Byrne's Standard Website for Pool and Billiards

Chapater 1: Getting Started Right in Pool

An important tip
The most important tip is the one on the end of your cue. If it flattens out or mushrooms, trim it with a razor blade and very carefully sand it off so it is flush with the sides of the ferrule (the plastic collar on which the tip is glued).

Chalk up!
Applying chalk to the tip before every shot is not too often, though it's not necessary when hitting the cueball in the center. If the tip won't hold chalk, rough it up lightly with a piece of sandpaper or one of the many commercial products designed for the purpose. Don't spin the cue into the chalk; instead, place the chalk against the cue and rock it back and forth a couple of times, or rub the flat surface of the chalk against the tip with brushing motions.

Some top pool players bend down so low when aiming that their chins touch the cue. Most have their chins no more than a foot above the cue. If you are having trouble pocketing balls, it may be that you aren't bending over far enough and aiming the cue like a rifle with your dominant eye.

Follow through!
The tip is only in contact with the cueball for one millisecond or so. What you do with your cue afterwards can't affect the cueball. Nevertheless, it is important to develop the habit of following straight through so that you can hit the cueball precisely where you want to. A player who lets his cue rise or swerve to the side of the English is more likely to miscue or mishit the cueball. To develop a straight stroke, if you aren't naturally born with one, try picking out a spot on the cloth a few inches beyond the cueball and making the cuetip stop directly on it or above it after hitting the cueball.

Stay down!
When hitting the cueball, don't bob your head or move anything except your forearm. Let the cue follow straight through, then freeze until the cueball is well on it way. Extraneous body movement during the stroke makes precision pool impossible.

Watch your eyes!
When aiming, your eyes will move back forth a few times between the cueball and the object ball. Almost all top players have their eyes on the object ball when they "pull the trigger." An exception might be on a very easy short shot where the critical factor is the amount of spin on the cueball; then you might stay focused on the cueball to make sure you hit it in precisely the right spot.

Beware of English!
A majority of shots can be made without sidespin, or English, on the cueball. Three problems arise when hitting the cueball off center right or left. One is "squirt," which causes the cueball to travel slightly off line in a direction opposite of the English. Another is that a cueball with sidespin will throw the object ball off line because of the friction between the two balls during contact. The third problem is that unless your cue is exactly level, the cueball will curve slightly on its way to the object ball. All three factors make it much harder to hit an object ball accurately.

On the other hand -- English is essential on some shots in order to send the cueball into position for the next shot. Use as little as possible... there's no point in getting perfect position while missing the shot. Sidespin has little effect on the angle the cueball takes off the object ball, but it can greatly change the angle at which the cueball rebounds from a cushion. What affects the angle the cueball takes off the object ball is topspin (follow) and backspin (draw), which I'll discuss next time.

Billiards | Bio | Novels | Other Books | Quotations
Books | History | Links | Tips | Videotapes

Copyright © 2002 Robert Byrne. All rights reserved.
Please direct questions and comments about this site to