Are straight-in shots more difficult than shots at an angle?
No. It just seems that way because there is extra pressure on straight shots, because we expect to make them, even if they are long (especially if we have practiced them specifically). In other words, there is no excuse for missing them. Also, people often compare long, tough, straight-in shots to shorter and easier cut shots. This is not a fair comparison. Straight shots ARE easier than cut shots of the same CB-to-OB distance and the same OB-to-pocket distance. Proof can be found in TP 3.4 – Margin of error based on distance and cut angle. If one does a simple experiment, this fact should become clear. Here it is:
Place an object ball in the center of the table, and place the CB three feet away for a straight-in shot to a corner. Attempt this shot a large number of times and keep track of your make percentage. Then attempt the same number of shots, with the OB is the same place, but with the CB at random angles (maybe up to 30 or 45°) for cuts both to the right and left, still positioning the CB three feet from the OB (along a circular arc) for each shot. Again keep track of the make percentage.
The results of this experiment should shot that the straight shot is easier; in other words, it will have a higher make percentage (unless you have a really serious issue with any of the things below, in which case your results might be somewhat random). The reason is: every straight shot is the same … it is straight … no real “aiming” is required (although, you must have your vision and cue aligned accurately). Cut shots at different angles must be aimed (and still require accurate vision and cue alignment). Also, there is less margin for error with a cut shot compared to a straight-in shot (especially with larger cut angles). Even if the same cut angle is used for every non-straight shot in the experiment, the success rate should still be greater for the straight shot (although, after a few attempts, you should no longer need to “aim” the cut-angle shot, because you will have locked in the aim by then).
The most common reasons why people miss straight-in shots, especially long ones, are the following:
- Your “vision center” is not properly aligned. If this is the case, you won’t perceive the straight line of the shot and your cue alignment properly. FYI, there are tests and drills for diagnosing and fixing this problem on the vision center resource page.
- You are not hitting the CB on the vertical centerline, creating unintentional sidespin, resulting in squirt, swerve, and spin-induced throw. Tip position is critical on a long, straight shot. The most common causes for having the cue tip off center are a poorly aligned “vision center” and a lack of focus dedicating to checking this during the “set” position of the pre-shot routine. FYI, there are drills for helping with this problem on the “finding the center of the CB” resource page.
- Your cue is not as level as possible. If so, the swerve effect due to any unintentional english becomes significant.
- You are not stroking straight. If so, the stroke “best practices” recommendations might help.
What happens when a straight shot is hit slightly off center by mistake?
This creates “unintentional english.” The resulting sidespin, even though it might be a small amount, and the associated squirt, swerve, and throw, can easily cause a straight shot to be missed, especially a long shot with tight pockets.
Interestingly, for some shots with unintentional english, the squirt, swerve, and throw effects can completely cancel. resulting in a perfectly straight shot. For example, for a straight shot with a hit slightly to the left of center, a small amount of left sidespin will be imparted creating squirt to the right and swerve back to the left. With typical cue elevations (near level), the squirt effect will be larger than the swerve effect, especially at faster speeds or with a non-LD shaft, resulting in a net CB deflection to the right. This would result in the OB being cut to the left. However, the left spin will throw the OB to the right. Again, if everything happens to balance, the OB will go straight.
Obviously, you wouldn’t want to intentionally apply sidespin (even a small amount) on a long, straight shot because the combination of squirt, swerve, and throw effects can easily cause a miss. It is difficult to get a perfectly centered hit, but the closer to center you are, the smaller all of the effects will be.
The relative amounts of each effect depends on many variables (shot speed, shot distance, cue elevation, cut angle, amount and type of spin, cloth conditions, and ball conditions, etc.). For faster-speed shots, squirt will be the dominant factor for missing a straight shot with unintentional sidespin. If the cue is elevated more than the typical amount, swerve can be the dominant factor. And for slower-speed shots, especially stop shots, throw can be the dominant factor.
A complete list of squirt, swerve, and throw effects, along with explanations and demonstrations of all of the variables can be found at: squirt, swerve, and throw effects.
If you get a well-centered hit on the CB on a straight shot, you don’t need to worry about any of this stuff.