(FAQ) How do you play a cue ball on the rail?

(About the Author)

This is one of the more difficult locations to shoot from. Because the cue ball is so close to the rail, it is impossible to contact the ball with other than a top spin. Draws and any variations are impossible, unless you are an expert in shooting masse shots with a near-vertical stick.

If you are one of those players who believe that the cue stick must be elevated to shoot a cue ball on the rail, you provide your friends with a lot of entertainment. Unless you have put a serious effort into playing masse shots, your raised stick guarantees a miss and uncontrollable cue ball behavior.

Learning how to shoot masse shots takes a lot of time and practice. When you raise your stick to stab at the ball, you are using a masse stroke. These types of shots are very sensitive. Even the smallest imperfection on the stroke will cause unpredictable results.

If you watch good players (the ones that you admire from afar), they never use a masse shot. When the ball is on the rail, they use something different – the rail follow stroke.

This stroke is controllable and provides predictable results. It uses a level stick, parallel to the floor with no more than a 2 to 4 degree angle. The shot requires a carefully chalked cue tip and slower speeds.

Let the shaft ride on the table rail. Use an open bridge from underneath or loop a finger over the shaft to guide it. Bend down on the shot just a little more than usual and perform your regular aiming process. Use a longer than usual follow through to make sure the stroke flows through the cue ball.

If the shot is straight at the object ball with the pocket close by, use a soft stroke so that the cue ball doesn’t travel very far past the contact position. For all other shots, use a normal medium speed. Avoid high speed strokes – these increase your chances of miscuing and embarrassing yourself. Even if the shot leaves you with a tougher shot, accept it and take your chances on the resulting cue ball position. If the next shot is too difficult, simply play defensively.

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