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View Full Version : Lord help me, I struggle at position play....

mrpool06
12-02-2007, 09:53 AM
Actually I'm not that bad......but I am screwing myself in pool league, because of poor position play. (I tend to focus on shotmaking). But I'm realizing that the biggest weakness in my game is position play, & will not be a top player unless I get it under control.

I watched a Robert Byrne tape last night, his 2nd one....made me do some thinking. I've decided I'm going to devote 1/2 of my practice time to position play.....not just playing 8-ball (with a half-ass effort at position play), but specific exercises.

Any suggestions or comments on this, it'd be appreciated. Anyone else struggle with it?? I'm realizing that books & videos only help so much....I need to focus on this during practice.

TX Poolnut
12-02-2007, 09:56 AM
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in position play that I forget the most important thing, MAKE THE BALL. I can't tell you how many times I've gone right to where I want the cue to go only to miss the shot.

It sounds like you have a good plan for practice. Hopefully, you will see results soon.

Drawman623
12-02-2007, 10:42 AM
The biggest issue I had as a "shotmaker" was that when I played position, I tried to get perfect shape on the next ball....so I could be assured of making that "shot." To bridge the gap between shotmaking and position play, I had to learn that perfect shape is usually wrong. Avoid getting straight-in unless it is the money ball. The secret was to look 2 balls ahead, not one, and to build angle into every leave. Use rails to control speed and always shape to get position for a 3rd ball off your second. But like the last poster noted...always make the shot! Good luck

sjm
12-02-2007, 11:01 AM
Position play really boils down to three things:

Angle Conceptualization
Study the ninety degree rule so you'll know what angles are available on any given shot. Then learn patern play theory so you'll know which angle to select.

Angle Production
Can you produce the angle you selected off the object ball? This is where doing drills is vital. Otherwise, you'll never learn to proudce the angles you select.

Speed Control
Even if you know what angles are available and you are able to select and produce the angle you need, you still need accruate speed control to get the job done. Again, speed control oriented drills are vital to develop this skill.

I believe that most pool players never learn proper angle conceptualization, relying instead on their instincts, which steer them away from proper table management.

Wedge
12-02-2007, 12:08 PM
I just recently started to play again (after a 25 yesr layoff) and I decided to get instructed by a pro to reduce the chance of getting into bad habits. I worked with Karen Corr for 4 hours at Pete Fusco's room in Feasterville, PA. Best money I ever spent. She changed my stroke completely and taught me practice drills for 9 ball. Karen is a certified BCA instructor. She charges \$100/hr...not much more than the mechanic at your car dealer.

I recently got into a straight pool league and am having trouble with pattern play. I am scheduled to go up to Jim Rempe's home in Lake Ariel, PA this weekend for 4 hours of instruction on pattern play. Jimmy charges \$125/hr with a 2 hour minimum. Rempe probably has as much straight pool knowledge as anyone walking the earth.

I guess my point is try to find a certified BCA instructor or a professional in your area if you are serious about improving and can swing the money.

Hope this helps

Corr and Rempe both have websites if anyone wants to contact them

CreeDo
12-02-2007, 03:26 PM
one of the big things is to understand what's going to happen with the cueball. I know that sounds like dumb obvious advice but so many players think they know what's going to happen, but they don't. They don't know what cue ball paths are realistic and what's not. A big problem I used to have is that I tried to bring the cue ball to positions that just aren't possible without crazy spin or force. You have to understand when you have too much or too little angle to move the cue ball the way you want, and adapt accordingly.

I dunno where you're at in skill level but here are a bunch of things that helped me so much when I finally got them. Some of them were like instant revelations, like I got them 1 day and it totally changed my game. Others I sorta always knew, but they snuck into my game more and more over several years.

1. Before all else, know where the cue ball will go with a firm center ball hit, which boils down to knowing the 90 degree rule. Understand that this rule only applies when the cue ball is moving fast enough that it's sliding (not rolling) across the cloth.

2. Know where it will go if the cue ball is rolling naturally (not sliding), which you can sorta estimate with what people call the 30 degree rule. Figuring this one takes some experience and basically hitting a million balls.

