Very often a player will express a desire to be able to get onto the shot and know for certain that the ball is going in.
I see this misconception a lot – especially in players who have not made forty or fifty breaks yet. My response is a bit more than simple black & white…
A player will gradually get better at angle recognition and knowing where the ball will miss if they do their best to cue straight and watch the object ball to the pocket on every shot they play. This lays the foundation for lifelong learning in snooker.
However, they may be 'blind' to getting those signals about where the ball is going in because they are over- keen to 'get the ball in the hole' that they experience ‘pocket stress’, rather than just a desire to execute the shot on the line they have committed to, and watch the shot unfold.
Ultimately, every player is always guessing at every potting angle, and this guess will be based on the quality and amount of past ‘data’ and experience.
Forget potting the ball for a moment - the important thing is that a player can predict where the object ball is going for a given cue aim (assuming a straight delivery). Nobody will ever do this perfectly, but the better we are at guessing the better you will be at knowing if it will miss. This awareness will guide you ever more closely to having no other option than aiming at the pocket… because it would be blatantly obvious if you were aiming to the jaw of the pocket for example.
This clarity of vision will often depend on the lighting conditions of the table, your mind set on the day, and the pressure you are under in the match.
This video in The Snooker Gym’s YouTube channel explains the E.G.G. learning process in more detail. I do not know of a faster way to learn potting angles than this. And it contradicts the opinion of most club players who think there is a magical on-off switch to aiming, rather than it being a gradual process over time of well executed scientific experiments (shots!). Aiming & Angle Recognition... A New Way Of Learning https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y90OaGZCltE&t=51s
A player searching for a solution where they know for sure the ball is going in all the time is chasing a ghost and doomed to a failure with no improvement. Even if they don't want that to be the case, and even if they have themselves or others telling them it is possible.
Pro's DO experience that certainty on a lot of shots, amateurs less so, and club players even less so. The experience of knowing is NOT a target in its own right to aim for... it is a SIDE EFFECT of going through the right observation and learning process on every shot we play and watching the object ball to the pocket properly on thousands of shots over many years. Most club players pay zero attention to the object ball because their mind set is: “The shot has been played so watching the ball will make no difference to the outcome.” That is of course correct, but taking one’s eye off the ball WILL eliminate the player’s ability to learn and get feedback from every shot. Imagine if, when Ronnie O’Sullivan started playing snooker, he had to close his eyes as soon as he hit the cue ball and could not hear if
the object ball went in. Without that feedback, he would not even be making 50 breaks right now.
Remember that WATCHING the ball is more important than POTTING the ball… because without the former, there is no latter!
In my experience 95% of under 50 break standard players grossly underestimate the process required to 'know the ball is going in' and expect it to be a secret on/off switch rather than a gradual process earned over many years of: 1. 100% Commitment to a line of aim 2. Improving the straightness of their cueing (to eliminate cueing as a reason to miss the ball, which in turn forces them to learn their constantly reducing aiming errors)
3. Proper observation of the result of every shot they play. This is where all the learning and improvement happens, and is why most players never improve as they see no reason to observe the results of their shot. This means tracking the ball all the way to the pocket or cushion to the extent that they can you tell to within 1mm whether the object ball went centre pocket or not. Club players neglect this so well that they don’t know to which side of the pocket they missed the ball on about half the shots they play. And when they have potted the ball could not tell you whether it was in the centre of the pocket or not – for them, ‘in the pocket’ is accurate enough. But a pro is never aiming ‘at a pocket’… they are aiming at centre pocket. This is the single point in the pocket that offers the same object ball margin for error either side of it.
Pro’s, amateurs, and beginners alike are all on occasion clueless about the potting angle and just have to make their best guess at that potting angle, and deliver the cue straight to find out if they are right. For example, Barry Hawkins blue in the final frame of the semi final of the Masters when 5 - 4 up against Judd Trump. Barry said after the match that he could not see the potting angle, so just guessed and hoped for the best…
You can see the shot here...
So, if top pro’s cannot always ‘know the ball is going in’ then what hope do the rest of us have!