There are a lot of myths in the pool world, and center ball is one of them. We always tell beginners to use “center ball” and we say to improve our pocketing use “center ball”, but what exactly does that mean? I’ve asked many people what they mean when they say center ball, and I get all different answers.
Let’s look at the idea behind “center ball” and maybe we can get a better understanding of what this means and how it can help us play better!
For starters, the center of the cue ball is a place deep inside the plastic that the only way you can hit is to saw the ball in half. A better term might be vertical axis. When the cue ball is hit on the vertical axis, it goes in the direction the cue stick is pointing! That is an important point. When we hit the cue ball off the vertical axis, we have to deal with squirt, curve and throw.
So one meaning of center ball is staying on the vertical axis.
The next idea is that the closer we are to the middle of the ball as we are looking at it, the more cue ball is behind the stick. As we get further out on the face of the cue ball, we have less mass behind the cue tip, and more chance for the cue ball to stray from the course we want it to go on. On top of this, the further from the middle we are, the more on the side of the tip we are hitting the cue ball, giving us more chance for error.
Adding all these ideas up, hitting the cue ball near the middle as we look at it gives us the best chance for the cue ball to travel in the direction our stick is pointing.
Now some of you might say I need follow, or spin or some other magic on the cue ball, how can I do that and be so close to the middle? The answer to that is that you get more than enough effective spin hitting the cue ball with one tips width on the equator of the cue ball than you do with more. The reason is that the cue ball squirts! Squirt is a function of distance and not speed, so that you get more squirt with more spin.
The extra squirt causes you to miss more, over spin shots, and run long on shots as the spin translates to speed off a rail. You can get more done, more precisely using less spin.
So the take away for this piece is that to improve your pocketing and positional game, start hitting the cue ball closer to the middle. Instead of an inch of high right, try 2 millimeters. After a while you will start to see that you didn’t need as much as you thought!