3. Understand that smacking left or right english on the cue ball doesn't affect how much it goes left or right immediately after it hits the object ball. Sidespin is made to control how the cueball reacts off the RAILS. Not how it reacts off other balls. There are subtle exceptions to this rule but basically it's true 95 percent of the time. If you're straight in and you whack the cue ball with left english, you aren't going to make it go left. Or you might but you'll miss the shot.

3b. How much you cut the object ball and how far above or below center affect the direction of the cue ball more than anything. If you're almost straight in and you want the cue ball to spin forward and to the left... you need to cut the object ball as much as possible (without missing it) while hitting the cueball just a little bit above center. If you hit way above center thinking 'more spin = better chance of moving the cb the way I want' you'll fail. If you thinking going nuts with left or high left english will help you move the cueball left you'll fail. The key is knowing that the more towards the center you hit on the CB, the more sideways it will go before the english (whether it's topspin or draw) catches.

4. when you're making rail cuts and you want to get the ball back towards you using low outside, or you need it to race around the table with running english, it's important to know that SIDESPIN matters a buttload more than follow or draw when moving the cue ball off a rail. This is important and it took me a while to get it so I'll say it again. It's sidespin that will get the most work done... not the follow or draw, especially for cuts near or greater than 45 degrees. That's not to say don't bother adding any follow or draw, but focus on the side. Unfortunately that's harder to aim than just follow or draw, but that's the price you have to pay to get the position you want.
Buddy Hall illustrates it nicely in one of the chalk-off videos. They've been deleted from youtube sadly, the video I had in mind was #10.

5. Try to make leaves where what you want to do doesn't require a lot of force, has lots of room for error, and sets up for easy stop shots or almost-stop shots. Avoid paths where you have to weave the cue ball through other balls, play the speed perfectly, pound the ball really hard, or barely feather it in.

Lastly, don't bullshit yourself on what's required. If the angle is too steep to 'hold' the ball for position, plan on moving the cueball back and forth across the table as necessary, don't baby the shot in and try to hold it anyway. If there's not enough angle to move the cue ball off the rail, consider rail first, or just settle for shooting off the rail. Don't pound the ball hoping for a miracle, you'll just rattle it. If you can't get from point A to point B no matter what spin you put on the ball, consider playing safe even if you have a perfectly easy sinkable ball in front of you.

I could go on and on but basically most position problems boil down to a problem with someone's understanding and planning, not their ability to stroke the cue ball and put spin on it. The more you understand, the less stroke ability you'll need.

There's a ton of good free video on youtube and the major pool sites, I recommend checking that out.

poolplayer2093
12-02-2007, 03:36 PM
you should try 9 ball. with 8 ball people sometimes get lazy because they can always change the plan by shooting another ball

av84fun
12-02-2007, 04:08 PM
Try these drills. I think you will find they are not as easy as they sound.

Six Ball Runout

1. Toss 6 balls out and eliminate any problems i.e. separate the balls and fix any blocked routes to the nearest pocket to any given OB. Just plain SIMPLE.

2. Mentally plan the entire run out PAYING ATTENTION TO LOOKING FOR DOWN-THE-LINE shape instead of cross-the-line-shape. Not properly planning for DTL shape is one of the MAIN reasons for poor position play/

3. Take BIH and run out...adjusting the route as necessary.

You may be surprised at how many racks you mess up out of 10 tries

This drill FORCES you to plan your routes...because you have to do so before you shoot the first shot and instructs you in the VITAL habit of playing for DTL shape.

TAG

This is a drill that I expanded upon based on a Byrne drill. My version was picked up as an article in Pool & Billiard Magazine and I got a LOT of favorable responses.

Fisrt, the purpose of the drill is to train for CB direction and distance control...mostly distance. But obviously management of CB distance/direction is at the heart of position play.

1. Throw out 9 balls. Fix any problems. No 2 balls should be less than a diamond distance from each other.

2. Take BIH on the 1 ball which you pocket BUT YOU DO NOT PLAY SHAPE ON THE NEXT BALL. Rather, you play to roll the CB as close as you can to the next highest ball...You "play tag" with the next highest ball.

3. Score 1 point if the CB stop within the distance measured from the end of the wrap to the end of the points on your cue which is 8-9 inches on many cues. That distance is measured with the end of the wrap on the edge of the CB nearest the target ball and the OB must be ENTIRELY inside the points.
4. Score 3 points if the CB and target ball are within a ball's width of each other. (I used these measurements so you can use your cue to measure rather than a tape measure.)

