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How to Use the Dots on a Pool Table

Updated: Feb 26

Take a close look at your pool table. See those white spots or diamonds on the rails on every side? They have a greater purpose beyond adding to the aesthetics of a pool table. These spots are a part of the diamond system of billiards. Accuracy is vital to your performance in pool, and the diamond system will aid you in setting up more accurate shots to help you beat your opponents. 

While you may have overlooked these white dots on any pool table you have previously used, professional players worldwide use them to help them focus and aim more accurately. They look different on every table. Some tables have diamonds, while others have spots in various colors or materials.

Understanding the diamond system is essential if you want to become a better pool player. Read through the guide below to learn everything you need to know about the billiards diamond system and use it to your advantage.

What Are the Dots on a Pool Table For?

You will see a line of diamonds or dots on the side of pool tables. They may look like part of a table's decoration. However, they are much more than that. They are known as the diamond system or "sights." Traditionally, these visible markings have been shaped like diamonds, hence the name. Today, billiard tables can either have diamond-shaped marks or dots, depending on the manufacturer or the table. 

Sights are inset at equal distances along the rails of a pool table's long and short sides. The diamond on one side of the table will correspond directly with the diamond on the opposite side. The invisible line divides the table into a grid that is made up of equal sections. When you learn how the pool diamond system works and how it can guide your shots' angles, you can drastically improve your pool playing.

The distance between sights must always be equal for the system to work correctly. On a 9-foot regulation table, sights should be 12.3 inches (31.75 cm) apart. Eight-foot regulation tables should have diamonds 11.5 inches (29.20 cm) apart. There are 18 sight marks on a table, three between each pocket. Pockets are also sights, and some tables might even have a spot inside the pocket to signify it is a sight.

How Does the Diamond System Work?

Sights work by using angles. If you hit a billiard ball straight at a sight, it should rebound and hit the sight directly opposite your target. If you hit a ball 20 degrees in either direction towards a diamond, it will rebound 20 degrees in the opposite direction. The angle at which you hit the ball towards a diamond is the same angle it will take rebounding off the mark.

The diamond systems on a billiards table can help you improve your focus and accuracy when taking a shot. Before using the diamond system, you need to know what type of table you are using. Snooker tables, for example, are considerably larger than pool tables and use smaller balls. This will affect your strategies and angles when hitting balls across the table. If you have a snooker table, you cannot use the dots for a game of pool and vice versa.

How to Use the Dots on a Billiards Table

You now know how the diamond system works. The next step is making sure you can use these dots correctly to enhance your playing skills. You need to do three things to use the diamond system properly — develop a numbering system, create an imaginary grid and understand aiming systems. When you start out, these steps will seem tedious and confusing. As you practice and develop your skills, they will become second nature. 

1. Develop a Numbering System

When learning to use the dots on a billiards table, one of the best things to do is to number the sights. How you number them is up to you. Some players start at 0 and count as usual. Other players use increments of 2, 5, 10 or 20, depending on their preference. Start at the left-hand corner pocket that is closest to you. That will be 0. From there, number each sight mark and pocket in your preferred numbers.

Say you are standing at the head of the table. The first left-hand pocket will be 0. The following diamonds and pockets will be numbered 1 and then 2 until 8. The sights on the opposite side will have the same numbers. On the head rails, the diamonds and pockets will be numbered 0 to 4.

You can also number the middle point between the diamonds for added accuracy. Use half values for these spaces. The space between your 0 and 1 sights can be 0.5, the mark between 1 and 2 can be 1.5 and so on. These additional numbers will help you angle shots when balls land outside of the 18 marks on the rails.

2. Create an Imaginary Grid

The uniform placement of pool table dots along the rails of the table means you can use them in the same way on almost any table. Envision an invisible straight line between each diamond that acts as a ruler. This allows you to break the pool table into a grid of equal sections. This grid will be the key to guiding your shots. 

You will need to understand the physics behind the grid, specifically how the angle going the ball hits the rail is the same angle it rebounds. Knowing this will guide your shots and help you hit more accurately. If you know hitting a ball toward a spot at a 45-degree angle will result in it rebounding at the same angle will make your shots more accurate. 

3. Understand Aiming Systems

Using aiming systems when you start to understand the diamond system and using it to your advantage can help you become more familiar with the different shots you can take. Over time, your shots will become more intuitive. Each aiming system has its advantages and disadvantages. The most straightforward aiming technique for the pool table dots is the 2-to-1 aiming system.

The 2-to-1 technique is the least confusing and uses the mirrored angle principle. This theory states that the angle a ball rebounds off a rail is the same angle it hits the rail. With the 2-to-1 aiming system, you need to use the diamonds between the cue ball and the target ball to work out where to aim. If your target ball is at diamond 2 and your call ball is at diamond 4, you will need to aim at diamond 3, which is halfway between the two. Even as the distance between the cue ball and your target ball increases, you will still halve the length.

