Why are some basic cut shot “aiming systems” helpful and effective?

Any “system” that forces a person to focus on aim, alignment, and sighting consistently and with concentration will be beneficial to many people, especially people who currently don’t focus well or long enough. It also helps to have a consistent and purposeful pre-shot routine, which the systems can help foster. The DAM advice page summarizes many of the best practices used by top players when aiming, aligning, and sighting. The How to Aim Pool Shots (HAPS) video series covers a wide variety of aiming techniques and systems, and shows how to apply them effectively at the table.

Concerning CTE, using the edge of the OB as a visual reference, and doing so consistently in setting up for every shot (e.g., by initially aligning with the CTE line), might help some people judge and visually learn/reinforce the amount of cut needed from one shot to the next. Also, focusing on the center of the CB (after the pivot) will help avoid unintentional sidespin, which can cause squirt, swerve, and spin-induced throw, which can reduce accuracy and consistency. Also, placing the bridge hand down with the cue off angle (before the pivot) might allow some people to place their bridge hand more accurately because the pre-pivot cue might not disrupt the aiming line visual as much as when it is brought straight into the aiming line direction with the bridge.

Concerning shot-making success, a consistent and purposeful pre-shot routine can help, and having your vision center aligned properly and consistently is key, and having a reliable and repeatable stroke are all important. But if you can’t accurately visualize and perceive the required angle of the shot or the required line to the necessary ghost-ball position or ball contact point, you won’t be a good shot maker. I think these skills can come only with dedicated practice and successful experience. They can’t come from an “aiming system” alone; although, the systems can help some people be more methodical and maybe arrive at the necessary skills more quickly than they would otherwise. Therefore, an “aiming system” can be a good thing.

from Colin Colenso (concerning 90/90 and CTE pivot-based systems):

I wanted to make a post listing what I perceive to be the strongest advantages of these systems.

I think these advantages are the main reason players often find great success aiming and shooting this way.


1. Sighting point to point helps one to perceive an exact line and to take in the positions of the two balls relative to this line. In other words, they use a repeatable fixed method to visualize the ball positions.

2. These systems put you either right on line to begin with or in the ball park when used for appropriate shots.

3. In the pivot phase they move from this fixed line to another visual line that they perceive through the center of the CB. This finding of an aim line forces the mind to be decisive and exact. I believe forcing this decisiveness trains the mind not to wander and to make better decisions than just feeling around back and forth hoping to feel a ghost ball or contact point angle.

4. I suspect this one is the most powerful factor in these aiming methods. They force a player to commit to a pot line and then strike the cue dead straight through that line, rather than to swoop sideways on the shot as almost all beginners do. Because they focus hard on their pre-stroke alignment, they trust this line and stroke straight. If they do miss certain shots they will soon compensate with their aim until they learn to see the correct line. The normal player very often aims thick on their cut angles and swoops a little to make the cuts. When they try to bring speed or english into those shots they meet with many difficulties. So using any system that forces a player to adopt strict and accurate pre-alignment, followed by a straight stroke, should meet with considerable success and consistency after intensive practice.

5. Because players learn to trust their pre-alignment they begin to be able to relax during the actual stroke. This takes tension out of their arms and body and they can begin to execute with better speed and a more satisfactory feeling during execution. This may explain the feeling that they feel like they just pivot, bang and the ball goes in.

6. A system that requires a focus on the positioning of the cue may cause the player to be more highly aware of the line of cue. In standard aiming, some players may glance a little at the tip and CB but be mainly focused at the OB and therefore not getting much visual feedback from their cue, which is a straight line guide waiting to be used. Also, this cue position awareness may lead to a more constant positioning of the eyes over the cue. This is quite different to the normal play experience where there is a tendency to ride the ball into the hole. This occurs when players don’t trust their alignment and tend to swoop a little to ride the cue ball to the correct point. This method of playing tends to make one have to work physically and mentally during the stroke. When pre-aligned well, the stroke is simply a matter of swinging the cue.

7. Using these systems may represent the most organized approach they have attempted for aiming. Several aspects have been compartmentalized so that each of these aspects can be focused on more clearly and developed individually. This organization may also assist in allowing the player to relax through the early implementation stage and then put their entire focus into the final alignment stage.

8. While sliding or shifting the cue into the final line of the shot, players may be incorporating a method that helps them to sight the required line of aim. This may be due to coming across the line, from left to right or vice versa, such that the sighter gets a feel for how the line of aim is moving relative to the position of the OB.

