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Your billiard cue to the Midwest
Improve your billiard game and maybe laugh a little too.
Play The Table: Not your opponent. Playing your opponent starts complicating the mind-game; giving you opportunities to doubt yourself or to let emotions such as anger or contempt cloud your ability to shoot. Having said that, there are plenty of times when you want to play your opponent, particularly when you want to rattle him or her. By rattle, I'm not telling you to shark them. In my opinion sharking is a tactic used by those who doubt their own billiards skills. But there is nothing wrong with appearing so confident that your opponent rattles him-or-herself. And, of course, there are also the times when you may have your own agenda for what you want to 'win' from a billiards game. Just make sure you make such a decision consciously, or you may find it coming back to bite you.
Take Practice Strokes: Practice strokes let you settle into a rhythm, ensure you're lining your shot up properly, and force you to focus on the shot. Skipping this step frequently means you consider the shot to be too easy to need a practice stroke and this can mean you're going to miss. Some players will deliberately approach a shot without taking this step in order to 'psyche out' another player. Don't let this intrude on your pool game; remember to play the pool table, not the opponent.
Keep a Level Stroke: Jacking up, or raising the butt end of the cue stick, adds another angle to your shot. Unless you're trying for a lot of draw, a jump, a masse, shooting over another ball, or some other situation where you need to jack up, don't do it. Not only does this make your shot more difficult, but if you hit it hard enough this may cause the cue ball to actually lift from the table after your tip makes contact, frequently resulting in the cue ball jumping in the air after impact with a ball or a rail. If your cue ball keeps popping off the table when you break, this is probably why.
Stay Down: Don't jump up! Stay down on the table until after you've completed your follow-through. Jumping up pulls the butt-end of the cue upward, dragging the tip down and forcing draw. Also, most people don't move straight up when they jump; rather, they move toward one side or the other, forcing English and frequently causing the ball to skitter to the side away from the pool cue tip. Since people tend to jump up when they're in tune (as opposed to in the zone or in stroke) or when they're moving fast and shooting fast, the problem is usually worsened by a failure to take practice strokes, no stroke-through, and a harder hit than necessary.
Chalk Is Cheap: If you don't porcupine or scuff your cue tip when it glistens like a ball-bearing, at least remember to chalk it up. A little chalk is better than none, even if most of it falls off because there's nothing for it to grab onto. Chalk is where you get the friction, and friction is the magic that lets you put Draw, English, or Follow on a cue ball. It lets you do that magic masse, or spin the ball all the way back down the table, or get just the right amount of lift on that jump without driving your cue through the felt. And, oh yeah, forgetting to chalk up just might have a teensy-weensy bit to do with that miscue you've been having trouble with lately...