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How to Aim in Pool

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

It would seem that if you were able to aim perfectly on every shot, you would pocket every ball. However, when a player misses a shot, it is rarely their aim that has let them down. The majority of even average players know how to aim a majority of shots without any aiming system. The reason for most misses is poor delivery of the cue to and through the cue ball. No aiming system in the world will help the player who can't deliver a precise and accurate stroke.

That being said, it is important to have a basic understanding of how the cue ball and object ball will interact with one another at impact. There are a number of aiming systems, but the ghost ball aiming method is by far the most straight forward system to learn.

The Ghost Ball Aiming System

The most popular aiming system used to teach newer players how to aim is the ghost ball aiming system. This is done by identifying the point on the object ball that needs to be struck to pocket the object ball, visualizing a ghost ball that is impacting that point, and then aiming at the center of that ghost ball.

Identify the point where the ghost ball should be by imagining a ball touching the object ball opposite the intended aiming location so that the two are lined up pointing directly at the pocket. If you wanted to pocket the object ball into the corner pocket, the ghost ball would be lined up and touching the object ball so that the center of both balls and the contact point would all be on the pocket line.

No matter where you shoot from on the table, this is the contact point and ghost ball you should be shooting at to pocket this ball. This would work every time in an ideal environment where there was no friction between the cue ball and object ball.

The Problems with All Aiming Systems

Aiming systems do little more than get you in the general ballpark of where you should be aiming. It is up to you from there to make minor adjustments based on your feel and instinct for the shot. Friction between the cue ball and object ball at impact is the reason there will never be a perfect aiming system that works on every shot. There are simply too many variables in both equipment and the individual requirements of each shot that change the amount of friction between the cue ball and object ball during impact including:

  • Cut Induced Throw

  • Spin Induced Throw

  • Humidity

  • Ware and Tear on the Balls

  • Cleanliness of the Balls

  • Speed

  • Cut Angle

  • Amount of Top/Bottom Spin

  • Squirt

  • Swerve

With the number of variables from shot to shot that exist, it becomes obvious that there is no one answer on the precise location to strike the object ball to pocket it every time. You will need to adjust your aim based on all of the above factors. As you become more experienced, you will rely less on flawed aiming systems and instead develop an instinct for how to aim a shot based on the speed and spin you need to use to get your desired position. This is not something you can buy in a DVD, but rather a skill that is learned over many hours of practice. However, a basic understanding of the effects of throw on your aim can help speed up this process, so the next parts of this lesson will cover cut induced throw and spin induced throw.

This is not something you can buy in a DVD, but rather a skill that is learned over many hours of practice.

Cut Induced Throw (CIT)

Unless you are straight in on a ball or cutting it at an extreme angle, CIT is something you will need to account for on every shot. CIT occurs when the cue ball imparts some of its directional momentum onto the object ball while making contact with the object ball, or as Dr. Dave describes it "horizontal rubbing motion caused by friction between the CB and OB during contact" (Follow Dr. Dave on YouTube).

If you are cutting the object ball to the right, the cue ball will impart some of its directional momentum onto the object ball, throwing it a bit to the left. Some amount of cut induced throw occurs at almost all cut angles, but is most pronounced when striking the object ball with a half ball hit and stun at a slower speed. CIT can throw the object ball as much as 5.8 degrees off the original aiming line - Dr. Dave Alciatore, (Follow Dr. Dave on YouTube). This is why a lot of players have the tendency to undercut object balls instead of over cut them, especially on 30 degree cuts. If you are consistently under-cutting shots, then it may be due to CIT and you should aim slightly thinner to account for CIT.

Spin Induced Throw (SIT)

As you develop as a player, you will begin using left and right spin. SIT occurs when the cue ball imparts some of its angular momentum onto the object ball. In more layman's terms, spinning the cue ball with right hand spin will throw the object ball to the left and vice versa.

SIT is greatest at a full ball hit (meaning no cut angle or straight in), at slower speeds, and with no top or bottom spin at the time of impact - Dr. Dave Alciatore, (Follow Dr. Dave on YouTube). SIT is the reason a lot of players have trouble pocketing long straight in shots. If the cue ball has even a hint of unintended left or right hand spin, it can be enough to cause a miss.

As players become more comfortable with side spin, they may utilize SIT to their benefit by putting outside spin on the cue ball to effectively cancel out the effects of CIT. The utilization of side spin however requires a player to be very familiar with the effects of squirt and swerve to remain accurate, and is not recommended for lower level players. I will cover all of these effects in a later lesson in this course.

Developing an Instinct for Aiming

I recommend taking a systematic approach to improving your aiming abilities. The first thing you should do is the Aim Training Drill. In this drill, you will be testing your aim when cutting the object ball to your right and left. The drill is divided into three rounds; top, stun, and bottom. You should be able to make a majority of these shots scoring at least a 25/30. When you do miss, be sure to take note of why you missed and analyze if it was really your aim that was wrong or if there was some kind of flaw in your stroke.

