FAQFAQ Billiards and Pool Grip

... how to hold or grip a pool cue properly.

Dr. Dave's answers to frequently-asked questions (FAQs), mostly from the AZB discussion forum


for more information, see Section 2.02 in The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards


effects of light vs. tight grip

Can grip pressure affect the cue ball during tip contact?

The short answer is: No.

HSV A.34 shows the hand grip during a firm stroke, striking the cue ball at the bottom of the pendulum swing. It is not totally clear from the video, but the hand flexes well after the cue ball is gone, as the hand accelerates the cue after it is slowed by the ball. Some additional video, with recorded data showing the post-hit acceleration, can be found here: stroke acceleration. The cue tip is in contact with the cue ball for such a short period of time (see tip contact time), and the hand flesh is so flexible compared to the cue tip, the grip cannot have any significant influence during tip contact. The grip hand does not generate much force until the cue slows and the hand moves forward enough (due to its momentum) to create enough skin flex. Again, the CB is long gone by the time this happens.

NV B.96 - Grip and bridge technique and advice (at the 2:32 point in part 2) shows how the bridge hand can also have no significant effect. The bridge hand flesh doesn't yield until a transverse elastic wave travels from the tip to the bridge after cue tip impact ... or during, if the bridge is within about 6 inches of the tip (for more info, see shaft endmass and stiffness effects). But even if the bridge is close to the tip (which usually isn't the case), it takes time for the fingers to flex and generate force, and it takes time for that force to be "felt" by the tip. The CB will be long gone by the time this happens.

Bottom line: The CB is long gone before any "flesh effects" can be "felt" by the tip.


from Patrick Johnson:

Stroke and grip can't increase tip/ball contact time; the tip "bounces off" the CB on impact and your fleshy hand can't stop it no matter how tight your grip or how much your stroke is accelerating.

Even if you could increase tip/ball contact time this way, the effect on CB spin would be tiny.


Can you get more cue ball speed with a tighter grip?

A tighter grip (if it is really tight) can effectively add more mass to the cue. So if you can deliver the cue to the ball accurately and with power, a tight grip could result in faster cue ball speed. However, a tighter grip usually results in less cue speed (and less accuracy) for most people.

Tightening the grip during the stroke, as some people do on the break and other power shots, might also result in slightly more power by activating slight wrist flick and maybe slightly more elbow flex (due to extra biceps contraction), both of which can add a little power.


from Spiderman (concerning whether grip tension has any effect):

Not on the cue, it doesn't. But it has a big difference on how you play.

I think it's been both theorized and verified that the impulse force during the brief contact far overshadows anything you can do by accelerating/influencing the cue during contact. There was a long thread on this last week.

On the other hand, from a shooter's perspective, a loose grip encourages you to let the cue travel naturally in line without swoop or wobble, and keeps you from shoving it off-line with a poor stroke. Almost everything will work better with the loose grip, but it isn't because of anything that happens during contact. It's because it makes everything before contact work in better harmony. It helps your "real" stroke follow the exact path of your warm-up strokes rather than being a somewhat-independent event.

If you could keep the cue flowing perfectly in line with a tight grip, it would work just fine, but most people can't do that - they will unintentionally pull it off-line. A tight grip also seems to sometimes manifest itself in a really bad habit where you try to "take something off" your stroke just before contact, and the decelerating cue condition is very prone to missing your intended tip-contact point. People who "take something off" are much more likely to miscue when trying to play the edges of the cueball. Next time you miscue during a low soft draw, ask yourself whether you tried to pull your stroke just before contact. That is far less likely with a loose grip.

There are times when a tight grip is appropriate - for example, a nip draw to avoid a foul - but loose seems best for normal strokes.

For years I've had problems with tight grip and eye control (where I look during warm-up and delivery). I'm still working on both, and the more I work on it the better I shoot.


technique advice

What are the recommended "best practices" for the grip?

This video covers all of the important technique elements:

Here's a good article (also Snooker oriented) that covers it fairly well: www.fcsnooker.co.uk/coaching/basics/the_grip/the_grip.htm


from Patrick Johnson (in relation to the "V" grip):

[Here's] the starting place for the way I (and I'm sure many others) teach the grip. Gripping the cue between the thumb and index finger this way, with the other three fingers held off the cue, does a couple of things:

1. It grips the cue at only two points on opposite sides of the handle (like having a horizontal hinge pin through the handle to form a "pivot point") so the cue can pivot freely during the pendulum stroke without interference from the rest of the fingers on the grip hand.

2. It puts the hand in the proper "hanging straight and loose" position so the wrist joint pivots easily along the same line as the cue and shot line without "steering" the stroke offline.

But pointing the thumb and index finger down is only the starting position - the grip is used this way at first to illustrate the hand position and how the cue should pivot between the thumb and index finger, but it's not the finished grip.

The next step is to allow the index finger to wrap lightly around to cradle the bottom of the cue so that less "pinching" pressure is used (unless needed for harder shots) - the thumb remains more or less straight down on its side of the cue, curling inward only enough to complete the loop with the index finger. The remaining three fingers are kept off the cue for some more time until the feeling of cradling the cue lightly with only the thumb and forefinger comes naturally.

Finally, the remaining three fingers are allowed to relax comfortably against the cue and even curl lightly around it, but without applying any grip pressure. All grip pressure comes only from the "pinching" of the thumb and forefinger against the sides of the cue. When done correctly, this grip develops calluses on the insides of the thumb and forefinger on opposite sides of the cue where it pivots against them.

The "v" in this method is simply the inverted "v" formed between the thumb and forefinger, made more visible by the gap left between it and the top of the cue because of the loose grip.

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