My take on the 3 rail shot and why, in my opinion, it's one of the most important shots in pool...

Chili Palmer

funking idiot
Silver Member
First, how I became to love shooting 3 railer's:

Back in the late 80's or early 90's, late at night after getting home from the pool hall, me and a buddy would see a commercial on TV (don't remember if it was a product ad, a sponsorship commercial (Miller, Bud, etc.) or some guy selling a VHS tape) that showed some guy taking 10 balls and lining them up (touching each other) on the long rail near a corner pocket and shooting all 10 via 3 rail (typical corner to corner shot). Me being me I said "I'm doing that someday" (keep in mind my bowlliards average was definitely less than 100 when this started. For a year or two me and a couple of buddies would try this almost every night then one night - BAM - I nailed all 10. We all did high fives and went home. Sometime within the next week or so I saw that commercial again and realized the shooter was using a bar cue tucked into the rail on the opposite side to help guide the balls if he missed short - I was flabbergasted and we all just chuckled. I continued practicing that shot for YEARS and have done it 100's if not 1000's of times.

Fast forward to 2018 when I get back into pool and actually start practicing and I realized how that shot had improved my general play and here's how I look at it now:

Forget 1 rail kicks, forget 2 rail kicks, forget 4 rail kicks - shoot EVERYTHING as a 3 rail kick. If a ball is in the middle of the table and you're locked up on a side rail by a side pocket start walking around the table going from corner to corner thinking 3 railer and eventually the ball you're trying to hit will come into the path of the CB ;)

To practice these on different tables I start in one corner and just start shooting whitey 3 rails corner to corner until I have the rails and speed down. From there I will start changing up the english or speed (I'm a lefty and prefer left english so I start in a pocket that allows for running top-left english - about 3/4 or a full tip off center at medium speed) and I start watching where the ball is hitting the end rail. From there I will start focusing on hitting it hard or soft (depending on mood) to start incorporating more/less english speed to start makin the ball.

After that, I will start putting a ball in the pocket and try making it and leaving the CB in front of pocket (sometimes I try following it in also).

Next I will start placing the OB up the rail a few inches or along the end rail a few inches (the latter begins the 4 rail portion of training) and I start figuring out how to hit that ball with the right speed (relative what I'm messing around with - hard, soft, etc).

Eventually, you will learn how to shorten or extend a 3 rail shot to suit whatever the situation requires, and maybe someday you'll be able to hit, or even make, the 5 rail shot Willie Mosconi made to win a tournament on the day his child was born (I'll let you look that one up :))

From there, start moving the CB up and down the side/end rail and continue the speed and english adjustments until you start pocketing it on a regular basis. Once you get that figured out, start putting a ball in front of the pocket again and continue from there - i.e. after you're comfortable with that shot start moving the OB up/down the rail - eventually you will be shooting 3 rail shots that your friends are envious of (ask me how I know ;))

Now, take that information and parlay it into 2 rail, 4 rail, and 5 rail kicks. Once you know the patterns you will start opening your eyes to a myriad of different solutions that may seem impossible yet, they're very simple as long as you have put the work in.

Now, the backstory of why I posted this.

My son recently started playing pool within the last year or so. He's currently an APA 5 and should be a 6 soon, he's getting there but he's me and doesn't practice. He does enjoy playing ALL billiards games so that's a good thing. He's asked for help, and we start but again, he's me...wait, I just saw a squirrel...if you get my point. Needless to say I continually hound him to practice 3 rail shots.

Fast forward to a month ago and he has joined a local 1P tournament. However, it's not a normal tournament - this tournament has been going on for a couple of months. I don't know the details but basically the players are given a pre-determined amount of time to play their matches, I'm guessing a month because his next match was scheduled for late December but it was recently moved up to next week. Well 3 or 4 weeks ago he played his first match with one of the old schoolers (old guy :)) and he walked in my door after that match and said "You're right, I need to learn 3 railers" ;). I looked him in the eye and said "If we do this, we do it my way", and he agreed.

