Whether you’re a member of a pool league, or just a casual player looking for a little more competitive fun, there are plenty of ways to get better at playing pool. The worst thing about a game of pool is when you end up chasing the black around the table for an hour. So, here are a few easy ways to get better at pool and maybe actually win a game or two!
How to get better at pool
Just like snooker, pool is a game all about maths. You need to understand angles, velocities and how objects in motion interact with each other. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t. All you really need to understand is how to hit the cue ball in just the right way.
Top 5 Pool Tips
- Choose the right cue
- When breaking, aim for the top of the triangle
- Choose your shot carefully
- Think 3 moves ahead
- Only go for the black when you know you can make the shot
Pool cues & chalk
But before we talk about hitting balls, we need to talk about your tools. Even if you only have access to a few pool cues, it’s important to choose your cue carefully. Check that the tip isn’t loose or too worn down because this will affect how the cue ball responds when you hit it.
To make sure the cue is straight, roll it across the table. When you do this, you’re looking for a smooth roll. If the cue is bent or warped, it will bounce when it rolls. If your pub cue is damaged or bent, let the staff know so they can get new cues.
The way each player holds a cue can vary, but the practiced stance is to treat the shaft of the cue like the sight of a gun. Using your weaker hand as a rest, rest the cue between your thumb and forefinger. The ideal position is to spread your fingers and form your hand into a very slightly raised ‘cage’ on the table. Lift your thumb slightly into the air and use the side of the thumb as the rest for your cue to slide across.
Rest your chin on the cue and look down its length. From this view, you can adjust your aim to hit the cue ball in the right place. Keep the cue horizontal and rotate the shoulder of your dominant hand so that your elbow is parallel to the cue. This will channel the power of your hit evenly, ensuring a smooth shot.
Chalk comes in two colours; blue and green. Blue chalk is commonly used in pool, while green chalk is more often seen in snooker. There isn’t really a difference between green and blue chalk, though they are made through slightly different processes. Generally speaking, green chalk doesn’t stain as easily.
Chalk is important because it enables the cue to adhere to the ball, making a clean shot. When you miscue, the cue has slipped against the ball. This sends the cue ball slicing off the length of the cue and spinning off in the wrong direction. Remember to chalk your cue before every shot. This will reduce the chances of a miscue.
How to make the perfect break in pool
Breaking is best done with a large, heavy cue. In a game of pool, this is most often the hardest hit you need to make. Place the cue ball just to the right of the of the D and line up on the middle of the cue ball and aim to hit the nearest ball — the one at the top of the triangle. Then, hit it as hard possible.
Your goal is to pot at least a couple of coloured balls, allowing you to take the next shot and put yourself in a favourable position. Hitting the top ball will also reduce the chances of you accidentally potting the cue ball.
Choosing the best shot in pool
Before you go rushing into a shot, take the time to walk around the table and assess every option. Look at the position of the balls on the table, and if you can, try to think which ball is the best to go for based on the following shots you plan to take.
Thinking at least two or three shots ahead allows you to judge the speed you’ll need to hit the cue ball and where on the ball you strike it. These two factors are essential for figuring out where the ball will land. But rather than guessing, work out where you want the cue ball to end up and aim accordingly.
You might be tempted to go for the obvious pots. But if a pool ball in your colour is covering a pocket, you might want to wait to pot it.
By covering a pocket with a ball of your own colour, you can deny your opponent the use of that pocket. If they accidentally do pot your ball during the game you will at least gain two shots from the penalty they receive as a result. In an ideal game you will end up with all your balls either over or near the pockets and can then clear up.
Choosing the best shots to take in a pool game is massively dependent on the game itself. With balls moving in random directions, every game is totally unique. Experience is your best guide for assessing any given game state.
How hard should you hit the cue ball?
Hitting the cue ball too hard can result in you accidentally pocketing it. This is why it’s always important to only use as much power as you need.
Practice hitting the ball until you have a sense of three distinct shots: soft, medium and hard. Once you get a feel for your soft, medium and hard shots, you can assess any in-game situation and modify your practiced shots on the fly.
Potting the black
When you’re on the black, the stakes get really high. You need to be able to pot the black cleanly, otherwise you could open yourself up to your opponent sweeping in for the win. The best way to avoid this is to simply not go for it.
If you’re unsure whether you can pot the black, try and get it to rest on the cushion. This put the onus on your opponent to make a mistake for you to capitalise on. Just wait it out until an opportunity to cleanly pot the black presents itself.
These top tips should give you an edge next time you’re down the pub. Whether you’re just playing for fun or for a league, pool is much more fun when you’re winning!