I’ve been working with Center-To-Edge aiming for almost 2 years now. Looking back on the journey, I will say that it does not come without effort. Along the way I have made my notes and I’d like to reflect what I have learned, in hopes that I can help others taking this same journey. Maybe I can open some doors and clear up some conceptions that I struggled with.
I am going to make the assumption that you already have a reasonably straight and consistent stroke. If you don’t have this, you will struggle with everything regardless of the aiming system. If you need to, find an instructor and get that part of your game worked out first. You should at least be able to setup long straight-in shots and make them consistently.
For now I’m going to focus on Stan’s Shuffett’s CTE/ProOne system, and specifically the manual CTE portion of it. For anyone wanting to give CTE a try, I would highly recommend this system as it is by far the most complete, accurate, and easiest to learn and execute. CTE is very different, especially if you come from a traditional ghost-ball type of aiming technique. This is probably the most common technique for pool players, and I’d like to compare and contrast the two for a moment.
With ghost-ball aiming, you imagine a ball frozen to your object ball at the point farthest from the pocket. You aim the cue ball exactly at the place the ghost-ball sits, resulting in a correct collision to send the object ball toward the pocket. (To address briefly, the influence of throw, spin, cloth speed, cling, chalk, etc. all play a part in the nuances of pocket billiards, and an understood component of any aiming system. As these are not the topic of discussion, just understand we are talking about finding center pocket, which gives you maximum wiggle room for all the nuances stated.)
Ghost-ball is a very subjective aiming system. That is, for each shot you are making a judgement where that ghost-ball lies, and exactly how to hit the cue ball to send that object ball to the pocket. With enough practice the process becomes more and more automated, and the shot selection comes completely from memory. Getting to the point of proficiency and staying there can be a slippery slope. I shot this way for a good 15 years, probably 3-5 hours a week practicing and playing leagues. Some days I would be hitting them pretty good. Other days I would struggle. If I don’t practice for awhile, I would surely struggle. Optical illusions, addressing unfamiliar shots, banks, etc. can be a life-long effort. I never reached the consistent proficiency I wanted to, I just didn’t play enough pool to get there and maintain it.
There is however, one ghost-ball shot that is very objective, requiring very little judgement on your part. That is the half-ball hit. If you can recognize a 30 degree cut shot, you know you can make this this shot with almost certainty. Just aim center cue ball exactly at the edge of the object ball. This takes nearly all of the judgement out of the shot, as this is a very objective target. All you need is a straight stroke. Try this: Setup the OB on the spot. Put the cue ball behind the head string where you want, cut to either corner pocket. Take this shot 10 times. How did you do? Now setup again, and freeze another ball to the OB perfectly in-line with the pocket. This is your ghost-ball. Place the cue ball in a position behind the head string where the ghost-ball makes a perfect half-ball alignment on the OB. That is, the center of the ghost-ball should align exactly with the edge of the OB. Put the CB on that line. Remove the ghost-ball, mark the spot where the CB is sitting. Now shoot this shot 10 times just by aiming CCB at the edge of the OB. How many times did you make it? Did you feel any more comfortable aiming at the OB edge than you did judging where to hit it each time?
This, in my opinion, is the core realization of using CTE over traditional subjective aiming systems such as ghost-ball. With a handful of visuals you can quickly attain an objective, robotic-like approach to every shot on the table, including banks and caroms. The sure-ness you felt hitting that half-ball hit will become common-place. You have eliminated a huge amount of judgement work that requires constant practice and tuning to keep in check. I’m not saying you don’t need to practice any more, that is not the case. But think of that half-ball shot. Let’s say you don’t play for a full month, and then come back and try that shot again. How do you think you will fare? How about after an hour of getting back in stroke? So long as you have a reasonable stroke, your aiming should stay as consistent as that half-ball hit does. And if you are a player that does play a lot, imagine the confidence and ability you will obtain with such a strong system.
