According to Malcolm Gladwell, the reason people become experts is because they have put in ten thousand hours of practice time. Add to this Vince Lombardi’s oft spoken quote, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect…” and the path is laid out for becoming an expert at billiards.
In billiards, there are many things to practice, and most of them are minute details of routine you will discover as you begin to play pool table. Things like stance, eye line, the full line, keeping your chin in line with the shot, tricks, and playing defensively all become natural the more you focus on them and the more repetition you give them.
With so many things to focus on, it can become tricky to distill all the different aspects of the game into one practice session. To make it easier, follow this suggestion: break down each aspect into a percentage of practice time and base those percentages on which areas you struggle with the most. For example, if you excel at aim but struggle with touch (how hard you hit the ball) then your practice session should look something like this:
- 15% Technique: aim, stance, eye line etc.
- 50% Touch
- 15% Favorite Tricks
- 20% Playing a full game
The reason for using percentages is simple: if you have an hour of practice planned for the day you split up that hour based on your percentages. But if it turns out you only have twenty minutes, you can still split your practice up in the same way. One of the most important things about practicing is that it has to be done every day. Practicing fifteen minutes every day will get you farther than practicing one hundred and five minutes once a week. This is because your body will adjust faster when it is used in the same way over closer spans of time.
Part of practicing is about finding a routine for yourself. One of the most important aspects of billiards is your stance. When your stance is consistent, your game is consistent. Spending half of your practice time working on finding the correct stance would be an excellent place to start. Once you have your perfect stance, the next step is to make sure you are able to get into that stance every single time you play. So after you’ve found your stance, begin spending half your time practicing keeping your stance. Develop a routine to help you know exactly what you need to do in order to find your stance.
Two other things to consider when you’re developing your practice routine: the defensive game and reading the table. Billiards is more closely related to chess than to any sport. Professional billiard players will know exactly what moves they want to make throughout the entire game. They read the table and plan ahead, just like a grand chess master will plan ahead by several moves. This reading of the table will help create defensive moves as well. Being able to manipulate the table for each new game will give you an edge in your playing. Again, this will only be achieved by practicing. Set the balls in different locations on the table and force yourself to make only the moves you want to make so you can discover what works and what does not.
Lastly, no expert level billiard player is going to be playing with poor equipment. Technique always comes first, but good equipment will help you along the way. Make sure your cue isn’t warped. Make sure it only comes apart in one section. Make sure the table you play on is well maintained. Otherwise all the great technique you practice will just be mired in frustration. Don’t play with poor equipment and blame the table for your failures. Practice to be able to play on any table, with any cue, and still win.