Many people want to know how to play pool (or billiards), and it’s really no mystery why. It’s a high-stakes game that requires a lot of skill and patience.
Not only that, but it can also be a great bonding exercise. Be it in movies, in bars, or at family gatherings, we’ve all witnessed what happens when a few close friends or relatives gather around a pool table to play.
Between the rounds, people end up talking and connecting with one another. But what about those other cases, the ones where pride is on the line and it is very much about winning?
How do you play pool to win? What can you do to improve your game?
Read on and we’ll give you some advice.
1. Shoot Like a Sniper
A common mistake in pool is that people don’t even know the shooting stance. Most experienced players recommend leaning over the table with your eye just above and looking parallel to the stick like a sniper looking through a scope.
This gives the player a better view of the shot, which allows them to better estimate what it will take to sink a ball. Stay leaned over until the ball has stopped or been pocketed and the shot is officially over. Not only does this help you to better evaluate the shot, but getting up too quickly could knock the table.
Shooting isn’t just about eye positioning, though. Ideally, your dominant hand should be holding the cue stick and your non-dominant hand should be splayed out on the table with palms very slightly raised upwards.
2. What the Chalk is Actually for
An odd bit of advice here, but you could watch pool being played a million times and still have no idea why people chalk sticks. It’s something that nobody bothers to explain, or so it seems.
The real reason is actually quite simple–chalk provides grip. Between the cue stick being polished and somewhat rounded near the end and a pool ball being polished and round, it’s easy to line up a shot, only to have the shot slip halfway through due to the shapes’ natural tendency to curve around each other.
This can ruin a shot, and the chalk keeps it from happening. Ideally, you should chalk your stick before every shot to absolutely ensure that your shot hits perfectly, assuming, of course, that you’re shooting perfectly.
3. Plan, Plan, Plan
The best pool shark is a planner. They map out the board and make sure they’re taking a good shot.
That’s not to say that you can’t ever improvise. If a good shot happens to come to you, then by all means take it.
That being said, there should be a purpose behind every shot you take. If you have a difficult shot ahead of you, or one you’re not sure you can make, don’t go shooting haphazardly and hope it works.
4. Offense and Defense
On the note of never shooting randomly, there are other ways to play if you don’t have a great offensive shot that turn. You can always shoot to make things more difficult for your opponent.
Keep in mind that defense should not be your primary strategy. You can block opponents all you want, but if you’re not sinking your own shots, you’ll never win.
There is a significant population in this world who, for some reason, believes that hitting the ball as hard as possible is a valid strategy. It’s not.
Granted, if you’re just playing at home, and are more concerned with having fun than improving your game, that’s fine. After all, fun is the key point of playing any game.
When it comes to tournaments, though, this strategy is not going to fly. Putting all your power into the shot is a surefire way to sabotage the shot.
Put only as much power in as necessary. A little bit of practice should give you a good idea of how to estimate this.
Now that we’ve talked about power, let’s talk about precision and control. Like we said above, power isn’t everything, but control is.
A lot of professional pool players tend to use lighter cue sticks because it gives them a better handle on the shot. They never have to worry about a heavy cue stick complicating things.
7. Green Chalk
In addition to chalking the stick after every shot, many players would also advise using green chalk rather than blue. It’s thought to be more durable than blue chalk so it won’t disappear as quickly.
Nothing will screw you up faster than nerves. This is as true for pool as it is for baseball, poker, video games, driving, and pretty much anything else.
Getting too into your head will affect your concentration, so it’s best to keep yourself calm, centered, and in the moment. There are a lot of ways to do this, but some of the best are breathing exercises and meditating.
Unlike medication or other methods, meditation and breathing can be used at any time without consequences. Plus, they’re proven therapy techniques for anxiety, so they work quite well.
Joining a league is a great way to play and practice with other experienced players. Not only will you learn a lot from them, but you’ll also develop more skill as you spend more and more time playing.
Also, since these guys and girls are pool enthusiasts themselves, you will almost always be playing a challenging opponent. This will keep your skills from getting dull.
10. Learn How to Play Pool and More
A little-known fact is that pool is actually one version of a handful of different games involving the same equipment. Each game has a different goal and a different style of play, so getting some practice at each one will help you to master various aspects of your pool game.
Time to Play Pool
Billiards (or Pool as it is casually referred to) may seem like a really complex game, but it’s just like any other. Learn the rules and some of the tricks, get in a little practice and you should be fine. After all, every great pool player was once a beginner.
Related Pool Products (aka Billiards Products)
If you are serious about learning pool, we have written many helpful articles for you.
Improve your Pool Game – How to Hold a Pool Cue or Learn How to Play Cut Throat Pool
Billiards Equipment: Best Pool Cue Brands, Different Kinds of Pool Tables and read up on how much to spend on a pool table (don’t overspend!)
If you want to know more about how to play pool and various other games, especially the challenging indoor kind, please visit our site and read what we’re about. If you have anything specific that you’d like to get in touch with us about, please feel free to contact us.
I’m Lia and I love playing games. I started this site to share things with friends and they encouraged me to post more and now I’m trying to share things with the world – indoor and outdoor sports, and board and bar games. I write about things like Bocce, Croquet, Billiards, Darts and other fun ways to enjoy time with your friends and family!