Did you know that 75%-80% of pool players miss the center when striking the center of the cue ball? Whether you’re a casual player or a seasoned pro, there is always room for improvement. As it turns out, hitting the center is more than a practiced skill. Today, we’re going to discuss how to find the center of a cue ball, plus tips on how to take your pool skills to the next level.
Physics at Play
When you stand over a pool table, looking straight down, your perception will be skewed by your own head and eye position. Even when you bring your head closer to the table by crouching down, your perception of the cue ball might still be off. Getting the shot right first means getting your visuals right. You need to correct your eye location. Simply looking in the direction you want to shoot is not enough. By only moving your eyes, you’ll think you are hitting center, but the shot will go slightly to the side. This can be called the vertical perception error.
When perception isn’t the issue, finding the centers of the ball is the next task at hand. A cue ball has three centers: vertical center, dead center, and the center of percussion. Identifying the center(s) of the cue ball will help you shoot straighter in the long run!
- Vertical center runs down the ball vertically, dividing it in half if you were looking overhead. If you hit on the vertical center, the cue ball goes where the stick is pointing. How high or low you strike the ball on the vertical center line will determine if the cue ball moves with a roll, a skid, or a backspin. Hit either side of the vertical center and the cue ball will no longer move in a straight line with the stick.
- Dead center is the center of both vertical and horizontal divisions. Imagine crosshairs on this spot to aide in your focus. There is another optical illusion at dead center, because we see the cue hit center. Usually it’s hitting the edge of the cue, instead. We may not be hitting as high or low as we think. That’s why it’s so important to learn to find the centers of a pool ball.
- Center of percussion is a spot along the vertical center that the ball will roll the most consistently from, without any skidding or over spin. Picture this spot to be about ½” about dead center.
- The Vertical Axis is the portion of the ball that is touching the table. To find the center of the ball, using the vertical axis, touch your cue to the base of the ball and bring it up a little. Match the curved line with the top of your tip and adjust as needed. Be mindful of light reflection that can distort the surface appearance of the ball.
To practice overcoming vertical perception error, you will need to visualize the vertical center of the ball. Note that the vertical center of the cue ball will be different for every shot. As if you were taking a photo with a camera, raise your hands to your eyes and line your eyes up to the cue ball. Bring your entire lower body down towards the table, not just your eyes. You really want your eyes lined up with the pool table and ball. It’s tempting to close one eye, but keep both eyes open to avoid distortion.
From there, imagine the viewfinder over the cue ball, lined up with the object ball. If you were to chalk a line from your point of view, it would be perfectly straight. Training yourself to find the vertical center takes time. If you are left handed, beware of skewing right, and vise-versa if you are right-handed. Soon, you will be able to make straighter shots with ease.
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