When confronted on the billiard table with an apparently difficult stroke, either positional or not, pause a moment to consider how an exact reversal of what is first in the mind will pay. For instance: The shot is too fine even for a grazing stroke. Then play for an equally thick follow through. A shot at ordinary strength will leave the object ball in baulk. Then play double strength and bring it out. A fullish stroke across into a top pocket may leave the object ball too near a side cushion or too high up. Then try a finer and faster shot and cut it a little more down the table.
In making curly masse strokes aim as though to miss. You will then just catch the edge and the curl will do the rest. Masses are not so difficult as they look, and need less “addressing” than they usually receive even from professionals, with whom it is something of an asset to make them look rather portentous.
Amateurs who play the position game too often endeavour to get to their ideal in one stroke instead of three or four. Professionals are more patient in this respect.
In practising at top of the table place the red on the spot and the white as closely behind as will enable a gentle, nearly-full contact with the red to be made without a kiss. This should only just move the white, leaving the cue ball quite near to it, and there should be quite a series of alternate pots and cannons before the white reaches the cushion. When tight there another 50 could be scored without moving it.
Before putting down the red in top-of-the-table play, the position of the white must first be noted. It may be above, below, or at the side of the spot, and, wherever it is, the cue ball must be brought round to a nice half-ball position when the red is re-spotted.
Sometimes a succession of these cannons following pots will work the white gently but gradually down the table, and then comes the time for an in-off from the red instead of a pot and for a drop cannon from baulk sending the white back to or behind the spot.
When the half-ball cannon position guiding the red to the pocket is lost in top-of-the-table play there are three orthodox ways of procedure. There is the very gentle screw, in making which the object ball is but slightly moved, there is the gentle cushion cannon, and there is the masse. These strokes must be separately practised a great deal before being resorted to in games.
The very gentle screw at close quarters is extremely easy, as very low cueing can be safely indulged in and its effect is enormously enhanced by the short distance that the cue ball has to travel.
In all classes of strokes in billiards practice should proceed from the minimum strength to the maximum rather than the contrary. A right-angled screw can even be made almost gently into a middle pocket from the centre of the table with the cue ball on the centre baulk spot, if the contact be full enough and the cue sent freely through the ball. Try to do this without bringing the object ball back into baulk. You may not succeed but you will have learnt a valuable lesson.