I’ve recently returned to pool with a purpose.  After playing horribly the last year, I made a conscious decision to stop losing matches because of dumb mistakes and fundamental errors.  The last two weeks I have returned to the table for practice drills and to regain a general comfort. It has helped, as I’m still undefeated in my leagues, but part of that is luck. However, there was something eluding me: my pure stroke.

No matter how many drills I tried, or how I tried to adjust my feet, grip, or stance, nothing felt “right” – until last night.

While practicing and chatting with another pool player about what I was trying to accomplish and what I was trying to focus on, Edik tells me about an exercise he uses when his stroke feels like “an unfolded lawn chair” [Tin Cup]. It was returning to the basics.  Not just the basics, but the very first thing one learns, when learning from an instructor.  Something I had completely bypassed in my arrogance.

I have Mark Wilson’s book, Play Great Pool and I’ve read most of it, so I had plenty of ideas on how to fix my problem, but what I didn’t do is start at the beginning.  If I had, I would have gone through the very simple workflow of (re)building an ideal stance, as outlined on page 41.

The steps are simple: stand behind the shot line – lay your cue down on the shot line while still standing – move your body around the cue to get into the stance – execute the shot.

This simple return to a very mechanical and conscious action of getting down on a shot held the very key to my issue. I was not in the proper form, and although I knew it, and tried to fix it, I was unable to do so.  Each attempt previous to this would result in a bridge that was likely too long and a grip that was forward of the 90-degree angle.  Because of how I naturally got down on the shot, there was literally no more cue left behind my grip hand and when I tried to shorten my bridge, I felt crowded and hunched over the cue; awkward, yielding an unproductive stroke.

Once Edik finished telling and showing me what he did, he actually forced me to do it a few times – and I’m so glad he did.  Immediately upon descending around the cue I felt that familiar stance. A stable center balance, a free range grip with room to swing without care of hitting my body, and lastly that pure stroke finish with excellent results.

I’ve always had a pretty good stroke, but lately, executing a simple 3 foot draw shot would require more power than I thought it should – though I couldn’t figure out what the hangup was.  Now I know: My stroke was finishing before I actually hit the cue ball.

In these videos, I’m hitting the cue ball at about a 1.5x lag speed; which at the beginning of the night meant I might get the cueball back to where it started.  As you can see, I’m getting double the action with the same energy put out.  It’s a quality return on investment.

The primary fix was my grip hand:

90 Degree Grip

It’s now in that sweet 90-degree spot, right when the tip hits the cue ball, allowing the highest amount of kinetic energy to transfer to the cueball through the cue.

The next 90 minutes I spent shooting racks of 9-ball, and with each shot, I would go through these steps, and for each shot I would evaluate my stance, my stroke, my finishing position, and the outcome (though that was a secondary goal).  Each time I would bypass the setup, I would fail the survey test, reinforcing my need to do these steps. I will be a slow player for the next week or so until each part of this routine has become tattooed on my brain. But after that, I will be the deadly player I was once, and hopefully even moreso.

In summary, no matter how much you know, it’s always a good idea to listen to someone tell you about it again.  Even better is to have someone force you to do it.