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Pool 8-Ball & 9-Ball the Stance

Photo 3:  Sighting along the cue as if it was a rifle.

Photo 3: Sighting along the cue as if it was a rifle.

Photo 1:  Visualizing your stroke

Photo 1: Visualizing your stroke

Photo 2:  Stepping forward into position

Photo 2: Stepping forward into position

Photo 4:  The grip

Photo 4: The grip

Photo 5:  The Elbow Bend

Photo 5: The Elbow Bend

The Importance of a Level Cue

The way to stand at the pool table is something that worries a lot of beginners - and long time players. What is the rule; is there a rule?

When I asked my friendly professional if there was a rule, he shook his head and said, “There is no such thing as the correct stance, stand anyway you feel happy, comfortable and balanced. Some ‘natural’ players can play left or right handed or standing on their heads, but…”

I love the ‘buts.’ They normally mean that some insider information is coming.

…“We normal players have to think about it.” I was flattered to be considered normal by such a talented player, so I listened to his advice and watched his demonstrations avidly.

“What I do,” he continued, “is visualize the upcoming stroke, for instance I’ll place the cue in what I think is the ideal position to make a perfect stroke. I hold the cue lightly at the butt end of the grip, making sure it is level and above my right foot.” Photo 1.

“After I’ve done that, and made a decision on the angles necessary, I’ll step forward into position with my left foot.” Photo 2. “From then on I always keep my right foot under the cue, and if possible I try to keep my right foot facing forward, towards the cue tip.”

“How about the position of your back?” I asked. “Do you stand almost upright like some people do or do you bend over the cue until you’re looking straight along it?”

“It depends on how tall or small you are. As far as I’m concerned, Pool is a game for the taller player. Being tall means you can look down on the balls and more easily interpret the angles necessary, and there is less need to bend your knees or back. Another benefit of being tall is that tall players have less reliance on the mechanical rest, or 'the backhoe,' as some players call it. However, if the stroke is a fine one and at the opposite end of the table it makes sense to bend right over your cue and sight along it like a rifle barrel; then you have to bend your knees.” Photo 3.

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“Let us see how you stand,” he suggested. I was kind of shy of this idea but what did I have to lose except my dignity? Being small I have to do more stretching than bending of my knees, but the bending I have to do is painful, and is probably a precursor of arthritis. He noticed my reluctance to bend my knees as I stepped into position, and asked me why. When I told him, he nodded in understanding, and gave me the perfect solution.

“Don’t bend them!” he shrugged. “Look, I’ll show you.” He took up the same stance as he’d originally taken up, but instead of holding the grip near the butt end, he held it slightly further forward, towards the tip. “If you hold the cue further forward, you won’t need to step forward into position as you will already be in the right position. Then, instead of bending your left knee, keep it straight and slide your left leg along the floor until you are comfortably balanced and at the correct height.”

I tried it. It was almost like doing the splits with one leg. I felt daft at first and it took some getting used to, but my knees weren’t screaming for Advil and I can now play a full match of 12 games without begging for mercy.

The Grip

"If you grip the cue tightly, when you move the cue forward it will automatically swing upwards, much like the movement a saw makes, so that when it hits the cue ball it will be on an upward trajectory, knocking your expected strokes direction all to hell. Try it and see.”

I tried it and it was obvious that when I held the cue too tightly it sawed up, and when I moved the cue backwards, it sawed down.

“What you need to do is make sure the cue stays level – by level I mean parallel with the table or the floor – when it makes contact with the ball and then it will have no other choice but to follow through in a straight and level line. To do this you must cradle the cue lightly making sure that the palm of your hand does not hold it. You should caress the cue, like this – Photo 4. You should be ‘guiding’ the cue, not holding it.”

Elbow Bend

“No, not round the bend,” my expert smiled, although by this time I was nearly round the bend. “After getting your grip right, the next thing you must get right is the ‘elbow bend.’ The same rule applies to the elbow as it does to the grip. When your cue tip hits the ball, you elbow must be at a 90 degree angle. Photo 5. If it is at a greater or lesser degree, the same ‘sawing’ motion will apply to your cue.”

My friendly expert saw the look of bewilderment on my face and began laughing, “Well you did ask,” he said. “I can condense all that information for you into one – make that two – sentences.”

1 - Stand whichever way makes you feel comfortable and balanced.

2 – Keep your cue level.”

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