Things to Avoid and Things to Observe
Many ordinary amateur billiard players are very proud of
their ability to bring off what are called “five” and “six”
shots. These shots are rarely striven for by good players
and are always regarded by them as a calamity when they
occur accidentally. The reason is not far to seek. In
bringing off a shot which sends the red ball to the billiard
spot and the cue ball to baulk, an impossible, or very difficult,
scoring position may be left to follow with. Of this
scores of illustrations might be given.
It is obvious, therefore, that, in potting the red, it is
better to leave the cue ball in a commanding position than
simply to follow into the pocket, in making the immediate
stroke. In the same way, and for the same reason, a
simple cannon is usually to be preferred to a five shot.
On the other hand the five and six shots have their occasional
uses in gathering the balls, and the five shot may
also be attempted, for safety’s sake, where it is not particularly
wanted on its own account. Take, for example, a
rather difficult pot, towards a given pocket, when an in-off
is also possible from the same ball into another pocket.
The six shot may here be attempted by way of safeguard;
or, if the cannon ball be near at hand, a five shot may, in
such an emergency, be found equally useful.
A Little Head Work
Sometimes a position presents itself in which there appears
to be no preferential choice between a cannon from the red
to the white or from the white to the red. A moment’s
consideration at such a moment may save annoyance. Let
us suppose that the stroke resolved upon is a drop cannon
from one ball to the other by way of the top cushion and it
is decided to play off the white. The stroke may just be
missed, and the easiest of cannons left for the opponent.
Had the stroke been reversed and missed, the two white
balls would have been left together with the red, at, probably,
a safe distance. Suppose, again, that the two cannon
balls are fairly nearly together under the top cushion and
two or three inches away from it. Here the game to play is
obviously a hard screw or “top” stroke from the white to
the red, as, if the stroke were reversed, the white might
easily be driven into a top corner pocket, which in the case
of the red. would not so greatly matter. A little head work
of this kind pays extremely well in billiards and the avoidance
of the numerous pitfalls which the game presents to
the unwary soon becomes instinctive and effortless.
Value of the Pocket Game
In cannoning the same rules for securing and maintaining
position must be followed as those which govern the
pocket game. The object ball must be played upon fuller
or finer than half-ball according to the position towards
which it is intended to direct it and the stroke must also be
so played that the contact with the cannon ball may be
fuller or finer than half-ball as required. If the cue ball
be not in hand it may be better to look out for a pocket
rather than run the risk of scattering or separating the balls
and it is, indeed, sound policy to stick to the pocket game
whenever good after position as the result of a cannon
seems to be problematical. It must always be remembered
that the pocket game only disturbs one ball whereas the
cannon game disturbs and often widely separates two.
Furthermore, the position at any rate of one ball, following
pocket play, is assured. At the same time and especially
when playing from baulk it is often easy to catch both the
object and the cannon balls on the same side, with the result
that they run together at equal speed and leave another easy
cannon or other score to follow.
One of the most remunerative of the various classes of
position strokes in billiards, as has been abundantly proved
of late, is that by means of which a break is often made
by good players from off the red ball alone. To lead up to
this stroke, a good player, when nothing else can be reckoned
on with any certainty, pots the white ball and guides
his own ball to a position whence he can either get in off
the red or pot it with a view to getting in off it from the
spot the next stroke. In playing off the red, when the
white has been lost, the object always is to bring it as near
to the centre of the table as possible and preferably about
24 inches from baulk.
An Ideal Position
This is the ideal position for in-off practice with the red,
because a half-ball played from one of the baulk end spots
when the red is in this position finds a middle pocket and
brings the red ball back down the exact centre of the table.
If upon its return it is found to be slightly above or below
an imaginary line drawn from the 24-inch point towards a
middle pocket, the next stroke must be slightly finer or
fuller than half-ball, the strength being rather less in the
former case and rather more in the latter.
As the ball comes lower down the table thicker contacts
have to be made to drive it back towards the central line,
and sometimes, again, when nearer the middle pocket than
half-ball range cutting or driving strokes have to be
resorted to either to send it on to the top cushion direct or
by way of the side cushion.