Recently I played on an outdoor table atop a cruise ship on the upper deck of the magnificent Carnival Breeze. But a magnificent breeze came along and swept most of the balls to the rails in the middle of my game! And so I was favored to hit and make six- and seven-ball combination shots.
Now I'm looking forward to a cruise on one of Royal Caribbean's Radiance class of ships to play and give billiards clinics on a unique gyroscopic table that maintains its stability, even in rough seas, as part of a cruise tour I'm running for James Bond and spy enthusiasts. On to helping you with your rail shots.
I run a list of all kinds of rail ideas for you below and I'm as near as your e-mail for feedback also. Thank you.
*The pro method is to assume the same distance in the stance when the cue ball is along the rail as on other unencumbered shots. Whether you get close to the cue ball or back off should be a function of the power and hand bridge you'll employ. Otherwise your stance should look the same.
Remember, though to press down into the rail with your bridge hand for added stability. If you're pressing so hard your stroke arm can do what it likes, even up to a full break shot, you're set. This combination of stance distance and a press with the bridge hand should instantly improve the quality of all your rail play, and to a great degree.
*If your cue ball is frozen to the rail, don't fight physics and plan on a topspin shot for most cases. Think "stroke shoulder tucked in" and "stroke thumb downward pressure" on the stroke for excellent accuracy. Save the english for another shot if at all possible.
*If both the cue and object ball rest along the same cushion it's easy to overpower the stroke. Practice these plays hitting with topspin and some outside english, the balls close together to begin. Emphasize a crisp stroke with a decent length of follow-through.
*If you must stroke for draw over a rail with the cue ball nearby, remember to stroke through a spot below and behind the absolute center of the ball at its middle. Go under the cue ball's "peach pit" by extending the imaginary line your cue stick will draw through the cue ball. (Stroke above the peach pit to add topspin instead.) The rule is that the cue stick angle as it elevated above the cloth for any shot (not just a rail shot) changes the attack angle through the ball and around its absolute center.
*A 22½ degree approach angle (the line of centers between opposite corner pockets) is an ideal approach angle for an object ball along a rail. Make the cue ball come forward off the shot with a gentle hit about ½ tip above center.
*Take your game to the next level by mastering the cut along the short rails that sends the cue ball two rails with draw and outside english. This should be practiced at a variety of speeds and angles and will
*Use soft strokes for balls cut thinly near the corners and short rails. Remember rattling the ball in the corner? Speed is everything on this one.
*Properly aimed cut shots along the cushions look like they'll come up short when you hit the object ball too full. Once you've been through this play and its optical illusion for a few hundreds strokes, you'll stop being distracted. Remember to tell the beginners to do it and lock it in, too!
*A superlative way to shoot a rail shot (or bank shot) is to pretend the rail is not there at all. You don't want to anticipate the ball hitting the cushion, which leads to an ugly stroke hitch. Your percentage on these shots will increase far beyond your wildest dreams once you acknowledge to yourself, "This is an easy shot because the rail is a helpful aiming aid and that's it."
The people who advocate using english and striking the rail before the ball to help cinch a shot are unwise. If you're going to hit the cushion early we're talking about a shot that strikes about two credit card widths before the object ball. Forget that and just bring the two balls together along the rail and at a smooth speed of stroke.
English on a rail shot is best reserved for a low percentage, extremely thin, cut shot.
*On thin cuts along the rail, follow and draw have little effect on the cue ball or object ball, so forget about them in your calculations.