What effects does cue elevation have on a shot, and how should I change my technique when jacking up the cue?

When you “jack up” your cue, by raising the butt (back) end, several bad things can happen, including:

  1. If you don’t hit exactly on the centerline of the CB (either intentional or not), the CB will swerve and go off line more (see NV 4.14 and HSV B.10). Some people have more success getting a center-ball hit on an elevated-cue shot by focusing on the CB (instead of the OB, as normal) during the final stroke.
  2. It can be more difficult to visually align the cue with the desired aiming line of the shot.
  3. More elevation causes the CB to hop; and with more speed, the CB will hop over a longer distance and possibly hit the OB while still bouncing. If the CB hits the OB while airborne, the cut angle will be changed and you might miss the shot (see jump shot over cut).
  4. The more you elevate the cue with draw shots, the less spin the CB will have when it gets to the OB, for a given tip offset and cue speed (see draw-shot cue-elevation effects for more info). However, elevation does help create quick draw, and it might be required in some situations (see draw-shot cue-elevation effects).
  5. The more you elevate (and cause the CB to hop) with the break shot, the less speed the CB will have when it hits the rack. For more info, see break shot CB squat and hop.
  6. It can be more difficult to achieve long-distance draw with an elevated cue (see jump shot cue elevation effects).
  7. Sometimes, elevated-cue shots can result in multiple hits, which could be called as fouls by some people (see NV H.1 – Elevated-Cue Pool and Billiards Shots … Are They Legal?).

However, sometimes cue elevation is required to shoot over an obstacle ball or rail cushion, or to avoid a double hit when there is only a small gap between the CB and OB, or to execute a jump or massé shot. And some people might need an elevated bridge for back or shoulder issues or on draw shots if they have trouble lowering or flattening their bridge.

Items 1 and 2 above are often due to one’s vision center not being aligned properly when elevated. This is a very common problem. One approach to solving this problem is aiming the shot in a level-cue position and then elevate the cue from this aim (like a lot of people do when aiming jump shots). You can also glance down at the cue in the elevated position to make sure your vision center is over the cue. Vol. II of “How to Aim Pool Shots” (HAPS) covers these techniques in detail.

Some of the technique advice normally suggested for jump shots also applies to other elevated-cue shots. For example, your stance and grip can be much more comfortable if you bend your bridge arm and choke up on the cue, allowing you to get closer to the cue and CB, also enabling a more comfortable and consistent stroke. It also helps to make sure you have pressure on your bridge hand and keep it as still as possible. Other advice is demonstrated in the following video:

When jacking up the cue, one must be aware of the effects on effective tip offset (and the amount of spin imparted). Some people have trouble perceiving this effect. The following diagram from “Draw Shot Physics – Part IV: cue elevation effects” (BD, July, 2009) illustrates the concept:

tip offset elevation effects

Good drills for practicing elevated-cue shots are the three versions of Drill S8 in the BU Skills Exam (Exam II).

Is it possible to have the cue perfectly level at a pool table (i.e., is it possible to not have the cue elevated)?

No. Because the cue must clear over the rails, the cue must be elevated some on practically all pool shots. Here’s an illustration from Patrick Johnson (from AZB post) that illustrates why:

level-cue miscue

The cue must be elevated some to clear the rail cushion and hit the ball low enough to prevent a miscue. The cue must be elevated even more when the CB is farther from the cushion (and a fatter part of the cue is over the rail) and/or when a below-center hit is used. For example, see: TP A.3 – Minimum cue elevation required for a head-spot-to-foot-spot center-ball-hit shot.

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