The Creative Art Of Reverse English

by Jim Meador

Drawing is Cool

Make no mistake about it. Reverse english is an art form. No other shot on the table is as beautiful to behold when executed with precision. Proficiency with draw is directly related to the amount of time we spend practicing it. It requires an understanding of the physics involved, because both the cue tip and the cloth play a critical roll in success. Everyone loves to see the cueball draw back the entire length of the table. But, in terms of position consequences, short draw requires much more precision than a long draw shot. Missing a 4 foot draw by 6 inches is an error of 12.5%. Missing a 6 inch draw by 6 inches is an error of 100%.

Common to all draw shots is the bottom hit (below the equator of the cueball.) But, the stroke used for each distance can be quite different, and what works for one shooter may not work for another. That is where the art form comes into play. Draw shots allow for very creative strokes (not to say they require creative strokes.) It is this creative gray area where greatness is born for the draw. It is the creative balance between speed and spin that makes it so cool.

Many advanced shooters create a stroke for bottom spin that "swipes" down, across the lower surface of the cueball at the moment of contact. This requires that the bridge hand be used like a fulcrum, and the butt of the cue stick snapped slightly upward, by changing from a loose to a firm grip at the very last moment before impact. The "swipe" is often applied subconsciously to avoid scooping the ball.

The Physics

It is the physics of the draw shot that will allow such creative use of it. Combined with side spin, the cueball can be made to curve in mysterious ways - mysterious that is to those who don't practice and unravel its mysteries. The reason so many players find draw troublesome is that they expect it to be troublesome and simply fulfill the expectation by choking. Draw demands a smooth, confident stroke, not a short jab ("nip" draw being an exception.)

It isn't the space itself between the cueball and object ball that requires adjustments to the stroke. It is the amount of cloth that the cueball must traverse, which is obviously more for longer distances. The more cloth, the more friction to overcome, and the harder the cueball has to be hit in order to make it slide, rather than roll, across the surface of the table. The most serious and frequent violation of this "law" is when a player puts bottom spin on the cueball, and shoots easy when the object ball is too far away. The cueball starts the trip with back spin, but the friction of the cloth removes it before the cueball can reach the object ball.

Medium Distance (Fig. A)

When stroking bottom, just remember that the tip must hit the cue below center, and on a "downward" path at the moment of contact. Shoot "through" the ball, not at it (Fig. A). Follow through! Don't jerk the stick back. For medium distances, it is necessary to hit the cueball firmly, and rarely more than one tip's width below center. Make sure the tip is moving downward when it comes into contact with the cueball, or you might scoop the ball and miscue. If you shoot hard with too much bottom, the cueball will jump. Hit too high, and you will not apply enough back spin to overcome cloth friction all the way to the object ball. If there is a secret to becoming a good draw shooter, it is the ability to judge the speed for the amount of back spin needed to overcome the cloth friction between the cueball and object ball. It takes dedicated practice.

Close Distance (Fig. B)

Being within a foot or so of the object ball means there is not as much cloth for the spin on the cueball to overcome. The sliding distance is much less, and it isn't necessary to hit the cueball as hard. This in turn means a much lower hit is possible.

Notice that the hit (Fig. B) on the cueball is lower than in figure A. If the shot calls for a few inches of draw, a very soft stroke is used, and much less follow through is necessary.

If the cueball is within an inch or so of the object ball, "nip" draw can be applied. A short, easy chop below the center line of the cueball with an elevated butt is a "nip" shot, and can be useful when trying to avoid a double hit foul.

It is easy to draw the length of the table when the cueball is a foot or so from the object ball. The shorter distance means less spin reducing cloth friction, but still with enough space between the balls to permit a firm stroke and complete follow through. The cueball loses very little back spin before contacting the object ball. It is to pool what the French kiss is to necking.

Long Distance (Fig. C)

This is a shot that separates prey from predator. It is extremely hazardous for advanced players, and lethal for beginners.

If the object ball is a full table's distance from the cueball, it might be necessary to lift the cueball off the table in order to keep cloth friction from neutralizing back spin. However, scooping the ball is both foolish and illegal, so it is necessary to drive the cueball into the bed of the table to make it rebound upward with back spin. This will preserve the back spin until it reaches the object ball. Although a realistic option for advanced players, if you are a beginner, don't even try, especially on a rented table. Most pool parlors wisely ban jump shots that require the butt to be elevated above the shoulder. Although this shot does not require that much elevation, it still drives the ball with force into the cloth, which damages the weave. Select another shot, or shoot easy with a center hit.


Like everything else, the key to good draw is practice and experience. Practice records information that we can recall later during a game.

Choking is the result of having inadequate or no information for the shot required. Unknowns create fear, which causes anxiety, which results in speculative strokes, which invites choking. If you have trouble with reverse spin, you simply need more practice to chase your troubles away. In the meantime, treat bottom english the same way you treat every other stroke: just shoot the darn thing with as much confidence as you can muster, and don't worry about it.

Now, quit reading and go practice! Now!

Billiard World Home Page