Swerve, Squirt and Pivot

No, they aren’t Nascar racing terms.  And it is not the name of a law firm. Most likely, you will not be seeing this move on Dancing With the Stars.

I am going to teach you how to pivot your cue stick to compensate for squirt, without inducing swerve.

If you have no idea what this means, don’t worry. By the time you are done reading this article, it will all make perfect sense.

If you already know this stuff, what’re you doin’ here?  Go play!

Here’s an exercise I would like you to try:

Place the 1-ball on the foot rail, at the middle diamond. Place the cue ball on the head spot.  Now, using a center ball hit, shoot the cue ball into the 1-ball as hard as you can while maintaining accuracy.  A perfect shot, of course, will rebound directly back into your cue tip.


Once you can do this fairly consistently, I’d like you to do the same shot, this time with extreme right-hand spin. Do not compensate in any way… simply shoot hard and straight at the 1-ball.  Make sure you keep the cue as level as you possibly can.

What happened?  If you did everything correctly, most likely the cue-ball hit the rail to the left side of the 1-ball. This is a result of deflection, or “squirt.” If you are using a “low deflection” shaft, then the effect won’t be as pronounced. But, it will still happen.


So how do we compensate for this?  Logically, if you aim the shot more to the right, the cue-ball will not go to the left so much.  Makes sense, right? The question is, how much do you need to compensate?

The answer is… it depends, mostly on how much your shot deflects. Fortunately, we can do a little trial and error to figure it out.  Before we do, however, you need to understand something, and it’s pretty important.

Try this:  Set up for a shot on the 1-ball again, but bridge close to the ball (about 3 inches away).  Now, without moving your bridge, turn the cue stick until you are aimed with extreme right spin on the cue ball, and note just how far to the right the 1-ball you are aimed.  Now do it again, but this time use a ridiculously long bridge (like 2 feet).  This time, when you turn the stick (don’t move your bridge!) for extreme right spin, your aiming line doesn’t change much.  Makes sense, right?

That, in essence, is what we are going to do in our experimentation. We are going to find the “sweet spot,” where pivoting the cue stick to apply spin will perfectly cancel out the squirt effect.

Start with a 6-inch bridge.  This means that the point the stick emerges from your fingers to the cue-ball is 6 inches.  Aim through the center of the cue ball, at the center of the 1-ball.  Now, pivot your cue-stick, without moving the bridge at all, by moving your back hand to the left. This will apply a lot of right-hand spin.  Remember… DO NOT MOVE YOUR BRIDGE.  You will be aimed to the right of the 1-ball.  That’s OK.

Note: You may have heard this referred to as “back hand english” because you move the back hand to apply the english.

Shoot the same shot we did at the beginning of this exercise.  Hard, with lots of right-hand english.  Observe where the cue ball goes.

Now you’re going to adjust your shot as follows:

  • If the shot goes to the right of the center of the 1-ball, you need to lengthen your bridge.
  • If the shot goes to the left of the center of the 1-ball, you need to shorten your bridge.
  • Adjust in 1-inch increments
  • If you can, mark your shaft with a small strip of a post-it note, so you know the exact position of each pivot point.

If you do this correctly, you will find that spot where the cue hits the center of the one-ball even though you are aimed to the right.  What’s really cool about this is that you can use extreme english, or mild english, to the left or to the right, and you should get the same results!


Remember that this works for shots that are the same speed, usually power strokes.  Your pivot point will change if you shoot softer.

It’s very important to note that because you are using english, you must keep the cue stick as level as you can.  When you raise the butt of your cue, applying english will cause the cue ball to massé, or “swerve.”  Most of the time, you do not want this.

Here is a video that explains this concept of back hand english, and how to find the pivot point, by Dr. Dave:

Special thanks to pool.bz for their excellent diagramming tools

Posted in Advanced, Squirt, Tip of the Day