19 January 2008

How To Aim Succesfully

How to aim the cue ball has always been a troublesome concept to learn because aiming a round ball to hit a precise spot on another round ball some distance away requires abstract visualization in the mind's eye to complete the process. You have to train your brain over time to develop a feel for the correct line of aim. Normally you do this by trial and error until the ball begins to go into the pocket on a regular basis for a particular angle or distance. The brain basically builds a memory for line of aim for each of these shots. As the angle changes and or the distance increases your brain has to once more go through the process of relearning the line of aim for the new shot. Unfortunately there are thousands of different angles and varying distances to the pocket which takes years to master them all. Add to that your varying state of mind from day to day and you are never quite sure If your abstract point of aim is going to produce the results that you desire.

How to aim successfully...

We have two eyes and actually see three pictures:

  • The picture recorded by our left eye.

  • The picture recorded by our right eye.
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The composite picture computed by our brain which is the one we consider the true picture but which is entirely different than the left or right eye recording.
Another complication is the fact that we have a dominant eye that is used by the brain as the master reference.
Also the brain weighs lights and shadows which for example makes striped balls appear different depending how the stripes are oriented.

In some opinions, most shots are missed because the shooter gets confused about where he is aiming and not because of bad cueing. This is easy to see because one has three pictures to choose from and explains poor performance under pressure when we talk ourselves into using the wrong picture. Under stress the brain tries to gain more information about the object in view (potential aggressor) in this case OB by alternating/evaluating left, right and composite view . This survival behavior is good in the real world when we try to judge if an aggressor is getting ready to make a move at us but makes aiming difficult or impossible(total confusion). I call this effect of confusion “NG” for No Good.

We have been looking for a way to get rid of “NG” and found this method:
  1. I start by aligning any cut shot like it was a straight in shot.
  2. Now I become aware where my cue is pointing at the rail(thus becoming aware what is a straight in shot) and look at that rail point past the OB.
  3. Now I change my cue aiming point right/left until I think I have the proper cut angle.
  4. Again I become aware where my cue is aiming at the rail and look at that rail point past the OB. I see the branch (straight line cue – CB – contact point – rail point, and the branch of this line which is OB to pocket). This makes it much easier because you judge the angle of the branch. By becoming aware(looking at) of the cue aiming point on the rail you double check your alignment automatically and get rid of “NG”.
This has greatly helped in aiming and give us confidence that we have the proper alignment when setting up for the shot. Aiming using the contact point only is impossible for us since the ball is round and it is impossible to focus and remember one specific point on it especially since we alternate what we are looking at during the aiming process.

Simple Aiming Technique

Here's a technique for aiming that we've come up with. It's pretty simple. Consider the fact that a common billiard ball is 2 1/4 inches in diameter. That means that when the cue ball contacts the object ball, there is 2 1/4 inches from the center of one ball to the center of the other (that is, provided the cue ball is not larger than the other balls, as is sometimes the case on many bar tables, but I'm approximating here). Once you have determined the line of aim, simply shoot for a point along the line of aim that is about 1 inch behind the object ball.

There is no substitute for practice of course. That is the best way to develop a good eye for shooting. But if you are having trouble with your aim, it's a good method of double checking. And it can be very useful on snooker tables, where aim can be made even more difficult by the larger size of the table and the smaller size of the balls.

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