"Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect." - Vince Lombardi
Just like with anything in life, pool requires hours and hours of practice to become good. With that being said, there are essential fundamentals you can practice that will lead to better billiard play. Like the quote above indicates, bad practice habits will lead to bad results. The hope is to eliminate bad habits in the beginning, giving you a solid base on which you can build your game.
The very first thing to consider when approaching a game of billiards is the pool cue you will use. They range in length from 48" (for tight spots) to 52" (for bumper pool tables) to 57" (the standard size) and even 60" cues (mostly used on larger snooker tables).
Competitive players prefer to use cues between 57" and 60" long; most cues used in homes, bars and pool halls weigh between 18 and 20 ounces and are roughly 57" in length, with a tip that is around 12 millimeters in diameter.
But all of the above dimensions are just technical information; it's essential for you to pick a cue size and weight that you are comfortable with. If you are having trouble maintaining a reliable stroke because the weight or length of the pool cue seems too much, consider a smaller model. Basically, try different sizes until you find the right size for your wrists, hands and arm strength!
Billiard Fundamentals: How to Pick Your Cue
Have you ever seen wannabe pool sharks rolling the pool cues on the table, identifying one particular cue and promptly getting beat by every other pool player in the room? Why do they do this? They are trying to find any flaws in the straightness of a pool cue.
This method of rolling a pool cue to find flaws is not recommended by true pool sharks. Most pool cues are not turned with incredible precision, and thus have "high spots" that cause the cue to seem warped when rolled.
But just because a few spots are higher than others on certain areas of the surface does not mean the cue is warped or crooked; it might be level and straight as an arrow with just a few bumps or bulges. Instead, try holding the cue like a gun, looking down the sights at some imaginary target; look for any curves or bends, rather than rolling it on the pool table. You will find this gun sight method more effective than the rolling method.
Billiard Fundamentals: Your Stance, Grip & Bridge
Once you have found the perfect cue, now you can practice the proper stance, grip and bridge. In other words, where to place your feet, legs, torso, arms, hands and fingers. This is the base on which you will build your game, so practice these tips until they become natural and smooth.
Stand roughly one foot in length from the billiard table and point your right foot (if you're right handed; if left handed, do this with your left foot) at the cue ball while positioning your head to line up with the cue ball and object ball. This is a good time to assess your aim; be sure no other billiard balls are in the line of fire from the cue ball to the object ball.
Point the toes of your left inwards towards your right foot (again, do the opposite if you are left footed). Move your right foot backwards into a comfortable position, and be sure to distribute your weight evenly between your two feet.
Extend you left arm with a slight bend at the elbow to where you will create a "bridge" with your left hand and fingers. The pool cue should be gripped with your right hand around four or five inches behind the balance point, which can be determined by holding the cue in front of you at elbow height and sliding the cue until it balances.
Be sure to lightly grip the cue between four or five inches behind the balance point with your right hand, using your right thumb and three fingers. Avoid letting the cue touch the palm of your hand. Again, if you're left handed reverse these instructions.
Creating the proper bridge with your left hand is probably the most essential step in this process, since the bridge is where you control the cue and your shots. The "tripod bridge" is the most common bridge and is considered quite reliable.
This "tripod" method entails using the index finger and thumb to loop around the cue, holding it against the side of the hand. There remaining three fingers act like a tripod, supporting the hand and cue. For additional support the base of the palm can be placed on the table or the sides of the table above the rails or cushions.
Your grip in the bridge should be both firm and soft, allowing the cue to slide between the loop of your index finger, thumb and hand. Try to create the bridge between seven and nine inches from the tip of the cue to ensure accuracy.
The loop of the bridge (index finger, thumb and hand) can sometimes benefit from a light dusting of billiard talcum powder (pictured right; view Talcum Powder by American Heritage here), which will absorb moisture and allow for a silky smooth motion of the pool cue. Sometimes the cue ball will be hugging the rails and your "tripod" method will have to be adjusted; practice often shots with the cue ball placed right on the rails or cushions.
Practice these tips as many times as possible to become the very best pool player possible. There are accessories and other items that can help amateur pool players become professional pool sharks, including the Training Cue Ball from American Heritage; view the Training Cue Ball by American Heritage here. And remember Family Leisure has all the Billiard Accessories you need, including pool chalk, ball racks, pool table cloth, billiard balls and much more; view all Family Leisure Billiard Accessories here.