Today we have our first guest-blogger: Mike S.  Anyone who’s followed me for the last 6 months or so would remember him as my teammate and practice partner.  He’s typically the other guy in the videos I post and as of late has been beating me into the ground.  We usually end up talking about all kinds of pool related stuff and I thought it’d be neat to have him share some of his thoughts on things.  Today it’s all about the stroke – and what isn’t a stroke.

Strokin’ IT!!!

What’s in a stroke? What makes for a good stroke? How does it feel? 

“Fluid”, “Comfortable”, “Precise”, “Effortless”, and “Magical” are a few words that come to my mind when thinking about delivering a great stroke. Since before I understood what great pool was and the attention to detail that it takes to move the cue around the table effortlessly, one phrase stands out: Don’t poke it, STROKE it. It still sounds so corny but God is it so true. 

Last night I was in great stroke, I was feeling the ball contacting the cue tip and knew exactly where it was going and why. Many things contributed to my great performance in Master’s League, but mostly I was warmed up and relaxed. No worries at all yesterday, just me and the table. The balls were laying out great after the break and there were a few defensive positions that worked out in my favor, all in all a great night at league. (7-0 victory didn’t hurt)

Back to the Stroke talk, after league sparring with John and Julia on the extra practice table was a great display of some awesome runs and a few cheesed in 9 balls. But the strokes where flying. It feels nice to let it out and play the 3-4 rail position and it never hurts being on the right side of the ball to make position easy and unforced. John commented “I’d be in perfect shape on the 10 footer, this 9 foot business is screwing me” something like that. It couldn’t have been more true on a few over-ran positions, but without a stroke he would have never gotten there or even have a chance of moving the rock around a 10 foot beast.

When it comes down to it, you don’t wake up one morning and magically you can spin and maneuver the cue ball around the table with ease. It takes work and practice and getting out of your comfort zone. Hitting the cue ball outside of the miscue zone is risky but in the heat of battle and that is your only option at the table, the confidence to deliver a great hit can be the difference between a match win and match loss. What I mean is, typically you do not need to use extreme outside/inside or extreme top/bottom but a halfway delivered shaky poke is no way to make something out of nothing. Before most matches or killing time while at the bar and wanting to hit some balls, you might catch me at a random table with a house cue or my playing cue just hitting one ball around the table. I’m checking to see how the rails feel and I’m feeling the cue ball react off of the tip and more times than not hitting the ball 3-6 rails. Being loose and relaxed and just figuring out the table, does one rail play bad or not react as expected or is the cloth picking up speed across the middle unexpectedly, seeing how it feels. Give it a try, hit the ball outside, inside, mega top spin and crazy backspin see how it reacts off the rails and be confident moving the ball around the table, it’s FREE after all, you don’t have to drop the balls to practice stoke drills. Because the proof is in the pudding, a horizontal cue traveling at a consistent pace with intent and follow through can create an amazing reaction. I personally struggle with soft drawing the cue ball off the long rail and to the middle of the table with finesse without scratching in the side, I do I’ll admit it but my stroke has allowed to use reverse English or inside topspin to maneuver around the table to get good position if not better position than trying to land the cue ball in a extremely precise location with touch.

The bottom line is, if your cueball jumps in the air after the tip hits it (unintentionally) or after it contacts the object ball, or has no spin after the object ball contact and you thought it was going to take off like a rocket but instead dies right there or after the rail contact; you just poked the cueball. This leads to a lack of confidence to go 3-4 position with any type of spin not just outside running English. In this case, stroke development and practice should be in your plans for a better pool game. 

Remember Stroke it, don’t Poke it.