Playing Pool - The Missing Manual Chapter Seventeen: Rhythm
Patrick Baumann
Feb. 25, 2016
In this series we're publishing the book "Playing pool - The Missing Manual" by Patrick Baumann - every week, one chapter at a time. Consisting of 20 chapters, "Playing Pool" teaches you 20 important lessons for beginners and advanced players.
Patrick is a certified pool coach from Berlin, Germany. He writes about how to play better pool at He also operates the Bata Bar & Billiards in Berlin and an online store for billiards equipment.


Find the middle ground between “too fast” and “too slow.”
Well-played pool is a bit like a dance. You need rhythm for dancing. When you watch a good player everything he does has a rhythm. That doesn't mean that he plays particularly quickly or slowly, but that everything is in harmony: how he looks at the balls, how he moves into his stance and how he makes his stroke.

Slowly or quickly

Every player has his ideal tempo. My own experience is: If I play too slowly, if I take too long and think too long, then I'll make mistakes. I'm going too controlled at it and my arm no longer swings freely. You can also see this with pros. Then, every position ends up a bit too far or too short, the balls don't go cleanly into the pockets, and so on. Often it helps to play a bit faster to get into the swing of things.
However, when I play too quickly, then I make mistakes because I get too sloppy. I don't look carefully enough at the position, don't think about what I want to do and make mistakes because of this. Here, the solution is to play a bit slower and also to make my back swing with the cue a bit slower before the final stroke. Imagine a pendulum. On the one side you have very slow play, on the other side very fast. The ideal place would be if you played in the middle. The reality of it is that one constantly vacillates. The better your rhythm is internalized, the less you will vacillate. A good start for this would be if you could develop a feeling for whether you are playing at a good speed or if you are too fast or too slow. If everything is going smoothly, then of course you won't have to do anything. However, if you notice that you're making too many errors, you should ask yourself: Am I too slow or cramped up? Maybe I'm playing too quickly and sloppily? And you adjust your play accordingly.
You will only find your perfect rhythm during practice, because there you allow yourself mistakes. Pick a drill and experiment with various playing speeds. Pay attention only to how this feels and not necessarily on how many mistakes you're making. Find out at which speed you want to move around the table, which tempo of play you like the most.
When you have found this tempo, then you should try to always stick to it in your practice sessions, no matter if you make more shots or not. Gradually, you will learn that this is your ideal speed and will then start to make more shots. But first your body has to learn to move at this rate. So when you notice during a match that something is wrong, you will be able to tell if you are playing too fast or too slow and adjust your speed accordingly.
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