Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs), mostly from the AZB discussion forum
for more information, see Sections 2.03, 7.09, and 7.10 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards
closed bridge variations
Where should the index finger be with a closed bridge?
Many bridge variations are shown in the following video:
You guys did miss presentation of the most popular closed bridge, which is the Filipino-style, index-finger-pressing-down-upon-middle-finger closed bridge, with the thumb pressing against the side of the middle finger (it's basically "along for the ride" -- most of the clamping work is done by the index finger upon the middle finger). You'll notice most of the pros have now adopted this style closed bridge, with the "pure loop" style closed bridge (as taught in Mosconi's little red book) being quite rarely seen in pros these days.
Another closed bridge that is extremely stable is the Willie Hoppe style closed bridge, as shown here:
(This link will jump you into the section where Willie demonstrates his closed loop bridge.)
I don't agree with Willie's stroke style (i.e. from the shoulder as shown in the video), but I've found his closed bridge to be extremely stable and rock steady. The only change I make, is not to let the flesh of my fingers "drag" on the shaft like he shows in the video. A little corn starch applied in there on the contacts points where the cue contacts my fingers fixes that nicely.
Another closed bridge that seems to work well -- albeit it would make you think it's completely against what's traditionally taught -- is the closed bridge that Earl Strickland uses. Basically, it's a traditional closed loop bridge (like taught in Mosconi's little red book), but Earl hooks his index finger on the OUTSIDE of his thumb, not on top of or on the inside of the thumb. Earl basically uses the top surface of his thumb as a "channel" to ride the cue shaft on top of; the middle finger provides the "left wall" and the index finger provides the "right wall" to guide the cue and keep it on track.
I also agree with the synopsis about a variation of the open bridge where the thumb, instead of sticking up in the air at a 45-degree angle (of course clamped against the index finger), the thumb is instead folded over onto the index finger. The cue travels between the knuckle of the index finger and the knuckle of the thumb, keeping the skin taught and preventing the flesh from moving to and fro. This gives added stability. Shane VanBoening uses this variation of the open bridge all the time, as do most Filipino pros.
The overlapping index finger closed bridge [with the index finger wrapping around the cue and firmly pressing on top of the middle finger] is extremely stable, since one of the legs of the tripod (the ring finger) is the foundation that the cue rests on, with the index finger keeping the cue down on top of it. It's basically a self-locking bridge. (This is as opposed to the traditional closed loop bridge, which consists of a "two-piece" construction -- the three-finger tripod / heel of the hand foundation is one piece, and the index finger loop / thumb is another piece; the player has to make sure that both "pieces" are pressed/locked together to keep it stable.) The overlapping index finger bridge also forms a "V"-bridge internally, albeit this "V"-bridge is laying on its side, with the open aperture of the "V" facing the player. The traditional looped index finger closed bridge tends to more or less form a circular orifice, or else a "shelf" (on the thumb) that the cue rests on.
The only caveat with the overlapping index finger closed bridge is that it almost "requires" a shaft with a pro taper. A standard slope-tapered shaft will "jam" inside the aperture created by the index finger on top of the ring finger, unless the player compensates by slightly releasing the pressure [applied by the index finger on top of the ring finger] in direct correlation with the increasing diameter of the shaft as it passes through that aperture.
open vs. closed
Is a closed bridge better than an open bridge?
An argument can be made that an open bridge is better for most players and most shots. It doesn't look as fancy as the wide variety of closed bridges people use, but an open bridge offers many advantages. It:
There has been an increasing trend toward using a lower stance and an open bridge in the pool world, and practically all snooker players use a low stance and an open bridge. This is no surprise since accuracy is so important with tighter pool pockets (another pool trend in recent times) and in snooker, where the table is huge and the pockets are tiny.
Now, some people don't like the cue leaving their bridge hand, which can occur with an open bridge on firm follow shots and power shots with english; but as long as there is no risk of hitting nearby obstacle balls (in which case, a closed bridge might be advisable), this is not really an issue since the CB is already gone before the shaft moves in the bridge (see the 2:32 point in NV B.96 - Grip and bridge technique and advice). The cue can also leave the bridge hand on draw shots with follow through into the table; but, again, the CB is long gone before this happens.
