How to Play Snooker
By Richard Fountain
So, after my first two lessons you can stand right and hit the ball straight. All you have to do now is pot balls! Knowing how to pot a ball is something you either have or you do not have. Of course practice can help but you really need an eye for it. When walking to the table after your opponent has missed it seems he has left you an easy pot on a straight red followed by an easier black. You get down and miss the red! How frustrating. I have done this so many times and so do many people.
There are some things you can do to correct this problem. When walking to the table always walk in to the shot, never approach the table and then slide round to the shot. This is so you see the real angle of the shot. Also when you are playing position for the next ball remember that although it is important to get position, the worst position you can end up in is in your chair, watching your opponent! Work out the angle for the pot decide your position, but the last thing you think of is pot pot pot. That is to say that if you at least pot the ball and run out of position you can still play safe. When playing snooker for the first time do not try to go all out to beat an opponent. Try out different things, even if you try things in practice they still end up different in a match.
Playing snooker is all in the head. If you are confident then you play better. Be positive, make your mind up what shot and play it 110%. A question I am asked many times is what ball do you look at when you strike the white. The answer is always the object ball. This is always for every player. You do not look at the white or the end of your tip, just the cue ball. In fact if you look at Hendry if he is trying to pot a vital ball, he will often watch the ball until it reaches the pocket. This also helps him stay down on the shot. Mind you though, Hendry is one of a few players who, although he looks at the object ball last, watch his eyes when he is cueing up. He keeps looking at the object pocket as well.
As a routine for this lesson place a Red about two feet from one of the black holes, leaving the black on its spot. Then try to pot the red and vary the shot between making it back to baulk and staying for the black. This shot is one of the most common you will come across. Especially after a player has broken off. To be good at snooker you must play shots like this in practice time after time. Another routine is to see how many times you can pot the black without missing and without moving the white between shots.
Being good at snooker is a real pleasure. After all you practice hard, you reach a good standard and the game is so enjoyable. However, so many good players I have seen over the years always practice on the same table week in week out, day after day. They used to call this onetableitis years ago. These players, who never play on a different table, often try to play in tournaments around the country and find it very hard to win. It is vital to play on different tables. Of course it is good to play a lot on one table because it can give you confidence but you must get used to playing on all types of tables and conditions.
Players often write to me saying they have reached the 70-80 standard and do not seem to be getting any better no matter how hard they practice. This is very common because at this stage any improvement is a little at a time and to be honest there are many who give up at this stage. To be a champion is not just about talent, it is about dedication and determination. If they get through these times and succeed in making their first century, many players feel they have made it. Wrong! I have seen many players who can make centuries who do not win anything, it is consistency which wins. If you make Eighty break after Eighty break you can be a winner. Last season Mark King reached a world final losing to Hendry. Up to then he had only scored one century break in the later stages of a tournament which was 102. This season he is ranked No 20. You see some people are obsessed with making centuries. It is winning which counts. Of course some players get to the point of making Eighty breaks and go no further no matter how hard they work, and of course this is because of ability. You either have it or you do not.
If you compete in tournaments you should be taking them very seriously. For instance if you are playing on the weekend at a club in another area, make sure you prepare yourself. Phone the club and see if you can practice before you play, if not, if it is possible travel down the day before and practice then, as most clubs will allow this. The night before your first match go to bed early unless you are playing late, then go to be later and get up later. Do not get up with hardly any time before you play. Give yourself plenty of time to wake up or you will be waking up to a nightmare. Do not eat a big meal before a match as this will sap your energy. Treat any match big or small in all tournaments with the same importance, you are either a winner or you are not.
As a routine this week try to place yourself in a position with say eight reds left on the table and all the colours on their spots. Then try to see how high a break you can make without touching a cushion. Then vary the exercise to only hitting plain ball but hitting cushions. Then try using no cushions and only plain ball! These exercises may seem pointless but they serve the purpose of using angles. Without the knowledge of angles you will never win. Did you know that John Spencer was a snooker genius when he was a teenager but had not made a century. Then someone (I forget who) taught him to play billiards. The rest is history as they say.
Richard Fountain ([email protected])