His match is Monday and he's playing a lower 500 FargoRated player (I'd put my son at a solid 450, he gets it, just not quite yet) who has been playing for quite a while and has some knowledge of the game.

We are going to work on three things to keep it simple:

Corey Duel's Mighty X for stroke: There are plenty of ways to practice stroking straight (in bed doesn't count, perverts :)) but I grew up watching Corey play and I respect his game.


Max Eberle's 15 shot zig-zag drill: There are a million ways to practice this but for some reason I absolutely love this drill because it's BRUTAL and I have never finished it ;) Most importantly, this drill encompasses about 60-75% of the cut shots you're going to shoot in pool - IMHO.


And then my 3 rail system.

And in case you were wondering - I'll be using bowlliards to track his progress ;)



I'm hoping to get one good session in on Sunday before his match Monday or Tuesday. I'll post up the results when it happens, whenever it happens.

If anyone tries this post up the results, I would love to hear if it helps or hinders your play.
 

bbb

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
great post and thank you for linking the drills
you mention at the end
And then my 3 rail system.
do you mean what you explained in the beginning of your post or the system in the billiard books?
or something else?
 

Chili Palmer

funking idiot
Silver Member
great post and thank you for linking the drills
you mention at the end
And then my 3 rail system.
do you mean what you explained in the beginning of your post or the system in the billiard books?
or something else?

Yeah, what I was explaining. Honestly, that was probably the first time I called it a "system", generally speaking, I just do what I do and that's the first time I've put "pen to paper" so to speak.
 
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bbb

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
Yeah, what I was explaining. Honestly, that was probably the first time I called it a "system", generally speaking, I just do what I do and that's the first time I've put "pen to paper" so to speak.
Thanks for the reply
I hope your son does well and continues to listen to you 👍
 

Chili Palmer

funking idiot
Silver Member
LOL, I got so busy I forgot about this.

We did practice that Sunday but he was sick and had just found out he had to work a bunch of overtime between then and Christmas (Amazon).

He got a 60 something in Bowlliards. I wasn't surprised and we learned a lot. I didn't talk when he was playing and just took notes, it's a long list :).

After that, we briefly worked on stroke drills, the 15 ball zig-zag (limited to 4 balls due to time) and then the 3 rail stuff.

He didn't do that well on the drills. He kept saying he was tired and I kept saying - what happens when in you're in the late rounds of a tournament and you've been on your feet all day. NOW is the time to learn how to push through it.

Given he wasn't going to have time to practice until after Christmas (he actually stepped away from one of his two nights of league also) we didn't work on any mechanics because it would just screw him up. Also, I'm not a stroke guy, I can tell when stuff is goofy but I don't know the mechanics enough to fix it so he's trying to get together with a local guy who is pretty good at that stuff.

He learned quite a bit on the zig-zag and 3 rail drills though. We spent more time on the 3 rail stuff because there's not much to learn on the zig-zag stuff, just practice.

For the 3 rail stuff we focused on corner to corner 3 railer's and then started moving the ball up the long rail so he could learn how to shorten it up, as well as moving it along the short rail to learn how to make it go long. Then we started putting balls in the middle of the table and we worked following the path to hit stuff in the middle of the table using 3/4 rail thinking. He learned quite a bit and he showed me a couple of shots the next weekend that he pulled off during league.


At the end of the day, he's a bar-banger and wants to be a pool player, time will tell if he has the discipline to get there, I'm sure he has the brain to do it and he learns quickly when dedicated.

I'll update when things start to happen again.
 

gregcantrall

Center Ball
Silver Member
3 and 2 rail banks and kicks are game winners and can make your opponent say, " gulp"
On my coffee table is, Billiards as it should be played. By Willie Hoppe. A good investment, what ever the price is now. I have the hard back but had a paper back that I gifted.
 

