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Basic Billiard Techniques

Updated on May 29, 2010

Grip and Stance. In billiards, one hand propels the cue; the other forms a bridge to support and guide the cue near its tip. The propelling hand holds the handle lightly, from 3 to 6 inches behind the balance point, with the thumb and first three fingers. The channel through which the propelling hand slides the cue is formed by the fingers of the supporting hand which rests on the table or the rail, depending on the position of the cue ball. The fingers make the cue support, or bridge, essential to aiming. The most-used hand supports are the basic bridge, the rail bridge, and the vee bridge. If shots cannot be reached with any one of these hand bridges, a mechanical bridge must be used.

When facing the shot, a player should place the feet slightly apart, one forward of the other. The body leans from the hips, with the forward knee bent slightly and the head directly over the cue, in a straight line with the shot.

Shots. To make the basic billiard shots— center, follow, draw, and English—the player must aim for a spot on the cue ball. The center shot, made by hitting the cue ball at dead center, stops the ball after the impact with the object ball. The follow shot, made by striking the ball a cue-tip width above its center to impart over-spin, causes the ball to roll forward, or to follow, the object ball. The draw shot, made by striking the ball a cue-tip width below its center, causes the ball to roll backward.

"English" is imparted to the cue ball by striking it off center. This causes it to spin either clockwise or counterclockwise. The cue ball will spin clockwise if it is struck a cue-tip width right of center; this also speeds up the ball. In order to direct it counterclockwise and also slow it below normal speed, it must be struck a cue-tip width left of center.

In carom billiards a target area either on the table or on the rail is used. Players set their sights by one of the 18 small white plastic inlays (called diamonds) on the rail.

Play. To achieve proficiency, a player must learn how to control the speed of the cue ball; how to execute bank shots, frozen rail shots, caroms, and combination shots; and how to plan a sequence of shots to set object balls in position for pocketing. Long shots should be avoided. Sharp angle shots must be surveyed from the intended pocket as well as from the point of impact.

Billiards Equipment

Tables. Championship billiard tables are twice as long as they are wide and 31 to 32 inches high. Both the carom table and the American snooker table measure 5 by 10 feet over-all; a pocket table measures 4 1/2 by 9 feet. The best tables have beds of slate. All are covered with a felt cloth and have felt-covered cushions.

Most tables have three small spots on which the balls are spotted at the start of various games. One spot is at the exact center; the other two (the head spot and the foot spot) are in line with the center spot on the table's long axis, each being halfway between the center spot and one of the end cushions. Pocket billiard and snooker tables have six pockets: one at each of the four corners and one at the middle of each side rail. Carom tables do not have pockets.

Balls. Originally all billiard balls were made of ivory. The majority now are of plastic. Pocket billiard balls numbered 1 to 8 are solid colored; those numbered 9 to 15 are striped. The cue ball is always white.

Cues. Cues are made of wood. The butt end, or handle, is generally covered with linen. The long, tapered shaft has a rounded leather tip about 1/2 inch wide. The spot where the weight of the handle is equal to that of the shaft is the balance point of the cue.


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