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.....When I was learning how to play pool there were no books, no videos, no instructors and no leagues to play in. The best way to learn was to watch. I was privileged to see some of the greatest and some of the not so great. My purpose for publishing my pointers insrtuctional column is not only to inpart pool knowledge to my viewers but to share with the public what these great players from the 1980s and 1990s looked like. Through my trusty Canon, for a moment in time they are immortalized. Some are still here and some are gone and I still remember the joy of watching them play.

Confused and frustrated by tricky combinations?
A few helpful hints can get you back on track.

…..COMBINATIONS ARE ALWAYS A RISK, however in some situations they are unavoidable. Linda Rhinehart was stumped by the pictured combination shot at the ’81 World Open, a straight pool event. What she failed to realize was that the 9-ball could have easily been pocketed in the side pocket. After much deliberation, she passed on the combination and took aim at a long cut shot into the corner pocket and missed. In reality, all Linda was missing was a bit of information about combos.

…..Ernie Costa, an East Coast player known for his expertise in shooting combinations, offers a simple formula. When two object balls are 1/3 to an 1/2 inch apart it is better to use English to pocket the ball rather than trying to cut one ball into the other. Apply the English (side spin) to the same side of the cue ball that you want the second ball to travel. Use medium speed. In this case, Linda should have put right-hand English, at moderate speed, and aimed at the combination as if the two object balls were going straight ahead.

…..The right-hand side spin applied to the cue ball causes the 11 ball (the first ball) to twist to the left which, in turn, causes the 9 ball to move right towards the side pocket. The shot works best when the cue ball is lined up fairly straight with the combination, but will still work from an off angle.

…..If it is a steeper combination and the balls are further apart, say 3/4 to one inch, apply the same English, but this time also cut the shot slightly towards the high side of the angle. You can also shoot the cue ball at a slower speed to get more throw into the ball that’s being pocketed.

…..Experiment with this formula during practice to see just how far you can throw the combination.  I recommend that initially you use moderate speed on your stroke. Start out using one full tip of english on the cue ball and progress by adding ½ tip increments until you’re successful in pocketing the combination consistently. After that you can research with different speeds for cue ball positioning during a game. The slower you hit the cue ball the more throw you get and the harder you hit the less throw. Be carefully when adding speed because there is a point wherein the combination does not throw at all.

.....Cosmo Ransome exhibits his refereeing skills in "Don't Stand So Close To Me: Referees, The Unsung Heros of Pocket Billiards".

…..Be sure to look at the combination from both sides of the lined up object balls. Here,
Steve Mizerak
checks out a possible combination from the pocket side during the 1982 PPPA World Open. From this vantage point he figures out that the throw required for pocketing the ball is just too much. Even with a lot of spin and a slower speed it was unlikely the ball could go into the corner pocket. He passes on the shot. Eventually, Steve would go on to win this World Open event.

…..Howie Pearl, an attorney, is an ardent pool player and devoted student of the game. As a lawyer he can certainly appreciate the “laws” of physics. I spoke with Howie after his match and he confirmed that he used spin, one full tip of right hand english, to pocket this particular combination. It may look, dear reader, that the pocketed ball needed to go to the left, but if you look closely at the shot you’ll observe that the pocket is to the right of the lined up balls. I recommend that you first look at the two balls lined up straight ahead and then make your calculation.
. . . . . . . (Howie’s wife, Linda Pearl, was a mainstay on the WPBA tour in earlier times.)

Another Side Note: That’s Paul Balukas in the background of Howie’s picture. Paul served on the WPBA Board of Directors from 1978 – 1981. Throughout Fran Crimi’s reign, Paul took a more active role in the workings of the organization. Among his contributions to the billiard community, Paul would volunteer to be a scorer at the World Open, a much needed component of any 14.1 tournament.


…..Tony Lauro, is confronted with the same type of combination. The object balls are about ½” apart. What’s interesting about this combination is that the balls are lined up to the right, pointing away from the pocket, and they are very close to the corner. That translates into a bigger cut shot requiring a lot more english than normal. In this example, Tony has to figure out if there is enough distance on the court for the english to take hold. Tournament cloth is always faster and slicker than cloth in a pool room. Not only is it the highest grade material, there is less traffic on it. Thus, the increase in english could make the object ball being struck skid. As I suspected, Tony told me after the game that he did not use spin to pocket the combination. He figured out the cut and struck center on the cue ball to make the shot. He admitted it was more difficult to make the shot in this fashion and he had to take the equipment into account.

…..This is another illustration of why this game holds so many people in it’s grip. The fact that you must figure out all the aspects of a situation before deciding how to handle it is fascinating. It’s one of the joys of playing the game and why I personally object to the shot clock imposed on today’s players. But, I digress…

…..If you want to be an accomplished player, you must take the type of equipment you’re using into consideration. Faster cloth, like Simonis, results in more throw while a slower cloth may require a lot more English, perhaps as much as two full tips. Also, the better grades of object balls work better for executing the shot and take less spin. Keep in mind that at times the equipment will work against your using side spin to execute a shot so you must shoot it like a normal combo. Yet this formula for pocketing combinations with spin works well in most situations. Like always, experimentation and practice are the road to success.



.....Pool Pointer Archives

.....1. Closed Half-Bridge
... .2. Look Before You Leap
.....3. Mechanically Inclined
.....4. Keep a Level Cue
.....5. Double or Nothing
.....6. Chalk It Up
.....7. V-Bridge It To Victory
.....8. The Right Combination


Tune in for more Pointer articles coming your way each month..