Ask The Master - Hi, Tom! I consider myself a good, intermediate pocket billiards player. My biggest problem is that I seem to pocket the cue ball way too often! I feel jinxed because many times it [cue ball] will carom off another ball, or bank off the rail at a wierd angle into a waiting pocket! Any tips to keep from "scratching" so much would be appreciated.

We all get weird runs of luck. But assuming this has happened enough for you to ask about it, I don't think it's bad luck. I have three suggestions for you:

1. Get clear on the basic physics of ball behavior, that is, how to know where the cueball will go after it hits something, and how to change that as needed. My best suggestion here is to take my 3-Day Weekend Intensive program. I teach in 12 cities. Email for Details.

Second suggestion here is to study the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (750 different shots in every category, on 5 very full DVDs – truly excellent, highly recommended). I urge every student of the game to buy this instructional set. I believe in it and sell it, and so does PoolDawg.

2. I'll wager you're shooting way harder than necessary and turning the cueball loose. You might be surprised how softly you can hit and still make it to the pocket. The softer you shoot, the easier it is to predict where the cueball will go.

3. Play some Kiss Pool. Actually, play lots of Kiss Pool. Rack up all 15 balls, with the cueball in the head ball position in the rack and the one-ball on the head spot. Score points by calling and pocketing object balls by kissing the object ball off the cueball. So for example, on the opening break, you call the one-ball in one of the corner pockets near the rack and kiss it in off the cueball that's sitting in the front of the rack. I play that if the cueball goes in a pocket, no penalty, spot it on the center spot of the table and continue. Whoever gets eight points first wins the rack. This game will teach you to see where the scratches are. If you know where they are, you know where they aren't.