The tangent line explains how a ball in motion will react after hitting a stationary ball. The tangent line can be used to predict the trajectory of the cue ball after impacting your object ball. If you don’t know what the tangent line is check out my last article “Understanding The Tangent Line”.
In my article on understanding the tangent line, I explained how putting english on the cue ball adjusts where the cue ball where go. So, the cue ball won’t follow the tangent line exactly.
The tangent line is still helpful when using english, but you have to make adjustments depending on what english you put on the ball.
No English Example
I’m not going to cover this in too much detail because I covered tangent lines with no english in my last article. However, here is a quick example of how tangent lines work.
If you shoot the 1 ball in the side pocket from where the cue ball is, the cue ball will follow the solid red line.
We’re going to use this same example to explain how the tangent lines work with english.
Low English or Draw
When you use low english on the cue ball it pulls back from the tangent line. In other words the cue ball comes back toward the shooter. The amount of backspin on the ball determines how far back it will pull.
There’s really no limit to how far back you can get it to come but the further back you try to go, the more you’re falling into trick shot territory. If you can get the cue ball to draw to the blue line pictured below, that is enough for almost any positioning you’ll need when playing pool.
The colors of the lines from bottom to top are red, orange, green, and blue. The colors are irrelevant but I will use them for reference to explain low english.
From the “No English” section above, we understand that a standard shot with no english will follow the red line.
Each of the other lines represents paths the cue ball can take depending on how much low english is placed on the ball.
These lines don’t mean those are the only paths possible. You can make the cue ball can go anywhere in between those lines. It just depends on how little or how much draw (low english) you put on the cue ball.
The orange line represents a small amount of low english. This line is very easily achievable for a beginner to intermediate player. For this line, you just need to hit slightly below the center of the cue ball. For this shot, you want to be centered horizontally and about a centimeter or two below center on the vertical axis.
The green line represents a medium amount of low english. This line is more for an intermediate player. An intermediate player should be able to draw the ball to this point consistently. This shot will require you to hit further down on the cue ball, maybe 3-4 cm down.
The blue line represents a pretty advanced player’s draw range. An advanced player should be able to put enough backspin (low english) on the ball to reach the blue line. At this point, you will be hitting pretty low on the cue ball. Attempting this at a beginner level may result in damage to the table. Please be careful. If the tip of your pool stick slides off the ball you can rip the pool table’s felt.
Basically the more english you put on the ball, the farther away you can pull the cue ball from the tangent ball.
You can even take this a step further, a pool player that has excellent english and speed control could get the cue ball to draw even further than the blue line. If you were to put enough draw on the ball to make it to the side pocket, the ball would change directions after hitting the one ball, similar to the blue line pictured below.
I personally can get the cue ball past the blue line, all the way to the side pocket, but I wouldn’t be able to do it every time. So, I’d say the blue line is about where I can predictably and consistently draw the cue ball.
High Top English or Follow
High top english has the opposite effect on the tangent line. So instead of the cue ball coming back to the side of the shooter, it will push it further and further toward the original direction of the cue ball on the opposite side of the tangent line.
We’re going to use the same example shot to keep things consistent.
The colors of the lines are the same but from top to bottom this time. So the order is red, orange, green, and blue. I will be using these colors for reference again.
The solid red line is the tangent line. This is where the cue ball will go without english.
The more top english placed on the ball and the better speed control used, the further forward you can get the ball to continue after impacting the 1 ball.
In this scenario, the orange line isn’t ideal because it is very close to a scratch but for example’s sake, the orange line is where you would get with a small amount of top english.
The green line is where you would get with a medium amount of top english.
The blue line is where you would get with a lot of top english but it’s worth noting that it would be very difficult to get to the blue line if you hit the ball hard. This shot requires very good speed control. Hitting this shot slow will make it 10x easier to follow the blue line.
In the example above, I’d say the orange and green lines are more where a beginner to intermediate player would be and the blue line would be more of the advanced player.
The blue line isn’t very hard to do but it requires the right amount of english and speed control which makes it more difficult to do consistently.
How English Adjusts The Trajectory
As you’ve just learned, when you use english, the cue ball’s trajectory gradually gets further away from the tangent line depending on the amount of english used.
With low english the cue ball comes back toward the shooter. With high top english, the cue ball follows more toward the initial direction of the shot.
The tangent line works as the middle ground for your english. If you look at the tangent line and want the cue ball to go a little more forward, put a little top spin on it. If you look at the tangent line and want it to come a little more backward, put a little back spin on it. From there you practice and play with your english to understand how far back or how far forward you can go.
As you practice this more, you will be able to apply this concept to any shot on the table. This is how you will be able to maneuver the table at will.
I hope this article helped you better understand controlling the cue ball.
Let me know, in the comments below, what you thought about this article and if it helped you better understand cue ball control.