Cue Position Using English And Top/Bottom Spin

In US pool and billiards, "English" is a way of hitting the cue ball so as to put a side-spin on it. This concept is believed to have been introduced to this country by the British, thus the name.

While some people refer to top and bottom spin as English also, the name is generally considered to mean just side-spin.

Top-spin is also referred to as "follow", while bottom-spin is often referred to as "draw". Follow and draw are used in the vertical axis of the cue ball while side-spin is used in the horizontal.

The use of English and top/bottom-spin are usually not recommended for a beginner to pool and billiards. It's important to first develop a smooth, straight stroke and an ability to put the cue ball exactly where you aim it. These tools are usually developed as a person becomes proficient in the basics of pool and wants to bring their pool game to a higher level of expertise.

English and side-spin are used in pool to cause the cue ball to behave in certain ways, mainly for cue position for the next shot. Object balls are also influenced by this side-spin, called spin-induced-throw, and adjustments in aim must be made, as the path of the object ball will curve to a certain degree depending on the amount of spin on the cue ball.

cue ball diagram

The diagram shown is a graphic demonstration of the area on the cue ball where the cue stick can strike, to get the degree of English or spin desired, without miscueing.

In actual size, the cue ball diameter is 2 1/4 inches and the center circle is 1 1/8 inches - half the cue ball diameter. A cue strike outside of this center area will usually result in a miscue, meaning the cue ball will not travel in the desired direction but will carom off out of control.

The smaller circles on the diagram represent the cue tip, and the red dots show the exact point where the tip will contact the cue ball as more English or spin is applied, and the cue is struck further from center. When the cue ball is hit dead center, the strike point on the cue tip is also dead center. When the cue is struck further out, the tip strike point moves towards the edge of the cue tip as well.

A shot hit directly in the center of the cue ball will have no spin to it other than the normal roll experienced by a ball rolling across the table surface. If a shot is hit quite hard, and with a very slight amount of bottom spin, it may not even be rolling at all. This effect is called "stun" and it causes the cue ball to sort of skid across the table cloth instead of rolling.

The further out from center that the cue ball is struck, the more spin will be introduced to the ball. A lot of practice is the best way to learn how much English and side-spin will be required to position the cue ball where you want it.

Either right or left English may be used to cause the cue ball to curve sideways after hitting the object ball or the rail. This can be very useful for getting around balls that may be in your way and for moving the cue ball to a different part of the table to line up your next shot.

A phenomenon that must be accounted for here is "squirt". As the cue tip glances off the side of the cue ball, it swerves, and causes the cue ball to squirt off in the other direction. Compensation must be made by shifting your aim a little in the opposite direction of the squirt to conteract this effect.

Top-spin is used to control how far the cue ball travels after striking the object ball. This is probably the most widely used form of cue control and is arguably the easiest to manage. A thorough mastery of top-spin will do a great deal to improve your pool playing.

Bottom spin is used to either stop the cue ball in its tracks after hitting the object ball or to draw it back the way it came and position it at a certain spot on the table. Another good use of draw would be to stop the cue ball from scratching when hitting a straight shot on an object ball that is right at the pocket opening.

Naturally a combination of English and follow/draw together is often used to cause the cue ball to move a certain direction and distance. Again, practice makes perfect to bring your pool playing to a higher level using these tools.

English, follow, and draw are very useful tools in a pool player's bag of tricks and care must be taken to not over-do it if miscues are to be avoided.

Click here to leave English and Side-Spin and return to the home page