The “Set” Standard

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If you’re like most pool players, in any given match you’ll stroke the cue ball slightly off target on several occasions. In fact, in most cases your accuracy is nowhere near as good as what you would like for it to be. So, what can you do to become more accurate?

Most instructors teach their students to “stay down and keep their head still.” Yet, most players have no idea how much their “Personal Eye Patterns” (PEP) effect their accuracy.

To begin with, you should aim from a standing position and lock your eyes on the contact point of the object ball as you settle into your stance.

You will also want to take several slow warm-up strokes to ensure everything looks correct. (This is the second aiming checkpoint). If anything does not look correct, you should get up and start the process over.

The first part of your “Stroke” is called “Set” and is your third aiming checkpoint. This is where you stop your tip around 1/8 of an inch away from the cue ball and take one final look.

You should note that it takes the human eye around two seconds to focus on a target from a still position. Therefore, it is critical for your cue come to a COMPLETE STOP to allow you to zero in on the target. You will want to note that your eyes will move back and forth, but should be focusing on the cue ball at the end of the “Set” position. During practice, you should remain completely still and say, “1…2…3…”

The next thing you should do is move into what many instructors refer to as “Pause.” This is where you will slowly pull back your cue and stop at the end of your backswing. When making the transition from “Set” to “Pause,” your eyes should move from the cue ball to the point of contact on the object ball. A good pause helps create a smooth forward swing and should also help you maintain accuracy. As you practice the “Pause,” you will want to pull your cue back and say “1…2...” (Second stop).

The third part the process is commonly referred to as “Finish.” During “Finish,” you should smoothly accelerate your cue and follow through the cue ball. Always remember to keep your eyes on the object ball during this step.

The final part of the stroke is called “Freeze.” During “Freeze,” it’s important to keep your body, head, and cue still. This is also diagnostic part of the process. It is here that if the shot is missed, you should try to figure out what went wrong. As you practice “Freeze,” you should remain completely still and say “1…2…3…4…”

During play, “Set, Pause, Finish, Freeze” is something that you should not have to think about. It should be completely a subconscious action. You should not have to count or think about any of the stops.

Most pool instructors teach their students that their timing in an actual game will be roughly half the duration of what it was during practice. In other words, during a real game, your “Set” will last around 1.5 seconds, your “Pause” will be around 1 second, and your “Freeze” will last approximately two seconds.

Personally, out of all of the steps, I like to emphasize “Set,” and I don’t teach my students to cut it in half. I want their eyes to have sufficient time to focus on the target. In fact, after conducting a study I found that most professional players have an average “Set Time” of 2 seconds on very difficult shots, while the average player averages around 1.5 seconds. I like to call this difference in time the “Set Standard.”

To this day, my accuracy is much better due to the fact that I emphasize the “Set.” As an instructor, I see many players have limited abilities because they have some type of problem with their eye patterns. Don’t let faulty eye patterns hold you back. Practice them to immediately start playing a more powerful and accurate game of pool.