Improve Your Mental Game Approach

We marvel at the playing skills today’s professional players possess. The game of pool is as physical as ever and yet there’s still one deciding factor that often gets overlooked: the mental game. 

The game of billiards is as much a challenge between you and yourself as it is you and your opponent. At Virtual Billiard Academy we see a lot of students struggling to perform while under pressure; many seem to have lost the enjoyment they once had for pool, and before enrolling in my class some seriously considered quitting the game altogether.

This article will discuss strategies to improve your mental approach, so you can become more successful and most importantly, gain more enjoyment, both on and off the table.

I believe there are five specific principles that will improve your mental game; Play in the Present, Maintain a Positive Attitude, Relax Your Mind Between Games, Evaluate: Don’t Analyze, and Visualize Success.


How often during a match are players thinking about what happened in the past or what may happen in the future? Dwelling on previous mistakes is never a good thing, the past is the past. All too often players lose several games in a row because they are annoyed with something that happened a few games back. Conversely, too often there is the tendency to begin thinking about the outcome or how good it will feel to walk up to your opponent and shake hands after the win. It is vital to play in the present moment.  To play in the present moment you must have a sound pre-shot routine that you follow on every shot.  At Virtual Billiard Academy we can help you develop a solid routine that will keep you playing in the present!


Have you ever watched the 1990 US Open 9-ball match between Nick Varner and Mike Sigel? Varner, after being behind 9-2 and corner hooked, was the mastermind of one of the greatest come from behind victories in the history of the game.  Instead of being deflated and getting down on himself due to the circumstances, he maintained a positive attitude and took advantage of every single opportunity given to him from that point on. It’s important to stay positive, keep your head up, and never show an opponent weakness. And if you feel yourself getting negative, take a moment, regroup, and keep trudging forward.


Pool matches are long and there are lots of opportunities to overanalyze, stress and micro-manage. Take a moment to regroup, refresh and relax your mind between games.  This will help you maintain a fresh perspective when you return to the table. 


Finding a balance is important. It is good to process what is happening but at the same time try not to obsess. Paralysis through analysis can become an unwelcome reality. Many of us are guilty of being over-thinkers and a pool match provides endless opportunities to overdo it. Finding patterns matter but do not overthink every single shot.  Focus on subconscious delivery of the shot and try not to become too mechanical. 


When you are trying to play your best pool, positive visualization cannot be overlooked. Stay positive, stay confident and get in the habit of envisioning success. Picture what you want to accomplish. See it happen in your mind and turn your visualizations into reality.


At Virtual Billiard Academy we often hear potential students say, I must win this tournament, or my practice was a failure. Nothing could be further from the truth. What defines you is not the result, but rather how you approach the process.  It is good to have big picture goals, but once you do, put them to the back of your mind and focus on the small steps that will help you achieve them. That might mean watching instructional videos or scheduling in person meetings with your coach.


Very rarely do problems or stressors resolve themselves by sitting around and waiting. Come up with a plan, review related lessons and strategies and get to work. Perfect practice makes perfect.  You must practice the right things to overcome obstacles in your way. Mental toughness is not something you are born with; it is developed over the course of weeks and years. Make focusing on your mental game a priority!  Practice sound strategies and be patient. Good results will follow!