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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

• January 2022
End Game, Part II

• December 2021
Buying Off The Shelf

• November 2021
Look, Ma! No Rails!

• October 2021
The Oval Drill

• September 2021
Getting In Shape

• 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

The Correct Shot
February 2022

Ball straight in? It still requires you to select the proper shot.

One thing about being on the road teaching the game: You quickly identify mistakes that are common amongst almost all amateur players, regardless of skill level. Shot selection is an area in which I see mistakes a lot, and I donít mean the choice of ball or angle. Often times itís simply the choice of how to strike the cue ball, even on straight-in shots.

Here is a relatively innocuous straight-in shot.

Meanwhile, Iíve seen amateur players ó and even myself when I was young ó play this shot the wrong way. And Iíve seen them play it the wrong way over and over, never realizing their mistake. Even playing it the wrong way, they can make the shot sometimes, but using the wrong shot selection will lead to more misses than successes.

Iíve set up the shot in the diagram, showing three different shot selections, and Iíll explain how each way of playing the shot differs and which is the best shot selection. (Spoiler alert: Donít ever play this shot with follow!)

Follow: The shot is straight in but there is quite a bit of distance between the cue ball and the object ball. That distance is what makes one shot better than the others. If there was only a foot or two between balls, all three shots would likely work. But when the shot is midrange or long range, itís vital to play it the correct way.

The biggest danger with using follow is that because the shot is straight in, you must play the shot pretty slow. That, of course, brings in a host of potential problems. For one, youíre putting all your trust in the table. Even if it rolls straight, it can still drift because of chalk on the cloth or dirt. Also, slow rolling a ball at midrange takes extra-steady nerves. And if you get too excited on the shot, you can scratch into the same pocket.

Center Ball: The most common way I see players play this shot is with center cue ball. It is an acceptable way to shoot the shot, but it makes the pocket a lot smaller. Why? Many amateurs take the shot this way because under pressure they prefer to shoot hard. Again, if the cue ball and object ball were closer together, the shot is pretty easy. But at distance, hitting the shot hard makes it easier to miss. Plenty can go wrong. You can hit the ball too hard; jump up on the shot; get nervous; grip the cue too tight; miss your aim point; etc. Missing key shots always starts with bad alignment, so if you donít stay down and you hit the ball too hard, thereís a good chance youíre going to miss.

Kill Shot: Most pros will play this shot with soft draw, also called ďkill.Ē The big benefit to playing the shot this way is control of the stroke. Of course, this takes practice but once you perfect this shot, youíll never shoot it any other way. Low on the cue ball and a medium stroke. Another benefit to this shot is that the cue ball canít roll off because itís sliding across the cloth instead of rolling. With the right speed, the pocket becomes much bigger on this shot. Execution is better on this shot as well because itís easier to stay down on the shot and not grip the butt so tight. If you get your pre-shot alignment right, keep your head still and put an easy stroke on the cue ball so that it bites just as it contacts the object ball, the pocket will look huge.

How do you perfect your speed to get the cue ball to bite on contact? Set up this shot but imagine itís a carom table (no pockets) and you want to get the object ball to rebound to the same spot it started from. That would be about the proper speed. Practice this shot over and over and you will find the proper speed for your stroke.