The various types of shots in pool (Part 1)

I feel like talking about pool, so let’s go over some of the basic types of shots. Just for fun, I’ll give them a 1 – 10 rating for how often you need them (usefulness), how difficult people typically find them to learn and use, and how good (or bad) I am at them.

Cut Shot
Usefulness: 10
Difficulty: 1
My Score: 8

This is the most basic shot in pool. An object ball needs to be sent into a pocket and the cue ball has a clear shot at it but you need to hit it at an angle to make it. If you’ve ever played even one game of pool you’ve used the cut shot. If you become really good at just this shot and ignore the rest you’ll still be a pretty good player. Not-so-strangely, it’s the shot I’m best at ;)

Rail Shots
Usefulness: 7
Difficulty: 4
My Score: 8

This is the shot you use when the object ball is against the rail and you need to send it down the rail into a pocket. The question is where exactly to aim the cue ball. Most advice is to hit the rail and the object ball at the same time, but here’s an excellent little tip: hit just slightly away from the object ball, and put a little bit of English on the cue ball so that it spins into the object ball. So for example, if you’re trying to send the object ball to the left and you’re hitting it on the right side, aim the cue ball just a hair’s width to the right and put some left English on it. The cue ball will “hug” the rail and send the object ball right where it needs to go. Once you’ve practiced that way it actually is much easier because you have a little leeway; if you’re trying to aim for the exact spot where the rail meets the object ball you have to be very precise with your shot. This is a shot I’ve gotten pretty good at and can usually sink.

Bank Shots
Usefulness: 3
Difficulty: 7
My Score: 5

With this shot you hit the object ball into a rail where it bounces off and sinks in a hole on the opposite side. The best advice I ever read on bank shots was to play so you don’t have to try any. Bank shots should be a last resort type of thing, where you only try it because you have to. They’re impressive when they work but they’re tough to pull off and not super reliable. That varies by person of course. My friend S is really good at bank shots and gave me some good insight into how he approaches them, but I’m still not great at them. I definitely try to avoid situations where I have to take them when I play. Banking into the middle pockets is of course much easier because the shot is shorter. Banking all the way down the table into a corner pocket is pretty much a shot in the dark for me most of the time.

Combination Shots
Usefulness: 3
Difficulty: 6
My Score: 1

Usually shortened to “combos”, these don’t come up that often although they do get a little more use in 9 ball than in 8 ball. The cue ball hits one object ball, which then strikes a second object ball and sinks it (there could be even more object balls involved). This is by far my worst pool shot. I just cannot see the matrix when I try to shoot a combo. I can do simple ones where the second ball is right by a pocket (although even those are sometimes questionable!) but if it gets at all difficult I’m out. I kind of guessed on the difficulty for this one; for me it’s a 10 but I imagine for most people they’re a little hard to figure out but not too bad, thus a 6.

Carom Shots
Usefulness: 2
Difficulty: 6
My Score: 6

A carom shot is where the cue ball hits an object ball and then veers off to hit a second object ball and sink it. Like combos, these are more useful in 9 ball than 8 ball. This is probably one of my favorite shots and I’ll even sometimes attempt one even if it’s not necessarily the best shot for me take at that moment. There’s actually a pool variant called Cowboy that is really fun and a great way to practice caroms. In Cowboy you use the 1, 3, and 5 ballsĀ  and the idea is to score 101 points. You score points by sinking balls (1 for the 1-ball, 3 for the 3-ball, 5 for the 5-ball), but you also get points just for hitting two or three object balls on the same shot. So if you can carom the cue ball off of one ball and into another you score and get to keep shooting. In fact to score the 101st point and win the game you have to carom the cue ball off another ball and into a pocket (scratch)! Really fun game that helps you with your regular 8 ball or 9 ball game.

I’ve got a few more I want to talk about, I’ll get into them in my next post. Thanks for reading this far!

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The various types of shots in pool (Part 1)

  1. Great post! I’m surprised carom shots only have a difficulty of 6. I totally would’ve guessed they were a different shot, though (like the one that jumps over another ball).

    • dantherpgman

      Thanks! Yeah they’re actually not that bad because you don’t typically send the cue ball that far after it hits the initial object ball.

  2. Houston

    How about the slop shots, where you slam the cue ball mercilessly and take whatever uncalled balls fall into whatever uncalled pockets? My specialty. I’m also a fan of taking the opponent’s balls out of the pockets and putting them back on the table when the opportunity is presented, but my skill is only around 6 or 7 on that one.

    • dantherpgman

      Ah yes, I call that a “punt”, as in “I have no clue what to do so I’ll just punt it”. I was actually going to mention slop of a different type in the next post.

      Hmm, I’m going to have to start keeping a closer eye on you at game days I see!

      • Houston

        >>I was actually going to mention slop of a different type in the next post.
        Uh will this next post of yours still be safe for work?
        As long as we’re not playing pool during game days, you should not need to spend any extra energy monitoring my activities.

        • dantherpgman

          Well I’m having a pool table delivered to your place as we speak, so…you’ve got plenty of room for one, right?

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