VISIT OFTEN TO KEEP YOUR GAME SHARP! The following excerpts are from Pool & Billiard Magazine columns authored by many of the sport’s top professionals and instructors. Valuable new tips are added frequently…
Here’s a reminder from P&B Instructor Anthony Beeler to always choose the very best safety option available to you. Make this SAFETY QUESTION a regular part of your defensive routine. “The next time you are at the table getting ready to execute a defensive shot, don’t just shoot the first thing that pops into your head. Ask yourself ‘Is my safety good enough?’ and you will minimize your opponents ability to kick balls in from a defensive position.”
Ewa told us how to use the Ninety-Degree Forearm-to-Cue to check your stroke in one of her monthly P&B Instructional features: “Hitting with a level cue is very important. All kinds of nasty stuff can happen when you elevate the back end of your cue… When stroking with a pendulum motion there is a point at the bottom of that motion when your back hand isn’t moving either up or down. It’s the low point, the moment when your cue is at its most level. At that point your forearm should be straight up and down (ninety degrees to the cue) and the cue tip should be almost touching the cue ball… What does this give you? Well, as level a cue as possible.”
There are far too many players, including pros, who put themselves at a disadvantage the moment they bend over to take a shot. Your accuracy depends a lot on how your body approaches the line of the shot before land on the table. Be careful that you are not sizing up the shot from the side and then moving in to get down on the table. ALWAYS stand behind the line of aim and get down from there. Then, your warm-up strokes will tell you if you need to make just minors adjustments, and if you do, take the time to do it. You will be surprised at how quickly your consistency improves.
Would is surprise you to hear that a large percentage of the times you’ve lost a game was because of broken concentration? Ewa Laurance explained why this is true in one of her Pool & Billiard Magazine instructional columns. “One of the toughest things for players to do, especially intermediate players, is to stay focused every single second… It’s all too easy to let your mind wander just a little, for just a second. Then we miss, and the miss leads to losing the game.” And the fix your can practice is, “Teach yourself to concentrate… focus on concentrating, and concentrate on focusing.”
“Just Do It” is a popular montra in many sports to stop the habit of over thinking your performance. Author and cue sports instructor, Phil Capelle, said it this way in his column in Pool & Billiard Magazine. “You never want to play any shot with less than the minimum amount of effort that is required to produce a successful shot. On the other hand, you do not want to spend too much time on easy shots because you could go past the point of maximum readiness, lose focus, and miss…”
You cannot just shoot a shot once and own it for life. If it’s a tough shot, you are very likely to miss it the very next time you attempt it. To learn shots takes repetition! You must send repeated messages from your eyes to your brain to your shooting muscles. When practicing, stick with each shot you miss and give yourself time to begin programming it. Before you know it, you’ll own the shot.
When you can hide the cue ball and put a lot of distance between it and the object ball, that almost always gives you a winning result. But sometimes just tapping the object ball to the cushion and rolling the cue ball to the back side of another ball is all you need. Don’t make the safety harder than the shot than the shot you’re passing up.
One of the very first basics you were taught in pool is to have a balanced comfortable stance. However, when you get down to shoot, you are allowed to get up and reset yourself if you are not confident in your alignment. Generally when you take your stance, you will be ready to take your warm up strokes and execute. But don’t ignore those feelings that everything may not be right. When you have doubt, get up, re-align yourself and get down again. A key BASIC is still your BASE.
One of the best safeties is to hide the cue ball while having it come to rest against (touching) another object ball. This type of safety is intended to limit the number of paths available for the cue ball to travel toward the ball that has to be contacted.
One key to a smooth stroke is a relaxed transition from your back stroke to your forward stroke. Let the momentum of your back stroke come to a natural pause before letting the pendulum motion carry your cue forward. Do not lunge forward in your execution, instead concentrate on your forearm being the only moving part of your body as it swings effortlessly back and forth. Your warm up strokes are not just for aiming, the also prepare you to deliver that smooth stroke.
To execute the draw stroke properly requires a couple basic moves. First, you must strike the cue ball below its horizontal axis and you can even hit a spot even close to the bottom of the cue ball. A second requirement is to use bit more power than you do on a stop or follow shot. To execute the required power simply think of accelerating through the cue ball. Now exaggerate your follow through. Once you learn to strike the cue ball low (without skipping under it or raising your tip at the last second), and you become aware of the need to follow through, you are well on your way to becoming a draw shot master.
Keep these keys in mind:1) Be sure you are hitting the vertical center
2) Get as level a cue as you can
3) Use an open bridge resting your cue on the cushion
4) Make sure your tip is in good condition and chalked
5) Use a soft stroke and limit your follow through
Some players have the ability to draw the length of the table or just a few inches, but that’s it, nothing in between. Speed control is one of the keys to top play and that means you have to be able to control your draw speed too. Here’s how to get good at it. Set up a straight in shot to any pocket and mark the table with chalk measuring each inch back from the object ball up to three feet. Now attempt to draw two inches or five inches and so on until you can hit the marks and control your draw speed. Don’t give up on this one, it is attainable.
Have you noticed that easy shots are missed and stop runs as often as hard shots? The reason is almost always a break in concentration. You’ve made the easy shot so often that you don’t think you are required to focus on it. You can eliminate this miss simply by learning to take nothing for granted and require yourself to focus on every shot.
When is the last time you spent an hour or more practicing? A long, long practice session will challenge your power of concentration and that is one of the most useful results. In a long practice session you will have to force yourself to FOCUS on every shot, the easy ones included. A high level of focus results in making more balls and winning more games.
Running racks of 9-Ball and 8-Ball requires you to plan your run in advance and then run your plan. Many top players find it easier to assess the table from the last ball back to the first ball. Therefore in a game of 9-Ball, figure out how you can get to the 9 from 8, and then from the 7 to the 8, etc., all the way back to the 1 ball. Now attempt to execute your plan and if you get out of line, make a new plan from the 9 back to the ball you are on currently.
It’s surprising to discover how many players do not hit the cue ball where they think they hit it. Want to test yourself? Chalk your cue tip with a heavy amount of chalk. Now replace the cue ball with one of the object balls and aim at a specific spot on the ball, i.e., somewhere on the number, and hit a shot with it attempting to pocket a ball. Now retrieve the object ball you used as a cue ball and see how accurately you struck it by finding the chalk mark. Surprised? If, not… your stroke is fine. If you are surprised to find you were a little to the left or right of your intended hit, it’s time to spend some valuable time on working to straighten that stroke.
A lot can be said for playing “Zone” position. But there are great advantages to setting goals of “Exact” position during your practice sessions. Find the exact spot you want your cue ball to arrive at and go for it. When you miss your target, assess the effect that it will have on your next shot. This will show you the nuances that exist in exact position play in 8-Ball, 9-Ball and Straight Pool.
When you become proficient at carom and combination shots you have often the chance to continue at the table when otherwise it would seem your run may have ended. But even if you get good at these shots, there is something EXTRA you have to concern yourself with. That extra is playing position on these shots. And that is because it gets complicated by the fact you have to play position on two balls: your cue ball and the object ball used in the combo or carom, when both of them are in motion. The key is to not just focus on making the shot and thinking of your cue ball shape, but to really consider where that other object ball will end up. Knowing the problem is a big part of solving it. So the next time you come across one of these opportunities, remember to look for that “Something Extra”.