Magical Masse – Add a Little Swerve to Your Pool Game
Do you want to perform magic on the pool table? Here's your chance to master a trick shot that's actually useful. In a masse shot, you hit the cueball in a downward motion so that it takes a curved path or otherwise changes direction mid-flight. It can be an imperceptibly slight curve or a dramatic 180°. Poolroom and bar owners don't take too kindly to players attempting extreme masses because of potential damage to the felt from inept efforts at massive elevation and power. Have no fear, the masses that are controllable and easiest to incorporate into your game are docile creatures drawn out by finesse and a gentle hand.
You might be masse-ing and you don't even know it yet.
One of the primary pieces of pool advice is to keep your cue level while shooting. If you elevate your cue and hit off-center, your cueball will curve a little and you'll miss your shot. Well folks, that's called an unintentional masse!
How does it do that?
By elevating the cue and hitting down on the side of the cueball, the cueball starts out headed one direction with a downward spin that's fighting to take it in the opposite direction. The fight goes something like this: the ball goes one way because of the direction of the hit until it slows down enough for the spin to grab and take it back the other way. To make the ball curve to the right, hit down on the right side of the cueball - or left to go left.
What good is it except to make me look fancy?
A masse is useful as a way to go around a ball that's in the way of your shot. To aim, you'll need to imagine the curved path first and aim to one side of the obstruction in order to avoid hitting it. The spin will carry the ball back.
Deflection is your friend. Finally!
Because you're hitting the cueball off-center to give it some spin, it's going to get pushed off the line of aim. For example, if you hit down on the right side of the ball, it's going to shoot off to the left a little. You won't need to aim as far to the side of your obstacle because the deflection will be helping push you in that direction.
Don't overdo the elevation or the speed.
The two biggest mistakes that masse newbies make are trying to elevate too much and hitting the shot too hard. Restrict yourself to 45 degrees of elevation or fewer as you're learning to masse. A smooth, medium-speed stroke with a very loose wrist is what's required to achieve the best results. Hitting the shot too hard will cause the cueball to deflect wildly, causing the cueball to go too far off to the side. A hard hit also will mean the cueball will be traveling too fast for the spin to grab in time.
Combining three variables isn't easy!
The things that make a masse work – proper elevation, side offset from center ball, and speed of stroke – all interact with each other. Ultimately, it's a matter of experimenting to get a sense of feel for the proper combination. Start small. A very small elevation and very small amount of spin will allow you to get around the edge of a ball that's only slightly in your way. Gradually work your way around bigger and bigger obstructions until you can clear an entire ball.
Editor Note: Want to see some of these moves in action? Check out Liz Ford performing some English and masse shots for the TV show Time Warp on Discovery Channel!
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