In our times, new sports emerge constantly and old ones lose their fame and glory. However, there are some sports such as pool, darts, ping pong, and a few others that retain their fame and are captivating the young generations’ attention. If you’re new to pool, though, there are going to be tons of things to learn in order to start consistently winning. The pool tips for beginners in this article are the essential tools you need to further develop your game and become truly good at this sport.
I’ve chosen 10 specific tips that I think are crucial for one’s skill development. Let’s quickly go through them:
- Work on your stance
- Develop your cue stick hold
- Learn to aim properly
- Work on your hand bridge
- Perfect your pool stroke
- Don’t be afraid to use the chalk
- Never rush
- Keep calm
- Don’t make risky shots
- Practice on a constant basis
Before we dive deeper into each of those points, make sure you check out my guide on some of the best pool tables on today’s market. If you’re new to the sport, you would benefit a lot from having your own pool table and accessories in your home, no matter its size. This will allow you to train on a constant basis, which is a key component of getting better. Now, let’s jump into this!
Work on your stance
The first and most important thing in pool is to perfect your stance. After all, all the shots you make can only be done properly if your stance is correct. A good and solid stance means that you have superb control over your balance and your body doesn’t easily move in either direction.
Have your legs slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Align your whole body with the shot line which will make it much easier to aim and take an accurate shot. If you’re right-handed, your right foot should be your back foot. Most professional players walk into shot positioning with their left foot (if they’re right-handed) and have their right foot and right arm align before starting to aim. Other players prefer putting their right foot on the shot line and then put their left foot forward and out of that line.
Your chin is also a vital component of your stance. It should be located right above the pool cue. This will ensure that your head is right on the shot line and your dominant eye is right where it is supposed to be. Your head should also be as close as possible to the cue stick. We will discuss these positions in greater detail when we get to aiming.
Lastly, there is one more thing you should pay attention to when it comes to your stance. Try moving your hips outwards so that you don’t bump your cue stick when you’re swinging.
Develop your cue stick hold
Learning how to hold a pool cue the right way is essential for anyone who wants to get better at this game. In its core, holding the cue stick is quite subjective and you will find that a lot of professional players hold it differently. In general, you should be placing your dominant hand at the bottom portion of the stick. This part is called the cue’s “butt” and is typically wider than the front part. That wider design focuses more of the weight there, giving you more kinetic energy when you swing. Your front hand should be forming a bridge down on the table behind the cue ball at the shot line you want to go after.
Your grip on the stick shouldn’t be too tight. Rather, it should be relaxed and controlled. Tight grips are going to ruin your accuracy so the faster you learn to hold the cue stick lightly, the better.
Learn to aim properly
Now that we’ve gone through your posture and cue stick grip, it is time to learn how to aim. There are three main terms that you need to remember – cue ball, object ball, and point of contact. The cue ball is the white ball you use to hit other balls. Those other balls are called object balls and the point where the cue ball hits them is called “point of contact”.
While aiming isn’t easy, with a little bit of imagination you can at least pinpoint the point of contact you need to aim at. First, determine the pocket you want to put the ball in. Then, run a line that starts from that pocket and goes through your object ball. Then, run a line that goes through your cue ball and object ball. The place where these two lines meet is exactly where you should be aiming.
The most famous method for aiming besides running imaginary lines through your pool balls is called the “ghost ball” method. It is done by imagining where your cue ball must go or be in order to get the object ball into any pocket. Now, there are quite a lot of additional aiming methods and techniques, some involving your table’s bumpers (or cushions). However, simply using your imagination will get you a long way when you’re just now starting to learn how to play.
For more of my thoughts on pool aiming and the different techniques you can use, visit my detailed article here!
Finding the center
One important thing you need to practice consistently is finding the cue ball’s center. This is something that not a lot of people realize as their biggest mistake. It is also the number one reason for bad accuracy. While finding the center of the ball can seem obvious to most people, it isn’t really that easy, especially on a ball without a marked center. This is why some pool balls come with red dots on them. Some have only one (that you have to look for), while others have 6 of them at each side. Hitting the ball slightly off the center of its mass might cause it to go on a different path than the one you imagined. It can also cause the ball to spin.
Work on your hand bridge
In a pool, a bridge is called what your non-dominant hand does when it’s put on the felt. Most players put their thumb up towards their index finger to form a V-shaped cradle for the cue stick to move forward and backward into. One of the key aspects of perfecting your aim and consistency is forming a correct bridge and mastering it. There is room for improvisation here, as seen with most pool players and their own versions of the pool hand bridge. These alternatives are called rail bridge, elevated bridge, closed bridge, mechanical, and more.
There are a few major tips to follow when it comes to forming a correct bridge. First, make sure that the palm of your hand is actually resting on the table. One of the most common beginner’s mistakes is having their bridge hand’s palm levitate in the air. This can cause your accuracy to be off. Secondly, keep your bridge technique singular. Most people try out different bridges all the time which leads to none of those techniques being perfected. Find one that is comfortable for you and stick with it.