5. After each attempt, drop the TB in a pocket and take BIH for the next shot which, for example, would be to pocket the 2 ball and play tag with the 3.

6. Since the 1 ball is not a TB, there are only 8 scoring opportunities so the maximum score would be 3x8=24. (If memory serves, the version published in P&B Mag was 3 points and 5 points but I later decided that there should be a greater ratio...now 3-1 between getting the CB 8 inches from the TB and 2.25 inches.

7. If the CB strikes the OB and moves it, only 1 point is allowed...unless they FREEZE in which case you should smile very broadly.

In addition to training for CB distance/direction control, you will also find that you are forced to think of some VERY inventive routes!

Finally, the essence of this drill includes training not just for "zone shape" which is a GREAT thing to train for...but rather EXACT SPOT shape so that you can attempt to send the CB not only into the zone but the BEST PLACE in the zone.

Simplistically, you are merely using the OBs as targers (you often see top players point their cue tips to the EXACT spot they want to send the CB to and this drill is designed to train you to accomplish that.

Thanks to Mr. Byrne for the basic idea...and if memory serves, a touring pro is also identified with a drill like this...I just can't recall which one.

Good luck!

Jim

DrCue'sProtege
12-02-2007, 04:18 PM
Finally, the essence of this drill includes training not just for "zone shape" which is a GREAT thing to train for...but rather EXACT SPOT shape so that you can attempt to send the CB not only into the zone but the BEST PLACE in the zone.

Yes, this is exactly the point i was trying to make with my Bob Knight analogy in the other thread. and some pretty knowledgeable people (well, at least one) apparently had a problem with my thoughts.

make practice extremely difficult, dont make it easy! dont make shortcuts! work on the Dime and Credit Card type of cue ball control!

if you practice 4-6 hours a day, setting up position shot after position shot, working in landing that cue ball on the dime/credit card, when the time comes during competition that you dont have to land on that dime/credit card but can focus on a larger landing zone, you should be soooooo much better with position play.

it just seems absolutely logical to me. i mean, why do you think Larry Bird used to shoot 100 free throws a day on those smaller goals.......:confused:

DCP

okinawa77
12-02-2007, 04:59 PM
Play straight pool.....cue ball position within an inch can make or break you. You learn to pocket balls and get position. You also learn to play safeties with precision.

TX Poolnut
12-02-2007, 05:24 PM
"I don't know if I practiced more than anybody, but I sure practiced enough. I still wonder if somebody - somewhere - was practicing more than me." -Larry Bird

"While day by day the overzealous student stores up facts for future use, he who has learned to trust nature finds need for ever fewer external directions. He will discard formula after formula, until he reaches the conclusion: Let nature take its course." -Larry Bird

midnightpulp
12-03-2007, 05:51 AM
Try these drills. I think you will find they are not as easy as they sound.

Six Ball Runout

1. Toss 6 balls out and eliminate any problems i.e. separate the balls and fix any blocked routes to the nearest pocket to any given OB. Just plain SIMPLE.

2. Mentally plan the entire run out PAYING ATTENTION TO LOOKING FOR DOWN-THE-LINE shape instead of cross-the-line-shape. Not properly planning for DTL shape is one of the MAIN reasons for poor position play/

3. Take BIH and run out...adjusting the route as necessary.

You may be surprised at how many racks you mess up out of 10 tries

This drill FORCES you to plan your routes...because you have to do so before you shoot the first shot and instructs you in the VITAL habit of playing for DTL shape.

TAG

This is a drill that I expanded upon based on a Byrne drill. My version was picked up as an article in Pool & Billiard Magazine and I got a LOT of favorable responses.

Fisrt, the purpose of the drill is to train for CB direction and distance control...mostly distance. But obviously management of CB distance/direction is at the heart of position play.

1. Throw out 9 balls. Fix any problems. No 2 balls should be less than a diamond distance from each other.

2. Take BIH on the 1 ball which you pocket BUT YOU DO NOT PLAY SHAPE ON THE NEXT BALL. Rather, you play to roll the CB as close as you can to the next highest ball...You "play tag" with the next highest ball.