The only thing I don’t agree with regarding these systems is that the systems find the aim line. I think it is the players that align themselves (via slight intuitive adjustments) to the correct aim line when need be. It will take them a little while to develop this ability for a wide range of shots.

from Mike Page (concerning pivot-based systems like CTE):

Various people report immediate improvement upon adopting a fractional ball approach. Others report immediate improvement upon adopting a “pivot” approach. Here’s why. There are five independent “things” involved with aiming.

(1) the pocket
(2) the object ball
(3) the cue ball
(4) the stick
(5) the cyclopean eye

All 5 are necessary to get the job done. But the essence of determining the AIM LINE involves just three of these: the cyclopean eye, the cueball, and the object ball. The pocket should be considered BEFORE determining the AIM LINE The stick should be considered AFTER determining the aim line.

Many aiming perception problems involve, imo, either

(1) keeping the POCKET in the process too long
(2) entering the STICK into the process too early

from Mike Page:

If something seems to work or to help some people it IS important to many of us to understand WHY it helps. Part of this–most of us are here for fun when it comes down to it–is intellectual curiosity, but a big part of it is understanding what specific problems are solved by a particular approach to be able to incorporate and communicate those things directly and extend them to new situations.

There are reasons why beginning every shot the same way–looking full on or looking at the half-ball hit for instance–might be useful. The “SEEing it (from manual repetition)” you described above benefits from approaching the same shots the same way every time.

There are other reasons some of these approaches–whether it’s one of Hal’s methods or S.A.M. or whatever is being discussed here–help people. Get ready, because there’s a big secret coming… These approaches cause people to do something they don’t usually do. It’s such an important thing that we have a name for it. It’s called AIM. That’s right.

If you look at the QUIET EYE studies, you will find one bit of consistency about the studies of pool, of putting, of basketball free throws, and of other aims involving stationary targets. Consistently a group of experts is compared to a group of wannabes. Consistently the group of experts GAZE at they target on average for a notably longer period of time in the “set” position. I’m talking maybe 2.5 seconds versus 1.5 seconds. It has become increasingly clear that this slightly longer gaze time–locking on your target for enough time– is crucial for processing the information necessary to aim successfully.

Let’s suppose many people suffer from inadequate GAZE time. IF true, then showing them a new method that forces them to lock in on the target (while following whatever the prescription is) will increase their success rate. Like the poop-on-the-swingset, the method might just be a mechanism to bring out the real solution (water/quiet-eye gaze time).

I point out in one of my aiming videos that I think another reason for any success people find with fractional ball aiming techniques is it causes them to sight parallel to the line the stick is moving. Many people don’t. Many people sight from above the stick to the object ball contact point. This line is not parallel to the line of the stick or the cueball motion.

Please understand that when someone suggests a method that SEEMS to not have the gaps filled in, that SEEMS to have shots that require two different angles to receive the same aim, that SEEMS to request the exact same aim for two sticks that we know squirt differently, it is like a giant bell going off for many of us.

Then if rather than taking off the system’s clothes so that we can examine it honestly, the proponent points out that you really have to learn it in person or that such and such a world-class player uses it, it’s like another giant bell going off.

… focusing on center-to-edge or edge-to-wherever gets your site line parallel to your stick. This could be a key for you to unlock the aim you really already have.

Or perhaps focusing on a shot from the edge of the cueball and pivoting toward the center–like being discussed here–locks a person into an eye dominance that is different from what he would have done going straight down into the shot and gives him a perspective that works better for him.

My point is if these sorts of advice help certain people under certain circumstances pocket balls, then that’s great. But it is very different from the aiming system “working.” These people are actually finding their own aim; they’re just approaching their own aim from a different angle.

from JoeW:

I suspect that aiming systems give people a reference point from which to think about the shot. Some players may or may not be aware of the idea that for some shots their subconscious makes adjustments.

On the one side aiming systems provide a zone of comfort for the player because they work in some (many) situations. This in turn leads to confidence when shooting and the player, over time, learns to compensate as needed.

On the other side it can be demonstrated that some aspects of these systems can not work as described. Proponents of the system seem to indicate that these systems take several weeks (?) to learn. However, the concepts are basically straightforward and could be briefly described and learned in a few hours. Weeks of training are required because the systems involve the development of “feel” though the user may not be aware of this aspect and therefore does not have to trust their natural sighting ability which is being developed within the system. For the present they have a system that can be relied upon.

