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If you want to get better at pool, it will take a lot of practice, but practicing the right way will develop those good habits you need to take your game to the next level. Beginners often skip right past the fundamentals into advanced concepts, practicing combo shots, draw shots, cue ball spins, or other difficult techniques well outside of their current abilities.
In this article, we will go through many fundamental practices as well as a few advanced ones, so you can get back behind the table and begin taking strides towards a reliable and confident shot for your game.
13 Tips To Better Your Pool Game
Without further ado, let’s jump right into the tips.
#1: Your Grip
Many beginner pool players will make the mistake of gripping the cue too tightly in efforts to control this stick better. However, this is the wrong approach, and you should practice using a looser grip instead.
Gripping the cue too tightly will raise the butt of the cue when you shoot. That can take the end of the stick too high on the backswing, which makes it much more difficult to shoot an accurate shot.
Not to mention, a tight grip tends to make your shot connect lower on the cue ball which could cause it to jump off the table. I’m sure we’ve all been there before, and it’s just as embarrassing every time.
When you practice, try to keep the grip nice and light while maintaining control. Find the right balance of lightness and control, and stick with it. The back end of your cue does not even need to be touching your palm.
#2: Grow Accustomed to Your Bridges
Your bridge is just as important as your grip in terms of controlling your shot, and mastering this is paramount to becoming better at pool. There are two basic bridge types for most shots: the “open bridge” and the “closed bridge.”
The open bridge is the one that most beginning players will practice. To set an open bridge, first, place your bridge hand firmly on the table. Then cup your hand and press your thumb against your forefinger to form a “V.”
Your cue is then placed on the “V” of your index finger and thumb with the goal being to create a solid foundation with your fingers spread on the table. The contact area between your index finger and thumb should be large enough to firmly rest the cue.
The closed bridge is more for advanced players that require spin on the cue ball to make difficult shots. I’ll still go through it just in case you would like to practice it.
For this shot, try to curl your index finger around the shaft, using your thumb as a base. This should form a circle that you can slide your cue through with great precision.
Keep the cue stick as level as possible and keep your arm straight as well. This type of bridge may take some getting used to, but it is a reliable way most professionals use to make difficult shots.
#3: Work On Your Stance
For a proper stance, you should have your front foot at least a shoulder-width apart from your rear foot. Your front foot should be facing forward as well, but for the most part, you just want to be comfortable with your footing.
Your weight should be balanced equally on both feet and when you lean forward, keep your head low and level over the pool cue.
You should be able to place some of your weight on the bridge hand to form a tripod stance with your two feet and the bridge hand.
Once you have a stance that feels comfortable, balanced, and low, try to make it as consistent as possible. Also, try to practice moving around the table and keeping your feet placement the same when shooting from different spots.
#4: Find Your Imaginary Aiming Line
The path to the pocket you’re aiming for is sometimes difficult to see and I’m not only talking about banks or combo shots either.
When lining up for a shot, find the center point of the pocket you are aiming for. Then envision a line from the center point of the pocket to the center of the object ball that you plan to shoot in that pocket.
Follow this aiming line with your eyes from the pocket you’re shooting for back to the cue ball, and then back through the object ball to the target.
When you are ready to shoot, keep your eyes focused on that center point of the object ball. Take a couple of practice hits where you stop short of hitting the cue ball, and once you feel confident, give it a nice easy shot.
#5: Get a Pre-Shot Routine
Finding a way to get yourself comfortable before shooting is just as important as it is in any other sport.
You will see these same kinds of routines done by golfers, batters in baseball, basketball players throwing free throws, and plenty of other sports that require technique before execution.
Whether it is adjusting your feet to get your stance right, or tracing that imaginary line mentioned in the previous section, it is important to develop your own routine before taking a shot. This will not only get your fundamentals down but get you comfortable before letting a shot go.
#6: Keep Your Head Straight
Beginners tend to tilt their heads to the side of their dominant eye. This, however, is just looking at the ball sideways and will result in an inaccurate shot.
If you are looking to favor your dominant eye to get a better look at where you’re hitting the ball, close your non-dominant eye and line up your shot that way. If you want to look at the ball from different angles, move your whole body over.
Looking at the shot with your head tilted will likely make you disoriented and can make for easy mishits on the cue ball.
#7: Follow Through
One of the most common pieces of advice in any competitive sport and it remains just as important for this one too.
You want your shot to be smooth all the way through, so be sure to hit through the ball rather than hit it and back off once you’ve connected with it.
A classic mistake by beginners is hitting the ball and pulling the stick upwards after they’ve connected. This will give the cue ball unintentional topspin, resulting in a lot of scratches, as it will just keep rolling forward after it has connected with the other ball.
#8: Develop a Good Break
Many players just starting out will be scared to break, as they tend to mishit the cue ball, and a bad break always makes for somewhat of a messy game.
However, they are missing out on arguably one of the most satisfying parts of pool. For the break, place the cue ball in the place that will put yourself in your most comfortable shooting position.
Some players shoot towards the left side and aim for the spot in between the front ball and the left-middle, others will aim straight for the front. There are many different strategies to approaching a break, but in general, going for the shot you’re most comfortable in letting go strongly is the one you want to go for.
For more tips on how to break well, read this article.
#9: Choose the Balls That Are In The Best Positions
In standard 8-ball, whoever makes the first ball gets to choose whether they want stripes or solids. Common mistake players will make is choosing whichever ball they make first.
It is important to look at the whole table when choosing stripes or solids and recognize the tough shots you may have to make in the future. Keeping in mind what shot you will have to sink next is always a good thing to keep in mind in pool.
#10: Try Out Different Games
There are many different types of pool you can play other than the standard 8-ball. There’s 9-ball, Cutthroat, One Pocket Pool, and all kinds of others.
Learning these different types of games is a fun way to try different kinds of shots, and keep things a bit more casual while you practice.
You can even make up your own rules and create a whole new kind of game for you and your practice partners to play. Personally, I’ve played 8-ball where you have to make the 8 on a bank shot, combo shots only pool, and all kinds of other strange rules to spice the game up.
#11: Cue Ball Positioning
Sometimes, you will find yourself in a situation where you’re looking at an impossible shot and you just want to hamper your opponent’s ability to make their next shot.
If there is a cluster of balls around your opponent’s, it is a good idea to leave that cluster intact and position the cue ball close to it. Ideally, you leave a difficult angle for your opponent to work with or a pesky ball right next to the cue ball to affect their bridge.
#12: Leave Easy Shots for the End
If you find one of your balls sitting right next to a pocket, it is a great idea to leave that ball right there because it blocks off that pocket.
It will require a bit of self-control on your part, but getting the more difficult shots out of the way first is certainly the better idea in pool. Plus, if your opponent is not careful, they could sink your ball accidentally, which will put you up a ball and make it your shot.
#13: Join a League
Joining a league of committed and competitive billiards players will be the quickest way to make you better. The more you play real players that are trying to win, the more you will focus and find what makes you a better player.
There are plenty of pool leagues out there that are looking for beginners and that are willing to teach you all they can about the ins and outs of making you an all-around better player.
This kind of step may be intimidating and at first you may embarrass yourself a good bit, but it will be well worth it, as you will grow better the more you play with experienced players.
If you are just starting out at billiards the best thing you can do is simply practice. Find out what experienced players do, and try to find what you’re comfortable with based on that.
Getting a better cue or a nice new pool glove will only get you so far, asking advice and practicing these tips against more adept pool players than yourself is how you will learn to play better in no time at all.