MitchAlsup

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
The "special" thing about the 3 rail shots is that (by and large) the shot is self correcting and so are 5-rail shots if you rails have enough bounce.

I use these shots all the time at the bar, when playing lesser opponents (or women) and far ahead, I will 3-rail until I make it. After a while you get use to the angles--and there is only 1 really important rail position--where CB bounces off the 3rd rail; the other rail positions are merely to get the CB to that 3rd rail.

Thanks for the history lesson.
 

Korsakoff

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
Young folks that show promise should take an early three-cushion lesson or two.

When I was 18, I looked up a 72 year old 3 cushion guy at 21st Century Billiards in Nashville. He used to travel with Hoppe. After the first lesson, I was a half-ball better in my pool games. Opens your eyes like they have never been opened before.
 

tomatoshooter

Well-known member
The "special" thing about the 3 rail shots is that (by and large) the shot is self correcting and so are 5-rail shots if you rails have enough bounce.
I've found the 4 railer is very consistent, at least for me it's a better percentage than a thin cut to roll down the short rail.

I realized you can visualize multi rail bank shots by imagining pool tables are next to each other. This is basically what spot on the wall is. If you are shooting the corner to corner 3 rail, you are effectively aiming at a point two table widths over and one table length beyond the corner pocket. I drew it up and will try to remember to make an image to post here. I haven't figured out what sort of correction factor is needed, or if it's feasible to go from pure geometry to adjusting for friction and rail induced spin, so it's more of a ballpark thing but you can see that 1/3 of a diamond on the first rail is one diamond at the end. Now if I could just figure out how to stop the cue ball from getting in the way.
 

Chili Palmer

funking idiot
Silver Member
I've found the 4 railer is very consistent, at least for me it's a better percentage than a thin cut to roll down the short rail.

I realized you can visualize multi rail bank shots by imagining pool tables are next to each other. This is basically what spot on the wall is. If you are shooting the corner to corner 3 rail, you are effectively aiming at a point two table widths over and one table length beyond the corner pocket. I drew it up and will try to remember to make an image to post here. I haven't figured out what sort of correction factor is needed, or if it's feasible to go from pure geometry to adjusting for friction and rail induced spin, so it's more of a ballpark thing but you can see that 1/3 of a diamond on the first rail is one diamond at the end. Now if I could just figure out how to stop the cue ball from getting in the way.

@LOL cue ball getting in the way.

RE: adjustments for mirrored tables - I've always figured the tables had to be seamless, as in on a 9' there is a 50" x 100" playing surface, if you mirrored them the total width would be 100" as there is zero distance between the edges.
 

Black-Balled

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
You can definitely do some nasty stuff if you get your three rail path down.

It's amazing how often players overlook simple applications of it.
 

Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
Staff member
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@LOL cue ball getting in the way.

RE: adjustments for mirrored tables - I've always figured the tables had to be seamless, as in on a 9' there is a 50" x 100" playing surface, if you mirrored them the total width would be 100" as there is zero distance between the edges.
There are two problems with that approach. The first is that the center of the ball, which defines its position and path, is not reflected from the nose of the cushion -- it is reflected at the rail groove. The second problem, which is much larger for all multi-rail kicks and banks, is that the reflection angle is often nothing like what a mirror does.

In general the 3-rail kick shot to the corner pocket gives a much larger target than you would calculate from mirrors. It is as if the spot on the wall target is much larger than one ball wide at the distance given by simple reflections of the table.

You can find your own spot on the wall for the corner-5 system on your own table by playing first from a cue ball position of about 3 1/2 on the long rail. Don't do it by the system -- use your own normal stroke and shoot where you need to for the shot. Note the direction of your aiming line. Do the same from 6 on the short rail. Those two lines will cross at a point. That is your "spot on the wall" for the pocket you were shooting to. If the cushions are any good, there will be three other points placed symmetrically around the table that are the three other corner pockets.

