Billiard Tips & Techniques - Rail First Shot

Rather read than watch? Read about The Rail First Shot below: 

When and How to Complete a Rail First Shot

If the object ball is resting against a rail, and your cue ball is at a shallow shooting angle, you may be able to effectively pocket the ball by using a Rail First Shot. By aiming for the rail, instead of the object ball, while applying the right amount of spin, you can prevent the object ball from coming off the rail and away from the pocket.

Oftentimes in this scenario, your first reaction may be to use a Cut Shot, which strikes the ball at an angle so it will roll into a nearby pocket. This can work, but isn’t always successful. Depending on how hard you hit the ball with your cue ball, the ball may stop just before the pocket, or may even bounce off the rail slightly, and away from the desired pocket. Although this type of shot is used when your cue ball is at an inconvenient shooting angle, it may not be the best type of shot if the line of sight is too steep. Because of it's difficulty, this shot is rarely attempted when you have other balls on the table. But if this is a shot at the eight-ball, proper technique could make this a game-winning shot.

Others may attempt to undercut the ball. This move will oftentimes throw the ball off the rail. You’ll strike the ball too directly with a shot such as this. Driving the object ball into the rail, however slight, will cause the ball to come away from the rail and away from the pocket as a result. Out of frustration, you may even try a Bank Shot. But since the ball is right up against the rail, it’ll be that much more difficult to pocket it with this type of shot.

So what do you do? You use a Rail First Shot with inside spin.

With this shot, you’re almost guaranteed to pocket any pesky rail ball if you’re shooting from a perpendicular angle. This shot may seem complex, but is relatively simple once you get the hang of it. First, position your cue tip near the bottom left of the cue ball if in fact you are wanting to drive the object ball leftwards. This will give the cue ball inside/left spin, which is necessary if you’re trying to hit the right side of the ball. Spinning the cue ball in this way will make it so the cue ball hits the rail first. When the cue ball makes contact with the rail, it will graze the object ball as it comes back off the rail toward the left. Making contact with the object ball from this direction, immediately after making contact with the rail, will drive it down the rail without knocking it into, and then off, the rail. Using this method to pocket the ball greatly decreases the struggle of pocketing it. It may seem counterintuitive to hit the rail first, initially missing the ball, but it’s that first rail touch and subsequent grazing of the ball that makes for a great shot. Knocking your cue ball off the rail first causes the rail ball to more easily glide into the pocket, leaving less room for mistakes. This technique may seem tricky at first, but with practice it could soon become a go-to shot.