3. Score 1 point if the CB stop within the distance measured from the end of the wrap to the end of the points on your cue which is 8-9 inches on many cues. That distance is measured with the end of the wrap on the edge of the CB nearest the target ball and the OB must be ENTIRELY inside the points.
4. Score 3 points if the CB and target ball are within a ball's width of each other. (I used these measurements so you can use your cue to measure rather than a tape measure.)

5. After each attempt, drop the TB in a pocket and take BIH for the next shot which, for example, would be to pocket the 2 ball and play tag with the 3.

6. Since the 1 ball is not a TB, there are only 8 scoring opportunities so the maximum score would be 3x8=24. (If memory serves, the version published in P&B Mag was 3 points and 5 points but I later decided that there should be a greater ratio...now 3-1 between getting the CB 8 inches from the TB and 2.25 inches.

7. If the CB strikes the OB and moves it, only 1 point is allowed...unless they FREEZE in which case you should smile very broadly.

In addition to training for CB distance/direction control, you will also find that you are forced to think of some VERY inventive routes!

Finally, the essence of this drill includes training not just for "zone shape" which is a GREAT thing to train for...but rather EXACT SPOT shape so that you can attempt to send the CB not only into the zone but the BEST PLACE in the zone.

Simplistically, you are merely using the OBs as targers (you often see top players point their cue tips to the EXACT spot they want to send the CB to and this drill is designed to train you to accomplish that.

Thanks to Mr. Byrne for the basic idea...and if memory serves, a touring pro is also identified with a drill like this...I just can't recall which one.

Good luck!

Jim

Great stuff, Jim! Looking forward to trying TAG.

But could you (or anyone) please define the concept of Down The Line Shape? I've never heard that term before.

mattman
12-03-2007, 07:36 AM
Great stuff, Jim! Looking forward to trying TAG.

But could you (or anyone) please define the concept of Down The Line Shape? I've never heard that term before.
I think he mean this. In the diagram, lets say you want to be straight in on the 1 ball. If the playing position using CB "A", you have an exact spot where the CB has to land to be straight in. With CB "B" you are approaching the one ball, whereas you have much greater error of margin. "A" is cross the line shape and "B" and down the line shape.
http://CueTable.com/P/?@3APXE4QOBP1RYSL4lOBP3lawL1mYSL3mMMf@

Billy_Bob
12-03-2007, 10:06 AM
What helped me the most with learning position play was Jimmy Reid's "The Art of 8-Ball" video and Dr. Dave's "The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards" DVD (links below).

The Art of 8-Ball takes you through an entire 8-ball runout from breaking, to selecting the best group, the plan on how to run out, the "key" ball, which ball to shoot first, dealing with trouble balls, and getting to the 8 ball. You see entire runouts from start to finish. AND he shows his mistakes! Sometimes he does not get good position. Then he tells you what he is going to do to solve the problem. This is real life! We all make mistakes. This video shows you the general idea and what you SHOULD be trying to do when playing 8-ball. He tells you what he is thinking and trying to do for each and every shot. This REALLY helped me to understand what I should be trying to do.

Then The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards DEMONSTRATES and teaches you all the basics of what you can do to the cue ball to make it go where you want after a shot. Things like the 30 and 90 degree rules. You learn that you have options with each shot as to where the cue ball will go after the shot. Maybe forwards and 30 degrees to the right. Maybe 90 degrees to the line of the pocket, maybe come back. It all depends on where you hit the cue ball. Then he teaches you how to tell in advance where the cue ball will go after your shot (depending on how you hit the CB). Sometimes getting the cue ball to continue forwards after the shot whould be the best leave. Sometimes getting the cue ball to go sideways after the shot would be best. Sometimes getting the cue ball to come backwards after the shot would be best. Perhaps a stop (stun) shot would be best. Teaches you that different things happen with a rolling ball as opposed to a sliding ball. Shows you that with some shots the cue ball is actually sliding and not rolling when it hits the object ball! How to tell if you are going to scratch and avoid scratching. VERY IMPORTANT stuff! Once I learned how to shoot the CB to get it to go where I wanted, it took me a couple of years prectice with some shots to make the pocket and leave the CB where I wanted. I went through a phase where I would leave the CB where I wanted, but missed my shot. Just takes a couple of years of practice is all for some shots. For others I learned right away. Easy! I stopped needless scratching almost instantly after watching this video.