Perfect your pool stroke
Even with everything ironed out to completion, a bad pool stroke can ruin your shot. Even worse, not paying enough attention to your stroke is one of the major reasons for shot inconsistencies and is also one of the most overlooked aspects of the games by beginners. In fact, this is one of the core skills that you need to practice consistently in order to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
In the game of pool, the motion of hitting the cue ball with the cue stick is called a “swing” or “pendulum stroke”. The reason for that is because the motion of the stick resembles the movement of a pendulum that swings from back to front. The hinge for that pendulum swing is your dominant hand’s elbow (for right-handed people it is the right elbow) and the arm of the pendulum is the loose forearm that hangs down and connects the elbow and the cue stick.
As I already mentioned, your grip shouldn’t be too tight. Practice a few shots by being loose and gentle with your swing shots. Imagine that you’re accelerating the stick through the cue ball instead of ending the motion at it (called jabbing). The most important tip here is to only move your forearm. Avoid moving your shoulder, chest, or any other part of your body while you are performing the pendulum stroke.
Don’t be afraid to use the chalk
We all love applying chalk to the cue stick. This is what all kids and beginners do as well. As they play more, however, they stop doing it as often. The question here is – Why? Chalking your cue stick is one of the most important aspects of the game. Ideally, it has to be done before each and every shot you make. That way, you ensure that there will be enough traction at the cue stick’s tip. This will prevent the tip from slipping and not hitting the cue ball as it should. This only takes a few seconds and makes a night and day difference in your shot consistency and accuracy.
Some of the best brands out there are Predator chalk, Diamond Chalk, and Master chalk. However, even a budget piece of chalk will be good enough for most beginners.
Rushing is one of the worst habits that you can develop as a beginner pool player. It is a huge reason why so many people consistently miss their shots. While the blame often falls on bad aiming technique, poor posture, or not enough experience, the reality of the situation is that, in most cases, rushing your shot is the sole reason for missing. Pool isn’t a dynamic nor fast-paced game, so take your time. Calculate your shots, figure out the trajectories of the cue ball and object ball, and only then make your shot.
One reason people rush is being overly confident. While too little confidence can be damaging to your play, too much of it can also bring you down. People that rush their shots are often overly confident which ultimately ends up costing them the game.
After you’ve made your shot, staying down for a few seconds is also important. In other words, don’t rush both before and after the shot is made. This will give you a good analyzing viewpoint of your shot. Thanks to staying low, you will be able to potentially see your mistakes and/or decide on what your next move will be.
Just like not rushing, keeping calm is what will make sure that all of your preparation and training will shine through your shots. Most professional players will train their breaths and concentration through meditation and staying for minutes in shot-posture. This will train them to never rush and to remain calm during games where there is an actual stake. An increase in your heart rate can cause your hands to become less stable. This will undoubtedly translate into worse accuracy and can spiral you out of a victory.
Don’t make risky shots
If you’ve watched enough pool on the TV, chances are that you’ve seen some of the greats making a few risky shots. While we can all agree that they happen, we can also agree that they are a rarity in this sport. The reason for that is because pool isn’t meant to be stylish or flashy. The goal is to get all your balls in the pockets and then go after the black ball. Risky shots might make the audience applause you but will likely lose you a turn or even the game. Granted, in some situations, they are unavoidable and even necessary but, as I already said, that is rare.
In most cases, you will have two or three (or even more) shot opportunities. Start with the easiest one to clear that ball out. As a beginner, your focus should be on accuracy, consistency, and practice. It shouldn’t be on risky plays. These will become more and more accessible and doable as you progress but, at first, look for the shots that will have a higher chance for success.
Practice on a constant basis
Practice makes perfect. This cannot be any more true for the sport of pool. Just like other sports require hours of training per day, pool does so too. In fact, most professional players train for far longer periods each day than other athletes. The key to honing your skills and having everything click in its place on game day is being consistent with your training. Moreover, you need to be consistent with your techniques as well. This will cement them both in your mind and in your muscle memory.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you get better at playing pool?
There are a couple of things you could do in order to improve your pool game. First and foremost, you need to learn how to hold a pool cue and practice your grip as often as possible. Secondly, try to keep your swinging motion the same as a pendulum. In addition to all that, work on your bridges, stance, body alignment, aiming line, pre-shot and pre-stroke routines!
Where should you look when aiming in pool?
You should keep your vision centered when aiming. This is called the vision center and is something that will eventually become your second nature. If your head is slightly tilted to the right or left of the vision center, you risk miscalculating the shot’s angle. Typically, players use their dominant eye to center their vision with the ball line.
How long does it take to get good in pool?
Typically, players progress fast in the beginning due to the flat learning curve of the sport. However, as time goes by, professional players will find that it gets harder and harder to get better the more they progress up the ladder. This is because the curve gets exponentially higher in terms of difficulty as the years go by. To be good at pool, you typically need around 1-3 years of practice. To compete at the pro level, you will need twice as that.
What is a “bank shot” in pool?
Bank shots are whenever you hit your target ball with your cue ball. Then, this ball hits a rail and then goes into any pocket of the table. Kick shots, on the other hand, are when your cue ball bounces off the rail first and then hits the targeted ball.
There are countless pool tips for beginners you can learn in your first stages of playing pool. However, some of the most important ones revolve around your fundamentals. As a beginner, you should focus on your stance, your cue grip, the way your hand bridges, and a few other important factors that will become your second nature once you start playing more frequently. These skills will serve as the base for your future techniques and will shape you as a great player if you practice often enough!