Keep It Simple!

I’ve learned a lot through watching you on ESPN. I’m a college student, and we have bought an old pool table for our house. I’m a beginner, and I’m still learning about english and the different angles. I don’t understand how you get the cue ball to draw back to you, though. I’ve tried everything. If it doesn’t miscue, it will jump. I don’t have to be great, but I miss some easy shots sometimes. For example, I may miss a straight shot, or I’ll make the shot and the cue will follow in the pocket. Then, I’ll make a difficult cut shot on my next shot. It doesn’t make sense. Thanks for your time.

When anyone picks up a cue stick for the first time, they just want to try and make the balls in the pockets. The funniest thing happened to me at a trade show a couple of years ago. Four children approached the J.S. Sales booth where I am a player representative for Cuetec cues. They each challenged me to a game. I happily obliged, but then I saw the end of their cue sticks—they all had a built-on cue ball on top! I would break the balls, and they would play with their own cue ball on cue and tap the balls in the pockets! They all beat me. With my ego barely intact I met their father, who created their sticks. It helped the kids reach the shots and gain confidence from making the shots and feeling for hitting the balls. They could memorize angles by seeing how much of the ball was covered when sinking the balls. I thought it was a fantastic idea to get someone started, even though I hated losing!

When Walter Lindrum, a billiard player from Australia, was growing up, his father only allowed him one ball to play with for a couple of years before he added any more. Steve Davis, a great snooker player who dominated the sport in the 1980s, used to hit the cue ball up and down the spots on a 12-foot snooker table for hours on end. That is true dedication to perfection—or a little insanity!

I think just hitting a ball in the center is very tough, because the tip isn’t flat and neither is the ball’s surface; therefore, it is very easy to put unwanted spin on the cue ball and object ball. I have mentioned it in past articles and I probably won’t stop—learn what can be achieved with no sidespin first. It is amazing that just by adjusting tip position slightly there are so many ways to play position on the table.

Here is a good drill for you: Set up a straight-in shot across the center of the table. Address the cue tip in the center of the cue ball with a level cue. When you hit the ball, the cue ball should stop when it impacts the object ball, as they are in close range. Now address the top of the cue ball by raising your fingertips of your bridge hand and do the same thing. You will notice that with a level cue the ball just wants to keep rolling after contact.

Now for the tough one: the draw. Really, it is not that tough once you accomplish it for the first time. Lower your bridge hand and address the tip of the cue at the bottom of the cue ball. Again, try not to raise the butt of the cue or the natural action on impact is to lift the cue tip up, creating a jump or miscue. Take a slow backswing and make sure you follow through beyond the cue ball smoothly. The cue ball will come back toward you if the speed was correct. If you hit too softly, the cue ball will have a bit of backspin, but the backspin could wear off too soon, possibly sending the cue ball forward slowly on impact or simply stopping the cue ball in place. Another piece of advice is to make sure you don’t grip the cue tightly when following through. The back hand guides the cue, and the grip pressure doesn’t change. Learning angles and speed control can be improved with drills and lots of good practice. Take it slowly and absorb what you are learning. Have fun!

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