Spin Your Way to Pool and Snooker Success

Why do players like Ronnie O’Sullivan, Darren Appleton and Gareth Potts make it to the top off their respective games?

Quite simply because they understand what effect spin has and how best to use that spin to their own advantage in a match.

In this instance by spin I am talking about sidespin, what the Americans call ‘English’. Using this type of spin to good effect can vastly improve your game and your success but used incorrectly it will cause you no end of trouble with miscues and misaligned shots.

Sidespin causes the cue ball to ‘squirt’ or ‘deflect’ from it’s true path, if you test this with a straight in pot you will notice that this results in a missed ball. The ball will deflect to the opposite side that you are applying spin, so if playing right hand spin the cue ball will deflect to the left.

Once you know this you can use the knowledge to make adjustments to your aim point. The amount a ball will deflect depends on how much spin you are trying to apply. If you try to cue right on the outside edge of the cue ball then you will get extreme deflection or a complete miscue. Likewise if you apply spin ½ a tip to the left or right then the deflection will be less.

Another parameter we must consider is the speed of our stroke, playing with more power means the cue ball has less time to deflect whereas playing softly allows the spin to take more quickly.

OK, so we know what sidespin is and how it affects the cue ball in a normal sense. But why do we want to use it in the first place?

The first answer to this question is positional play. Positional play is probably the most important facet of any cue sport if you want to be successful. Using sidespin on the cue ball can either shorten or extend a natural angle that means positioning the cue ball is made easier when negotiating traffic on a table or trying to avoid going in off.

There are two types of sidespin and they are called check side (inside English) or running side (outside English). The best example of check side is this; we are potting a ball on the black spot into a right hand corner pocket and the cue ball is directly in line with the object ball. Check side in this instance is right hand side and is always the side in which the object ball is travelling. Check simply means that when the cue ball hits a cushion it will ‘check’ or slow down, in extreme cases it will change the natural direction of the cue ball altogether.

The other example is running side and this is applied to the side of the cue ball in which it is naturally travelling. This will speed up a cue ball after hitting a cushion and will also widen an angle.
As with anything related to cue sports there is no definitive answer as to how much spin you should apply and also how much compensation you need to make, it is about feel and trial and error. The more practice you put in the more you understand how a cue ball will react with sidespin.

The second answer to the question above is about ‘throw’. Throw is about using sidespin to make a ball that was not really potable. Applying left hand side to a cue ball will apply right hand spin to an object ball therefore forcing it to the right. This is perfect when we have a tight angle or a shot that is not quite available.

Another way this can be used is as a swerve shot. Applying extreme side and cueing down on the ball will make it ‘deflect’ and then come back to it’s natural path meaning you can get yourself out of some snooker’s or safety shots by applying side.

Using sidespin in conjunction with topspin and the screw shot can add different elements to your cueing arsenal. I think the best thing to say though is that less is certainly more, always look for a shot using plain ball or above/below centre first before resorting to sidespin because sidespin can result in you missing more balls!

In conclusion:

  • Be sparing with your use of spin
  • Practice certainly makes perfect
  • Understand the affect pace has
  • Experiment with amounts of spin

Article written by Pete Williams, (c) October 2014 - updated.

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