Combination Shots


As you get better at pool more shots you’ll start to recognize more shot opportunities which will help you run out. A shot type that comes up during matches often are combination shots. These shots involve hitting the cue ball at an object ball in order to hit and pocket another object ball. These shots come in handy when you feel like you’ve run out of options or if you need an easy way to get position on your next shot. However, some combination shots are high risk so you should evaluate whether a combination shot is the best option if your considering taking one on in a game.

How to evaluate combination shots

1. Can the object ball be pocketed easily without a combination?

Combinations are difficult. If it’s possible to avoid a combination, then it’s usually better to do so. Sticking with this rule generally increases the chance that you can continue your run.

2. Does it make getting position easier?

One the other hand, sometimes making a ball straight in can leave position extremely difficult whereas a simple combination shot is easier. In these cases the risk is probably worth the reward.

3. Is the level of risk to take on the combination tolerable?

Combinations have higher levels of difficulty to execute generally because your aiming at least two balls instead of one. Sometimes a safety or defensive shot is the best choice over pocketing a ball.

4. Is the combination makeable?

Some combinations are just plainly not makeable and definitely not advisable. Be aware of what your limits are and your combination skills.


If you’ve gone through this mental checklist and decided that you’re ok with taking on the combination shot and that it’s the best option, then you should know the basics of making one.

How to aim combination shots

  • 1. Work backwards
  • Initially aiming combination shots may seem backwards, because you start your aiming process in reverse. The first ball you want to start aiming is the ball you want to pocket which we will call object ball 2. Object ball 1 is the ball you will hit into object ball 2 and you’ll be hitting the cue ball into object ball 1 to make this happen.
  • Find aiming point on 2nd object ball
  • You need to find the aiming point on object ball 2 just like a regular shot. You’ll use this point to figure out where to aim object ball 1.
  • 3. Use the 1st object ball as a cue ball and find the aiming point to hit that ball into the correct contact point for the 2nd object ball
  • You’ll have to take this point and shoot this ball into object ball 2 to pocket it.
  • 4. Aim the cue ball at the first object ball and make the shot

These shots are precise, so you need to be specific when finding the contact points for each ball because the margin for error is low. A good player evaluates the risk involved for any combo to figure out whether it’s worth taking on. There are many factors that lower the odds of a combination shot.

Evaluating the difficulty of combination shots

  1. The distance between two balls
  2. The distance from the pocket
  3. The distance of the cue ball from the first object ball
  4. The angle between balls
  5. The difficulty to get position on the next ball

Most of these factors are straightforward and whenever distance is introduced for any shot the need for accuracy on the shot goes way up. For games like 9 ball where you have to still play the primary object ball after the secondary object ball has been pocketed in a combination, position is exceptionally important. For these games you need to control the speed of the primary object ball to get position on it for your next shot. Whenever you make a combination keep in mind the trajectory of both object balls, so you still have an easy shot when you make the combo.

Those are the basics to combinations, and you’ll find that different game types use combos more often than others. Combinations typically come up in 8 ball because there are more balls on the table and you have your choice of which balls to pocket and when. However, combinations still come up in 9 ball and you should be prepared to make them regardless the game you’re playing.

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