In billiards, or pool, winning is all about focus, execution and consistency. Professional pool players have spent years practicing the basics to ensure that they are able to repeat a consistent shot time after time. It's not by accident, it's through hard work and a little basic knowledge. Learning how to improve your pool stance will provide a solid foundation to build your shot-making skills on.
In this episode of Billiards 101, we will discuss the fundamentals of establishing a proper stance. The pool stance is the base for everything else. It is, therefore, the first part of your billiards game that you should focus on to begin improving. Many players have learned bad habits in playing casually for years, and these bad habits need to be corrected in order to start making more shots.
The first, and most important aspect of your billiards stance is to make sure you are on a stable base. If your feet are too close to each other, or not angled properly, your stance will be weak and your shot will be erratic. While practicing your stance, have a friend push you lightly on your shoulder. You should be able to stay in place without moving, falling, or repositioning your feet. If you feel any movement, you may need to adjust your stance appropriately to tighten up your base. Your feet should be about a shoulder-width apart, on a 45 degree angle from your body. The width and angle may be different for each player, depending on their height, weight and comfort. The important point is to establish a firm base that is comfortable to you.
Line up the Shot
In order to line up for your shot, stand behind the cue ball and line your cue up with the direction of your shot. Your cue should be behind the cue and pointing directly in the location that you intend the ball to travel to the object ball. When practicing, double-check the lineup of the cue and your shot to make sure your aim is correct.
The cue ball will end up going to one side or the other if the cue is not lined up properly. In order to correct for this, most beginners end up "correcting" their stroke, which we will discuss in a later article. The net effect is that you are adding movement to your stroke that is unnecessary and difficult to repeat consistently. So much for a consistent shot!
Make sure you start to train yourself to line the cue up properly first, then line your body up behind the shot. You may have spent years doing it the other way around. Now its time to step up your game to start winning more tables.
As you progress, you will eventually begin to do this by lining up your head, or chin, with the shot, but it is easier for a beginner to line up with the cue.
Line Up your Body
Once you are sure you have the cue lined up behind the cue ball correctly, you can start focusing on your pool stance. While there are many variations on what is the "proper" billiards stance, there are some fundamentals that are common.
One of these fundamentals is that you want your body, especially your shooting arm and foot, to be lined up with your intended stroke. This helps to ensure that your stroke will be straight, effortless and consistent. If you line up to either side, you will end up compensating for it in your stroke, which we mentioned earlier.
Stand away from the table with your shooting foot on the same line as your intended stroke line (remember when we lined up the cue?). The distance you stand from the table will vary base don your height, weight, size and comfort. Make sure the distance is comfortable for you. You may want to experiment a bit to find what works best. The important point is to make sure your shooting foot (same side as your shooting arm) is lined up directly with your shot.
Step Into the Table
Now, take your other foot and step towards the table. Your foot should end up to the side of your shooting line. The distance will depend on what you are comfortable with, just remember we are trying to create a stable stance. You may need to move your other foot a bit more left or right, depending on your size. Just make sure that your feet are adequately separated to provide a stable stance.
Turn Your Body Into the Shot
Next, turn your body about 45 degrees from the shot line. While you turn your body, you should pivot your back foot as well so that it is at a 45 degree angle form the shot. Your back foot should be facing straight from your body, at an angle from your shot. Your front foot may be pointing towards the table, or may be turned a bit. Practice to find out what is comfortable for you.
Lean Into the Shot
At this point, you should be all lined up. The next thing to do for a proper pool stance is to bend forward and lean into the shot. While extending your bridge hand along the shot line, you should bend slightly until you can comfortable bring your chin above the ball without straining. line up your shot arm behind the cue in a way that allows your forearm to be vertical above the cue. If your arm touches your body, you may need to pivot just a bit more. Whether your legs are bent or straight depends on your height and personal comfort. Taller players may need to bend both legs to get down to the table. Shorter players may have both legs straight. At this point, your forearm should be in perfect alignment with your cue line.
Double-Check Your Pool Stance
At this point, you should be lined up correctly and ready to move on to your grip and stroke (which will be covered in later articles). Here is a quick checklist to go through to make sure you are on track:
- Your cue, chin, forearm and back leg are on a line behind the cue ball that extends to the object ball (line of shot).
- Your feet are a comfortable distance apart, with your back foot being at about 45 degrees away from the shot line.
- Your body is bent comfortably over the shot.
- Your forearm and pool cue are free from any obstructions. They are not resting or rubbing on any part of your body.
- Your head is lined up above the cue so you are looking down the shot line.
- You are stable, you won't fall, move or stumble when pushed lightly.
Now you should be ready to concentrate on gripping the cue and executing your stroke correctly. While it may feel a bit awkward at first, improving your pool stance like this will help build a foundation upon which you can start to execute consistent, straight shots. With a little patience and practice, you game will quickly begin to improve.
In our next Billiards 101 article, Get a Grip!, we will continue building a winning foundation by discussing the basics of getting a good grip on your cue.