Intro to Position Play


For the last few lessons we have been talking about the basics of pool, and a concept that has come up rather frequently is the concept of getting position. Playing “position” is when you plan out how you are going to move the cue ball to make your next shot as easy as possible. Getting good position involves figuring out what is the best way to get to the location you want to the cue ball to be for your next shot. Pool pros are masters at getting position on balls and it’s how they make the game look so easy when you watch them play.

So how can you tell if a shot is in a good position? As a general rule, the closer to the object ball you can get the easier the next shot will be. A common mistake that most beginners make is thinking that a straight in shot is always the easiest and best option to make a shot, when most of the time being straight in on a ball is something to be avoided. A straight in shot only allows you to move backwards and forwards with the cue ball and it means that using multiple rails is not an option. This is a problem because using rails makes it much easier to play precise position which is why an angle is usually preferred on most shots.

Poor Position Shot

In the example above the player gets into decent position using draw because he is a fantastic player, but you can tell from where the cue ball ends up he has to shoot the ball down into the corner. If he had an angle on the six he could have followed it forward and ended up above the seven for an easy shot into the bottom corner instead of a long shot into the top corner. In addition, whenever you have to put more spin and power on shots you decrease the accuracy of the shot and how much you can control it. He needed to use a lot of both spin and power in order to get in good position which is not easy to do. In the example below you can see how having an angle can make it easy to get position on different balls.

Good Position Shot

In the shot above, the player uses an angle and a rail to get to the next shot. Using the rails gave him many more ways to get position then if he were straight in. If he had a straight in shot the only place he could have made the four ball was in the bottom left corner. Instead he had a steep angle so he could play to the bottom rail and get close to the four for an easy combination shot into the side pocket. A great positional shot is one that has an angle that allows you to proceed to the next shot with ease. Any shot that is close and sets up easy position to the next ball is good position play.

Those are the basics of position play, but remember that every player has different tendencies, skills levels, and thought processes when playing shots. Sometimes a good player might play a shot that someone else disagrees with, but that's normal since everyone develops their own style and way to play. Generally, though, there is a shot that is best to play in most situations, only in certain circumstances does creativity come into play during a game of pool.

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