Pool Tutorial
Learn how to play pool and billiards

supporting the book: The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards and the instructional video series:
Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS), Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP),
and the Billiard University (BU)

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billiards.colostate.edu offers many resources (videos, articles, references, and links) for learning and teaching how to play and excel at pool and billiards. Here's a video tour of the website:

  

For teaching and learning, these specific resources can be very helpful:

If you ever come across a term of phrase you don't know, you can usually find it in the online glossary of pool and billiards terms and phrases.


Introduction to the game

Here is some basic terminology dealing with a cue and a pool table:

pool table terminology

Here's information on standard table and room dimensions for various standard size tables.

and here is some terminology related to a pool shot:

aiming terminology

Here's a good introduction to the game from Mike Page's "Learn How to Play Pool in Ten Minutes" video:

 

Here's a concise rules summary for 8-ball and 9-ball (based on the WPA World Standardized Rules). Information on rules for different leagues, along with a video-based rules quiz, can be found here: pool rules resources.


Fundamentals

Here are some useful documents and resources for helping you diagnose problems with and improve your fundamentals (grip, bridge, stance, and stroke) and pre-shot routine:

Here's a video describing recommended "best practices" for the stance:

Here are two videos describing recommended grip and bridge technique:

     

Here is a video demonstration of the generally-recommended pendulum stroke:

 

A good drill for learning to improve your stroke is called MOFUDAT: MOst Famous and Useful Drill of All Time. Here's a video demonstration:


How to Aim

Here is some terminology related to aiming a pool shot:

ghost-ball aiming and terminology

The biggest challenge of pool is visualizing the necessary shot line that sends the cue ball (CB) to the ghost-ball (GB) position to contact the object ball (OB) at the point where the line of centers through the GB and OB heads to the target direction (e.g., to a pocket). Here's a video demonstration showing a relatively easy way to visualize the line of aim at the pool table:

And here are some other resources that can help you learn and practice the ghost-ball aiming method:

More information about various aiming methods can be found here: Aiming Systems.

Disc I (Basic Shot Making and Position) of The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) also covers aiming topics.

A key part of aiming is body and head alignment. If your vision is not centered properly, you won't perceive the line of aim of the shot correctly:

 

A good pre-shot routing can also help your aiming accuracy and consistency:

 


Adjusting Aim for Throw

It is important to understand how friction between the CB and OB can change the direction of the OB. This effect is called throw. Throw is not very large with fast speed shots, and it is less when the CB has topspin or bottom-spin, but the effect can be significant with slower-speed shots, especially with stun. When throw is due to cut angle alone, the effect is called cut-induced throw (CIT):

cut-induced throw (CIT)

And when it is due to sidespin, it is called spin-induced throw (SIT):

spin-induced throw (SIT)

Many important throw effects are demonstrated in the following video:

Examples of how throw can be used to your advantage can be found here: throw shot examples

And a summary of how throw varies for different types of shots can be found here: squirt, swerve, and throw effects

 


Cue Ball Position Control

Once you know how to aim and execute basic shots, the next step is learning and controlling where the CB will go for the next shot. The most important goal in pool is to pocket the OB, but the 2nd most important goal is to leave the CB in a good spot to allow you to pocket the next and remaining OBs. It is also important to predict CB motion when needing to detect and avoid a scratch, plan position routes, avoid "traffic" (obstacle balls), and to aim carom (kiss) shots and break-out (cluster separation) shots.

Below is an illustration of reference directions useful for predicting the path of the CB. For more information, examples, and video demonstration links, see: Fundamentals - Part V: CB position control (Billiards Digest, January, 2009).

cue ball reference directions

Here's a good video demonstration of the reference directions predicted by the 90-degree rule (for a stun shot), the 30-degree rule (for a follow shot), and the trisect system (for a draw shot):

 

Shot speed has a significant affect on the path of the CB. For more information and demonstrations see: speed effects.

The CB reference directions are also very useful for aiming carom shots, as demonstrated in this video:

 

and for aiming break-out shots:

 

A big part of controlling the position of the CB is developing a good feel for shot speed. Here's a drill that can help you develop good speed control.

Here's a good drill, from Disc II of the Billiard University (BU) Instructional DVD series, for practicing cue ball control:

More drills and advice can be found here: cue ball control resource page.

Disc I (Basic Shot Making and Position) of The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) also covers CB control in detail.

 


Draw Shot

The draw shot can often be a challenge for beginners. Here is a good drill and technique advice to help:

And here are video demonstrations of draw shot technique advice, physics effects, and game situation examples:

     

Here's a good progressive-practice drill to help you improve your draw shot technique:

 

And here's a video demonstration of how to achieve dramatic draw:

 

Disc I (Basic Shot Making and Position) of The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) also covers draw technique in detail.

 


English (sidespin)

English refers to sidespin imparted to the CB by hitting the CB off center. Here are the different names used to refer to the type of english:

english (sidespin) terminology

The purpose for sidespin is to alter the path the CB takes when it hits the rail cushions:

english (sidespin) basics

English is also given different names based on how it is used:

english (sidespin) types

english (sidespin) types

Here are some good resources and demonstrations to help you understand how sidespin is used:

To use sidespin effectively, you need to be aware of the effects of squirt, swerve, and throw illustrated here:

english (sidespin) effects (squirt, swerve, throw)

 

Information about how to adjust your aim to compensate for all of the effects can be found here:

aim compensation for squirt, swerve, and throw  

Here is a demonstration covering the basics of how to adjust your aim when using sidespin:

Disc II (English and Position Control) of The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) also covers all topics related to using english.

 


Strategy and Safety Play

Disc III of the The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) covers all important principles involving strategy and safety play. Here's an explanation of some of the basics:

 

And here are a few others:

Here's a useful drill for practicing safeties, from Disc III of the Billiard University (BU) Instructional DVD series:

 


Kick and Bank Shots

A kick shot is one where you bounce the CB off one or more rails to reach an OB. A bank shot is one where you bounce an OB off one or more rails to reach a pocket. In simple terms, both are based on the mirror system, which uses the diamonds on the rails of the table as aiming references. Here is some basic terminology and aiming principles related to kick and bank shots:

bank_shot

There are many "diamond systems" that can be used to aim kick and bank shots. Information and demonstrations for many of the most common systems can be found here: bank and kick information and aiming systems. Here is a demonstration of one of the most basic and useful diamond systems:

 

and here's another useful video, from Disc III of the Billiard University (BU) Instructional DVD series:

Disc IV of the The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) covers many banking principles and aiming systems in detail.

To use kick and bank diamond/aiming systems effectively, one must be aware of many kick and bank effects, some of which are demonstrated in the following video:

 

 


Break, Jump, and Masse Shots

Here's a video demonstration of recommended "best practices" for break technique, from Disc III of the Billiard University (BU) Instructional DVD series:

For more information see the break shot technique advice resource page.

Here's a good demonstration of proper jump shot technique:

 

For more jump shot information, advice, and demonstrations, see the jump shot resource page.

Here's a good video demonstration of proper masse shot technique:

 

For more masse shot information, advice, and demonstrations, see the masse shot resource page.

Disc V of the The Video Encyclopedia of Pool Shots (VEPS) covers jump, masse, and other advanced shots in detail.