No one picks up a pool cue and starts shooting like a pro from the start. Although pool is a great game to play recreationally in your free time with friends or at the office, it’s also a legitimate sport that requires strategy and skill. While you can hone these skills during games, the best way to reach pro levels of play is through practice.
If you’re passionate about becoming a pro pool player, but you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. This article will show you five essential practicing tips that will help improve your pool playing substantially. With enough time and dedication, you’ll reach mastery levels in no time.
Put in the Hours and Have a Purpose
There are few things in life you can perform like a pro without hundreds of practice hours under your belt. Pool is no exception. You won’t find a single pro pool player worth their title who hasn’t spent day after day bent over the table practicing, and if you want to reach their level, you’ll have to join them in this routine.
The first step to practicing like a pro in pool is to put in substantial hours of daily, purposeful practice. Beginners and intermediates tend to practice for eight to twelve hours a day in order to perfect fundamentals and overcome poor starter habits. Once you exceed this level, advanced or pro players will usually practice for around three to six hours a day.
Putting in hefty hours of practice is the only way you are going to improve your game enough to consider touching the pros. Playing a game or two here and there won’t cut it. However, what really makes or breaks your practice sessions is what you do with them.
Pool practice has to be meaningful if it’s going to impact your gameplay. So, every time you go into practice, you need to have a clear goal(s) in mind. Is there a particular shot you always miss? Does your form need work? Do you want to work on angles? Once you have a goal, a practice that over and over until you’ve perfected it and can move on.
This approach will ensure you master skills individually and become a well-rounded player, rather than being mediocre at several aspects of pool playing.
Perfect Your Form
Any pro pool player will tell you that before they started winning championships and executing trick shots that would blow your mind, they all started at the same: the fundamentals. In order to have a deadly accurate shot, it needs to come from a solid base, meaning your form.
When practicing like a pro, the first thing any pool player needs to do is perfect their form. This will include their stance, hand positioning, grip, and bridge of choice. If your form is off, nearly every shot you make is going to go askew.
When holding a pool cue, your dominant hand should always be on the butt of the stick with your palm facing down. Where you grip depends on what feels most comfortable and provides the most equilibrium of stick weight for your shot. Your non-dominant hand should be creating the bridge of your choice around the shaft (most pros choose an open bridge, but a closed bridge is always an option).
In terms of your stance, the foot that is on the same side as your dominant hand needs to be placed underneath the butt of your stick, and your opposing foot must be placed 35-45 degrees from this foot. Again, this is to ensure you aren’t standing square to the table.
You’ll then hold the stick parallel to the table, twist your hips slightly so the stick can pull straight back, and line up your head to your shot with your dominant eye over the stick. Practice these fundamentals over and over until it’s natural, and lining up for a shot comes down to muscle memory.
Practice Different Shots
Once you have the basics down as far as form and a consistent and purposeful practicing routine, you can start to focus on more skill-based elements, such as your shot. Pool isn’t just shooting the cue ball at its target. There are multiple types of shots you should practice if you really want to heighten your game, as different shots will be necessary for you to optimize in different circumstances.
Professional pool players will utilize various types of pool shots in their games so they can perfectly execute any shot, regardless of the cue and target ball’s placement. To reach their level, players should practice:
- Cut shots
- Rail shots
- Bank shots
- Combination shots
- Carom shots
If your goal is to excel in 8 Ball Pool, you’ll need to work on your cut, rail, and bank shots, as they will be necessary for nearly every game.
Combination and carom shots aren’t as useful as the previous three, but they have their place every now and then, more often in 9 Ball Pool than 8 Ball Pool. That being said, there’s no harm in practicing these shots after you have a decent handle on the others.
Utilize the Ghost Ball Method
Another helpful way to practice like a pool pro is to incorporate various methods and drills into your daily routines that help you better visualize what you need to do to execute a shot successfully. The ghost method helps players do just that.
The ghost ball method is a common way for pool players to practice their shots and aim by using an additional ball to help them determine where their cue ball should be to make a shot.
To do this, place a random ball directly behind your target ball and align it with the pocket of choice. This will help you find the contact point between the two balls and help you visualize where to aim your shot.
The goal is to shoot your cue ball directly where that extra ball is located (ideally the center of the ghost ball). A common mistake beginners and intermediates make focusing on hitting the contact point instead, resulting in an inaccurate shot.
Once you are confident in where you need to aim, remove the extra ball, and shoot the target ball. If you miss, try to recreate the shot until you make it.
Learn to Strategize Your Shot
Pool, especially the classic 8 Ball Pool, is a game of strategy. Ideally, you would win the entire game in one turn by simply sinking every ball after another. However, if you want to reach the pro level necessary to accomplish this, you’re going to have to start learning how to strategize your shot.
Strategizing your shot simply means thinking beyond the immediate shot you’re about to take. It is vital to sink balls during the pool if you want to win, but the best way to do this quickly and efficiently is to make sure the shot you’re about to take will also set you up for the next shot.
To do this, you’ll want to visualize the upcoming shot and consider both how you are going to sink this ball and where you want your cue ball to land after the shot has been taken so you can sink the next ball. Angle, aim, power, tangent lines, and ball placement all come into play with this prediction.