D@#n, Scratched Again!
After a lifetime of playing pool I pretty much have the game down. I know how to make most shots and I can make them fairly consistently.
There is one other thing that I do fairly consistently as well – scratch! To paraphrase a saying from my great-grandmother – nothing “gets my goat” more that making a nice shot and scratching. 8^)
I play most of my pool in the evenings for two or three hours at a time. Some nights I may only scratch 4 or 5 times in those three hours, but other nights, I may scratch 20 or more times!
I’m not lying when I say that I have had 25 scratch nights!
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Most of my scratches come when shooting a table-length cut shot in a corner pocket. You know the one – you cut the object ball 45 degrees in the corner pocket and the cue ball goes 45 degrees in the opposite corner pocket.
The trick to making these kind of shots and not scratching is to make sure the cue ball is rolling and not sliding across the felt, so it will have a 30 degree angle off the cue ball instead of a 90 degree angle, thus missing the opposite corner pocket.
Easier said than done sometimes.
Another common scratch for me is when I hit the cue ball fairly firmly so I can move it to a different part of the table for a leave on my next ball. It seems that cue ball has eyes and insists on dropping into a pocket just to spite me. Sometimes the angle that the cue ball travels when scratching into the side pocket is so sharp that I am amazed that it can even do it.
This type of scratch is common for me if I am really concentrating on making a difficult shot. Checking the angles, making sure of a good hit on the cue ball, getting the hit speed correct – my mind is busy making sure of everything except checking for the possibility of a scratch.
One further way I often scratch is when shooting bank shots. It’s more difficult to keep track of the cue rebound when shooting bank shots. When a hard hit is required for a bank, the cue can have a tendency to really travel – at times into a pocket.
I have, of course, tried to work on my game and avoid scratching so much. I try to hit the cue just hard enough to make my shot so it doesn’t go rebounding all over the table wildly and scratch.
Playing position definitely helps prevent scratching because you try to finesse the cue ball to a certain point on the table, thereby controlling the path of the cue ball rebound. Position play is also a great way to make your runs longer and your winning percentage higher.
English is very helpful in controlling the cue ball rebound angles, but you have to be careful not to throw your aim off. English can cause your cue ball to vary off course before it hits your object ball. Mastery of English takes a lot of practice.
Unless you are a very soft shooter, most of your cue ball hits will be “skid” shots, where the cue ball skids instead of rolls across the table cloth. The angle of rebound for most skidded cut shots is 90 degrees.
Knowing this, you can visualize beforehand where the cue ball will have a tendency to travel after hitting the object ball. A hard hit shot will of course cause the cue ball to be hitting banks, and the more banks it hits the harder it will be to accurately determine where it will end up.
So, knowing all this, what’s the answer to cutting down the frequency of scratching? In my case I think it is simply being more aware of the possibility of scratching and taking preventative measures ahead of time. I need to keep the tangent line more in mind.
I have to visualize not only where I want the cue ball to end up, but also the path it will take to get there, and whether or not this will bring it close to a pocket to scratch. Hitting my shots a little easier will cause less of a run on the cue ball after it hits the object ball and offer fewer opportunities to get near a pocket and scratch.
Finally, I have to keep practicing my English. I have to fight the tendency to hit the cue ball too far from center with the tip. It doesn’t take much of an off-center hit to get the cue ball spinning. Aiming a little off to one side or the other to compensate for the English will work. Perfecting the technique is where the skill comes in.
Even though I sometimes scratch a lot I still love the game. It’s always a challenge to play your best. I guess, in the end, it still comes down to those magic words – awareness, concentration and consistency.