The internet is littered with various “aiming systems” and methods to visualize the line of the shot. What most of them have in common is that they focus on the contact point on the object ball and aiming different parts of the cue or cue ball at it. This method is different. Instead of focusing on where to hit the object ball, we are going to focus on where the cue ball will go if the shot is made using the tangent line. This is much simpler than trying to find a contact point on a sphere and has the added bonus of improving your positional play.
If you’re not familiar with the tangent line, read about it here. It is crucial for playing position and the rest of this article won’t make much sense if you don’t know how to use it. The basic gist of it is, when the cue ball is sliding and hits an object ball, it always separates at 90 degrees from the cut angle. This article shows you how to use this fact to aim.
Take a standard back cut.
You could visualize a line from the ball to the pocket (the green line), but this is out of your line of sight once you’re down on the shot, making it difficult to judge. This problem is compounded the further the object ball is from the pocket. Instead, we can imagine the tangent line (the black line) if the pot was successful. Shoot the shot in such a way that the cue ball, with no spin, would travel down that line and the pot is guaranteed.
For any given object ball position, the tangent line will form a triangle on the table that will be the same no matter where the cue ball is. The triangle always extends into two rails. This gives you multiple points of reference for the shot and at least one is always in your line of vision.
For example, in the shot above, you can see the tangent line extend into 2 points on the rail. Even if you can’t see the pocket when your down on the shot, you will be able to see one of those contact points.
So rather than focus on a point on the object ball, we can just imagine sending the cueball to one of those points on the rail, depending on which direction you are cutting the ball. Using multiple points of reference takes a lot of the guesswork out of potting balls. Not only this, since you are focusing on the point you will hit on the rail, you will be more precise playing position off that rail. You are already visualizing the angle of entry into the rail so the exit angle will be the same on a plain ball shot.
You may be thinking that his technique only works with a centre ball hit, but it’s easy to adapt it to using different spin. While standing at the table, aim as if using a centre ball hit. From there decide what spin is needed and drop down into the shot. Using the tangent line to aim doesn’t mean you have to make the cue ball follow it, just know that it’s there. Focusing on the tangent line first will actually make you more accurate when using follow and draw since you will see the line that you are moving the cueball off of.
Besides making you a better shotmaker, this method will seriously improve your positional play. By imagining the tangent line on every single shot, you will intuitively develop a better sense of where the cue ball is going. You will see plain ball positional routes much more clearly, and incorporate them into your game more often. This means less use of spin and more consistency in both potting and shape.
For instance, when playing a carom game you will see that plain ball will get you many places on the table just by following the tangent line, or deviating slightly. You will also notice that break out shots are much easier using this aiming technique. Since you are imagining the tangent line of every ball you need to pot, you will quickly notice which ones easily take you into a cluster.
This method works especially well on shots that are normally difficult to aim. Trying to cut a ball across the table when it is close to the rail is usually a nightmare.
So instead of shooting the 11 ball at a point seven feet across the table and out of your line of sight. Shoot the cue ball at a point six inches away and right in front of you. Your pot percentage on these types of shots will go up dramatically using this method.
On frozen to the rail shots the tangent line is parallel to the adjacent rail, making it one of the easiest shots to aim. This is especially helpful in snooker and Chinese 8 ball where rail shots must be hit perfectly.
The farther the ball is off the rail the more the tangent line angles away from the pocket. After practicing this shot a few times its easy to see how much the tangent line changes from parallel the further the ball is off the cushion and to adjust your aim accordingly.
No system works completely, and if you are not stroking straight no aiming technique will help. Still, proper visualization is going to make problem shots much easier, and visualizing the path of the cueball is going to give you the pinpoint positional technique needed to play tight shape and effectively break out clusters. You might not use this method on every single shot, but at least try it out on shots that normally give you trouble, like blind cuts, and I am sure you will see the difference.
Let me know in the comments how this has worked for you and if you have any questions.