Prime Time

If I were to ask you what “thinking” is, you might say it is using your brain to solve a problem or to “think about” something. 

However, as much as we like to think we have control over our thoughts, most are automatic or “subconscious”. How we think or feel about certain situations is mostly predetermined by our thought patterns or memories.  In fact, roughly 95% of our mental and physiological processes happen without us being aware of them happening.

Most likely you’ve experienced your best pool game when you are playing with little thought.  That said, playing subconscious pool is not much good if what’s in your subconscious is negative and creates feelings of distress or fear.

In this article, I’m going to share some ideas for “priming” your subconscious to create a feeling of confidence that will give you the ability to access your best skills under pressure.


Your automatic mind is a storyteller and quickly creates patterns based on what is familiar to us. if you see a photo of a pool cue then get asked to fill in the blanks for the word “ C U _”  you are more likely to write “CUE”, than if you were to see the a picture of a cup first, in which case you would probably fill in the blanks to create the word “CUP”. The subconscious is constantly linking the past to interpret the present.

For this reason, the intuitive mind can be influenced by something that psychologists call “The Priming Effect”, which can be used to help us achieve desired behaviors and actions during play.


Studies show that when people are exposed to certain stimuli before doing a task, they are more likely to think, feel, and perform in a certain way. You might say that their mind becomes “primed”, and this can help us play a better game of pool.


One way to play subconscious pool that I know you’ll be familiar with is “mental imagery” or “visualization”. This can be considered a form of “priming” – by creating an image of a successful shot in your mind, you create a feeling of confidence that you can execute it.


Words are also triggers and a reason that self-talk is an effective mental game strategy. Using words in your pre-shot routine such as DELIBERATE, SMOOTH, and CONFIDENT, can prime you to create a positive internal state. Positive affirmations are a form of priming which you can use before each match you play.

Studies show that players who use positive verbal cues before or during a match, reduce anxiety and have improved performance. Words connect to the subconscious and trigger feelings and emotions that the mind associates with them.


Body language and facial expressions are another primer. When you smile, your intuitive mind associates that with being happy.  Walking tall and confidently makes your mind trigger feelings of confidence. Conversely, adopting a weaker posture triggers more negative emotions such as stress, fear, and anxiety.


Now that you know more about how to prime yourself, be mindful of what you can do to be more confident. The subconscious mind forms patterns all the time to
reduce energy expenditure, and these patterns are being formed daily. With some training you can shape your mind and create habits that can lead you to your best play more frequently.