Snooker is a game that can be a lot of fun but can also be extremely frustrating. Unlike American and English pool, it is incredibly difficult to master the game quickly. Watching the experts (such as Ronnie O’Sullivan) consistently potting balls with ease gives the impression that snooker is an easy game to grasp. However, to their exasperation, most people find that this is not the case! Taking the time to learn and develop some basic snooker skills, however, can be a quick and easy way to improve your overall game.
How to bridge
Forming a bridge is essential for establishing a channel through which the cue can pass when striking the cue ball on the table. A bridge is formed with the forefinger and thumb of the opposite hand to the one holding the cue. The forefinger and thumb should make a wide, straight ‘V’ shape. Always ensure that the bridge is at an appropriate height for striking the cue ball in the right position. If the bridge is too high or too low, your aim will be inaccurate. Another important factor to consider is the distance of the cue ball from the formed bridge. This primarily depends upon the amount of backswing needed for the shot. As you pass the cue through the channel formed by the ‘V’ shape, ensure that the bridge remains completely still. Even a slight movement can negatively impact upon your shot.
How to cue
Learning how to bridge is a crucial part of learning how to cue properly. You should always try to make the cue follow the line of the shot in an uninterrupted, smooth manner. To do this, you must form a solid bridge and also ensure that your grip on the cue lines up with the intended direction of the shot. Before striking the cue ball, move the cue backwards and forwards in smooth, slow movements, always making sure that the cue is in line with the shot. Prior to the shot, alternate your eyes between the cue ball, the object ball and the desired pocket. However, on the final backswing, make sure that you focus solely upon the position on the object ball that you wish to strike. When you are ready, move the cue smoothly along the line of the shot, passing it through the channel formed by the bridge.
How to grip
Forming a secure grip on the cue is just as important as establishing a solid bridge. The thumb and each finger should be wrapped fairly tightly around the bottom of the cue. As a general guide, the grip should be tight enough to keep hold of the cue if somebody attempts to snatch it but not tight enough to turn the knuckles white. If the grip is too tight there may be excess tension in the arm. This can cause pressure on the bridge, which can ruin the shot completely. However, if the grip is too loose, the cue can move sideways and alter the intended direction of the shot. The forefinger and the thumb are more important to a successful grip than the other fingers. All the fingers apart from the forefinger should release in the back swing in order to keep the cue straight and able to make smooth movements.
How to maintain a correct stance
It may sound insignificant, but even the slightest movement in the body can impact upon the line of the shot. In order to minimise movement of the body, you need to maintain a firm stance at all times. If you cue with your right hand, you should keep your right foot in line with the shot. The right leg should be kept straight, as long as this is comfortable. The left foot should be square or just ahead of the right foot. The left leg should be bent at a comfortable angle. When you pass the cue through the channel formed by the bridge, ensure that your chin and chest are as close to the cue as the table and the position of the balls allow.
How to sight
The eyes are two of the most important tools available to any snooker player. They allow the player to constantly check their stance and cue action, in order to ensure that the cue is kept in line with the direction of the shot. As you lower your chin over the horizontal cue in the build-up to a shot, your eyes will automatically be positioned on either side of the cue. There are two important sighting points to remember whilst preparing to strike the cue ball. You should alternate your glance between the position of the cue aiming for the cue ball and the intended point of contact on the object ball. Alternating your glance in this way will allow you to check the line of the shot. Some players choose to check the pocket visually as well as the two standard sighting points but this is not crucial. As the cue is passing along the channel formed by the bridge for the final time, focus your eyes solely upon the object ball and keep them there as the shot is carried out. Never look at the cue ball whilst striking it.
Side-spin is an extremely difficult shot to master. Even professional players have trouble with this particular skill. It does not impact upon the direction of the cue ball after it strikes the object ball. After the initial contact, the cue ball will follow the tangent line. Furthermore, the speed of the cue ball is not impacted upon by side-spin. However, side-spin will alter the point of contact required to pot the object ball. To put side-spin on the cue ball, strike it to the left or right of the central point. Some players wishing to place extreme side-spin on the cue ball choose to raise the butt of the cue. Whilst this is not essential, ensuring that you follow through in a smooth manner is imperative. Once you master this skill you can use it in a variety of tricky situations. Try swerving the cue ball to get out of being snookered.
In order to put top spin on the cue ball, you will need to strike it above centre and follow through properly with the cue. If you imagine the cue ball to be a clock face, strike the ball at the position of 12 o’clock. Striking it at the position of 10, 11, 1 or 2 o’clock will apply side-spin as well as top spin. Striking the ball at 12 o’clock will cause it to spin forward rapidly. Always consider the position of the cue ball with regards to the object ball. If there is little space between the two balls, more top spin will be required. It is important to keep the cue as straight and level as possible so that it does not strike downwards. If the position of the balls on the table forces you to raise the butt of the cue, you must make sure that the centre of the tip is beneath the highest part of the cue ball. This will ensure that the tip is positioned in such a way that will prevent side-spin being applied to the ball, which could potentially ruin the shot.
On a straight shot, hit the cue ball forcefully just beneath its central point. This will cause the ball to skid across the table without adopting the usual rolling motion of a standard shot. When the cue ball strikes the object ball, all the power of the shot is transferred to the object ball. The cue ball is effectively stunned and stops on the table. When striking a stun shot, make sure that you hit the cue ball forcefully enough so that it is still skidding when it reaches the object ball. If you strike the ball too softly, it will roll after the object ball rather than stopping.
Back-spin can help you to keep control of the cue ball. Successful back-spin will force the cue ball to move back the way it came after striking the object ball. Back-spin is applied by striking the ball below centre. If you imagine the cue ball to be a clock face, you should be striking the ball at the position of 6 o’clock. To improve your shot, you should lower your bridge so that the tip of the cue is able to hit a lower position on the cue ball without actively pointing downwards. Do not hit the cue ball too forcefully as this will ruin the accuracy of your shot. Furthermore, ensure that you follow through your shot in an exaggerated but smooth manner, keeping the cue level at all times.