Of all the topics in pool that players want to learn more about, I find that aim is the one most people ask me about. No matter how much you know about strategy and position play, if you don't make the balls consistently all of your knowledge will be rendered useless. Up until the past year I've been using the hit-a-million-balls aiming system with inconsistent results. Never heard of that one? It basically means if you just keep hitting balls the aim will fall into place. This technique may work for some people, but it didn't work so well for me, so I began seeking answers.

The first thing I did was ask all of the players that I felt were great shooters. Their answers made sense during the explanation, but didn't make me any more consistent. Next I sought out the aiming system gurus to see if they had a magic bullet, but in the end systems just confused me, and I was still missing too many balls. Eventually I just decided to study what happened to me on those occasions when I go into no miss mode, and I become 100% certain that I'm making the ball. Where does that certainty come from? I think I have finally figured it out. Some days my body just falls into it, but other days I have to make myself do it. Either way, it gives me something to look for on the days when making the balls seems like shooting a hole in one off the pro tee. Here are the three things I look for.

1. When standing behind the line of aim I can visualize every aspect of the shot, especially the line from the cueball to the object ball, and object ball to the pocket. If this isn't clear in my mind I don't get down on the shot.

2. Once I'm down on the shot I check my peripheral vision (if you don't know, google it) to see the cue ball and the cue pointing at aim spot on the object ball. I also try to see the part of the cueball overlapping the part of the object ball that I need to hit, almost like an eclipse. Many times when I'm missing balls it's because my focus is so in front of me that I'm cutting out my cue and cueball from my periphery. That's when it's important to back up your field of vision and see the whole shot, looking down the length of your cue like a marksman shooting a rifle. If you don't see your cue, cueball, and object ball, you have to get up and start over.

3. After I get the whole picture of the shot and everything feels right, I narrow my focus onto the spot that needs to be hit on the object ball. Some days my eye settles on the spot easily, but others I have to force myself to find a pinpoint spot, not an area. Once I'm locked in, I pull my cue back slow and straight, and follow through to the aim spot.

If there's one thing I've learned in my quest for perfect aim it's that all systems work, at least initially. Anything that brings more awareness and focus on what you're doing will make you play better, but n the end it's maintaining that level of focus throughout a match that will breed consistency. Regardless of what system you use, the best way to find that consistency is to study how you feel on your best days,and write down all of the details. Eventually you will find three or four critical things that you need to do or feel to play great pool, and the next time you're having a bad day at the table you'll have something to help you get back in line.