The 5 Most Important Beginner Pool Fundamentals

Beginner Pool and Snooker Lessons Part 1

This beginner pool lesson covers the most important fundamentals for a novice player to master before moving on to more advanced techniques.

I was lucky enough to spend my university years working in a pool hall. As such, it was my duty to settle rule disputes for new players, and give many players their first ever pool lesson. I’ve shown enough novices the basics to notice that there are some easy to learn fundamentals that will allow a beginner to quickly beat other casual players and be on the road to becoming a serious player. Those I taught that learned even just a proper bridge and how to keep a level cue almost immediately moved past their friends.

So what I want to give you is what I have found to be the best bang for your buck fundamentals in the order a beginner should learn them. These are the basics that can be quickly incorporated into your game while providing the greatest immediate benefit. They are all about maximizing your chances of making any given shot, keeping you at the table and your opponent in their chair. If you are looking to join your first league, get serious about the game, or just beat your friends in the bar, these 5 things are the most vital to being successful in snooker, pool or any cue sport. Master these and you will virtually always beat those who haven’t.

Check out our drills to hone these fundamentals and improve all aspects of your game.

#1 Use the Pro Bridge

The easiest way to tell if someone knows what they’re doing or not at a table is to look at their bridge hand. Good players all do pretty much the same thing. This is because it works and is absolutely vital to making the balls go where you want. Luckily, it is actually quite easy to learn, just follow these steps.

Assuming you are right handed, lay your left hand flat on the table. I’m a lefty so this is my right hand.

Next, spread your fingers, not quite as wide as possible, but fairly spread out.

A wider base provides a more stable bridge

Now, raise your knuckles off the ground. Your fingertips and heel of your hand should stay firmly planted on the table.

The middle of your hand rises, leaving the heel of the palm and fingers on the table.

Finally, the thumb. Place the joint of your thumb against the side of the knuckle of your index finger. Flex your thumb back so it is pointing upwards. This creates a groove where your cue will slide, so squeeze your thumb tightly enough against your hand so that it cannot move.

Your thumb and first knuckle create the channel for your cue.

There you have it, the bridge that has won every snooker world championship ever played and will help you win more games. The key points are: keep your thumb tight, don’t let it move, and keep the heel of your hand on the table.

Don’t do this.

You may have seen a bridge like this,

it works and has some benefits down the line, but it’s harder and not necessary right now. The basic, easy, open bridge will serve you right up to the highest levels of play. Master it and you will instantly have an immense advantage over anyone using an improper bridge.

#2 Keep a Level Cue

Have you ever lined up for a straightforward shot, and after you hit it the cue ball seems to swerve all over the table before missing where you were aiming entirely? The culprit here is almost certainly a “jacked up” cue. You should always try to keep the cue as close to perfectly level with the ground as possible.

A level cue ensures the cue ball goes where you aim.
Shooting with your cue on the red line will cause unnecessary misses.

Basically, an elevated cue exaggerates the effects of sidespin, causing the cue ball to veer off course. In contrast, a level cue will make the cue ball go where you aim it. Any elevation will cause the ball to swerve and you to likely miss the shot. Perfectly level isn’t possible but always try to be as level as possible. I’ve seen reasonably talented bar players that would instantly play several balls better if they simply followed this rule. Also important to note, raising the back of the cue will not help you draw the cue ball backwards. There are very limited circumstances where your cue should be anything but level.

#3 Use the Ideal Backhand Position

So we’ve got our front hand figured out, cue nice and level, what about the back hand? The ideal position, and one that very few beginners naturally use, is to have your backhand form a 90 degree angle with your cue.

Your back forearm and the cue create a 90 degree angle.

What this means is, as you are down on the shot and the tip of your cue is almost touching the cue ball, your backhand should be pointing more or less straight at the ground.

This position makes it so that when you actually strike the white, your arm is in the optimal position for generating force and hitting the target accurately. Of all basic fundamentals, this one might be the hardest to get used to, but the benefit is massive. For most people, it does not feel natural right away and there is a tendency to choke up on the cue, or hold the very end of the butt. But once you get used to this position you’ll find that swinging through the cue ball feels much more natural and you will be far more accurate.

Having your backhand too choked up on the cue limits power and accuracy.
At this angle it is impossible to smoothly stroke through the cue ball.

#4 Hit the Center of the Cue Ball

Our first three tips basically cover the most important aspects of positioning your body. Where your two hands go, and how the cue is positioned. Now for actually striking the cue ball. If you want to maximize your chance of making any given shot, the best thing you can do is to try to hit slightly above the center of the cue ball.

This position maximizes your shot making chances.

You might know that hitting the bottom can create backspin, pulling the cueball back, or that hitting the sides can change the angle of the ball off the rail. But as beginner, these are to be avoided, especially in game situations. Deviating from a center ball hit, especially to the side, adds variables that create unnecessary difficulty in the shot. At higher levels, off-center hits are vital to running out, but if you want to make more balls right now, stick to the middle. Hitting just above the center lets the natural roll of the ball keep it rolling straight and allows for a more level cue.

#5 Shoot “Pocket Speed”

Easily the number one mistake beginner and even fairly high-level intermediate players make is just shooting too hard. Just like throwing a ball, the harder you try to shoot, the harder it is to make the ball go exactly where you want it to go. Try lobbing a piece of paper into a garbage can and then throwing it as hard as you can. Which one went in?

Hitting too hard makes balls that might drop rattle out of the pocket.

