A Solid Pre Shot Routine is a Must for Great Pool

Introduction to a Pre-shot Routine

A good pre-shot routine is a way of Bridging between the decision making process and the actual execution of that decision.

Players need to separate the conscious thinking process from the sub-conscious execution phase.

In the diagram above there are two separate zones marked around the pool table shown by the black rectangle:

  1. The decision zone.
  2. Shot zone.

In the decision zone I make all of the necessary tactical , positional and aiming decisions.

I can switch from one thought to another. I can weigh up several alternative courses of action. I can modify an idea. Change my mind completely and start over again. Then finally make a firm decision to take action.

It is at this point that we should visualize the shot and see the positive result – ball goes into the pocket – cue ball finds its position. Chalk the tip of the cue. Do a couple of air strokes to get a feel for the shot (optional).

Then step into the shot zone, this step should be the same every time. It lets your brain know that you are ready.

Once you step into in the shot zone, just get into your stance, feather the ball as many times as usual and shoot….. No words, no thoughts, no internal dialogue or chatter, just execute what was visualized whilst in the decision zone.

With my pre-shot routine I do my thinking standing up away from table. This is very important. Then once I have made up my mind what I’m going to do I then start to perform my pre-shot routine and  then finally step into the table and get down onto the shot.

What is a pre-shot routine?

As the name suggests it’s a routine that you perform just prior to executing any shots in pool.

It is a series of short mental and physical preparations.

Such as:

  • Putting down your chalk.
  • Visualizing the shot.
  • Seeing the result of the shot.
  • Physically performing the shot standing upright.

Why do I need a pre-shot routine?

Pre-shot routine tells your brain when the body is about to make an action and helps the brain remember similar instances. It allows the subconscious mind the opportunity to recall similar events that have happened in games and situations in the past.

Your routine puts your mind and body into the best state for performance.

How long should my  routine take?

Your individual pre-shot routine should be long enough for you to convey the necessary information to your brain but short enough so as not to slow down your momentum.

Look at your favorite players and try to gauge the length of their preparations. You can initially even pretend to be your favorite professional as they perform their routine. This will help you to understand the process.

It is important however for you to develop you own ritual that fits with you personality and demeanor. A perfect match for you actions.

How Do I Develop Good Pre-shot Preparation?

One of the simplest ways is to look at other players both in this sport of pool and other sports such as a snooker, golf, tennis.

Watch videos of many players. Especially if you like and can relate to the player. Maybe a professional with a similar stroke.

When I used to play tennis I imagined that I was John McEnroe. (Who is that?)

It was a while back 🙂

It might seem a little foolish but after a while I started to take on his mannerisms and attitude as well. Even if I didn’t play as good as John I remember feeling strong and unbeatable.

The most important aspect of a pre shot routine is that it makes you feel ready to take action.

What Should I Do in Practice.

Your pre shot routine should become part of your game both in practice and in the heat of battle. It is no use trying to use it in a pressure situation if you don’t use it in practice.

I often see players who play really fast in practice but in a real game are slow and methodical. Practice is for every aspect of your game including your preshot routine.

Secret tip to improve your pool shots.

Secret Pool Tip to Improve Your Shots – Introduction.

I was going to say that this Secret Pool Tip isn’t really a secret but it is and the reason that it is a secret and can vastly improve your game it’s that nobody actually talks about it.

When it comes to aiming most people are talking about the cue ball to object ball relationship.

The secret tip has nothing to do with aiming systems such as the ghost ball, parallel lines, Center to Edge, fractional aiming, or any of the other that you may have heard about.

Those aiming systems or guides have their place but I will come back to them in another article.

I have first-hand knowledge of a situation where learning this technique alone improved the play of one of my students.

The best thing about it is you don’t need to change your Technique.

How big are those Pool Table Pockets Anyway?

My secret is concerned with the pocket its shape and size and most importantly the portion of pocket that you can see from the object ball location.

