Is an open bridge better than a closed 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:

  1. is very easy to learn and master (even for beginners).
  2. is very stable with a large “footprint,” even at fairly large heights (with the heel of the hand on the table and the hand cupped).
  3. provides an unobscured view of the entire shaft (especially with a low stance), for aiming and establishing the stroking direction.
  4. supports the cue in a well-defined V-shape that provides a very accurate and consistent sliding guide.
  5. keeps the shaft centered and unrestricted in the V-shape through the entire stroke, even with significant shaft taper (this is not the case with all closed bridges).
  6. offers the least and most consistent resistance to cue movement, especially with hot, humid, and/or dirty conditions, or with ultra finesse shots.
  7. offers a greater range of bridge heights. It can be easily flattened to a low cue position, and can be raised higher when bridging over a ball or shooting jacked-up shots.
  8. makes it easier to reach extended shots, as an option to using a mechanical bridge.
  9. results in more accurate and more consistent pivots when using BHE, SAWS, or pivot-based aiming systems like CTE.
  10. reveals stroke flaws that can be hidden with a closed bridge, allowing you to better diagnose and fix technique problems.
  11. works well (and the same) for any shaft diameter, regardless of finger size.

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. Also, with faster cloths than in the past, less power is used, making the closed bridge less necessary for some people.

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 sidespin (unless you are a snooker player who also keeps the cue in place with your chest and chin); 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 part 2 of NV B.96 – Grip and bridge technique and advice; and see shaft endmass, showing that only mass and support within the 5-8″ closest to the tip can make a difference, with the mass or support farther from the tip [within the 5-8″] having less effect). 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 advantages to a closed bridge. For example, some people just feel more secure with a closed bridge.

For more information, see “Top 10 Reasons to Use an Open Bridge” (March, 2022) and “Pool Myths – Part 3: Open Vs. Closed Bridge” (BD, August, 2017). And for demonstrations of most of the concepts related to both open and closed bridges, view the following videos:

See also: closed bridge variations.

If the open bridge has so many advantages, why is it used so seldom in 3-cushion billiards?

Most 3-cushion players use a closed bridge probably mostly out of tradition tradition, and because that’s how they learned or were taught by others. Also, many of them do not have low stances, so one of the main open bridge advantages does not apply (an unobscured view). Also, due to the heavier CB, the shaft might be more likely to leave an open bridge after the hit when striking the CB off center (which they tend to do a lot), and some people might find this disconcerting.

from jtaylor996 (in AZB post):

There are more variables with your finger/hand position involved in making a closed bridge. If your index finger is not in the exact same place or moves at all during the stroke, then the shaft will shift.

The shaft is riding on/against more surfaces on a closed bridge, so that means more surfaces have to get in and remain in perfect alignment for consistency.

from sfleinen (in 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:…39#post3119239

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.

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