Then draw shots. Search this forum for draw shots. (Tons of info.)

You can do a lot with just follow, stop, and draw so far as leaving position for your next shot. I mostly use this, rarely use any english. So learn follow, stop, and draw and you will be in business!

Then once you have learned WHERE the cue ball is going to go after a shot (this can take a year or more of watching and learning) - Once you have learned how to accurately predict where the CB will travel after your shot (depending on how you shoot the CB), then you can work on SPEED CONTROL. This is shooting with the speed needed to get the cue ball to travel the right distance so it will stop where you want. The following was a big help to me. It says how much speed the CB will retain after hitting a ball depending on the fullness of the hit and speed loss after hitting a rail...

Speed loss of Cue Ball

Full ball hit - 100% loss of speed
3/4 ball hit - 75%
1/2 ball hit - 50%
1/4 ball hit - 25%
Thin hit - 0-10% loss of speed. (CB will go flying off into the boonies!)

One rail - about 40% loss of speed

Then remember this... What goes forward will hit the rail and come back! So once you learn to tell where the CB will go after your shot, you can tell by looking that you can use follow instead of draw, get the CB to continue forward after your shot, then it will hit the rail, and then come back the exact direction you need it to travel for your next shot! (In some cases.)

Or you may need to leave the CB at the far rail, but can't figure out how to get it to stay down there after your shot... You may be able to use more speed, get the CB to hit the far rail, come back to the near rail, then return to the far rail. (For shots where the CB naturally wants to bounce off of the far rail and it is impossible to get it to stay down there.) Well use more speed and get it to bounce back and forth to return to where you want it!

The Art of 8-Ball...
http://www.poolvideo.com/pv250.htm

The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards...
http://dr-dave-billiards.com/cd_dvd/dvd_description.html

Fool 4 Pool
12-03-2007, 10:18 AM
mrpool06,
I think you're headed in the right direction. As you improve your position play, you'll encounter a higher frequency of easy shots, thereby dramatically increasing your chances of higher runs and more wins. Position play is also extremely important in safety play, an area where shotmaking doesn't always apply but the leave is paramount!
I personally believe the stop shot is one of the most vital shots to practice that leads to good position play. Practice being able to make a stop shot at any distance on the table. Not only is the stop shot (actual full hit stop shot) the most consistent shot in pool (done correctly, the cb will always stop dead in its tracks), but the speed control necessary to accomplish the stop shot is imperative to improving your position play. If you can use the 90 degree rule, 30 degree rule for cuts, and consistently make stop shots at any distance (speed control), you are well on your way to great position play. Of course there is much more, but those three ingredients are the foundation that you'll never want to stop practicing.
Work on a few drills, but not too many. Make practice fun; you'll learn much better. Best wishes.

F4P

av84fun
12-03-2007, 10:45 AM
"But could you (or anyone) please define the concept of Down The Line Shape? I've never heard that term before."

Put the 2 ball on the head spot.

Put the 1 ball a diamond out from the left side pocket.

Put the CB a diamond from the 1 ball on the line connecting the side pockets for a straight in.

To get on the 2 ball, you could cheat the pocket and stun the CB to the right. In doing so, you would send the CB on a line that will CROSS the line extending through the 2 ball to the right corner pocket. That is across the line shape.

Instead, use follow and cheat the side pocket a little to that the CB is directed on an angle to the left side rail. It will rebound off that rail and then prodeed DOWN THE LINE to get shape on the 2 ball.

That's just a short shot to help you visualize the concept. But as the shot length increases, DTL shape becomes increasingly more important BECAUSE if the CB is traveling on a line that will CROSS the ideal line of centers between the next OB and its intended pocket, you may have an "allowable error" distance of...say...1 foot which is too much error in most cases...But if the CB is traveling on the correct line of centers, than your CB speed can be off by say...THREE FEET and STILL be on the correct line.

Regards,
Jim

av84fun
12-03-2007, 10:49 AM
EXACTLY...and it would be great if you could create a diagram that would include two OBs and show CTL shape and DTL shape alternatives in getting on the 2nd OB.

