again, and if its fat enough add some info about spin, doubles, cannoning, playing off cushions, strategy and positioning.

Peace - Cameron

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Cameron Green
Last Updated - Fri, 30 Jan 2015 07:04:48 -0600