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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• May 2024
Rehearse Your Lines

• April 2024
Lucky Seven

• March 2024
More for the Road

• February 2024
Four for the Road

• January 2024
Corner the Market

• December 2023
Look Ma, No Cushions

• November 2023
Weíre in the Money

• October 2023
Four-level Drill

• September 2023
More Money Ball

• August 2023
No rails, part II

• July 2023
Look Ma, No Rails!

• June 2023
Triangle To Triangle

• May 2023
Zone Blitz

• April 2023
Money Ball Drill II

• March 2023
Money Ball Drill

• January 2023
The Dreaded Shootout

• December 2022
Alternate Universe

• November 2022
Close Quarters

• October 2022
Corner to Corner

• September 2022
Diamond in the Rough

• August 2022
Draw Bridge

• June 2022
I Detect A Pattern

• June 2022
Stay Close to Work

• May 2022
Amateur Approved

• April 2022
Two for One

• March 2022
The Straight Secret

• February 2022
The Correct Shot

• January 2022
End Game, Part II

• December 2021
Buying Off The Shelf

• November 2021
Look, Ma! No Rails!

• October 2021
The Oval Drill

• August 2021

• July 2021
V For Victory

• June 2021
More Pattern Drills

• May 2021
Patterns and speed

• April 2021
See a pattern?

• March 2021
Blind Man

• February 2021
Five Up, Five Down

• January 2021
Donít Lag Behind

• December 2020
Head games

• November 2020
Life on the Edge

• October 2020
The Family Tree

• September 2020
A Dip of the Tip

• August 2020
The Big Diamond

• July 2020
Nine-Ball One-Hole

• June 2020
Youíll Kick Yourself

• May 2020
Tight Quarters

• April 2020
Cue Ball Control

• March 2020
Straight Cueing

• February 2020
Saddle up!

• January 2020
9-ball Crossover

• December 2019
Ride Those Rails

• November 2019
Up and Down

• October 2019
Money Balls

• September 2019
Captain Zig-zag

• August 2019
15-Ball, No Rails

• July 2019
One Extra Ball

• June 2019
Two-Pocket Drill

• May 2019
Up and Down

• April 2019
Ultimate Rotation

• March 2019
In A Good Spot

• February 2019
Center Cut

• January 2019
Breaking Bad Habits

• December 2018

• November 2018
X marks the spot

• October 2018
Striking It Rich

• September 2018
So Many Options

• August 2018
Put Hangers On Rail

• July 2018
Mirror, Mirror II

• June 2018
Mirror, Mirror

• May 2018
ďVĒ for Victory

• April 2018
Up and Down

• March 2018
Kick Into High Gear

• February 2018
Up and Down

• January 2018
Up To The Challenge

• November 2017
Taking A Break

• October 2017
End Game Safeties

• September 2017
Get Comfortable

• July 2017
Shape Up For Summer!

• June 2017
The Selection Process

• May 2017
Two For One

• April 2017
A Ghost of a Chance

• March 2017
Bankerís Holiday

• February 2017
Great Eight

• January 2017
Getting Into Shape

• December 2016
Hocus, Focus

• November 2016
Kicking Into High Gear

• October 2016
More Drill Bits

• September 2016
Hand Model

• August 2016
Breaking Tradition

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

Getting In Shape
September 2021

The Oval Drill forces you to stay in the middle of the table.

Obviously, maintaining an angle on your next shot is critical for position play in rotation games. Here is a great little drill that is easy to set up and is good for every player from league player to pro level.

This drill puts a premium on using the center of the table. Itís a great drill to help when the balls are well spread out. On some shots, no rails are needed. Just, perhaps, some soft draw. Even the one-rail shots are primarily punch shots. The only time you should need a two-rail shot is if you get a little out of line on one of the balls.

Like most drills, you can make minor adjustments in the rules to increase the difficulty. In this drill, start with ball in hand and run the balls in rotation, no rails are required. To make the drill more difficult, add a one-rail requirement to each shot. In either case, you are not allowed to bump another ball.

One of the keys here, as is the case after any foul in a rotation game, is the placement of the cue ball for your first shot. I continually see amateur players take ball in hand and place the cue ball in a spot fraught with potential problems. In this case, I see players set up a straight-in shot on the 1, with the intent of drawing the cue ball back for the 2. The problems here are that you can come up short and have no shot on the 2 or draw back too far and get hooked behind the 7. You could also draw back directly into the side pocket. Thatís three potential pitfalls on your very first shot.

I prefer to set up the shot as shown in Diagram One, hitting the shot soft with lots of left English and letting the cue ball do all the work. This is a much better option for avoiding trouble.

From the center of the table, the 2 ball is just a soft draw with a little right English. This shot makes the pocket play bigger and should come nicely just past the center of the table.

Again, on the 3 ball just punch the shot with just a touch of left to get back to the center of the tables. In this case, landing straight on the 4 ball or 5 ball isnít a problem because youíre simply drawing back to the center of the table for both shots.

Staying in the center of the table is so beneficial. Itís always helpful to keep the cue ball off the rails and enjoy all the options that come with getting your hand on the table. Lots of freedom.

The 6 is a little punch shot, coming across to the middle of the table for the 7. You can use a center ball or a little left, whichever is more comfortable.

The 7 is the key shot. There really isnít a one-rail option because you risk coming up short or scratching in the bottom corner pocket.

I like a one-rail shot from the 8 to the 9, playing high center and letting the cue ball float down to the middle diamond on the long rail. A touch of right will eliminate a scratch in the corner if you overhit the cue ball.

Just stay still and use high center on the 9 ball. A touch of right will make the pocket play a little bigger. The transferred spin will help the 9 if it catches a little of the bottom rail on its way to the pocket.

As always, use a touch of draw or punch stroke on the 10. Iím always afraid of rolling the ball in because of the possibility of the ball skidding.

This drill will help improve your pattern play. Always try to beat your previous effort. This also allows for some freedom and creativity if youíre not perfect on every shot. Few players are.