From there you can try to make all of the shots from 2 diamonds farther away. If you make a majority of these shots at a closer range, but miss them at a longer range, you already know how to aim most shots and the real problem is minor flaws in your fundamentals. The longer distance magnifies the slight errors in your stroke and turns them into misses. The margin for error significantly decreases the longer a shot is.

Once you are at a point where you are able to pocket a large majority of the shots you come up against, simply take notes on shots that you miss and revisit them in your practice time. Documenting your misses is an integral part of your overall improvement as a player. A majority of the time, you will make the shot multiple times with ease when you revisit it. This would indicate that bad fundamentals were at fault and not your aim.

A great tool for documenting your misses is the Table Maker Tool which is available for free under the Tools tab on the World of Pool and Billiards App.

You will also come across shots that you should be making, but keep missing. This indicates an error in your aiming. In this case, you should dedicate some amount of time to working on this specific shot during every practice session until you can make it consistently. Once a shot like this has been identified, make it part of your routine and shoot it for a few minutes every time you practice until you can consistently make it. Don't fall into the trap of shooting a shot like this until you make it once and then never revisiting it.

You may come up against a unique shot that involves a speed, spin, and cut angle that you have never had to shoot before. You will likely feel extremely uncomfortable as you haven't developed your feel for this type of shot before. Even if you make it (you probably wont), document the shot and dedicate time to practicing it and developing a feel for it. A great example of a shot like this is the above illustrated bottom inside shot. You might only get the chance to shoot this shot once every 30 games or so, but if you dedicate time to becoming proficient at it, it will be one more advantage you will have over your opponent.

You should strive to work at the edge of your capabilities (work on your weaknesses) to improve rapidly at the game. Your weaknesses become your strengths as you practice to improve them. You will quickly become proficient at aiming a large majority of the shots you come up against.

"You should strive to work at the edge of your capabilities to improve rapidly at the game"

Where to Aim the Object Ball

Another thing I would like to cover in this lesson is where you should be aiming the object ball. A common beginner mistake is to aim the object ball at the center of the back of the pocket, but this can actually cause you to miss. Instead of aiming at the back of the pocket, you should aim at the opening of the pocket. In the above example, you can see that aiming at the back of the pocket results in the object ball running into the rail causing it to miss. Instead, you should aim for the opening of the pocket.

Cheating the Pocket

As your stroke and aim become more precise, you will begin aiming for certain parts of the pocket. Instead of aiming at the center of the opening, you may choose to shoot to the far right side of the pocket to send the cue ball on a more desirable path. Missing the part of the pocket that you are aiming for can be detrimental to your position play, even if you still manage to pocket the object ball. This is especially true on easier to pocket shots where the object ball is close to the pocket and there is a large margin for error. In the above example I hit both shots at the same speed. If I over cut the ball, my cue ball ends up all the way down table. If I under cut the ball, I come up way short of my desired position. Be sure to take the time to aim simple shots, as you are quite likely to miss position if you become complacent.


In addition to how speed affects throw on the object ball, it is also important to consider the speed that the object ball will be traveling when it reaches the pocket. The obvious side of this coin is that the object ball needs to reach the pocket. If you shoot too slow, the object ball wont make it to the pocket, but this is rarely a concern. The primary concern with speed is the "pocketability" of the shot. When shooting at higher speeds, the rails tend to tighten up the pockets. This makes pocketing a ball at high speeds much more difficult because it requires much more precise aim while also being more difficult to deliver an accurate stroke with a longer bridge length and more engagement of your muscles.

Instead, players should opt to shoot balls at pocket speed when possible. This is a medium speed stroke where even if the object ball isn't hit accurately, it is still likely to drop, so long as it makes it to the jaws of the pocket. This speed is typically just enough for it bounce off the jaws of the pocket once or twice allowing it to get deeper into the jaws of the pocket until it drops.


I personally do not feel that players should spend any significant amount of time trying to learn a complicated aiming system. It will only be time wasted if they plan to become a more advanced player, which if you are reading this, you probably desire to reach this higher level of play. For that reason, I don't recommend them. As you begin utilizing different speeds and spins, the aiming systems break down and you end up shooting and aiming off of instinct anyways. Throw will become a part of your visualization process and it will already be something you have taken into account. There are really only a few instances where aiming systems are truly useful to an advanced level player, and they rarely come up in regular play.

The fastest way to improve your aim is to take a systematic approach by recognizing shots that you struggle with often, documenting them, and practicing them until you become proficient at them.

Completion Requirements

  • Read and comprehend this entire lesson

  • Practice the Aim Training Drill every practice session until you can consistently score a 25/30 or better

  • Adopt the systematic approach to improving your aiming by documenting your misses and practicing shots you struggle with until you can make them consistently

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