Width of pool table Pockets varies from 4″ up to sometimes five and a half inches but the thing to realize is that we can change the angle of most pool shots by aiming into a different portion of the pocket.

This means that we can almost manufacture a better angle on a shot that looks completely straight by aiming to either to the left side or the right side of the pocket opening.

Most players know this and are able to take full advantage by changing the angle of the shots so long as they are reasonably close to the pocket.

Pool Aiming and the Pool Players Brain.

The human brain works best when it aims towards a particular point rather than a range of points in a given opening.

Aiming at the pocket is just not precise when it comes to shooting pool.

football posts

This is easily demonstrated by looking at the kicker in an American football game or an English rugby game. His goal is to pass the ball anywhere between the posts to score extra points.

The kicker will pick a precise spot that they want to aim at rather than just anywhere between the two uprights.

This gives the brain a definite spot to focus on rather than a range of vague angles.

The View of the Pocket Changes Depending on the Position of the Object Ball.

When you are facing a pocket for instance from the spot to the corner pocket you have a good view of the entire pocket opening. In this instance it is logical to aim towards leather or plastic at the center back of the pocket.

Now let’s take a similar distance shot down the side rail say from the right center pocket to the right corner pocket. Only a small section of the pocket drop is visible.

As you look down the line of the shot into the pocket opening you cannot really see the open section and I will certainly not be in line anymore with the spot on the back leather.

In fact if you aim at the same place you will miss the pocket and hit the side rail about 6 inches or so above the pocket.

Which Part of the Pocket Should I Aim Towards?

So when you aim these shots you should be aiming at the left hand corner pocket facing that is the entrance to the pocket on the left side.

On sharp angle shots to the right you need to aim at the right corner facing

This is now our aim point, which in fact may be a completely different angle from the leather at the back of the pocket.

In conclusion the human brain works more efficiently when aiming towards a definite point.

So pick one spot and then aim at the spot.

It’s important for you to visualize this exact spot when you are imagining your shots Prior to execution.

How to Play The Stun Shot in Pool


how to play the stun shot in poolWhat is a Stop Shot in Pool?

When the cue ball strikes the object ball during a straight in shot without further movement of the cue ball in any direction.

This Shot is also called:

The stun shot

The Stop Shot

The Kill Shot

It really doesn’t matter what you call the shot so long as we are on the same page. In snooker it is known as the stun shot but in USA pool halls I hear the stop shot being used more often.

I have included a video below…


Why Do We Need the stun Shot ?

The stun shot is the main building block for great position play. It is the starting point for game improvement once you have mastered the basics.

If you want to know where your cue ball is going you need to learn the stun shot.

Once you can stop the cue ball without further movement on a straight shot, you can progress onto shots with an angle.


Tip Position For the Stop Shot

stun shot tip position

Now Comes the Magic of the stun shot.

By playing angled shots with the same stroke as a stop shot you will ensure that the cue ball travels down the tangent line. In other words, hit the cue ball with the same tip placement and power as you would for a straight shot but this time on an angle shot.

Why is this so Important for Position Play?

The tangent line is a predictable repeatable 90 degree angle. So if you know how to send your white down the tangent line every time you have a solid baseline shot on which to build all of your other positional shots.


What is the Tangent Line?

Yes the same tangent line that your geometry teacher at school was talking about years ago.

However your teacher probably failed to give you a practical use for this line.

So lets look at the tangent line and its practical applications in billiards.

Pay close attention: this could be the one piece of information that takes your game to the next level.

I had heard of this line years before I actually realized what an important guide to position it could be.

Simple Tangent Line Definition in Pool.

The tangent line is the imaginary line which touches but does not cross a circle or curve at right angles or 90 degrees to its radius.

In pool or billiards this line will be assumed to run from the impact point of the balls to a rail on each side of the contact point, as in the illustration below.

line of aim

The Tangent Line and Pool Balls that Collide.

