What can I do to make my game better?

The best way to improve is through smart and focused practice, especially if you work on your trouble areas during that practice. Excellent practice (pool workout) routines include the Billiard University (BU) Exams and the sets of games and drills in the Video Encyclopedia of Pool Practice (VEPP). Many other useful drills can be found on the drill resources page. As illustrated in my Pyramid of Progress and Rack of Skills illustrations, to be a good pool player you need to have solid fundamentals, be a good shot maker (see HAPS and DAM), have good cue ball control, have complete and sound game knowledge and strategy, and have the confidence, focus, and desire necessary to improve and win. Also, see: what it takes to play like a pro.

It might also help you to see an experienced and qualified instructor or sign up for a multiple-day intensive course like a BU Boot Camp. A good instructor can often see problems or deficiencies with your mechanics and game that you might not know are there. They can also provide good advice for how to improve.

Finally, if you haven’t done so yet, you should read some recommended books and watch high-quality instructional videos dealing with pool. Improving your knowledge and understanding of the game might give you a wider arsenal of shots, help you be more creative at the table, help you be more aware of important factors for different types of shots, and help you improve faster with less practice. The following resources might be helpful in this regard:

The real secret to improving and playing well is:


Will 10,000 hours of practice make me a world-class pool player?

10,000 hours is generally accepted as the length of practice required to reach a world-class level in almost any sport. However, not everybody has what it takes (vision, patience, focus, natural ability) to reach a top level, regardless of the amount of practice. For more information on this topic, read “Sports Gene” by David Epstein, and see the works of Anders Ericsson.

See also: why do drills and what it takes to play like a pro (and “nature” vs. “nurture”).

Do I need to have “textbook” fundamentals and keep my elbow still to play at a top level?

“Textbook” fundamentals are certainly not required for all people to play at a high level, but solid fundamentals can certainly help most people. And over time, technique among the ranks of top players does seem to migrating more toward “best practices” fundamentals that result in better accuracy and consistency.

For example, many pool players in the past used to:

1.) have their head far above the cue with a very upright stance. Most top players now have their chins very close to the cue (because there are advantages to a low stance).

2.) use a closed bridge for most shots. Many top players now use an open bridge on many (if not most) shots (because there are advantages to using an open bridge).

3.) use high-deflection shafts. Most top players now use LD shafts (because there are advantages to using an LD shaft).


Technique and equipment continues to improve over time as we learn more from past mistakes and modern instruction. I suspect the fairly new trend of having a fixed-upper-arm pendulum stroke into the ball will also continue to grow in popularity (especially with certain types of shots where cue-tip-contact-point accuracy is critical), because there are some disadvantages associated with dropping the elbow.

from Tin Man in AZB post:

Each player has strengths lifting them up and leaks holding them from going further. The first step is to sort out which are which. Then you need a good plan to improve those leaks while keeping your strengths your primary weapon.

One change many people don’t realize occurs is that more work has to be done off the table. When you’re a beginner you can just spend hours on the pool table aimlessly and you will develop. But for a player who can run racks, how much more does table time help? It depends on what kind. There is an optimal mix of practice to competition, playing worse versus better players, etc, and while some of this may be player specific as well there are some balances that work better than others in general. Granted for a full time pro the answer may be to just compete in every tournament you can, match up in between tournaments, and drill/spar in between matches, but I’m talking about people that have budgets when it comes to time. When you have limited resources you really have to be strategic about how you use the hours, and this is a huge leak in people’s journeys. They get a long ways without much planning and then don’t realize they missed the bus when years start going by without improvement.

Bottom line, while generically we can declare that players need to put in work and learn all parts of the game to improve, this isn’t really useful. What’s helpful is knowing where that player is exactly, fleshing out clearly where they want to be, then developing a plan on how they will use the resources they actually have to achieve that target. If the resources don’t match the goal then something needs to be adjusted.

from David Marcus in AZB post:

I find that if you consciously think about these two words when you are down on a shot you will be amazed at how much better you will play, especially in pressure situations or if you are just having a tough session.

BASIC – Balance Absolutely Still In Concentration

PLAYS – Pause Look At Your Spot

Think … B.A.S.I.C. P.L.A.Y.S.

from BillPorter:

A couple of years ago I asked AZBers to single out the ONE IDEA that would most improve your pool game and they came up with a couple of dozen candidates. I narrowed those suggestions down to the eight you see below.

