Top 11 Pool Tournament Tips Every Player Needs to Know

outdoor billiards table

Preparing for a Pool Tournament is critical as it usually includes an admission fee and long hours (or even multiple days). You’ll want to make sure your skill, body, and mind is ready to endure the long stretch.

Follow these 11 helpful tips to prepare for a pool tournament to ensure that you are giving yourself every opportunity to improve the chances of winning.

Attack Your Weaknesses

Most pool players know their strengths and their weaknesses, but don’t work on their weaknesses. Instead, they just play a couple of matches with their buddies and call it a day.

It is key to realize what you lack skill-wise and focus on improving it. If you are not the best at banking or kicking, spend 1-2 hours a day practicing banking drills.

If you’re just starting out in pool, check out our post 11 Billiard Pool Tips Every Beginner Needs to Learn.

Start Practicing Well Before The Tournament

If you practice the day before a tournament and think that suffices, you are either really lucky or a high skill level veteran player.

Don’t be that guy that shows up 30 minutes before the tournament to practice and expects them to perform in tip-top shape. I’m not saying that isn’t possible, but the players who spend the last 2-3 weeks minimum focusing on their weaknesses will probably perform better.

Check Out The Tournament Location

Often I see teams who compete to try to reach APA’s National Tournament in Las Vegas. It’s a great thing to be a part of, but often, teams come unprepared. How many teams have traveled far but never played on the pool tables of that bar?

I’ve spoken to many teams where they were completely taken aback by just how fast those tables roll. It takes them by surprise and costs them the game.

If they had taken the time to visit the pool hall or bar weeks (or even hours, arriving there earlier) beforehand, this could have been prevented.

Give Yourself a Break

I have a good friend named Zach, who has improved tremendously in the past few months. He had an APA Singles Tournament in Vegas coming up, and he was ecstatic.

He was a Skill Level 4 in APA 8-Ball when he started training, and now he is a Skill Level 6!

He would train and practice 5-6 days a week for at least 3 hours each day. Everyone noticed his jump in skill and commended him for it.

But he did something really smart. He took a break before the tournament. He knew he was getting burnt out and gave his body (and mind) a break.

Eat Healthy and Sleep Early

This one is an obvious tip that most people should do before a big event but is often ignored.

Your body needs the rest before a long day. I understand we have folks who can be totally fine on 4-6 hours of sleep a day, but at the very least, eat healthily. This will allow your mind and body to perform at its best.

Don’t Try Anything New

During a tournament is not the best time to try out a new shot that you haven’t mastered or holding your pool cue differently because you saw someone having success with it. Chances are, it won’t work out in your favor.

Successfully executing a pool shot relies on muscle memory. Those hours of practice you put in before you arrive at the pool hall have trained your body and mind to hit the cue ball in just the right way so that you can make the shot. Messing with that magic isn’t going to win you games.

Have a Positive and Confident Mindset

The best of the best will tell you that if you enter the pool hall thinking you’re going to fail, then you probably will. There is plenty of research to back this up.

Positive thinking and confidence won’t turn you into a pool superstar, but showing up at a tournament without confidence will definitely impact how you play and not in a good way.

Polish Up Your Pre-shot Routine

Consistency is everything in pool. Just because you can get a shot off once doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do it in tournament conditions or ever again for that matter.

Pre-shot routines, or a set of things you do every time your about to take a shot, will help you make your shots in the same way consistently, which means that you’ll be able to hit the ball the same way over and over again with the same result.

Focus on 1 Thing at a Time (don’t try to fix several things)

What is true of life is true of pool. If you try to focus on fixing too many things are once, you’ll end up not fixing anything and potentially developing bad habits.

When you’re just starting out, you might focus only on form or getting the right grip on the pool cue, but as you move along to more advanced techniques, your focus will need to become more narrow. Experienced pool players might look specifically at how to add enough sidespin to pull off a certain shot in a specific situation.

Either way, pick one thing and master it before moving on.

Practice the Tournament Format

When playing competitively, it is essential that you match tournament conditions when you practice as much as is realistic.

Of course, you won’t be able to mimic everything down to the last detail, but you should play by the same rules, and if you’re a part of a team, setting up a “mock” tournament can get everyone in the right mindset for the big day.

Know the Rules

The rules of pool are notoriously complex and subtle, and not only that, they change depending on the organization you are playing with. House rules, those that you’ll find in bars or casual pool halls, are usually vastly different from what you’ll find at a tournament.

So, brush up on the rules and make sure you practice following them, or you’ll be kicking yourself at the tournament. Check out our post 11 Pool Table Etiquettes You Need to Know for the unwritten rules of pool.

Find a Coach or Mentor

If you aren’t already under the wing of an experienced pool player, then you should be on the look out for someone that can coach you.

Being a top pool player takes years of experience and practice. Learning how to make the right shot and when to use a certain shot requires first hand experience, and that it was a mentor or coach would have. They could help guide you, and maybe save you a couple years of tinkering around by showing you what they know.

Come up with a Mantra or Saying

Using a mantra or a saying can help you stay focused on your mental game. Some players use a short mantra as part of their pre-shot routine, but others save it for specific moments like when they’re struggling or maybe even when their winning.

A mantra should be short and sweet and help you keep your head in the game.


Benny is the owner of Supreme Billiards and has been shooting pool and teaching people how to shoot pool for a few years now. He enjoys showing new players techniques and drills to improve their pool game.

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