If you look through the center of an object ball towards the pocket then draw a straight line towards the pocket as in the diagram, you will construct the line of aim.

In other words the point on the ball at the end of the line nearest to you will be the impact point for the cue ball.

The Ghost Ball Aiming System.

It is necessary to just give a quick note about the ghost ball aiming system:

 I am using the “ghost ball” as a convenient method of demonstration both in this article and when actually coaching the tangent line.

It is not the only method of aiming nor do I recommend it above any other method, it is just being used for easy illustration purposes.

So all things being equal, if your cue ball hits that exact point then the object ball will follow the aim line towards the pocket.

Are you still with me this far?

Great, I will get to the “all things being equal” comment later on, just bear with me for now and I will explain in detail later.

The contact point on the object ball will be the same from any location.

The position of the  cue ball on the table makes no difference to this contact point.

Please read that Last sentence again….

If the impact point for numerous shot position on the same object ball is the same then the corresponding tangent lines will also be the same.

Now For the Good Stuff!

The white ball will always leave object ball on the tangent line which is great news for you because now you have a point of reference to work from.

In other words the cue ball will always leave the contact point at 90 degrees to the shot line.

In pool we are always looking for easily repeatable patterns.

How Does the Tangent Line Help us with Shape?

When the cue ball always leaves the object ball at the same angle we can use that information to calculate or visualize the cue ball’s path with a fair degree of accuracy.

This will help you to know where the ball is going and to predict a likely path to the next shot.

This line is called the “Natural angle.”

You need to know the natural angle of each shot before you learn the effects of spin on the same shot. After all if you don’t know where the cue ball is going naturally then how do you know when you need spin?

It is a base line and foundation skill. When learning to play position, play shape and stay in line.

How To Make Sure The Ball Follows The Tangent Line.

On all cut shots the cue ball will travel down the tangent line and continue on towards the rail, so long as there is no spin applied to the ball.

So how do we make sure that no spin is applied and that the cue ball takes the predicted path?

You need to practice your “straight in” stop shot.

The stop shot is where the cue ball stops dead. It does not move in any direction following impact with the object ball. No spin at all. No movement forward, backward or sideways.

There is no set way to practice this shot;

  • Try different tip positions.
  • Adjust your ball speed.
  • Vary the distance between balls.
  • Experiment with your stroke.
  • Lengthen or shorten your follow through.

Every player’s stroke is different. You must find out what works for you in order to suceed with the tangent line.

What is Contact Induced Throw – CIT.

Earlier in the article I stated:

So all things being equal, if your cue ball hits that exact point then the object ball will follow the aim line towards the pocket.

On cut shots, at the point of impact, the cue ball and the object ball tend to momentarily cling together. This causes the object ball to take a slightly different course from the one predicted.

It will be as if the contact was “thicker” than intended.

Hence the name contact induced throw.

Slow speed and or an elevated cue will make the throw worse.

How To Adjust For Contact Induced Throw.

The main ways to adjust for CIT are to aim a little thinner than calculated. This will counteract the throw effect and send the cue ball along the desired path.

Some better players will add a small amount of outside english to the shot. In this case the contact induced throw will be countered by the throw caused by the outside english.

Most players as they improve their game do not aim shots in a mechanical way. These pool players have played these shots so many times in the past that they “just know” where to aim.

Subconsciously they choose the right line and do not need to make adjustments.


The Stop Shot – Most Important Shot for Pool Players to Master.

How to perfect the stop shot. If you were hoping for this to be some kind of fantastic trick shot you’re going to be disappointed it’s probably the simplest shot to perform on a pool table period.

However to play this shot well every time requires a great deal of effort and repetitive practice. Simple is not always easy

I am of course talking about the stop shot or the stun shot as it’s known in some places. This is the shot where the white ball stops on contact with the object ball.

What is the Stop Shot?

This is a straight shot with a full ball contact. The pocket, object ball and white ball need to be on the same straight line.

