Spectrum Of Speeds


When I took up pool back in 1968 one of my first steps was to buy and study Willie Mosconi On Pocket Billiards. In it, the great Mosconi emphasized that Speed Control is the one big skill that separates

fine players from the rest of the pack. That lesson was quickly seared into my brain and, from that day forward, I made sure that speed control would be the best part of my game.

Your chosen speed for all position plays, safeties, and kick shots will fall on a spectrum that I created for Play Your Best Pool (1995) called the Spectrum of Speeds. This useful concept will help you to visualize the speeds you will routinely encounter. The Spectrum of Speeds runs from

1 (extremely soft) to 9 (extremely hard), and it covers all points in between. The learning process is aided by the combination of a number AND a description of that number. The illustration shows you the nine

Primary Speeds – the ones that are in whole numbers. I may also help to learn the Spectrum if you think of the three main groups of speeds – soft, medium, and hard. And then break each of these into three subgroups as shown.


When learning to estimate the correct speed, try using a Process of Elimination. To help you to understand how this process works, let’s take a look at a method that I used when I played golf. On approach shots I would start the club selection process by estimating, for example, that a 5-iron would be too much club, while an 8-iron wasn’t enough. That meant that the shot required a 6-iron or a 7-iron. I might further refine my choice by making it between a soft 6-iron, or hard 7.

Turning to your pool game, you can use this technique to zero in on the correct speed of stroke. After looking at a shot’s Speed Picture you might conclude that a 4.0 (a medium-soft stroke) is not going to be hard enough, and that a 6.0 (a medium hard stroke) is too firm. So, the speed you need has got to be a 5.0 (a medium stroke), or close to it. It could, for example, require a speed of 4.8 or 5.3.

When playing in competition you obviously should not be thinking of a number when down over the ball – but learning to think along a Spectrum of Speeds can enable you fine tune your speed for the shot you are about to play.


Your ability to control the cue ball’s rolling distance after contact.

SPECTRUM OF SPEEDS – A scale that runs from 1 (softest) to 9 (hardest) for position plays, safeties, and kick shots.

SPEED PICTURES – The position of the balls and your target for the cue ball combine to give you a good idea of the speed you will need.


Another useful technique in planning your shots is walk over to where you will be standing for your next shot. Point your tip where you want the cue ball to go, and align your cue down your desired line-of-aim. Many top pros use this method, including Justin Bergman, who is an expert at previewing his shots. This visualization helps you to program precisely where you want the cue ball to go.

Precision Speed Control must be developed in your mind, so it helps to have a starting point, and pointing your cue down the line-of-aim is an effective way to kickstart the process.


When planning your speed of stroke, the first step is to evaluate the Speed Picture, which is made up of the position of the cue ball, the object ball, AND your position play target. This involves searching your memory bank for similar shots. With sufficient experience, this process happens very quickly, maybe even subconsciously.

Once you have chosen the required speed and the other elements of the shot, it is time for the execution phase of your routine. Part of this process requires translating your idea of the correct speed into a feeling for speed of stroke for that shot. After standing on the line-of-aim, you may wish to take a few Air Warmup Strokes (AWUS). These help you to loosen up your stroking arm and to develop a feel for speed. (Note: a very high percentage of pros now use this technique on most if not all of their more challenging shots.)

Once you land in position for the shot, you will further refine your feel for speed as you take your Warmup Strokes (WUS). And after you have fully developed your feel for speed, your line-of-aim, and the type of stroke you are going to use, it is time to play the shot! (In a moment I will go through a list of techniques for playing power shots.)


When practicing emphasize shots in the 4-6 range because they form the foundation of your position play routes (see table). Be sure to spend a fair amount of time on shots with speeds of 2-3, especially if you play a lot of Straight Pool, Eight Ball, and 1-Pocket, games that require a lot of softly played position routes and safeties.

I think you will enjoy practicing shots in the Soft Category (1-3) because

they place no special burden on your stroke (unlike Power Shots). Pay close attention to your speed while practicing these routes and you will quickly dial in a sizeable number of valuable and commonly occurring position plays – AND safeties, too!

