Trying your hand at a new sport can be an intimidating prospect. You want a new hobby, you love watching it on television and so you fancy giving it a go. But the professionals just make it look so darn easy, don’t they? And that’s never more true than on the snooker table.
Those of us that love watching the boys in bow ties clear up on TV and have ever tried to emulate them will know the pain of failure. You head to the club, rack ’em up and pick your cue. You chalk it precisely and deliberately. You fancy yourself. Maybe this is the new hobby that will change your life. You never know, do you? Maybe you’re a dab hand on the baize…
But you’re not. If fact, you’re terrible. You can’t pot anything. Not only that but you can barely hit anything properly. Yet it looks so simple when the pros do it. Maybe snooker’s not for you, after all. Maybe you should put that cue back and admit defeat. Maybe.
Or maybe not. Snooker is an extremely difficult game to master. Okay, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever trouble The Crucible. But you can still improve. It’s hard work. It’s very technical. You’ll need to practice. But you can become a decent club player. All you need to do first is learn a few of the more basic shots. Get your head around these seven snooker shots and you’ll up your game in no time!
If you’re a particularly casual player whose experience of cue sports is mostly limited to the odd game of pool down the pub, then the most important ball is always the object ball, isn’t it? It’s all about whether it goes in the pocket or not. And, to some extent, that’s true in snooker as well. But the cue ball is vital too. Fail to control it and you’ll never come close to amassing sizeable (or even relatively impressive) breaks.
‘Top spin’ is something you need in your armoury. Just whack the object ball with no thought as to the journey you’re sending the white on afterwards and you’ll be all over the place. But learn this simple trick and you can ensure the white carries on much further than the point where it strikes the object ball.
Raise your bridge hand higher than you normally would. This will have the tip of the cue pointing higher up the white. Much higher than where you would normally strike it in the middle. Now play the shot and watch the cue ball travel forward. You’re controlling the thing… Hey, it’s a start.
In an ideal world, every shot you take will allow you to get your hand on the table and make for easy cueing. But this isn’t an ideal world. Even the top pros lose control of the cue ball or find themselves tucked up by an opponent during a safety exchange and face being hampered. It makes your shot ten times trickier.
Now, there’s no hard and fast rule here. But if you watch club players attempt to cue while hampered by other balls, they often look nervous, unsure and unsteady. And, invariably, that leads to a poor shot. Don’t just accept that you’re going to play a bad shot – experiment with different bridging styles. Can you use a rest or other cue to assist? Think about the shot, don’t rush it.
Try moving your bridging hand further away from the cue ball and raising the bridge. Tuck your middle fingers in. Take your time and something will eventually feel right.
Now, it’s unlikely you’ll find yourself needing to break out the much-fabled ‘Massé shot’ too many times. And that’s a good thing, as you’ll probably never truly master it. It’s extremely technical and even the top players struggle with judging it correctly.
You’d only ever really need to employ this showy swerve shot when you’re snookered, but the object ball isn’t all that far way from the cue ball. You’re aiming to strike the cue ball hard and with very little follow through, from an almost vertical angle (be careful not to hit the table and damage the cloth though, eh?).
The white should take the path of a banana and – hopefully – you hit the object ball. The amount of swerve is determined by the amount of pace you put into the shot and where exactly you hit the white.
Speaking of whites, lets watch The Whirlwind Jimmy White show us exactly how it’s done…
Left/Right Hand Side
Applying ‘side’ or ‘side spin’ (or ‘English’, in American parlance) looks easy. And it is. But applying the right amount of side is less so. Imagine a straightish pot. Hit the object in the sweet spot and the white in the very centre and the object ball’s potted, the white stays fairly still afterwards. But now you’re on nothing. You wanted the white to go to the left-hand side of the table…
Well, you should have hit the cue ball on its left-hand side, then. Applying ‘left-hand side’ spins the ball clockwise and sends it spinning off to the left (and vice versa with right-hand side). How far away from the centre of the white you hit it will depend on how much side is applied.
That’s the basic theory, anyway. The only way to master it is, like with all of these shots, to practice it. Over and over and over (and over) again.
Using The Rest
If you learn to the control the white ball, with a bit of luck, you shouldn’t need to go looking for the rest all that often. But, invariably, it’ll come in handy at some point during a frame. Don’t be intimidated by the rest, though. It’s not a totally new way of playing or even cueing, really. Think of it as an extension of your arm.
Now. It’s important to just focus on the pot here. You won’t be able to get too clever with position, so just ensure you’re potting. Make sure you’ve got a firm, supportive grip on the end of the cue and you’ve settled the rest down and slid it out of the way of your shot. Then, raise your elbow parallel to the table, line up your shot and poke at it firmly, with very little follow through.
You’re attempting a long pot. A red. You’d ideally like the white to stay where it is, at the point of contact with the red. There’s a black available. So what do you do? Well, you stun it.
Stunning a ball at close range can be done by making the centre (or slightly below centre) your point of application. But when the object ball is some three to six feet away? That won’t work. Eventually, the ball will pick up top spin and you won’t get the position you want.
So what you need to do is make the point of application lower. Hit the bottom of the centre of the cue ball and apply back spin. That spin will wear off by the time it hits the red and it’ll stay put after making contact. If you apply the ‘stun’ correctly, that is. Again, practice will iron out the kinks
That stun we just talked you through? Do that with a closer object ball and you’ll acheive screw. Screwing and stunning are basically the same thing. The only difference is the amount of room between the two balls.
Hit the white nice and low – and central – and once the white hits the object, it’ll come whizzing straight back to you…