Bitten by the Bug – Ask Allison

Bitten by the Bug

Hi everyone! If you have any questions, please send them to me through my website, (, and I will do my best to answer them in my column.

I saw you play on TV, and you won the match with an incredible kick shot. Do you use geometry?
When I came to America in 1995, I didn’t realize that players used systems for banking or kicking. The reason is that snooker tables have no diamonds or points of reference to calculate angles. Everything is done by feel. Of course, there is so much information on video, DVD’s and in books nowadays that you can find out about anything you want to. I have never learned the diamond systems; I have reference points for one rail and two rails. There are numerous ways to calculate kicks and banks using mirror systems or points away from the table even. It does get very complicated if you let it. When we play on a 30-second shot clock I wouldn’t have time to think in numbers, which is why I don’t try to use this method.

Another thing to consider are the conditions of the table and atmosphere. When we play in WPBA events, we play on a Brunswick Gold Crown with a new cloth for four days. Just when you start playing well and get adjusted the conditions are changed. For television the table is changed to another Brunswick table with new cloth, and the lighting is completely different. It is much brighter and hotter. This changes the way the table plays. My point is that it is a good idea to have reference points on the table in order to get a feel and be able to adjust for the way that particular table plays. Some tables play much shorter than others even going one rail across table. Figure out how much shorter it plays. If it is half of a diamond across table, aim at onequarter off the first rail.

Try to also keep your speed the same when learning. As you get better and understand the game more you will notice how speed really affects the rails and consequently the shots. When you hit the cue ball hard into a rail, it rebounds at a shorter angle. Much depends on the angle you hit into the rail at. If it is almost straight on, the angles don’t change much. Practice and learn just by using a cue ball to begin with and notice how the ball comes off the rail at different speeds, taking note of where it crosses on the second or third rail. Many top players adjust with feel. Systems are good references, but as I have mentioned, conditions vary, and that is when your own touch comes in to play.

I am a 22-year-old pool enthusiast. Until about 6 months ago, I was never interested in pool. I really don’t know why all of a sudden I love it so much now. Whenever I see billiards on ESPN, I drop everything I am doing to watch. The problem, though, is I never get a chance to play. I have played maybe 5 or 6 times. I think for my limited ability, I did well. With practice, I think I could be a decent player. My question is: Where do I begin? I have no idea what I need to do. I am going to buy a table in about 6 months. I do not know how to buy a cue, nor do I know how to buy anything relating to pool. Can you please assist me in any way possible?

I guess you have bitten by the bug! I am very happy to hear that you have fallen in love with the game. The first thing to do is to go and buy yourself a cue. Go to a few different stores and play with different brands of cue to see how they feel. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the retailer. I suggest an 18- or 19-ounce cue with the weight going slightly forward when you are in a shooting position. If it is too heavy in the butt, the stick will lift up out of your bridge hand, and if it is too heavy in the front, this inhibits control of the cue ball. Find a cue stick that is reasonable, consistent, and warp resistant so that atmospheric conditions won’t affect it. The next step is to get someone to teach you good fundamentals so that you create good habits straight away. Really work hard on good fundamentals and learn how to play the basic shots: follow, stop, and draw. Don’t run before you can walk. Go slow and learn the right way because it is worth it in the long run. Most people spend much of their lives unlearning bad habits, which is very tough to do. As far astables go, shop around and try to learn why each table is different and what they have to offer.

Really research it and find what you want. When you feel good enough, join a league. They are all over the country, and anyone of any standard can play. This will expose you to many different styles of play and will help you improve and have fun.

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