If you watch really high-level players, you’ll find that they all have the ability to hit very hard, but rarely do. If you want to make more shots and win more games, shoot softly, hit the center of the cue ball, and the balls will go where you want them to.

Even if your aim is a bit off, a light touch can make the ball drop.

Not only will your shots be more accurate, soft shooting greatly increases your margin for error on many shots. What this means is, a shot that rattled and flew out of the pocket at high speeds, likely would have dropped if hit just hard enough to go in. We call this “pocket speed” or the minimum speed required to make the shot. Shooting this way means more of your balls go in and even if you miss, your balls will cover the pocket, meaning your opponent can’t make theirs! Of course, sometimes hitting harder is needed to play position on your next shot, but the general rule of always hitting as soft as the shot allows still applies.

In 8 ball, covering the pocket when you miss makes it very hard for your opponent to run out.


There you have it, 5 key fundamentals that you can bring to the table the next time you play to shoot better. Use the pro bridge, keep a level cue with your back arm pointing at the ground, and softly hit the center of the cue ball. Mastering these techniques will make you a formidable player in any bar and give you the foundation to move on to more advanced techniques. Stroke Drills are a great way to solidify these fundamentals and make your game more consistent.

As you develop as a player you will discover all sorts of situations where you must break these rules. So, subscribe at the bottom of this page for updates in this beginner series where we cover foot position, grip, and more. Thanks for reading and play well.

Tangent Line Aiming

The internet is littered with various “aiming systems” and methods to visualize the line of the shot. What most of them have in common is that they focus on the contact point on the object ball and aiming different parts of the cue or cue ball at it. This method is different. Instead of focusing on where to hit the object ball, we are going to focus on where the cue ball will go if the shot is made using the tangent line. This is much simpler than trying to find a contact point on a sphere and has the added bonus of improving your positional play.

If you’re not familiar with the tangent line, read about it here. It is crucial for playing position and the rest of this article won’t make much sense if you don’t know how to use it. The basic gist of it is, when the cue ball is sliding and hits an object ball, it always separates at 90 degrees from the cut angle. This article shows you how to use this fact to aim.

Take a standard back cut.

backcut tangent
The tangent line is sometimes easier to see than the shot line.

You could visualize a line from the ball to the pocket (the green line), but this is out of your line of sight once you’re down on the shot, making it difficult to judge. This problem is compounded the further the object ball is from the pocket. Instead, we can imagine the tangent line (the black line) if the pot was successful. Shoot the shot in such a way that the cue ball, with no spin, would travel down that line and the pot is guaranteed.

For any given object ball position, the tangent line will form a triangle on the table that will be the same no matter where the cue ball is. The triangle always extends into two rails. This gives you multiple points of reference for the shot and at least one is always in your line of vision.



For example, in the shot above, you can see the tangent line extend into 2 points on the rail. Even if you can’t see the pocket when your down on the shot, you will be able to see one of those contact points.

So rather than focus on a point on the object ball, we can just imagine sending the cueball to one of those points on the rail, depending on which direction you are cutting the ball. Using multiple points of reference takes a lot of the guesswork out of potting balls. Not only this, since you are focusing on the point you will hit on the rail, you will be more precise playing position off that rail. You are already visualizing the angle of entry into the rail so the exit angle will be the same on a plain ball shot.

You may be thinking that his technique only works with a centre ball hit, but it’s easy to adapt it to using different spin. While standing at the table, aim as if using a centre ball hit. From there decide what spin is needed and drop down into the shot. Using the tangent line to aim doesn’t mean you have to make the cue ball follow it, just know that it’s there. Focusing on the tangent line first will actually make you more accurate when using follow and draw since you will see the line that you are moving the cueball off of.

Besides making you a better shotmaker, this method will seriously improve your positional play. By imagining the tangent line on every single shot, you will intuitively develop a better sense of where the cue ball is going. You will see plain ball positional routes much more clearly, and incorporate them into your game more often. This means less use of spin and more consistency in both potting and shape.

For instance, when playing a carom game you will see that plain ball will get you many places on the table just by following the tangent line, or deviating slightly. You will also notice that break out shots are much easier using this aiming technique. Since you are imagining the tangent line of every ball you need to pot, you will quickly notice which ones easily take you into a cluster.

This method works especially well on shots that are normally difficult to aim. Trying to cut a ball across the table when it is close to the rail is usually a nightmare.

tangent close to rail.png
Shoot the 11 so the cue ball heads towards the rail, following the tangent line, and the pot takes care of itself.

So instead of shooting the 11 ball at a point seven feet across the table and out of your line of sight. Shoot the cue ball at a point six inches away and right in front of you. Your pot percentage on these types of shots will go up dramatically using this method.

On frozen to the rail shots the tangent line is parallel to the adjacent rail, making it one of the easiest shots to aim. This is especially helpful in snooker and Chinese 8 ball where rail shots must be hit perfectly.

snooker tangent.png


The farther the ball is off the rail the more the tangent line angles away from the pocket. After practicing this shot a few times its easy to see how much the tangent line changes from parallel the further the ball is off the cushion and to adjust your aim accordingly.

snooker off the rail.png


No system works completely, and if you are not stroking straight no aiming technique will help. Still, proper visualization is going to make problem shots much easier, and visualizing the path of the cueball is going to give you the pinpoint positional technique needed to play tight shape and effectively break out clusters. You might not use this method on every single shot, but at least try it out on shots that normally give you trouble, like blind cuts, and I am sure you will see the difference.

Let me know in the comments how this has worked for you and if you have any questions.