If you’re at least half-serious about learning to play pool, the very first thing you’ll want to do is either read some pool table reviews and purchase a pool table or go out and find a bar or pool hall with a pool table or two so you can practice these pool tips for beginners.
image credit – flickr
Laying the Groundwork
Now, here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice that we’ll repeat later on, but it’s just so damn important that it warrants being mentioned twice – focus on the bridge. This can’t be stressed enough, as it’s a very common mistake and one that creates bad habits that won’t leave you in a hurry.
Once you’ve drilled how to bridge correctly, you can start learning the rest of the pool basics – proper stance and grip, stroke and follow-through, the works. You should lay foundations, as it were, and improve continually. Go slow, spend some time just watching and learning. If you haven’t done it beforehand, study the rules – you can either do it the tedious way and read the actual rule books, or watch other folks play, ask questions, you know the drill.
Watch & Learn
Watch the more advanced players, paying special attention to the little things such as how far apart their legs are, the way they’re holding their bridge, how they’re preparing for the shot. Sure enough, the execution is far more interesting than preparation, but it accounts for only one half of the whole shot. Don’t go straight for the flashy stuff, either. Trick shots look cool and all, but in no way will this help you learn the basics; walk first, run later.
Now, the very first physical thing you’ll want to do is sort out the stance – keep your feet spread apart as comfortable as you like, keeping them faced towards the target ball at a slight angle. Your body ought to be somewhat off to the side, so that your head comes naturally right on top of the cue when you bend over. This gives you the best possible view of your target. Once you’re nice and comfy, lower the head and aim down the cue as you would a rifle. You should hold the cue at a balance point – you’ll know you got it right if you’re stroking arm from the elbow down is hanging relaxed.
About the bridge – it’s important to have a solid bridge in order to glide the tip of the cue stick consistently. There are, basically, two types of bridges for your hand – closed bridge, where your index finger is wrapped around the cue and is resting on your thumb, and open bridge, where your thumb is squeezed against your hand and upwards, creating a V for the cue to glide on.
There are 5 variations that are used to put different spins on the cue ball, or English, as you’ve probably heard it called. Speaking of which, there are four spins you’ll need to learn sooner or later – backspin to get the cue ball back to you when it hits the target ball, top spin to follow the ball that is hit, left spin and right spin. A good rule of thumb when applying English is never to hit the cue ball more than one cue-tip’s width from the center of the ball
On that note, you’ve probably seen people in movies and real life chalk their cue-tips before every shot, and if you’ve ever played pool before, you’ve certainly done it yourself without knowing why. But, hey, everyone’s doing it, why should I be any different, right? As you may have suspected, this is to add traction and keep the cue from sliding off the cue ball too fast.
Now, most trainers (as in, actual people who give classes on playing pool) recommend using training balls for beginners to learn the game, and with good reason. For those of you not in the know, training balls are for pool pretty much what training wheels are for bikes. Once you feel you’re ready, you can move to the big boy stuff. Speaking of balls, another thing beginners often do wrong (next to the bridge) is looking at the object ball when aiming – big mistake. Keep the cue ball in sight – repeat this like a mantra until able to do it without a conscious thought.
Practice Makes Perfect
On a similar note, you should make conscious efforts to take things slowly and make your shots smooth and controlled. You’re playing with your elbows and hands only, the rest of the body is there to support and nothing else – don’t move anything but your stroking .
Below is a great video that goes through a lot of basics to help your game when you’re new to pool.
There’s nothing about your game you can read online that hitting a couple of thousand balls couldn’t do better.
Finally, make sure to always smile. Not only will this help relieve the tension, but it will give an illusion of confidence and make your opponent wonder what you’re thinking. Eventually, you’ll build up the confidence and the smiles will become real.