A Beginner’s Guide to Pool Sharking

Step 1) Master the gentleman’s game. Step 2) Plunder.

By The Editors
December 15, 2015 9:00 am

Billiard great Willie Mosconi once said, “The keywords in billiard shotmaking are ‘soft’ and ‘softer.’”

Because even the toughest sharks know: pool is all about finesse. And rhyme. And repetition. Object balls and contact points. Knowing when to put some English (spin) on the cue ball. Experience, instinct and above all else, feel.

And however you bring stick to green felt — 8-ball, 9-ball, cutthroat et al — it behooves you to remember billiards is just as much an exercise in character as it is a sport of physics and geometry. The first key to being a great hustler: not looking like one. So … consider yourself halfway there.

Below, a few more things to think about before you next roll into your local spot looking to split some pockets — and some wallets.

Cue Rating
Behind every great billiardist is a great cue. The right stick will make you feel comfortable. When approaching the cue rack, you’re looking for weight, length, thickness and balance. Standard sticks range from 18 to 21 ounces. The higher the weight, the greater stability and control. Nineteen’s a nice sweet spot.

Check the tip. Is it wide? Is it small? Can you chalk it? Then check the shaft. It should be level, strong and slightly springy. Make sure the lower grip handle agrees with you and sits comfortably.

The Ghost Ball
Easiest way to improve your shot: mind the ghost ball. It’s one of the oldest aiming techniques in the book, and guaranteed to change the way you play the game. Basically, we’re talking about the point at which the cue ball should connect with the object ball to successfully make a shot.
Here’s how you line up a shot using the ghost ball method:

1. Find the line between the object ball and the pocket

2. Visualize a “ghost ball” directly behind the object ball in tangent with said line

3. Strike the cue ball through the center of the “ghost ball”; essentially, the goal is to replace the ghost ball with the cue ball

Perfect aid for beginners to get rolling.

Ewa’s Pool School: Aiming – The Ghost Ball2:55

Mind Your Ps and Qs
Your correspondent patrons a pool hall in which the owner’s motto is “mind your Ps and Qs,” which can be broken down to stance, bridge, stroke and follow-through. Let’s take a quick look at each.

The stance
Must be natural. Weight equally distributed between both feet. Left foot forward, knees slightly bent. Your cradle on the stick with your thumb on whatever number of fingers feels most comfortable.

The bridge
In which you’re able to guide the cue accurately from the beginning to the end of the stroke. There are many different bridges, and it’s natural to favor one over the other depending on your hand shape and size. The only kind of bridge you don’t want: a loose, lazy bridge that leads to inaccuracy.

The stroke
Theoretically, you should have your shot aligned before you settle into your shooting position (see the ghost ball above). Your head: directly over the cue with your gaze of the cue, cue ball and object in alignment. Your stroke: metronomic, with very little variation beyond speed from shot to shot.

The follow-through
The most important step of them all: the cue should finish about five inches beyond the point where the cue ball rested. This ensures you send the ball on the precise path you intended it to go.

Got all that? Great. We’ll see you next week.

Say five bucks a game, double-or-nothing, repeating into perpetuity?

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