ASK THE MASTER:  "I was practicing the drill where you hit the cue ball the length of the table, trying to get it to come straight back to the tip. Every time, the ball would come back to the right of the tip and I don’t know why."

Without even seeing you, I'd say it's highly likely you are right-handed and that you are actually hitting a little left of center on the cueball. I call this Vertical Axis Perception Error. I'll elaborate on that below. There are a couple of simpler possibilities I'd like to mention first.

You could be swerving your cue and not striking the cueball where you think you are. You would have to be pretty consistent with your swerve to get the result you describe. Have someone stand at the far end of the table, on your stick line, as you lag the cueball up and down the table. They will be able to see it if you have a noticeable swerve.

Another one I often see is related to how you use your eyes as you drop into your stance. Many right-handers unintentionally but reliably land their stick pointing a bit to their right (the butt closer to their body) and then work the stick onto the line as they take some strokes. So there is a tendency to aim a little to the right. The other part of this issue is about what you're looking at as you drop. Many players who stare at the cueball as they get into their stance are not well aligned to their shot. I urge all my students to keep their eyes sharp on the distant target (object ball, rail, whatever) as they come down. As your bridge hand lands or gets near the cloth, start looking back and forth between OB and CB. Lining up to the distant target will get you better aligned than lining up to the close target (the CB).

Now, a bit of discussion on Vertical Axis Perception Error. In my experience, 80% of the players who come to pool school have this error. What looks to you like the vertical center of the cueball is not – and the longer you've played, the more consistent the error. Righties usually hit the left side of the CB, believing it's the center because that's what it looks like to them.

Shooting the tip drill you described, if you're inadvertently hitting the left side of the ball, it will pick up a bit of left spin. But more importantly, it will squirt to the right. That left spin will probably be gone before it gets to the end rail, but the squirt is an angle change and thus has a bigger divergence the farther it travels. Squirt sends the CB to the right more than the left spin can correct, so it returns on the right.

This common player problem is caused by the player's eyes not being where they have to be for that player's brain to see the vertical center of the ball correctly. I correct this on everyone. The easiest thing to try without coming to school is to raise your head a few inches higher. Sometimes that's all it takes. Other times, I may have to work with you a while to determine exactly where your head needs to be. But we always are able to find your optimum head position.

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