Pool is a deceptively simple game. Grab a stick, whack a ball, and get them to go into a hole. Sometimes you need to smack other balls out of the way. Easy, right?
Well, as anyone who’s ever tried the game knows, no, it’s not quite that easy. There are a lot of factors that go into the perfect shot, and an almost infinite variety of potential ball configurations you need to deal with.
But the thing that really trips people up the most is the extremely simple stuff, and this holds true for a lot of sports and games. Knowing the absolute basics of the game inside and out, and having good fundamental skills is going to make you better than at least 60% of other players of the game. Particularly for games which don’t require a lot of natural athleticism.
Here are the top tips I can share to give you an idea of how to improve your pool game.
You should keep in from mind that from the very origin of pool tables, pool is a game of leisure, above all else. While it can be played seriously, and is quite an engaging and rewarding one to play competitively, it’s also a common bar game for a reason. The game seriously benefits from playing a bit loose and not hyper-focusing on any particular thing. The big picture of the game is very important, not just making any particular shot.
For example, if you sink a shot but leave the cue ball in a position where you can’t easily follow up on it, you’ve made a fairly bad play. Particularly if trying to dig yourself out of that hole then gives your OPPONENT a clearly set up shot.
Practice Your Grip
Keeping with our theme of “relax”, you don’t want to have too tight of a grip on your cue. Or, for that matter, too tight of a grip on your on muscles, if that makes any sense. Aside from knowing the rules of playing pool, improving on your grip is one of the list of pool skills you’ll need to keep in mind.
When holding your cue you need it to be fairly loose. You shouldn’t be forcing the cue through your fingers; it should be naturally sliding through based on your arm movements.
I won’t tell you what kind of grip to use here. Everyone has their own style, and it doesn’t really matter all that much how you hold your cue as long as you can get an accurate, consistent shot out of it. But that looseness is a huge component in effective follow through. Speaking of…
Don’t Stop Short
Particularly when going for force, a lot of people will instinctively pull short on their stroke. This cuts the power quite a bit, and the jerky motion also doesn’t do you any favors; it can knock your aim off course, impacting the ball in ways you don’t want, and can’t predict the results of.
Hit the ball as if you’re aiming at a point beyond it, the same as if you’re practicing your straight in boxing, or power hits in golf. However, make sure you aren’t PUSHING the ball, as that would be a foul. Hit it hard, fast, and smoothly.
Even if not going for a lot of power, keep this concept in mind, though it’s trickier.
Keep a Wide Stance
Stable but, as with everything else, relaxed is the way you need to be when standing. A wide stance helps keep you on target and comfortable, without putting any particular stress on one foot or another. This allows for smooth, even flow of power through your muscles as you shift weight.
As a nice side effect, it’s very similar to a “power pose”, which can have beneficial psychological effects; namely increasing your confidence. Decisiveness and confidence are key factors in any sport, as second guessing yourself too much is guaranteed to negatively impact your play.
Pool is a game of geometry. You need to keep all the angles in mind. This is fairly complex, and a lot of this can only really be gleaned from loads and loads of practice, but the basics are fairly easy to get the hang of: check the pool cloth, survey the field, and imagine an invisible line between the cue ball and your target ball. If you’re up to it, try to imagine the invisible impact points where your cue is hitting the cue ball, and your cue ball is going to impact the target.
Likewise, the next step from there is to understand how those balls are going to fly, and how they’re going to interact with other balls they impact, and so on. The more you practice, the better you will get, and the more adept you will become at visualizing these collateral interactions further down the chain.
This may sound at odds with the advice to relax, but it’s really not. This is about shutting out everything but the game. Particularly if you play in bars and other public places where there are a ton of distractions. Choose whatever coping mechanism you like, so long as it works; you need to be able to focus on the game and not get psyched out or have your focus shattered by various things.
Practice Real Pool
This is the vaguest piece of advice, but perhaps the most important: when looking to improve your pool game you need to know your current level of skill and improve by actually practice pool games.
That is, don’t just hit balls around, actually play a game of 8 ball, 9 ball, straight pool, or whatever preference for game type you have.
Play alone if you have to (playing both sides is a perfectly valid practicing technique), but preferably with someone else. It’s even better if who you’re practicing or playing with is better than you by a little bit at least. This holds true for any game or sport actually.
You get nothing from crushing lesser opponents, but finding someone who’s just that little bit better than you to play against will start to force both of you to up your game: them to stay ahead, and you to catch up. So go around, get one of the most reliable pool cues worth investing on and challenge pool players to improve your game.