Now for the nuts and bolts. Yes, I understand this is an awesome system. I bought the DVD. I watched it. I didn’t get it. I tried some shots. I just don’t get this, it doesn’t make sense. The terminology is strange. I don’t understand the visuals, or how they can work. This was pretty much my initial reaction to getting the DVD. I felt like there really wasn’t much to it, but how could it work? And why try to do anything like that? It feels so strange to anything I’ve done before. With perseverance, I took the shots to the table and shot them. And shot them again. And again. And again. I was able to make the shots go just going through the paces, but my mind and body didn’t really click at first. But slowly and surely things started to come together. Every time I watched the video I’d pick up on something new. Eventually an AHA! moment happened, and things started falling together in rapid succession. Even today I’m realizing things that have helped my proficiency greatly, and here are some of the finer points to the system that may help you as well.
First lets talk eye dominance. I’m right handed and strong left-eye dominant. What I’ve learned is that eye dominance has very little to do with CTE visuals. Don’t try to line your dominant eye up on any given visual, just let your mind and body work that out over practice. For me as a right hander, it seems that my right eye picks up both lines on the majority of the shots. Sometimes it is both eyes. My best advice is to not try to think about it too much. Try putting your head way to the left and come in from the left, and stop where it looks correct. Then try the same from the right. Figure out what works best for a given shot. It won’t take long to get the hang of it. Just trust your judgement.
As for the visuals, it is important to not let technicalities get in the way. You can’t take pen to paper, draw out where lines intersect with a ruler and try to put your eyes there. You can’t scoff at the the idea of visualizing two parallel lines. This is not a game of 2d space, it is 3d spheres on a rectangular surface and we have two eyes as our viewport to the playing field. There are visual illusions. There are perceptions only understood by standing at the table and looking at them. I will says this with 100% certainty: when you take the shots to the table and line up the visuals, they will look right from one place only, and this place is very exact. This is not hard to grasp, you just have to practice them. At first it is very different, but you will quickly adapt.
When Stan says “the eyes lead, the body follows”, this is exactly what he is talking about. The most important part of this system is getting the eyes in the correct starting position. This position is very exact. The visuals will lead your eyes to this exact position. Your arms, feet body will follow your eyes to the shot line. Therefore, don’t sweat how your feet/body are situated. Just start at a comfortable stance, naturally angled into the shot.
Now lets talk center cue ball. Once you find the visuals and your eyes are locked into position, now it is important to let go of the visuals and focus on center cue ball. I will stress this again: at this point you are done with the visuals. Focus on CCB, and move your eyes straight into CCB and swing the cue in to a 1/2 tip offset. Once in, pivot to CCB. You are now on the shot line. It is possible to keep focus on CCB and go ahead and shoot the shot without ever looking at the OB or pocket again. You will find what works for you. I like to look at the object ball again and double check that I didn’t pivot the wrong direction or something obvious, then look back at CCB and fire. I don’t normally do any warmup strokes, I just one-stroke the shots. I don’t like to do anything that may take me off my alignment. This leads to the important fact: TRUST the system. Focus on CCB and concentrate moving in on CCB and pivoting exactly 1/2 tip. Even today I was practicing a cross-corner bank and I couldn’t get consistent results. I’d hit one side of the pocket, then the other. Then finally I regrouped, realized my CCB focus was not 100%, focused exactly on CCB all the way in, and things fell right back into the groove.
Last thing to mention is the bridge distance. The distance is crucial, especially on shorter shots. If the CB/OB distance is short, say maybe 10″ (1 diamond on a 7 footer), that bridge is SHORT! Like 4-5″ in length short! If you find yourself undercutting your shots, it is very likely that bridge is not short enough. This is absolutely imperative with Manual CTE. With ProOne you have more lenience, as you are not needing a manual pivot on the bridge any more. This was the biggest thing that held me up for a long time, I used too long of a bridge on most shots, which led me to not trust the system completely, and ended up steering shots after the final pivot. After I got past this (thanks Stan!) I have re-realized CTE all over and my proficiency has really improved in a short time. If anything, too short of a bridge is better than too long of a bridge!
The last thing is moving from Manual CTE to ProOne. ProOne is basically replacing the 1/2 tip offset and pivot with a left or right eye movement as you move into center cue ball. The eye movement is equal to the manual 1/2 tip offset, meaning there are only two movements to learn. Again these are learned by doing. Practice the shots with Manual CTE, and the ProOne. Let your mind and body learn these eye movements that take you to the shot line.
That’s it, I hope this helps, and good luck!
CTE PRO ONE is a product of Stan Shuffett and Just Cue It productions.