Some people also tend to lift the tip during the stroke, especially with shots requiring more power, and premature lift can result in miscuing over the top of the CB, but this is a stroke issue (e.g., grip tightening and/or elbow dropping), not a bridge issue. For them, the closed bridge could help; although, eliminating the grip or stroke flaws is a better alternative. Otherwise, whether the bridge is closed or open really has no effect on the CB, except for the fact that the increased friction associated with a closed bridge could reduce power and control a small amount. Some rail bridges, especially when cueing low close to a cushion, do require a closed bridge. Now, psychologically, there could be many more advantages to a closed bridge. For example, some people just feel more secure with a closed bridge.
For demonstrations of most of the concepts related to both open and closed bridges, view the following videos:
from sfleinen AZB post:
While the "index finger looping over and contacting the thumb" seems to be the "classic" picture folks get in their minds when they picture the closed bridge, there are others -- and ones which are now more popular than that style, due to being more conducive to stability and accuracy.
The mislabeled "Filipino bridge" -- where the index finger presses down upon the top of the middle finger -- is almost a de-facto "must know" in the higher echelon of play. This type of bridge creates a "V"-channel inside that the cue shaft is guided on, which is much more accurate than the meaty loop offered by the classic "index finger looped over the shaft and touching the thumb" style. However, there's a trick to orienting that internal "V"-channel vertically so that it offers the same side-to-side stability that an open bridge offers:
And, one of the most unique closed bridges occurs when you take either of the above two types -- the "looped index finger" and/or the "index finger pressing down upon the middle finger" bridges -- and you fold the top half (last two joints) of the middle finger under the hand. In other words, only the upper segment of the middle finger is visible and supporting the cue shaft; the rest of that middle finger is folded under.
Willie Hoppe demonstrates:
What this does is to offer even more stability, and, in the case of the index-pressing-down-upon-the-middle finger bridge type, a naturally vertical "V"-channel without lifting the palm of the hand in the air nor any need for "scrunching." I use this for power draw shots, because folding that middle finger under the hand lowers the bridge close to the table surface, and because of its stability, you can really crank on the draw shots with little fear of miscuing, because the apex of the "V"-channel itself is resting on the table surface.
Is a longer bridge and stroke better?
Bridge length issues are described and demonstrated in the following video:
Generally, the bridge length should match the stroke length, using a longer bridge and stroke for a power shot and a shorter bridge and stroke for a finesse shot. However, using a standard bridge length, and just varying the stroke length, can be comfortable for some. Also, using a fixed bridge length, varying the stroke length based on shot speed, can also provide a benefit of automatic stroke-error correction as a result of back-hand english (BHE) squirt compensation.
A longer bridge and stroke length can help create more power with a smoother stroke; but with more bridge length you will generally get less tip-placement accuracy (see TP A.10). This can create unwanted sidespin, which can result in unwanted squirt (cue ball deflection), swerve (cue ball curve), and throw.
A short stroke can require a jerkier (less smooth) motion, especially for faster-speed shots. This can result in less accuracy and less effective speed control; although, some people can do better with a shorter bridge and stroke, especially if they have trouble keeping a longer stroke straight and accurate. Every individual will have an optimal length where these trade-offs are balanced.
Bridge length can also affect how you apply sidespin and compensate for squirt. For more information, see aim compensation for squirt, swerve, and throw.
For more info on how bridge length can affect draw shots, see the draw shot cue elevation effects page.
More information about bridge length effects can be found in "Fundamentals - Part IV: bridge length" (BD, December, 2008). Here is a concise summary of conclusions from the article:
Disadvantages of a longer bridge and stroke:
Advantages of a longer bridge and stroke:
Does bridge length and tightness have any effect on CB deflection?
No, per the info here:
bridge length effects on squirt (CB deflection)
The following video shows and explains why visually (at the 2:32 point in part 2): NV B.96 - Grip and bridge technique and advice. Here's a direct link to the pertinent point in the video.
What advice do you have concerning the bridge?
See the following videos:
Why do many players move or tap their ring finger on the table before their shot?
It has been suggested that the specific region of the brain that is used for 3D visualization (aiming) is also used for fine motor control of the fingers. That would be a good explanation for why it is so common for players to move their ring finger while aiming.
The index and middle fingers provide most of the bridge stability (especially with an open bridge), so they can't move much; and the little finger isn't usually very active, so that leaves the ring finger. This ring-finger "tic" is very common, especially in top players, so maybe the brain explanation has some merit.
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