There should be no movement after impact in any direction. No forward roll or backspin and no drifting to the left or right.

So it is important to strike the cue ball in the exact center. This will ensure that no spin is imparted.

Of course if only it were  that simple.

How to Find Your Stop Shot.

Every player can achieve the stop or stun shot but each player will use a slightly different technique. Results are the same but the method is different.

Here is a list of factors that can change the end result of the stop shot:

  • The distance between the balls.
  • Vary the power of the stroke.
  • Longer or shorter follow though.
  • The pressure of the grip.
  • Positioning of the tip on the cue ball.

All effect the outcome of the shot.

It is not enough to pick out a spot on the cue ball, for instance “just below center.”

The Skid Zone, Distance and Timing.

With regard to distance the white ball when hit with zero spin will initially skid on the cloth and then pick up forward spin due to friction. The white will only stop on impact if it reaches its target whilst still skidding.

Conversely when the ball is struck below center it will spin backwards. After a while it will stop spinning and skid along the cloth. Further distance will result on forward spin as friction comes into play

Greater distance between the balls will call for a lower hit on the cue ball or more speed to achieve the same effect.

Why is the Stop Shot So Important?

You need to master the stop shot at varying distances between the balls and pockets.

It is the secret to consistent position play.

Once you can stop the ball perfectly you can apply stop shots when there is a cut angle involved. The ball will then follow the tangent line in a predictable fashion by following the tangent line.

9 Ball Pool

 What is 9 ball pool?

9 ball pool or just 9 ball as it is known in the USA,  is a variation of pool or billiards.

Nine ball has apparently been around  since the 1920’s and appears to have originated in the USA. 9 ball pool was primarily a gambling game played between 2 players.

Played on a table with six pockets,  a traditionally green cloth or baize and rubberized rails. The dimensions of the tables vary from the 3′ 6″ inch x 7′ bar tables (bar boxes) found in pubs and restaurants to the popular 4′ 6” x 9′ tables used in competition and seen on television at professional events.

There are a total of 10 balls, one white ball or cue ball and 9 numbered object balls. Each player strikes the white ball with a stick or cue in order to send the numbered balls into a pocket in sequence.  The person who legally pockets the nine ball first is considered the winner.

9  ball is the second most popular pool game next to 8 ball. However 9 ball is the number one game played by professionals world wide. Many people think that eight ball is the preferred game played in the US and World pool championships but this is not the case. Both 8 ball and 9 ball pool are now more popular than traditional straight pool even though many purist find both games less skill-full.

How to Play?

How to Play 9 ball What are the rules. what competitions use this format.
9 ball pool is a version of pool or Billiards as it is also known, where the number Balls are dealt with in strict numerical rotation. As the name suggests there are nine different colored and numbered ball from one to nine.

The object of the game is to make the nine ball in any pocket. So long as contact is made first with the lowest numbered ball at any time including on the break (on the snap.) When the game starts the player breaking must make contact with the one ball first. During the break shot if any ball goes into a pocket the same player will continue to shoot. Players must always hit the remaining balls lowest number first.

There are times when a player will make the first 8 balls in rotation but then miss the 9 ball leaving a shot for the opponent who subsequently makes the 9 and wins the game despite only making one ball. Usually the winner breaks which can lead to a player stringing together numerous racks of nine ball without the opponent having a chance to shoot. Breaking and running 6 consecutive racks of 9 ball would be referred to as a “six pack.”

As you can imagine some games of 9-ball all over very quickly where as some last up to 30 minutes when the situation becomes very tactical and neither player will give ground.

One of the biggest differences between games is the scratch or foul. In 9 ball any scratch or foul shot results in ball in hand for your opponent. This means that you immediately give up the table and your opponent may place the white anywhere.

Where is this Pool Game Played?

apa palyersNine ball is played locally, nationally and internationally. The game is enjoyed in bars and pubs all over the world. Friendly local competitions exist in most Cities and the game is one of the components played in the APA  American Poolplayers Association which boasts thousands of members all over the country.