In a sense, a player could be taught any of several systems and they all would work equally well if the player is willing to trust the system.

The conclusion is that one may seek the limits of the aiming system to learn what is useful for some particular shots from a physical basis and this may contribute to the development of a new, more advanced, system.

Why is aiming so difficult for some people?

Aiming is tough because it involves 3D visualization, visual perception, physical and visual alignment, and compensation for CIT (with no sidespin) and/or squirt/swerve/throw with sidespin.

from Patrick Johnson:

Aiming isn’t a science, despite what some system [people] think. It involves many kinds of estimation:

– estimating where the OB contact point is by aligning it with the pocket, from a distance and an angle

– estimating how to adjust the OB contact point for throw

– estimating where the CB contact point is by imagining where it is on the “dark side” of the CB (this is part 1 of the subject of aiming systems)

– estimating how to align the CB and OB so the two contact points come together (this is part 2 of the subject of aiming systems)

– estimating how to position your head and eyes so all the above things are visualized correctly (this is part 2A of the subject of aiming systems)

This is only a partial list of the estimations required just for aiming (not stroking), and only for shots without sidespin (don’t get me started).

Even with a perfect stroke aiming isn’t a simple, mechanically repeatable process.

from Colin Colenso:

I think that the biggest error that most players make when trying to become more accurate players is when they presume that their missed shots are caused by poor Stroke Mechanics, while they overlook the most common and significant cause which is poor Initial Alignment.

By Initial Alignment, I basically mean the positioning of the bridge point.

If you do not get your bridge to a point + or – a millimeter or less from the required line, then you are going to have to play an off center or sweeping stroke to pocket the OB as hoped.

In fact, it is common for players to subconsciously make this stroke adjustment when they feel that the shot is not going on line. This creates tension in their swing…their brain is fighting their heart is one way to describe it. So after they miss, they recall the sense of tension in the stroke, so confusedly start practicing their stroke, blaming their wrist action or some other aspect of stroke mechanics which is usually just a symptom of their poor Initial Alignment.

So to establish some proof for my contention, I set up a test.

A mechanical bridge was wedged into position. A piece of chalk sat under the rail as a firm point to keep the bridge from moving. CB and OB were put into positions that lined up for pocketing to the corner. Once established, I tapped the balls into place marked by a cross on the cloth. Hence I could replace the balls to almost identical positions each shot.

Using the bridge, fixed in place, my stroking did not feel very stable, yet I was able to pocket this shot 20 times in a row with very little variation in the pocketing accuracy. Not a single time did the OB hit the jaw.

Now I could make this shot miss by striking deliberately with english, but the point is, that it’s not hard to hit the CB center ball accurately enough to provide satisfactory accuracy for most shots on the table.

The hard part is getting the bridge hand in perfect position for the shot…that is, to align perfectly.

from Patrick Johnson:

You’ll always aim by feel; no system will change that. Even with the “systems” that show you exactly where to hit the OB (“ghost ball”, “double overlap”, “paralleling”) you need to “feel” when you’re lined up exactly right and “feel” how much adjustment to make for OB throw and CB squirt/swerve.

And most systems don’t show you exactly where to hit the OB; they give you an approximate aim point (which you have to line up correctly by feel) and from that you have to adjust to the real aim point by feel. “Approximating” systems include all the systems that are not the well-known “exact” systems I named above.

“Approximating” systems include those taught by Hal Houle, Cue-Tech, RonV, Stan Shuffett, Joe Tucker and others, going by such names as “fractional aiming”, “3-angles”, “S.A.M.”, “center-to-edge”, “Pro 1”, etc., etc. Some users and teachers of these systems will tell you that they are “exact” systems that need no adjustments, but they’re wrong. All of them are approximation systems and all of them require you to adjust your aim by feel. The only one that I’m aware of that actually admits this fact openly is Joe Tucker’s system.

Confidence is essential to increasing your “feel” for aiming, with or without an aiming system, and one of the main benefits of using a system is that it can help boost your confidence by narrowing down the range of choices you have to make by feel. Even players who don’t think they use any system often use one (or more) unconsciously – for instance, when faced with a tough shot they might get a “second opinion” on their aim by imagining how “ghost ball” or “double overlap” aim would look. Many players use different systems for different kinds of shots – for instance, the “double overlap” system is especially useful for long thin cut shots.

Whether or not you use a system(s) and which one(s) you use are personal choices. Hopefully understanding exactly what aiming systems are and are not before you make those decisions will help you make the right ones for you.

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