SI Vault
Luther Lassiter
October 16, 1967
There is no sweeter sound than an ivory ball going into a pocket, says the world pool champion, and he suggests ways you can hear it regularly
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October 16, 1967

Shooting Out The Lights With Wimpy

There is no sweeter sound than an ivory ball going into a pocket, says the world pool champion, and he suggests ways you can hear it regularly

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And now we get more technical. You want complete control of the game. So always walk around to check where the cue ball might go when you hit it. Then face your shot squarely, all flat-footed and firm. If you need hard, fast action and extra hop or draw on the ball, swing around and plant your weight on your left foot. The butt of the cue will raise up, as in the top two pictures here. Same stance, weight on right foot, as in the pictures below, will drop the butt of the cue down for all your delicate shots, especially for right or left English and cutting. My high stance (above) will make that cue ball hop, then draw back to me; the low one (below) will make the cue ball follow. These are your two basic working positions: low stance for fancy play and follow and high stance for power and draw. If you run into troubles, try to shorten up a bit on your stroke.

"Don't laugh. I dress baggy like this for a reason. In competition I always wear real loose clothes, floppy pants and all. It may not be stylish, but you can't afford to have clothes grabbing you when you're shooting."


The secret of pool is positioning, and the best way for me to show it is to shoot it. This here is pretty fancy stuff: we did it with flickering light. When the ball is sharp and spaced out, it is rolling fast. It gradually comes together in a blur as it slows down. When it twists you can see the English on it. Now then, let's say we face the problem above. To get at the 9-ball, sitting on the rail near me, I must first sink that 1-ball down at the far end. I take the low stance I showed you earlier, apply slight low-right English and stroke it smooth—no jumping. The cue ball takes off, sinks the 1-ball and, still barreling pretty fast, heads for the right cushion. Now note that the English does not grab it until it comes off the second cushion. There it takes on overspin to hold it on course. The third cushion takes the English back off, and after the fourth cushion it lazily rolls up to where I can get at the 9-ball. Now we'll try a draw-follow. The 1-ball shot (below) is easy. Trouble is, we got to get that cue ball back. This time I take a high stance, apply right English, and blast the 1-ball right in. I hit this one hard. It takes three cushions before the English gets on the cue ball, and after five cushions it comes up tamely right where we want it. Now here's a jump-follow that fine curving shot above. That cue ball jumps for a reason: we must sink the 1-ball, then do a little Huckle-Buck and get the cue ball to move over into all those easy cripples. I take a low stance and hit the cue ball just above right center, with a whole lot of follow-through. I got to hit that object ball so square that the cue ball, with all its top spin, actually hops a little and spins enough to come off four cushions just so-What I call the bank shot, southern style (below) is a trademark of mine. Man, I love it. There's no problem here. I should be able to sink that 1-ball by cutting it. But angling is always risky: Why use part of a pocket when you've got a whole pocket to aim at? I step up low stance, aim low center. The 1-ball banks in. Then the slight draw effect pulls the cue ball right over to the 9.

"Playing position is tough. But keep at it and remember Lassiter's First Law: when you are shooting, nobody else can shoot. Get too fancy and you are just liable to end up sitting there while somebody runs the table on you. And nothing's badder than that, no sir."


So far we've been using examples from Rotation or Nine-Ball to practice positioning on. Now we'll play Straight Pool or 14-1, where you sink 14 balls in a row, calling each one—then sink the 15th ball and break up the new rack at the same time. You'll often find that last ball in some crazy spots. In these four pictures you see me make two hard and two soft breaks. Above, I take a low stance for delicacy, sink the key 5-ball and let the cue ball bust them up just a little. I hit it low for backspin, use right English for action and it pulls back in good position. At top right, I use power, cut that 9-ball finely and draw from the rail. The cue ball then hits the rack and takes off for the far end. Note that I'll have a clear lie on the 14-ball and 6-ball next. I've hit another hard one below at the left, sinking the 11-ball as a bonus, with enough low-right English to snake the cue ball back out. The last shot is a gentle thing, sinking the 9-ball and setting up the 15 with a draw. In all four of these situations, see how I try to keep the cue ball away from the rack and free.

"I don't know, maybe if I had shot billiards when I was a kid it might have sharpened my eye and helped my pool. But billiards always was a sissy game, anyway, in my book, and plain old Rotation is terrible dead. No sir, when you get right down to it. there's nothing like Nine-Ball and Straight Pool to make a player out of you. You got to use all that's on the table and sing, dance and ad-lib a little, too."


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