The long loser is a very useful shot to be mastered and should be in every Billiards player's repertoire. The shot always carries an element of risk and can never be certain, but nevertheless is much easier than it looks. Many great players have used losing hazards as the basis of their game, although with the introduction of Super Crystalate and Aramith balls it is more difficult to make large breaks off losing hazards alone. You will find that long losers tend to present themself when you are slightly out of position, such as after playing a middle pocket loser that finishes short.
Hit a thick half-ball
It is important to hit a thick half-ball to ensure that you get the shot consistently and also to ensure that most of the momentum from the cue ball is transferred to the red, which makes judging the pace of the red much easier.
Address high on the cue ball and play the line
By addressing high on the cue ball you will avoid a wide throw. By putting a hint of check side on you will avoid putting any running side on, which inevitably means missing the shot. Once you are set for the shot, there is no benefit in looking at the angle any more. Forget the pocket, concentrate on the object ball and play the thick half-ball with a good follow-through, pushing the cue along the line.
Contact and Pace
Consider the white on the middle spot and the red on the billiard spot. The ideal path for the white is to come off two cushions, pass in front of the red and hit the side cushion above the middle pocket. The shot can be played thicker or thinner to vary the path of the object ball, although this is quite an advanced technique. The thick half-ball is always the most certain way of scoring. On some tables it is possible to play with running or check side to vary the object ball's path, but this is usually too dangerous for all but the advanced player. Use enough pace to bring the object ball off three cushions and back to the middle. If you do play the shot thicker or thinner than the thick half-ball, remember that the strength of the shot will need to be varied accordingly.
Very Long Loser
Normally, the object ball will naturally come off three cushions and if the strength is enough, you will leave a middle pocket loser. When the object ball is nearer the baulk line than the centre spot, this is a VERY long loser and the shot becomes much more difficult. This shot is by no means a certainty, even for the advanced player, and is sometimes called the 'grand long loser' or the 'raker' with the position of the object ball being called 'no-man's land'! If the red is on it's spot then there is a strong possibility of the white hitting it; in this case it is sometimes better to play the shot slowly and not attempt to bring the white off three cushions. The hardest position to make the shot is when you just can't make the middle pocket loser, even with side. In this case set the cue ball back in the D to avoid getting a stun effect and also to see the angle more clearly.
Avoiding the middle pocket
When the object ball is between the centre and pyramid spots the shot becomes easier to score from but the end result is less certain as the object ball can come off three cushions towards the region of the middle pocket. Tangling with the middle pocket is dangerous, so sometimes this shot can be played thick with check side and only off two cushions, to leave the object ball around the pyramid spot. If possible this is usually the best way of playing the shot. Another method of avoiding the middle pocket is to play thin (around a true half-ball aim) and with more pace to compensate for the thin contact. This widens the angle and causes the object ball to hit the third cushion above the middle pocket.
Although you may favour playing the long loser to a particular side, the position of the balls in certain positions will dictate that the correct shot is to a your less favoured side. Your should practice long losers equally to the left and right side so that you become equally comfortable playing the loser to either pocket.
Set the object ball on the centre spot and the cue ball 3 inches (76 mm) from the left spot, on the baulk line. The position may need a small adjustment depending on the conditions, but is very close to what is required. Play the loser into the top left pocket, then try from the other side. Address above centre with a hint of check side, hitting a thick half-ball.
After you can make the standard shot 3/10 move the object ball to a new position that is reasonably close to the centre spot, mark the position with a small chalk mark and now try to set the cue ball yourself; you will find this quite difficult. It is useful to mark the position of the white so that if you miss the shot you can have another attempt at the same shot. Repeat the whole procedure enough times, into both top pockets, until you are confident that you can make the shot 3/10 from any new position. If you manage to hit a consistent thick half-ball you can be sure that any missed shots are due to incorrect setting of the cue ball. For all long losers it is essential to take your time to accurately set for the natural angle.
Success rate for a 'standard' Long Loser will be low at first but should quickly improve as you learn to recognize the angle. Once you get confidence with them it is surprising how quickly you will improve.
An average player will miss quite a few of these shots but is usually quite good at the shot.
Top players do miss occasional Long Losers, especially if they are playing on an unfamiliar table.
Two cushion shot
Place the object ball to 6 inches (152 mm) higher than the centre spot and put the cue ball 5 inches (127 mm) to the right of the left spot in the D. Try this loser, but instead of bringing the object ball around off three cushions, play it slowly and only off two cushions, to leave it in the vicinity of the pyramid spot.
Very long loser
Place the object ball to 6 inches (152 mm) lower than the centre spot. The cue ball will need to be placed 5 inches (127 mm) to the right of the left spot in the D. This is the most difficult form of long loser, often called a 'very long loser'. It sometimes helps to place the cue ball back in the D as this has the advantage of giving more distance so that you do not get a stun effect and also it can be easier to sight the shot.
- Set the cue ball accurately
- Address the cue ball above centre with a hint of check side
- Play the line, not the shot
- Hit a thick half-ball
- Addressing the cue ball at or below centre
- Not hitting a thick half-ball