How to Play Snooker
By Richard Fountain
Striking the Ball
Well, judging by the amount of mail I have recieved some of you obviously enjoyed my first lesson. Unfortunately I am not set up yet to publish graphics but I am working on it. My first lesson worked mainly on the stance. This time I would like to talk about striking the ball. It is very important to hit the ball straight, but it is also equally important to time the ball. This is to say that you strike the ball at the time you are supposed to. To achieve good timing is to strike the ball sweetly. Many shots can be missed just because your cue action is all out of time.
The next time you go to play start by placing the white on the brown spot and fire it in line down the table across the spots, hitting the back cushion, and try to get it to return and hit your cue tip. This exercise is of course reliant on a good table. However, you must strike the ball at a reasonable pace to stop the ball turning on the nap. The idea of this exercise is to make sure that you are hitting the ball dead centre. If you reach a good rythym and are more successfull than not, stop after ten minutes. Now do the same exercise again, but this time try to imagine that the white is not there. In other words forget that you are striking the white - just cue through the ball. When the ball has left the cue, see how far your cue extends past where the white started its journey. You should be looking for a minimum of about 6 Inches. If you exceed this, it is ok. Using this follow through technique is the way to hit the ball cleanly. Imagine you are trying to push your cue down a long thin pipe and your room for error is small, then use your cue like a gun, line it up and fire.
Some players often use a mark in the grain to give them a guide, but I prefer to follow my eye line right through to the tip. In coming lessons I will be giving tips on how to screw back with real power, but this guide will help in that department also. You do not have to hit a ball hard to screw back a long way if you time it well. Now when you have practiced for a while, place the blue on its spot and the white in line with it diagonally so it is a dead straight pot. Be about two feet behind it. Now line up the shot as normal, but this time when you strike the ball, imagine the white is not there. Cue through the ball with a nice extension on the follow through. Try to stay on the shot until the blue is sunk. Get used to staying on the shot as this will help with your stance.
For The More Advanced
The exercise above, although written for beginners, also applies to the more advanced players. However, you can try to be more adventurous. When you line up the blue on its spot as detailed above, try screwing back the white into the opposite pocket and then try following through in to the same pocket. Keep repeating this and moving the white away from the blue. In the end you have to try and pot the blue off of its spot from the jaws of the pocket and get the white to follow through and go in off. If you can perform this successfully I believe you would have no problem with your cueing. Do not bother trying to screw back and go in off from the jaw!
As stated above it is a good idea to stay on the shot and watch the object ball drop, even the more advanced players often jump up on the shot and ruin their cue action. One small tip for the more advanced player is when you are playing from tight on the cushion there is a tendency to cue down on the ball. Try not to do this too much. Try to lower your cue arm so that you strike along the ball more. This may seem hard and you may miscue more at first, but if your action is good you can achieve this. It helps the white leave the tip more cleanly and stops ball bounce. This exercise also helps with your timing.
Place two balls touching over each pocket 3 inches away from the bag. Make sure they are dead in line like a plant or a set. Now you can place the white where you like. See how many shots you can sink all twelve balls in.
You will find it is much harder than it looks. The trick is to use screw back when you hit the ball and try to be quite straight. The screw will often make both balls drop at the same time. This can be used as a challenge to a friend and is a good way to earn a few bucks.
Some of you wrote me and said you enjoyed the exercise of clearing the colours. Well, here is a variation:
Place the colours on the spots and pot yellow, black, green, black, brown, black and so on, ending with black, black, then start again.
This exercise is very hard and is a very good way of practicing going up and down the table without getting bored.
Please remember that these tips will not work for everyone. Some players have very unorthodox styles, some just may be different. Mind you, do not be put off just because something feels uncomfortable. Give everything a good try before you decide that it does not work for you.
If any of you have any questions about your game then e-mail me and I will try to answer you.
Richard Fountain (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ready for the next lesson?