Center to Edge Aiming in Pool

This blog is about the Center to Edge method of aiming in pool or pocket billiards.  Also known as CTE.   Basically CTE is an alternative method of aiming that is very accurate.  If you play pool at more than a basic level then you invariably have trouble aiming and knowing that you are on the correct shot line.  CTE solves this problem by giving you an exact set of steps to bring you to the shot line.  From there you can focus all of your attention to the execution.

This means that you will make more shots, you will make tougher shots and you will be able to make them under pressure.

There are two reasons we miss shots.  One is improper aiming.  You just aren’t on the right line.  Two is that you throw the cue ball off the line with poor execution.  For the purpose of this website we are going to focus on the line of aim.  Part of the problem with missing is that you often do not know whether you were aimed correctly or not.  You are not sure whether it was your mechanics or the wrong line.

And then there are the shots that are consider to be hard, or testers as we call them.  When you come up against those shots you are unsure about the shot line even before you get down on the ball.  The uncertainty then affects your stroke and even if you happened to guess the right line you then still miss because of wobbly mechanics.

For most of us we have been taught that the best way to find the line of aim is to imagine a ghost ball sitting behind the object ball and in line with the pocket.  Then we are told that we simply draw a line from the center of the cueball to the center of the ghost ball and that is our line of aim.  This is the most common way to aim and it is the easiest to explain and teach which is why it is so popular in books and videos.  In practice however this is not so easy as it requires amazing depth perception to imagine the ghost ball nearly perfectly every time.  You can probably see that it’s an impossible task to do this over and over shot for shot over the course of many games without making an error in judgement.  And as the shots get harder it becomes even tougher to imagine the ghost ball and keep it firmly locked in while you execute the shot.

So the ghost ball method is easy to explain and hard to master.  And it’s very easy to do with easy shots which is one reason why beginners like it.  More advanced players tend to abandon ghost ball in favor of “feel”.  They like to just rely on their experience to see the angle and be able to step into the shot line.  This works great when a player is on and not so great when a player is not on.

CTE by contrast to ghost ball and feel eliminates the need to imagine targets and guess at the shot line.  The Center to Edge in CTE refers to the line which goes from the center of the cue ball to the edge of the object ball.

For every shot in pool where the object ball can be made to go directly into the pocket the shooter can start with the center to edge line (CTEL) and from there find the actual shot line in two steps.  Every shot.

What this means is the no shot is harder than any other shot.   Long straight ins, thin cuts, tricky angles, backward angles, doesn’t matter….you line up the same way on every shot and in two steps you are 100% on the correct shot line.  No more guessing or apprehension as to whether you are on the right line.  The cue stick sits on the shot line, which is the exact line it would be on if you used the ghost ball method correctly and accurately.  The difference is that you don’t need to guess at where the ghost ball is or be uncertain.

Pool is a difficult sport.  Clearing a table is not an easy task.  Many people spend years learning to play before they are able to clear just one table.  Then they spend years more practicing to be able to do it more than once in a while.  Some of us have reached a point where we know we should be better than we are.  We know the shots, we have the touch, we have the knowledge but we can’t be consistent.  One night we play like a pro and the next we play as if we never learned anything.  The main reason for this inconsistency is that we don’t look at every shot as the same shot.  We treat some shots as very easy, take them for granted and miss.  We treat other shots as very difficult and approach them with fear and miss.  Because of this wide range of emotion connected with the shots we take it affects our stroke, and stance and that in turn results in missed shots and missed position.

How often have you seen a player miss a shot and get perfect shape on the next ball?  And they say “but I got perfect”.  Or they make the shot and get poor shape?  This is generally because they were aimed wrong and they had to try and compensate for being aimed wrong by adjusting their stroke as they shot.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could look at that long thin cut and that short thick cut in exactly the same way?  Neither one is easier or harder.  You simply line up on the ball using the CTE line, do two steps and get to the shot line, stroke smoothly and make the shot?  And you do this for every shot as you glide the cue ball from place to place on the table and clear it.  We all play the game for the thrill of making balls disappear.

Hal Houle spent a good portion of his life traveling the country teaching his aiming methods to whomever he came across.  With that he has created a devoted following of players who swear by his methods in much the same way a true believer swears by the Bible.  Hal is somewhat of a savant though and didn’t bother to diagram his methods or work the math or geometry of them.  His method of teaching was to tell the student what to do and when the student did it and had success then he would move on.  Thus the student was left with an effective tool that worked better than anything else out there but the student would be at a loss to explain just how the method worked.

Naturally in the information age this doesn’t sit very well when someone shows up on a message board about pool and claims to have learned an amazing system for making balls which they can’t explain.  So the situation developed that two camps sprang up.  Those who used the systems and had success with them and those who refused to try them unless the system could be diagrammed with mathematical precision to prove that they were valid.

Most of the students who learned directly from Hal are not mathematicians or engineers.  So they naturally had a hard time explaining the systems in words and through diagrams.  And it didn’t help that Hal would often tell his students not to divulge the system online.  This was mainly because he didn’t want it to become convoluted and improperly conveyed.

So over the years an incredible acrimony grew between the camps.  Many wars of words have been fought over whether CTE is valid or not.  Despite that the system is being taught not only by Hal Houle who is now 80 years old but also by many of the country’s top instructors who have all been teaching pool for decades.

So I will wrap up this first post by letting you know that CTE is valid, it is an accurate and exact way to aim in pool.  Through this blog you will learn the basic steps to use CTE and you should make it a point to book a lesson with an instructor qualified to teach CTE or at the least buy the comprehensive DVD by Stan Shuffet found at

This is the CTE resource page for you to use to learn this method and improve your skill level.  I am not interested in making you a “believer”.  I will show you the facts, how CTE works and why it works.

That’s the pitch.  If you want to know more then bookmark this page and come back.  If not then thanks for the time.


About centertoedge

43 years old - 25 years pool playing experience. Cue case maker. Founded instroke cue cases. New venture JB Cases, custom leather cue cases.
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