Competitive organisations are also running tournaments at the regional and state level with most states recognizing their own state champion and holding an annual event. The USA  also runs a US Amateur championship annually with many winners turning professional as a result.

Most professional pool players and tournaments all over the world choose 9 ball. Nine ball pool is the game of choice for 80 plus countries. Nine ball is the game of choice for the US championships and the world championships.

How do Nine Ball players Compare their Skill Levels?

Nine ball is also a more popular game for those wishing to compete on even terms as the game is so easily handicapped to make the game competitive even between two players of unequal skills.

For instance a better player could offer his opponent an extra winning ball or even a number of balls such as the 8 ball, the 7 and the 8, the last 2 balls or the last 3 balls. This means that if a player is “giving up the 8” his opponent win if he makes either the 8 or the 9 ball first.

When grading a group of players they are usually compared to each other in relation to how many balls would be necessary to compete on even terms. The best player in a discussion would be classified as “scratch” and all other players would be compared to each other in relation to the best player.

This makes small amateur events more even but very competitive and hard to win, although in my experience scratch players do still tend to have an advantage.
However the handicap system does even out the abilities of the players and encourages more people to take part in tournaments which they could not normally expect to compete.

A similar system exists in golf but the players are compared to each other by their ability to take more or less shots on a particular 18 hole course. Generally speaking a scratch (even) player would take 72 shots to complete a full round of golf whereas a 4 handicapper (plus 4) player would take 76.

Is Playing 9 Ball Pool More Difficult than Other Games of Pool?

9 ball poolThere have been many debates over the years about the relative difficulty of 8 ball pool versus 9-ball pool. Each discipline requires an extremely different approach. In 9 ball pool games for instance the balls are made or potted in strict numerical rotation. This makes the players position on the next ball not only more difficult but imperative.

With eight ball you can make any of your chosen balls en route to the 8-ball. This aspect of the game makes shape easier. The increased number of balls on the table makes it harder to succeed. Fifteen balls on the table inhibits makes it harder to get good position on the next ball.

My experience has been that both games equally demanding both physically and mentally. When playing against skilled knowledgeable opponents it becomes harder it to predict the outcome. The player can experience additional pressure just knowing how quickly nine ball can be over.  One miss or slight mistake can be the difference between winning and losing. Players often play eight ball like a game of chess. Neither player wanting to make a ball unless they can run out and make the 8.

Other topics:

Read about 9 ball pool how to rack
Learn 9 ball pool how to break
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how do you play 9 ball pool

8 Ball Pool – How to Play.

What is 8 ball Pool?

8 ball pool ball8 ball pool has been played since the early  1900’s and probably originated in the USA. It is played on a felt covered table with six pockets and rubber cushions.

Eight ball is played with 15 object balls and one white cue ball. There are 7 plain balls and 7 stripped balls plus the black eight ball. Sometimes there are 7 red balls and 7 yellow balls depending on your location. The numbers on the balls are not relevant for 8 ball play.

Each player attempts to pocket all of their chosen balls whether plain or stripped. When your set of object balls has been cleared you may pocket the eight ball to win the game.


How do we Play 8 Ball?

If the player breaking makes a striped ball then he continues to make stripes until they are gone and vice versa. Alternatively, if you make a ball on the break you get to choose solids or stripes.

The eight ball is neutral and can only be directly contacted after all of your other balls are gone. Making the eight ball by accident before all of your balls have been made will cost you the game.

Potting the 8 ball after all of your balls have been made wins the game. Generally you must call or mark your pocket when shooting the 8 ball and slops (lucky shots in other pockets) do not count.

Some places count the eight ball as a win if made on the break. Other venues re-spot the 8 ball and that player continues to shoot.

Scratches or fouls do not generally cost you the game but you lose your turn. Cue ball off the table or in the pocket is either ball in hand or shoot behind the baulk line (In the kitchen). Rules vary, professionals usually play ball in hand.