You can still use this system when balls sit between the diamonds. Break the spaces between into increments such as 4.1 and 4.2 or 42, 44 and 46 based on the numbering system you have created. You can then use these invisible diamonds to determine the halfway point you must aim for.

The 2-to-1 aiming technique forms the basis of many essential pool shots, including the kick and bank shots. One disadvantage of the 2-to-1 aiming system is that it becomes less accurate over more considerable distances on the pool table.

You can use several other aiming techniques, including the ⅓-more-than-twice and the plus 2 systems. Both of these techniques are highly technical. You should master the 2-to-1 technique before moving on to these more complicated systems. 

Improve Your Pool Playing With the Diamond System

Understanding the diamond system is the first step to improving your pool playing. A pool-playing repertoire, including several shots you can use during the game, will also give you an edge over your opponents. Two shots make the most use of the diamond system — the bank shot and the kick shot. Each shot relies on the angles of a pool table to be effective. 

Bank Shots

The bank shot is the easier of the two to learn and involves using the pool table rail to help you pocket a ball. You hit the ball you want to pocket — the object ball — with the cue ball so it hits the rail and rebounds toward the pocket. 

Bank shots rely on using the dots and angles of a pool table. The numbering system you have created will also help guide you, mainly if your numbering system includes empty spaces in between the sights. This way, no matter where the object ball and cue ball have landed, you will still be able to make your shot.

Find the diamond number corresponding to the ball you want to target. An easy way to work this out is to look at how many segments are between your target ball and the pocket you want it to go toward. Divide this number by two and aim for the corresponding diamond number. 

If sights 1-6 are between the object ball and the pocket, you must aim for sight number 3. Having numbers for the spaces between the diamonds will be necessary for this. If sights 2 and 3 are between the pocket and the target ball, aim for your imaginary sight 2.5. It will still be in the middle and help you set up an accurate shot. 

Aiming for the sight will determine your angle going into and out of the shot. Ensure the trajectory of the cue ball after hitting the object ball does not block it from reaching the pocket. 

Kick Shots

Kick shots are similar to bank shots, except the cue ball hits the rail before hitting the object ball to pocket it. There are two reasons to use a kick shot- when your opponent's ball blocks yours or you want to show off a little by doing a trick shot.

Setting up a kick shot follows the same steps as setting up for a bank shot. 

Count the segments between the cue ball and the target ball/pocket and then halve it. Aim for that diamond number. Being able to hit around your opponent's balls to successfully pocket your own can give you a distinct advantage in your game.

When setting up a kick shot, it is important that there is no spin in the shot. Any spin will cause the cue ball to rebound at a different angle, potentially causing you to miss your object ball.

Tips for Using the Diamond System

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when practicing bank and kick shots:

  • Practice: Whether you want to become a professional pool player or be better than your friends, practice using the dots on your pool table. Take time to experiment with different angles, speeds and spins either during a game or on your own time. The more you practice, the faster you will be able to determine the angles of your shots. 

  • Remember your angles: The angle a pool ball hits the rail is the angle it should leave the rail. Spin, speed, the table's condition and other factors might impact this. The further the distance between the cue ball and the pocket, the wider the angle will be. 

  • Mind your speed: The speed of your shot will affect the angle coming off the rail. Most rails have a cushion and will cause the cue ball to bounce back based on how hard you hit it. The harder you hit the cue ball, the faster it will travel, decreasing the angle. The softer you hit a ball, the slower it goes, which increases the angle as the ball bounces off. 

  • Be careful with spin: Try to avoid spin in the beginning. Spin will change rebound angles unexpectedly if you are new to banking shots. Practice direct hits before you start trying out spin. As you get better, spin can help you make more complex shots, especially when making kick shots. 

  • Know your table: Every pool table is different. Even tables from the same manufacturer using the same materials will have slight differences depending on their age, placement, maintenance and how it is used. Before any game, spend 10-15 minutes practicing different shots and testing the angles. Slight differences in a table can impact spin and the angle of your shots. 

  • Target the diamond: When you are setting up your shot, you must aim for the diamond rather than the rail in front of the diamond. Pretend your shot is going to go through the diamond. This will help you be more precise with your shots.

Improve Your Play With Imperial Pool Tables

Now that you know about the diamond system and how you can use it to improve your pool playing, it is time to practice. It will take time for you to create a grid of a pool table and implement your aiming system.

At Imperial, we manufacture 7-and 8-foot pool tables. Additional functionality, such as removable tops, ensures you can find the pool table to suit your needs. Shop our collections of pool tables today! 


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