Five Mental Game Tips

Minnesota Fats once said: “Pool is mainly played on a five-and-a-half-inch slate… the space between your ears.” Pool is undoubtedly one of the most mentally challenging sports there is. It’s an individual pursuit and there’s nobody to help you when you have bad luck, or your opponent gets a good roll. 

Almost all the top players are students of sports psychology.  They use mental game strategies to help them find the right frame of mind before a game, and to give them methods to stay in a “happy place,” for the duration of their match.

There are some key psychological pointers that can help average players stay mentally tough on the table. Below are a few of the best, they might seem obvious, but ask yourself whether you employ these simple mental game strategies during a match. If not, perhaps you should start.


All negativity stems from thinking about past mistakes or fearing the unknown. If your mind is ahead of you, how are you going to focus on the immediate task – the shot you are facing at that moment? You can’t control what will happen two games from now or what happened 30 seconds ago. All you can do is concentrate on your next shot.  


Each time you come to the table your objective is to run out. Don’t think about what has gone before, or any possible worst-case scenarios, just focus on how to run the balls in the most efficient way possible. 

If you play bad position that results in a difficult shot, try to think of it as a new challenge. Don’t just wallow in self-pity; start over. Remember, your objective is to run out or pocket the money ball any way that you can.


Most pool players dwell on poor shots. What’s the point? Once it’s been hit, nothing can be done about it. The only thing you can affect is what happens next.

A great way to let off steam and forget the errors is the “chair rule.” It’s a psychological strategy employed by several top professionals.  After a bad shot, you can vent your frustration (internally) until it’s your turn again.  After you get up from your chair to shoot again, that shot is history, it should be totally forgotten, and your mind should move on to the next stroke.


League players are often guilty of giving up on their matches too early. Remember, your fortunes on the table can turn with one good stroke, or one decent break.

Amateurs who get the most out of their game tend to give it their all until the very last ball is pocketed. If you get to a point when you realize, there’s no chance of winning – set different kinds of goals for yourself.  You might try to get 2 to 3 games in a race to 9 rather than being whitewashed 9-0.


If you’re having one of those days where the balls just don’t seem to fall, don’t get down on yourself. Focus on the positives. Eventually the law of averages will win out.  Stay in the present!  Don’t dwell on the past or think about the future.   A positive attitude goes a long way and is a key part of overcoming challenges you may encounter during match play.