How does the condition of the table cloth and the cue ball affect draw action?

It is easier to get more draw action on a “slick” cloth (i.e., a cloth with low sliding friction), because the cue ball retains more of its bottom spin on the way to the object ball. A “fast” cloth (a cloth with low rolling resistance), will allow the cue ball to roll farther after the draw takes.

If you want to simulate the effects of a “slick” cloth, or if you just want to impress your friends with dramatic draw, try spraying and/or wiping the cue ball with Silicone Spray (spray lubricant available at any hardware store). You will be able to draw like you’ve never drawn before.

To visualize the “drag” action of the cloth, see:

The thickness of the cloth can also affect how the CB comes off the tip, especially with cue elevation. For more info, see:

For more information on cloth conditions effects, see the cloth effects resource page. And For more information and demonstrations dealing with how cloth drag can be used for an advantage, see the drag shot resource page.


from Patrick Johnson:

ball drag spin conversion

from dr_dave:

The following video demonstrates the spin conversion action illustrated in the diagram above:

from Bob_Jewett:

It is important to distinguish between rolling friction and sliding friction. The two affect the cue ball in different ways and they are sometimes misunderstood. Sliding friction relates to the force from the cue ball sliding on the cloth. It causes draw to wear off and it allows draw or follow to take effect after the cue ball hits the object ball. Sliding friction can be reduced by getting new (slippery) cloth and by waxing the cue ball. Waxing is an easy experiment to do, and I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t tried it yet.

Rolling friction tells you how quickly the cue ball slows down after it is rolling smoothly on the cloth. With low rolling friction, it takes the cue ball a long time to slow down. If you have one available, check out how long the ball rolls on a heated carom table.

All combinations of high and low values of these two kinds of friction are possible. The most extreme case of low/low I’ve tried was on a waxed linoleum floor. You can do amazing massé shots under such conditions. New carom cloth is the closest on-table example of this combination.

Low rolling resistance and high surface friction occurs sometimes on thin old cloth that’s dirty and compressed. An extreme example would be a very hard rubber surface — the ball would roll for a long time but there is no way you could keep draw on it.

High rolling resistance and high surface friction is what you often get in bars. Dirty, thick cloth, and dirty, rough cue balls.

The most important friction when trying to draw the cue ball is the friction between the cue ball and the cloth on the way to the object ball. That friction can wear off some, most or all of the backspin. You will seem to get a lot more draw by waxing the cue ball so that it loses less draw on the way to the object ball.

Once the cue ball contacts the object ball, the friction will allow the draw to take. Less friction just means that it will take longer for the cue ball to come up to full speed, but the final speed of the cue ball drawing back will be nearly the same regardless of the actual value of the friction ball-to-cloth.

One thing that is most noticeable about a slippery cue ball is the remarkable arc you can get when drawing a cut shot. Because the slippery cloth delays the action, you get a much wider arc.

… something that’s a huge factor in many pool halls: the size of the cue ball. The cue ball wears down in play, and if the cue ball is smaller, it is also lighter and much, much easier to draw.

In the case of old cloth, the problem is nearly always that the cloth is sticky, which is to say that there is more ball-cloth friction and the draw wears off faster. Waxing the cue ball in such a situation will often restore new-cloth action for a while until the wax wears off.

from Patrick Johnson:

It’s not true that the CB will lose more draw spin as it “peels out” on slipperier cloth – it loses the same amount of spin on any kind of cloth; it just takes a little longer on slippery cloth (see explanation below).

If the CB hits the OB with the same amount of backspin, then the cloth doesn’t matter – the cue ball will draw back the same distance on slippery or sticky cloth. But sticky (nappy or dirty) cloth rubs off more of the CB’s backspin on its way to the OB and slippery cloth rubs off less. That’s why you have to put more backspin on the CB on sticky cloth and why the best cloth for draw is the fastest (slipperiest) cloth.

When the CB hits the OB with the same amount of backspin (or forward spin) it reacts differently on slippery and sticky cloth:

– On slippery cloth it will “peel out” for a longer time and take more time to pick up speed and start rolling naturally, but it will lose spin more slowly.

– On sticky cloth it will “peel out” for a shorter time and take less time to pick up speed and start rolling naturally, but it will lose spin more quickly.

Here’s the interesting thing: these two effects balance out so that when the CB has stopped peeling out and starts rolling naturally it will be moving the same speed in both cases and therefore will draw back (or follow forward) the same distance.

P.S. You point out an important distinction that many players don’t get: cloth is faster/slower in two separate ways; sliding speed and rolling speed. Fast cloth is usually faster both ways, but not always to the same degree. Some cloth slides really well (so the CB retains lots of draw or follow spin on its way to the OB), but doesn’t roll as far as you’d expect, and vice verse. “Slipperiness” (sliding speed) also affects the way balls react off the rails with sidespin.

reply from Jal:

… the cueball will draw back a bit farther on slicker cloth, assuming its rolling resistance is at least the same or less than the stickier cloth’s.

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