I HAVE to work on creating diagrams...Too much to do, too little time!
(-:

Aaron_S
12-03-2007, 11:53 AM
Tons of good advice here already. I personally don't think enough can be said about the importance of learning where the cueball wants to go naturally, or what can be accomplished by staying on the vertical axis of the cueball and simply varying the speed of stroke. Most of the people I've worked with began using spin (left & right) to alter the path of the cueball long before they learned the range of shots that were available to them on the vertical axis alone. Oftentimes that leads to a style of play that is very heavily based on feel, and therefore vulnerable to even slight changes in equipment and conditions, not to mention the added difficulty associated with pocketing balls using side-spin.

As a starting point, I would recommend focusing on moving the cueball without side-spin. By first exploring (and getting a feel for) what is possible on the vertical axis, you will build a much stronger base from which to learn how to move the cueball in ways that do require english. Most importantly, though, you will begin to recognize the optimum angles to leave yourself in order to play natural position on the next ball, which in turn will help you build effective plans for running racks.

Here's a drill a guy showed me that might help you get a feel for moving the cueball using only the vertical axis. You shoot the 1-ball in the side repeatedly from the same spot, each time trying to make the 1-ball and at the same time cause the cueball to run into the lowest numbered ball, 2-12. After you successfully contact a ball, it is removed from the table, and you move on to the next one. Simply count your strokes to track progress. The cueball and the 1-ball are a dot apart and are offset by 1/2 ball (as shown by the lines). This drill will also teach you the importance of hitting the center of the pocket each time.

http://CueTable.com/P/?@2ANvA3BbFn3CbHX3DbJI3EaUd3FNli4GAGi4HNtj4IaMb4Jb JI4KayX4Lawm1PAhI2UNvA4UbtC1kAhI2kcKL@

Good luck,

Aaron

midnightpulp
12-04-2007, 02:18 AM
Tons of good advice here already. I personally don't think enough can be said about the importance of learning where the cueball wants to go naturally, or what can be accomplished by staying on the vertical axis of the cueball and simply varying the speed of stroke. Most of the people I've worked with began using spin (left & right) to alter the path of the cueball long before they learned the range of shots that were available to them on the vertical axis alone. Oftentimes that leads to a style of play that is very heavily based on feel, and therefore vulnerable to even slight changes in equipment and conditions, not to mention the added difficulty associated with pocketing balls using side-spin.

As a starting point, I would recommend focusing on moving the cueball without side-spin. By first exploring (and getting a feel for) what is possible on the vertical axis, you will build a much stronger base from which to learn how to move the cueball in ways that do require english. Most importantly, though, you will begin to recognize the optimum angles to leave yourself in order to play natural position on the next ball, which in turn will help you build effective plans for running racks.

Here's a drill a guy showed me that might help you get a feel for moving the cueball using only the vertical axis. You shoot the 1-ball in the side repeatedly from the same spot, each time trying to make the 1-ball and at the same time cause the cueball to run into the lowest numbered ball, 2-12. After you successfully contact a ball, it is removed from the table, and you move on to the next one. Simply count your strokes to track progress. The cueball and the 1-ball are a dot apart and are offset by 1/2 ball (as shown by the lines). This drill will also teach you the importance of hitting the center of the pocket each time.

http://CueTable.com/P/?@2ANvA3BbFn3CbHX3DbJI3EaUd3FNli4GAGi4HNtj4IaMb4Jb JI4KayX4Lawm1PAhI2UNvA4UbtC1kAhI2kcKL@

Good luck,

Aaron

Did this drill tonight. Very helpful and very fun.

Thanks for the recommendation.

softshot
12-04-2007, 02:25 AM
There is a guy on my league team ... good friend we practice together quite a bit.

Every so often (at least once a week) we play our league game (8-ball) with one exception, you have to call your leave, and once you call that leave you may make another shot ,but you have to hit your "called leave" first. and call another leave. if you miss it, it's BIH.

It is very difficult because you can't luck into opportunity shots but trust me it will focus you on a leave like you never have been before.

av84fun
12-04-2007, 03:00 AM
That's a great drill Aaron. Many people refer to it as The Wagon Wheel. It was taught when I attended Allison and Gerda's FANTASTIC "Pool School."

There are 11 shots and a score of 20 tries is VERY GOOD.

As you know, it also teaches a lot about the tangent line and how to adjust correctly off of it.

Regards,
Jim