What are the Tactics in 8 Ball Pool?

The tactics in 8 ball pool differ according to the ability of the players.

In professional games players often break and run out. However, at this level, if they miss a ball the advantage usually goes to the incoming player.

It is not always a good idea to make your balls without a solid plan to run out the whole rack.

One of the most important moments is spent deciding which set of balls to take after a successful break off shot:

  • Do the balls all have a pocket?
  • If not can I break up the cluster?
  • Is there a logical path to the 8 ball?
  • Stripes or solids?

Players in recreational pool and beginner leagues face the same set of questions although the consequences of a miss are not usually as severe. Players often get many visits to the table and several shots at the 8 ball during an average game.

8 Ball on Small Bar Tables and Diamond Tables.

I often hear players talking about which is the hardest game to play. Is it 10 ball on a 10 foot table or 8 Ball on a bar box (7′ x 3.5′)

I don’t know the answer to that question, accept to say that each game has it’s own set of problems be they long shots on a ten footer or the congestion and exquisite position play required on a bar box. I have respect for both games and especially those players who can play both well.

Remember that on a small table every time that you make a ball and do not run out you leave the table less congested than before you shot. This can make things easier for you opponent.





Easy Inside English Three Rails Pool Practice Drill – Cue Shaft Deflection

In this video you will learn how to play inside English, left and side, off 3 rails to get position in the middle of the table.

The middle table area is just a target that I use for judging my progress and consistency.

Feel free to choose another spot or vary the target position during practice. So long as you can finish near the target area it is not that important.

Inside English practice drill video.

The shot needs to be played with topspin and left (inside) english which will cause the white ball to deflect to the right and hit the object ball thinner than you are aiming. On its way to the object ball the white ball will return towards the line of the shot but usually not all of the way.

Make the necessary allowances when aiming.

Well that sounds a lot easier than it actually is doesn’t it?

If you apply side spin to the cue ball it will cause the ball to move off line consequently making a different contact with the object ball.

So you need to aim fuller or thinner to allow for this movement.

The distance between the balls also affects the shot because after the white ball squirts off line it will tend to return to the intended path.

The amount of power or force used in the shot will also affect the amount of squirt, usually the more power the more shaft deflection and the more squirt.

Tip Position For Topspin Inside English

nside english tip position

So with all of these variables this may seem like a difficult task but practice will help you to get a feel for these shots.

Your practice needs to be easy and repeatable in order to get the best results.

Next, I have included a video below of a simple inside English drill.

Inside English off 3 Rails Pool Practice Drill Video

The best way to learn how to do this is to just do it,”  get the shot wrong 20-30 times without being judgmental and eventually you will get one right.  You are learning all of the possible ways that it does not work.

Now it is time to reproduce the good result over and over again until you cannot get it wrong and the shot becomes a natural part of your game.

Playing with Low Deflection Cues

If you play with a low deflection cue or shaft you will probably have to make a small adjustment nonetheless. Just a quick note, because this isn’t really the place, every cue and every shaft is unique even if they look the same. Always play with the same cue so that it becomes a part of you and not a separate tool.

Generally speaking the harder that you strike the cue ball the greater will be the deflection.

Play the shot smoothly and follow through all the way.

The cue ball should finish in the center of the table for this exercise although from this position it is possible to extend the track line further to the balk end of the table.

Personal Note on Cue Stick Choice

Although I do not use a low deflection cue shaft myself I would strongly advise all new players to buy one early on and put in the time needed in practice and drills to get accustomed to the way that your shaft  reacts during the shot.

These cues definitely will reduce the learning curve for shots off the center line.

Having said that, I do not advise players with years of experience to switch, I  tried this myself and personally found it very time consuming and ultimately unsuccessful.

I guess I am just too used to the shaft deflection after many years of practice.


Check out the other videos more tips and advice for all levels of pool players.