For soft shots (1-3), try using a little shorter bridge, limit your wrist action (if any), and take as many WUS as needed to zero in the precise speed required. Be sure to accelerate smoothly, and follow completely as you would with the higher speeds.



Now, for the Power Shots, which make up the 7-9 segment of the Spectrum of Speeds. In my book/video, Archer vs. Reyes, you will find 18 examples of position plays at speeds of 7, 8, or 9. They are listed in the book second half of the book.

Top pros like Joshua Filler, Shane Van Boening, Fedor Gorst, Francisco Sanchez-Ruiz, and Jayson Shaw have such solid fundamentals that they, like Archer and Reyes in their prime, see only the most modest decline in the precision and accuracy of their strokes when playing shots at these high speeds. In contrast, amateur’s strokes tend to break down when they attempt to play power shots. If this describes you, then help is on the way:

Techniques for Playing Power Shots (7-9)

  1. Do some AWUS before landing,
  2. Add several inches to your bridge,
  3. Add several super smooth WUS to your pre-shot routine,
  4. Emphasize a smooth transition during your WUS,
  5. Cock your wrist on your final stroke,
  6. Use a smooth transition like you did on your WUS,
  7. Accelerate smoothly into contact,
  8. Be sure to release the cue freely into contact,
  9. Follow through completely, and
  10. Pose for a picture.

This list may appear a bit daunting, but you can master these techniques by adding one or two elements at a time during practice. When you have mastered an element, add another, then another. In time these techniques will become second nature, thus requiring little to no conscious effort to execute at an acceptable to high level.

As a bonus, while you emphasize speed control in practice – which includes a smooth stroke, a gradual transition, and acceleration patterns that begin slowly and smoothly – you will find that your quest for a solid and straight stroke may be met as a byproduct of improving your speed of stroke!


Diagram 1

Diagram #1 shows 1 and 2-rail position plays along the Spectrum of Speeds, from Soft (3.0) to Medium (5.0). It features the cue ball’s ending spots for speeds in the whole numbers, and a couple more in the gap between these speeds. In practice, you will need to be able to fine tune your speed along all points on the Spectrum. In our example, there are two such speeds – 3.6 and 4.5. Obviously there could be plenty more, such as 2.8, 3.4 and 4.7.

As a practical matter, when you are playing you will not be thinking about numbers like these. I am simply showing them to give you an appreciation of the huge range of speeds that you must have at your command if your goal is to compete successfully at higher levels – say B+ or above.

Back to our example, I suggest that you set up this shot and try to send the cue ball to the five locations shown, and others in between these positions. As you play these shots, focus on developing your speed during your WUS. Hold your follow through and evaluate your results. Zero in how your stroke felt, and how the cue ball’s location compares to your objective.

Diagram 2

Diagram #2 shows a stop shot, and a shot at 9.0, which is extremely hard. Interestingly, you can stop the cue ball dead using various combinations of cueing. In our example, centerball cueing with a medium stroke (5.0) will give you the desired result.

You can also stop the cue ball dead in its tracks by using a soft stroke and a tip or so of draw. In play, you will encounter a wide variety of stop shots. When the cue ball is more than a little more than a diamond from the object ball, you will need to use draw. The amount of draw and your chosen speed will largely bea matter of preference – a softer stroke with more draw, or a firmer stroke with less draw. So, experiment to find out which combinations work best for you.

The shot on the 7-ball shows a Pound Shot. This category of position plays is employed when you’ve left yourself with a cut angle that’s smaller than ideal – one that requires that you use a speed in the upper range of the Spectrum of Speeds. To play shots like this,
I suggest that you use the list of ten techniques that I mentioned previously. These will combine to give you the kind of stroke that does not break down at the faster speeds, and that is up to the challenge that these shots present. If you can master shots in the 9.0 range, you will own a skill that can separate you from your peers.

In closing, while skill at aiming and shotmaking are mandatory for playing fine pool, in truth, being able to consistently pocket routine to mildly challenging shots is only the price of admission to playing at the upper levels of the game. To be top player, you must be able to control the distance that the cue ball rolls after contact. In your efforts to master this critical segment of the game, I believe that the Spectrum of Speeds could be of great value. Good luck!