Pool Basics

How to make the adjustments

I am sure that everyone has asked the question “how do I adjust to this?” Whether it is the humidity in a room that slows down the playing surface, or the perspiration on the bridge hand that causes the cue to stick and stutter during your stroke, there are always issues that arise where you ask yourself how you are going to overcome this obstacle to play better. After all, if you didn’t want to play better, you probably would not be reading this article, right?

So, let’s start at the beginning. Is your stance that you address the shot comfortable and does it allow for a proper focus between the cue ball and the object ball? If the answer is “Yes” to that question, is your bridge solid? If your answer is “Yes” to that, then the question is whether or not your stroke arm is properly aligned, and do you have the proper grip on the cue to allow for a smooth straight delivery to the cue ball? If that answer is “Yes”, then the question is “Are you shooting the correct shot?” If that answer is “Yes”, then the next question is whether you are attempting to play shape on the next ball with proper cue ball tip placement and speed control through an easy path? Once you get to this question, you have already addressed the basic issues that arise for every pool player.

If the answer to ANY of the previous questions was “No”, you must address that issue before proceeding. Every step allows you to build your prowess to then address the next question. So, if you cannot answer the previous questions with a “Yes” answer, then moving on to the next step is an almost surety of failure as the variables start stacking up with each added “No” to make your desired outcome almost impossible. (See attached flowchart)

As you can tell by the proceeding flowchart for my explanation of things that must be correct in order to build a superior game, there are no shortcuts to obtaining a high-level game. The circular path at the bottom of the flowchart shows the need for practice at any level, to get better. Until you can commit to practicing firming up the basics along with continuing to learn new and better ball patterns and shots, you should realize that your game will be proportionate to the amount of quality time you spend trying to improve it. Even as a super seven, in the APA leagues, I find that my game fluctuates depending on the amount of actual time I spend in tough matches and how much time I spent working on building the pool of pattern and shot knowledge recently. Without the basics covered, I could not compete at a higher level (for example: using a loose bridge, a chicken stroke, hitting everything hard)

Now, that I have covered the bare basics of satisfactory practices of a good player, lets move on to some of the issues that are faced on a regular basis that can also affect your quality of play.

  1. Humidity/Temperature of room

  2. Equipment readiness

  3. Is your cue tip shaped and scuffed correctly?

  4. What speed of cloth is on the table you are about to play on?

  5. Do you have a billiard glove/powder/leathery hands for a smooth channel to shoot through?

  6. Are the balls clean or dirty (possible curving of object ball if they are dirty)?

  7. Is the table level?

  8. State of mind/Amount of practice

Now, for those of you that could list another hundred items for the above list, just like with every other “How To”, we must limit it to a few basics to achieve a modicum of fluency. That way, players will not get bogged down by overthinking everything before making a decision about their game.

Humidity and temperature of a room will affect the shots and shapes of any player. If a room is hot and dry, the balls will roll much faster than if the room was moderately cool. Also, if a room is extra clod, rails can get bouncier as they firm up because of the temperature. If the humidity is high (I always cringe when I see a room’s employees open doors when it is raining outside because they want to enjoy the cool air) the cloth will start absorbing that humidity and the balls will invariably start to slow almost immediately, making for a much more unreliable speed control for shapes than what you have been practicing for.

Cloth differences are the most variable issue that players will have to face as there is no standard for it. Between 860 Simonis, 760 Simonis, Championship cloth, cheap wool cloth, or any other variation of inexpensive cloth used by vendors that are trying to keep costs down, the speed and reactivity of the different clothes is as varied as the personalities of the players playing the game. There is nothing that can be done about this issue currently, except getting to your room early to get adjusted to the speed of the tables you will play on.

Having gone through the various stages of ways to make sure that my cue flows smoothly through my bridge hand, I will not express a preference in the method you choose (whether it be using a glove, powder, or just your bare hands). What I will say is that using a glove will eliminate some of the issues that clod/heat/sweat/humidity can cause. But, this area is truly up to a player’s preferences.

The next question is “are the tables level?” Because if they are not, shooting slow will not be a good option for you during your upcoming play time of that equipment. This is another reason to show up early to either find good equipment to play on or to fix the issue by leveling the table beforehand. (This means more to the players than the room owners, unless they are also someone who has a certain amount of skill) There are easy methods to level all the different types of tables. Consult with your local table mechanics for these methods.

And, second to last on my list is the question of whether the balls are clean and polished versus chipped cracked and filthy? The obvious issues that arise from cracked or chipped balls are the various strange rolls the balls accidentally take when those chips roll across the felt, altering the balls intended path. Plus, a dirty or grimy ball will inadvertently spin off its line when a cue ball that is not clean and polished comes into contact with an object ball that is also dirty. These balls paths can be altered by either a cut across the object ball by a dirty cue ball which will impart a sidespin effect on the object ball, or when two dirty spots meet each other (cue ball contacting object ball) when there is any amount of side spin on the cue ball that causes the opposite spin to be imparted on the object ball. Conclusion: get your room owner to clean their equipment. There are many YouTube videos on how to build an inexpensive ball cleaner out there. Sometimes this will be a point of some contention. That is when you must decide whether to be proactive or not (just like reading this far into this article) Taking this upon yourself will be met with varied opinions. But, just like reading this article, you are ultimately doing it to better your own game (the benefits will become apparent to others over time)

The final issue that is easily controllable is what your state of mind is. Know I know that for some, this is a very contentious statement. But, if you open your mind to the possibility that I may be right, you will be able to accept my next couple of statements in the way they were meant to come across. And, you will become a better pool player because of it. This is just a game. And, everybody misses.

You are not in a war zone. You are not trying to save a family from a burning building. Your family will still have a home and food even if you don’t win your league match. So, understand that your level of practice and care will be well represented when you play this GAME. Lucky or not, all outcome will average out to the level you can maintain by the time you put into getting better. When it is time to perform, it is too late to practice. So, just enjoy the competition.

“Everyone misses. So, miss with confidence.”

No matter what your level of play is, everyone misses. So, you will as well. But, one way to minimize your misses is to practice pocketing balls. Another way is to approach your shot with confidence. Most misses I have are a direct result of being unsure about something I am doing and then fulfilling my lack of confidence in my current choices by missing (as I knew I might). So, if you must miss, try to do it with confidence. Stay down on your shot. Don’t move your head. And, you will start to miss less.

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Sponsored by Jacoby Custom Cues

Author: Jason Robinson

Editor: Shaylyn Troop

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