How To Shoot Pool - Competition Tips From Top Coaching

Learn Beside Me As I Coach Pool Standouts

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5 Tips In This Article On How To Shoot Pool - Better!. Billiards photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com

Get Better In Pool Competition

Learn from my coaching of regional and national champs how to shoot pool better in competition and friendly play.

Coaching regional winners to compete in a national tournament this week required specific advice. Much of it would be a little intense for most players mentally and physically, but I've distilled down some of the best tips from last night's 3½ hour session for you to read today.

Some of today's tips I cannot recall seeing anywhere else before in print or online in the form in which I state them, and we About.com Guides love bringing you thousands, even hundreds of thousands of insights, to our many millions of readers. Enjoy!

How To Shoot Pool Competitively, Better

Step 1 - How To Shoot Pool In Competition: Give yourself permission to hit medium speed in those shots that require it.

What do I mean by permission to stroke at a medium speed? I mean an average, run of the mill stroke that even a beginner can attempt. Medium for you may be a little stronger or weaker than my medium, although if you are following my instructional paths to a classic pool stroke, especially in taking a gentle hold on the cue and looking for smooth, unimpeded motion, not squeezed leverage, you are pretty close to my medium speed and force.

As someone with a lot of pool competition under his belt, with many games played for trophies and amateur glory, and for cash and against all sorts of pros, road players and hustlers, I'm going to tell you a sure sign of an amateur, even a highly skilled amateur, who loses big matches often when a medium speed stroke is required.

When the pressure is high the chumps (and I've been a chump many times also, I admit it) either tighten and squeeze their arms and hands, stroking the cue ball way too hard, or go for the delicate touch and strike the cue ball far too softly to get position for the next shot.

It takes courage, and perhaps just as important, careful thought and intention of purpose before you bend to your stance to play a stroke to choose a medium hit in the center of the cue ball, often called a "natural play" based on accepting the natural tangent positioning of the shot at hand.

Many, many times a medium-force shot, allowing the cue ball to roll a medium distance following impact, is just the ticket to winning position and continuing the run.

How To Shoot Pool Wisely

The only sound solution to pounding the ball too hard or its opposite, babying it and leaving yourself short of your next targeted cue ball position, is to commit to taking an average, "not special" medium stroke to get the job done. Did you know that a medium stroke taken near the center of the cue ball works for most strokes needed in most pool games including 8-Ball, 9-Ball, Straight Pool, One Pocket, Rotation, etc.?

On the next page of this article, may I have your permission to blow your mind? I'm going to explain the aptly rhymed "three speeds you need" for winning. Since you already have a baseline understanding of medium speed and how to shoot pool, I bet you can guess the other two speeds--but at which two other speeds should you never hit the cue ball?

Besides the next page, I also recommend:

Get Strong, Fast

Step 2 - How To Shoot Better In Billiards Competition: Choose from among three speeds only, a soft stroke, a medium or a hard stroke before you bend to the shot.

Due to the physical action of the balls and the common nature of many of the shots' (the cut angles being close to the same over and again (though, yes, ball positions differ somewhat from stroke to stroke) the three speeds of 1) soft, 2) medium and 3) hard, work quite well for most shots.

For example, many times when you need to halt the cue ball following impact, a medium stroke will suffice. When the cue is close to another ball, a gentle or soft stroke taken near the middle of the cue ball works just as fine...

And on many long distance, angled shots on an object ball, medium or average speed for you will be the key. Please review the previous page of this article on why and when to shoot medium speed if you don't already know this pool principle before reading on.

I think you will realize you cannot be successful using 3 speeds only for other stick-and-ball sports such as golf, baseball, tennis and more. But those lovely little walls on the back of the billiard pockets help sink balls struck harder than needed to drive them to the hole.

Plus, the four cushions surrounding the pool table's cloth also help reject hard struck cue balls back toward the table's middle. Imagine a low wall behind a golf hole, attached to the putting cup, and four walls surrounding the green and retaining balls struck too hard on the putting green, and you'll get my meaning for pool.

2 Speeds You Should Not Employ In Billiards Competition Do not play "super soft", "super hard" (or any other stroke you "wouldn't normally do" or comfortably do) on any of the first balls of the game. If you can't pull off cue ball speed with ease, do not attempt it. Stick to medium (for you), soft (your version of soft) and a hard stroke only (a hard stroke needed only rarely during any billiards game).

