How To Play Pool: A Beginner's Guide


When you're first learning how to play pool, it can seem like an art! There are different variations, strategies, and terminology to learn in addition to just getting the ball into the pocket. However, you'll have so much fun you'll forget all that. To start learning and hone your skills, read on.

1. There are generally three things you'll be using: a cue stick, table, and pool balls:

a) Pick a cue stick appropriate for your size. Most are 58 inches (147 cm) in length, but shorter and longer ones are available.

b) There are three standard sizes to a pool table: 7, 8, and 9 feet (2.7 m). The Billiard Congress of America defines a "regulation" pool table as any table that is twice as long as it is wide. For example, a 7-foot table is 7 feet (2.1 m) long and 3.5 feet (1.1 m) wide. If you are playing on a smaller table, you may want a shorter cue.

c) There are three standard sizes to a pool table: 7, 8, and 9 feet (2.7 m). The Billiard Congress of America defines a "regulation" pool table as any table that is twice as long as it is wide. For example, a 7-foot table is 7 feet (2.1 m) long and 3.5 feet (1.1 m) wide. If you are playing on a smaller table, you may want a shorter cue.

2. In order to play the game, you have to be able to understand the terminology and rules:

a) The "break" happens at the beginning of the game when a player breaks up the fifteen pool balls. It is the first shot.

b) A scratch occurs when the cue ball jumps off the table or rolls into a pocket. Determine the scratch rules before you start any game.

3. For now, let's stick to standard 8-ball. Quite clearly, knowing the rules is the only way to win:

a) Use the triangle to "rack up" the 15 pool balls. Different people have different preferences for the set up, but make sure the 8-ball is in the middle.

b) A player breaks.

c) Both players sink all their pool balls into the pockets until just the 8 ball is left. The first player to sink the 8 ball is the winner. If a player scratches on the 8 ball, they automatically lose as well.

4. For a good hand position, try putting your index finger on the top of the stick (curving it) and put your thumb at the bottom of the stick. This is a good, basic way to put your hand in position because you have total control of the stick. Hold it tight as well.

5. As a beginner, focus on hitting the cue ball straight and with power. Experiment with slow, easy shots.

6. Try "Cutthroat Pool." Each player chooses a section of the numbers (if 2 players, 1-7 and 9-15; if 3 players, 1-5, 6-10, 11-15) on the correlating pool balls. The object of the game is to sink your opponent's balls and only have yours left on the table. The last one with a ball (or balls) on the table wins.

Try 9-ball. This one can be a bit about luck, but that can be said about most games. The object of the game is to sink the balls in the pockets in numerical order, from 1-9. Each player takes turns going up to the 9 ball. The one to sink the 9 ball wins.

7. Don't get too confident or frustrated--the tables can turn in a second. Focus on improving your shot, not winning.

*Image CC0 Creative Commons by Pixabay

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