The Mental Side of Pool: How to Play Better Without Changing Your Stroke

The mental game of pool is often overlooked. It’s a lot more fun to practice running balls than it is to work on your concentration skills. Like most sports, the mental side of pool has a huge impact on how you play.

Have you ever been beaten by someone who has a terrible stroke? Perhaps their superior mental game skills were a contributing factor leading to your demise. Let’s have a look at some things you can work on that will improve your performance without changing your stroke.

First, I recommend that you create a game plan. This is quite fun once you know how to do it. Think of it as studying before a big test, but it’s for pool, not history. You would never take a test without studying, right? Well, those times you did study I bet you got a better grade.

Creating a game plan is all about exposing your opponent’s weakness areas and highlighting your strengths. If he isn’t very good at strategy, then you will want to use sound defense to outmaneuver him.

In 8-Ball, break off the side cushion and hit the second ball.  This will create more clusters and will turn each game into more of a strategic affair.  You may even have to block the pocket a few times to keep your opponent off-balance and create openings for yourself.

In 9-Ball you should slow down and play the percentages on every single shot.

No matter what game you play, always use the P.A.S.S. formula to make good decisions:

A – Determining the ANGLE you have on your current shot.
S – Determine what SPEED the shot needs to be struck with.
S – Determine what SPIN you need for desired position on you next shot.

Always, think at least 3 shots ahead. From there, you should subconsciously execute the shot exactly as you planned it.  Don’t let your stroke or any mechanical thoughts get in your way.  Just do it!

Good mental game skills aren’t about calculating how to “run out” every time. Your best matches will be played when you learn to ‘manage’ the table well. If you can gain a 2 percent advantage playing one shot over another, always play the percentage. When all things are equal always choose the offensive shot over the defensive shot because it will give you a chance to win.

Work on your alignment: All too often pool players are misled by the results of their shots. If you are striking the cue ball off center the problem doesn’t always necessarily have to do with your stroke.  Players generally assume it’s their stroke mechanics and generally their alignment doesn’t even cross their mind. Pros work on their alignment almost every outing. At the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to adjust your alignment than your stroke. If you are having problems shooting straight focus on your alignment.

Practice pocketing balls: Being confident in your ball pocketing ability will take the pressure off the rest of your game. This will allow you to focus primarily on your position play and making the decisions you need to make. When practicing, always shoot easy shots first. This will help you build your confidence. One thing I like to do is spread 15 balls and pocket them in any order. The more balls you pocket the better feel you will have for the table, and the more confidence you will have.

While pool is a very technical sport, the most challenging part about the game is developing the right mindset. A great deal of your performance has to do with making quality decisions. Use the tips above to comfortably prepare for your next match while eating lunch or sitting in a recliner. Hopefully this article will help you to shoot your best during your next match – or maybe at least it will help you have a more enjoyable time the next time you are on the slate.