1. BE STILL over the shot, with as little movement of the head and body as possible.
2. STAY DOWN on the shot. Jimmy Reid once said he could tell who the good players were in a pool hall within a few minutes of entering the room. He said all he had to do was watch to see which players stayed down on their shots. Watching the cue ball contact the object ball is a good way to work on staying down on the shot as you stay down to watch the cue ball on its path to the object ball. This one is similar to #1, but deserves its own slot.
3. Treat EVERY SHOT with the same respect. “I quit missing those shots when I came to the realization that there is no such thing as an easy shot.” (Luther “Wimpy” Lassiter)
4. Have a PRE-SHOT ROUTINE and follow it!
5. While standing up, decide on the shot (offense/defense, speed, sidespin), then make a COMMITMENT to shoot the shot as you have decided to shoot it. Most shots are missed because of indecision. Another way to say this is to have a plan before every shot.
6. Do the highest percentage thing that YOU KNOW HOW to do (not what Efren would do).
7. Don?t let DISTRACTIONS cause you to lose focus on the shot. If something distracts you, stand up and go through your pre-shot routine from the beginning.
8. HAVE FUN! ? Your game may improve dramatically after reminding yourself that you are playing pool primarily to have fun.

Here’s a suggestion for you. Take a small card, like a business card or an index card, and write a short version of the above suggestions on the card. Maybe the short versions would read something like this.

1) Be still
2) Stay down
3) Respect every shot
4) Follow the pre-shot routine
5) Commit to the shot
6) Play within your abilities
7) Defeat distractions, reset if necessary
8) Have fun!

Of course you may want to OMIT any of the 8 that really don’t relate to your game. And you may want to ADD a few that are especially important for your game. Maybe you would add reminders to grip the cue lightly, pause at the end of your last back stroke, check your stance alignment, snug up your bridge, or whatever you have learned is useful for your game. If you carry that little card around with you, it will be handy to read over when you?re shooting poorly or in a slump.

from DeeMan, with a little humor thrown in:

Here are a few things to think about if you are really serious about improving and moving beyond banger status.

Some rules most don’t have to think about but are impediments to playing well.

1) Don’t shoot harder then you need for the shot and to gain position.

2) Know which direction your cue balls will go and think about how far it needs to travel.

3) Don’t hit other balls on the table without a reason.

4) Learn to hit the center of the cue ball very precisely before worrying about hitting it off center.

5) Try not to leave the cue ball on a rail if not necessary.

6) Shoot balls first that clear the way for your other balls.

7) Identify packs and clusters and balls that won’t “go” early and get a strategy to open then up or move them. To try to run out without this plan is foolish.

8) If you don’t think you have a shot or safety you are playing Efren or just not looking hard enough.

9) Don’t twirl the rack or do any other trick moves to impress people unless you are trying out for the circus.

10) Learn to stay level and shoot smoothly and don’t think running boring balls rack after rack is something stupid or lucky.

11) Learn that draw and follow are for more than following or backing balls up.

12) Learn to “kill” the cue ball. NOTE: This does not involve a gun.

13) Don’t put powder all over the table unless you are changing your opponent’s diaper.

14) Don’t show disappointment to your opponent when you mess up. That way, when you learn to intentionally miss, they won’t know.

15) Don’t whine, we have a guy named Earl that will handle that for you.

16) Chalk with your opposite hand.

17) Learn to read kisses. Not related to Madonna and Brittany.

18) Learn your limits and don’t think your draw will all of a sudden resemble Cory’s. That means learn to take your medicine and shoot the possible shot, the percentage shot.

19) Play the table (unless you are stalling).

20) Don’t listen to guys on the internet giving you pool advice, especially DeeMan.

from Dan White in AZB post:

What is missing from the anecdotes [about top pros in various sports with “non-ideal” fundamentals] is that all of those players with wonky swings or strokes like Trevino, some bowler, etc. did nothing but play their sport for their entire lives. They had the time to perfect whatever method they used and made it work somehow. But even Michael Jordan said that the difference between the good players and the great ones is fundamentals, and that’s among pro level players. How many Trevino’s are out there who couldn’t make it because they couldn’t groove a bad swing?

Mere mortals who play pool as a serious hobby need all the help they can get. Using good fundamentals is important. The problem is nobody in pool can seem to agree on exactly what those fundamentals are so we say “whatever works for you.” I think reality is somewhere in the middle. Players can have their own individual style but there must be certain fundamentals that every good player follows.

Seems like snooker players are in agreement on the fundamentals for the most part from what I can tell.

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