Here is the simple reflection method, which gives the wrong answer:
CropperCapture[824].png
 

tomatoshooter

Well-known member
@LOL cue ball getting in the way.

RE: adjustments for mirrored tables - I've always figured the tables had to be seamless, as in on a 9' there is a 50" x 100" playing surface, if you mirrored them the total width would be 100" as there is zero distance between the edges.
Yeah, I'm wondering if I should actually account for the 1 1/8" radius of the cue. It's really more of a conceptual thing than an accurate simulation.
 

MitchAlsup

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
There are two problems with that approach. The first is that the center of the ball, which defines its position and path, is not reflected from the nose of the cushion -- it is reflected at the rail groove. The second problem, which is much larger for all multi-rail kicks and banks, is that the reflection angle is often nothing like what a mirror does.

The ball touches the rail and reflects (bounces).

At slow speed the actual reflection is equi-angle in the first couple of millimeters off the nose of the rail.

However, the CB has natural forward roll when it reflects, and this causes the CB to arc forward as if it reflected off the rail the distance back from the point of contact defined by where the diamonds are.

So, say we have a CB sitting in the mouth of the upper left corner pocket and we have an OB sitting in the mouth of the lower left pocket and balls interfering with the straight shot line. We aim at the diamond* of the center pocket, make contact on the top side rail. If the arcing forward did not happen, the CB would roll towards the ½ diamond position above the lower corner pocket. But because of the forward roll of the CB, it arcs forward from natural forward roll and knocks the OB in.

The diamonds were strategically positioned back from the nose of the rail to take the forward roll (angular momentum) of the ball reflecting off the rails into account.

So, when aiming such a shot, one can use the cue 3 times. a) from the CB to the diamond position on the rail. b) from the nose of the rail at the equi-angle, c) the same equi-angle of (b) but displaced so it is centered on the diamond. This geometry takes care of the perturbation of the CB roll off the nose of the rail.

(*) this diamond does not actually exist because the side pocket has a big hole where it would be positioned.
 

tomatoshooter

Well-known member
The ball touches the rail and reflects (bounces).

At slow speed the actual reflection is equi-angle in the first couple of millimeters off the nose of the rail.

However, the CB has natural forward roll when it reflects, and this causes the CB to arc forward as if it reflected off the rail the distance back from the point of contact defined by where the diamonds are.

So, say we have a CB sitting in the mouth of the upper left corner pocket and we have an OB sitting in the mouth of the lower left pocket and balls interfering with the straight shot line. We aim at the diamond* of the center pocket, make contact on the top side rail. If the arcing forward did not happen, the CB would roll towards the ½ diamond position above the lower corner pocket. But because of the forward roll of the CB, it arcs forward from natural forward roll and knocks the OB in.

The diamonds were strategically positioned back from the nose of the rail to take the forward roll (angular momentum) of the ball reflecting off the rails into account.

So, when aiming such a shot, one can use the cue 3 times. a) from the CB to the diamond position on the rail. b) from the nose of the rail at the equi-angle, c) the same equi-angle of (b) but displaced so it is centered on the diamond. This geometry takes care of the perturbation of the CB roll off the nose of the rail.

(*) this diamond does not actually exist because the side pocket has a big hole where it would be positioned.
On harder shots, the ball will compress the rail. Because the ball is travelling along the rail, the momentum is pushing the ball into the side of the depression in front of the cue ball and that side of the depression is likewise pushing back on the cue, stiffening up the bank angle.

If the first rail contact is a shallow angle, the spin picked up by the ball will cause the reflection off the second rail to go much wider than what the approach angle suggests.

It's pretty mind blowing, all the different compounding and counteracting forces that come together to make me miss. It's like the laws of nature have it out for me.
 

Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
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... At slow speed the actual reflection is equi-angle in the first couple of millimeters off the nose of the rail. ...
...
I think this is true on very few shots and requires the right amount of running side spin. Without side spin I think all balls bank short in the first few mm.
 
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