Aiming without Aiming Part II – How I really aim a billiards shot

My article on Aiming without Aiming has been one of the most read articles on this site. It received a lot of mixed reactions. The people who liked the article were those who found the concept interesting and tried it, or veterans who already used this principle without realizing it.

A lot of people however missed the point the article was trying to make.

Aiming without aiming isn’t the magical solution to pool mastery. A person who has never played pool before won’t start playing like a professional by trying to trust his subconscious mind after reading the article. Any player will need to learn to shoot using a basic technique like the ghost ball system and build a sufficiently large “shot memory” that his subconscious mind can use (by practicing and playing hundreds of shots). After that, learning to let go of conscious control and trusting the subconscious mind also takes a fair amount of time (working on inner game and learning to let go of outcome).

Take the example of driving with subconscious competence – A driver who has been driving for several years may be able to reach his destination on automatic pilot without paying attention to the steering wheel or where he needs to turn. He might even be able to multitask – eating or talking on the phone while driving. However a beginner trying to do the same thing will end up driving into the first large object nearby. A beginner needs some driving lessons and a fair amount of driving experience before he or she can start “driving without driving”.

So the fact is, when I am “Aiming without Aiming”, its not that I don’t aim; I just no longer have to consciously think about the steps involved in aiming because I have drilled the steps into my head over a period of time.

During practice today, I started paying attention to these steps. I did everything in slow motion and stopped at significant points so I could note what I really do when I aim my shots.

Here is what I do broken down as best as I could describe it. (While this system works great for close shots, I use a slightly more complex aiming system for long distance cut shots.)

Ghost Ball Aiming System

Ghost Ball Aiming Method

1. Mentally draw a line from the pocket to the object ball and see the path the object ball needs to take.

2. Extend the line past the object ball and imagine where the cue-ball needs to hit the object ball (using the ghost ball system). Draw a line from the cue ball center to the ghost ball center.

3. Align both my feet and the cue along the line of the ball and then go down on the shot. Ideally, if I am lined up correctly I don’t even have to adjust my aim any further. I should be able to make the shot most of the time.

4. Look at both the pocket and the shot image (the cue ball and object ball). After years of shot memory built in, I usually get a gut feel that tells me whether or not I am going to make the shot. If my aim/alignment is off, I will get a feeling that I am going to miss, in which case I usually stand up and realign myself until I feel confident that the shot will go in. Once I am lined up correctly, I usually get a “YES” signal that tells me the shot will go in. This is an intuition/gut thing that takes time to develop after making a lot of shots.

5. Shoot the ball using a good stroke with a smooth follow through. Watch the ball roll into the pocket and the cue ball stop for the next shot. In case the shot is slightly off, make a mental note and calibrate future shots accordingly. If your stroke isn’t perfectly straight yet you might find it useful to practice the bottle drill.

The idea is, over time these five steps become so automatic that you don’t even have to think about them and can focus on the other aspects of the game such as learning cue ball position control.

Hopefully this explanation will make it easier for people to understand what I meant in the first article on aiming without aiming.

If you enjoyed this article, continue on to the next article in this series, Aiming without Aiming Part III – A System for making Long Cut Shots.

You might also enjoy one of my most popular articles – Learn how to play pool well in under 30 minutes.

P.S. I recently discovered a better aiming system that works well even for making long distance cut shots effortlessly.
If you are having trouble with the ghost ball system or are uncomfortable of long cut shots, then give the parallel line aiming system a try.

P.P.S. If people are interested, I can share a series of drills that I use to teach complete beginners how to aim and shoot subconsciously. I taught a friend some basics just a few days ago and she made some amazing cut shots during a game about fifteen minutes after going through the drills. Its no substitute for years of practice, but these basics should give any beginner a jump start and have them playing very confidently in less than 30 minutes.