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What Does It Mean For The Cue Ball To Be Sliding?

A very important part of improving your cue ball control is understanding the difference between when the cue ball is sliding and when the cue ball is rolling/spinning.

When the cue ball is rolling or spinning, instead of sliding, it doesn’t follow the tangent line perfectly. I covered this in my last article How does english affect the tangent line. However, I didn’t go into too much detail on what the cue ball sliding actually means.


By now, if you’ve read my other articles, you understand what it means to put english on the cue ball. When you use low english the ball has back spin on it and when you use top english, the ball has forward spin on it.

When the ball has backspin or forward spin, it isn’t sliding on the table. With forward spin, the ball is rolling forward. With backspin, the ball is spinning backward which means it is fighting against the friction of the table.


In my previous article about tangent lines, I briefly mentioned that the ball must be sliding upon impact in order to follow the exact tangent line.

When you hit a ball dead center, unless you hit it very softly, it will slide for a second before rolling forward. This slide is because the force you hit the ball with is stronger than the friction created between the ball and the table’s felt.

Over time, as the ball slides, the friction will slow the ball down until the friction’s force is strong enough to grip the ball. Then the ball will start rolling forward.

Once the table’s friction grips the ball and it starts rolling, the ball is no longer sliding. At this point, it won’t follow the perfect tangent line. It will follow as if there was top english on the cue ball because top english is essentially a strong forward roll.

How You Can Visualize For Yourself

I don’t want you to take my word for how this works. You should test this for yourself.

The way you can test this is either by utilizing a cue ball that has dots on it or by using a striped ball. If you use a striped ball, position it so that the white side is facing you and the stripes are perpendicular to your stick.

When testing this shot, hit the cue ball dead center to avoid putting english on the cue ball.

First, try hitting the ball softly, you’ll notice the ball rolls forward almost immediately after hitting the ball.

Now, try hitting the cue ball at a medium-strength, you’ll notice that the ball slides for several inches or for about a foot before rolling forward. That part where the ball is sliding is the only time, the cue ball will follow a tangent line perfectly.

After that, try hitting the ball hard, you’ll notice the ball slides for a very long period before rolling forward. Hitting hard makes it easy to impact a ball while sliding but it gives up a lot of control.

So, instead of hitting hard the best way to impact a ball while it is sliding is by utilizing a stun shot. The stun shot is difficult and I will be writing an article on the stun shot next. I just wanted to explain what it means for the cue ball to be sliding on impact.

Sliding Summary

Understanding the slide of the cue ball is pivotal in becoming a better pool player. When you combine the cue ball slide with the tangent lines, you can accurately predict where the cue ball will end up.

Future articles will compound on this principal because, it is a very important aspect of the game. The friction of the pool table plays a huge part in the physics behind pool.

If you have any thoughts or questions, please leave them in the comments below!

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