If I can get you to ignore super soft and super hard strokes, and narrow your focus to choosing from among three speeds at the table only, you'd be in great shape (cue ball shape position pun intended) for pool.

Why did I say to avoid abnormal strokes on the "first balls of the game?" The answer may surprise you. Can you guess what I'm going to share before you click/turn to the next page of this article? Think about it for a minute before moving on to better billiards competition than you've dreamed of before.

Go For It, Pool Shooter!

Step 3 - How To Shoot Pool In Competition: Go for it on the last ball with your full permission

As I've written elsewhere in this article, choose 3 speeds but ignore 2 other speeds of pool shots but do give yourself permission to sink a low-percentage 8-ball, 9-ball or other game winner when it must be sunk. A game ball must be sunk when it is difficult but makeable and when no clear defensive option exists.

In other words, a do or die situation to close the game.

The fact is you might not need a bizarre force of stroke on the winning ball or the key ball that sets the winner up for play. That "low percentage" 8- or 9-ball will often sink with a medium speed stroke. It bears repeating, shoot pool medium and achieve better than medium results.

Is that 8- or 9-ball available but far away and needing to travel from the middle of the table to a side or corner pocket. Get it rolling smoothly with a medium-speed stroke. Even the rank beginner knows they ought to be able to control the cue ball enough to avoid scratching with medium speed when they shoot pool.

Of course, the goal of the medium speed shot is to let the cue ball "shoot its own pool" as it rolls on a bit. This nice balance of taking (what should be) your typical speed stroke on a tough game winner, and "letting cue ball go where it will" with ease is a great combination.

The medium speed stroke decreases the pressure on your game as it increases your confidence of stroke. If I had a nickel for everyone who babied the game winner in fear, missing horribly as the cue ball rolled off line instead of shooting pool with confidence...

Let's consider that ugly mug of a player across the table from you, next.

The "Shot Pool" Gets Large

Step 4 - How To Increase The Shot Pool In Competition: Don't assume the player opposite you at the table is oh-so wonderful

More often than not, they get a few lucky rolls the first few games and then they sour their game like lemons on vinegar. Your plan should be the reverse, to appear more intimidating and stronger by attempting slightly longer runs as the match progresses and providing lots of defense early on.

YES, there might be a few male or female players in an open tournament who can compete on a pro level. So what? You have what it takes to defeat them mentally on defense and offense.

Just weeks ago, I watched one of the top pros in America, who is also a sought-after coach for other pros, go down in flames at a local pro open tournament I reported on from the front lines.

Lastly for today's article, I'll show you the shortest route (literally) to winning your next competitive game of pool. This next tip will build upon your shot pool arsenal tremendously.

Run Like A Fiend

Step 5 - How To Run Balls More And More During Competition: Consider the shortest routes for the cue ball on offense and especially on defense

Most times there is no lock safe available. Yet rolling the cue ball 6 inches to 2 feet can really mess up his or her opposing run of balls if not his or her whole day!

If I've seen it one time, I've seen my students and my competitors do it several thousand times, over and over until I'm tempted to shout, "why send the cue and other balls three cushions or more in distance and screw up, when you can roll them 6 to 12 inches and leave the next person a difficult shot instead?" Man, just run balls carefully and you can win!

What to do when the cue ball is close to the next object ball in the game, but set at a bad angle to pocket anything? Roll the cue ball atop the other ball, making it even worse, and let them shoot it next. Most of the time, they are stupid enough to accept the challenge!

And if they return the favor instead? Return it back to them a second time, and a third, until they budge and yield you clean position to finish the game.

You probably don't play a lot of Straight Pool, One Pocket or Rotation, which is a shame as these are fine and fun games. But if you shoot terrific pool, you can win those games with pure offense. To go eight-and-out in Rotation or One Pocket or run 40 points in Straight Pool, you must own strong pool skills. 8-Ball and 9-Ball, however, are radically different games and to tell you the unvarnished truth...

The Truth About 8-Ball And 9-Ball

Most games of 8-Ball and 9-Ball are lost by bad play, not won by good play. Even at advanced levels, these games are usually lost with an offensive or defensive error yielding good position to the opponent than won by outright skill.

Consider the statistics.

A world class 8-Ball player breaks and runs perhaps 2 racks out of 9 in competition by straight offensive play. Most players wish to believe in error that they play better offense, running more often, than they do.

Learn to return the favor and stroke soft defensive (or at least semi-defensive) shots that leave them junk and you will run balls more and win many more games of 8- and 9-Ball tomorrow than you do today.