If you’ve just developed an interest in playing pool and aren’t sure how to hold a pool cue correctly, you’ve come to the right place.
I’ll discuss everything you need to know, such as how to get a proper grip on your cue stick, position your hands correctly for different types of bridges, and complete a stroke. And as a bonus, I’ll throw in some tips to help you take more accurate shots.
But wait, I want to share a secret with you – there’s no actual wrong or correct way to hold the pool cue. Everyone simply has a unique style they’re comfortable with. But you can significantly improve your pool game using the guidelines mentioned in this article. Once you’ve mastered these basics, you’ll be shooting pool like a professional pool player in no time at all.
So before I dive deep into the topic, let’s take a few moments to become familiar with your pool cue.
Ready to get started?
Anatomy of a Cue Stick
Taking the time to recognize the different parts of a pool stick will help you understand how to hold a cue stick the right way and play with more confidence.
The heavier end of your pool stick is known as the pool butt, while the lighter, narrower end is called the tip. It’s the part players use to strike the cue ball during the game. The size and hardness of the tip influence the power of your shots. For instance, a hard tip allows you to strike the cue ball more powerfully than a soft one.
The shaft is the smooth upper tapered part of the cue stick that glides through the fingers of your bridge hand. The wrap is on the opposite end of the stick, where you grasp the cue stick with your grip hand, which is your dominant hand.
The dominant hand is simply a term that refers to your preferred hand. So if you’re right-handed, your right hand is the dominant hand, and your left hand is the non-dominant hand.
Professionals typically use different pool sticks, including 1-piece, 2-piece, and 3-piece sticks. In the case of jointed pool cues, the pieces are screwed together at the joint. Players need to check the quality of the joint before playing. A strong joint offers the strength and stability you need to correctly make a solid shot, while a weak one can create an inaccurate one.
Now that you’re familiar with the anatomy of your cue stick let’s get down to business.
3 Steps to Hold a Pool Stick Correctly
Learning how to hold a pool stick consists of three main steps: the grip, bridge, and stroke. Let’s look at each in more detail.
1. Perfect Your Grip
You need to hold the cue stick at the level of your hip and place your grip hand on the wrap. There is no specific spot where you should put your hand as it can be different for everyone, depending on the height and length of a player’s arms.
But the general location tends to be around 4 to 5 inches from the base of the stick. Holding the stick too far towards the end or too close to the shaft can make it difficult to control your cue stick. In fact, the wrong position can impact your stroke, which I’ll discuss in more detail a little later.
Now that you have an idea of where to place your hand let’s discuss how you should hold the cue.
A firm yet relaxed grip offers better control of the cue stick. My emphasis is on the word comfortable.
I’ve seen my fair share of beginners who hold their pool sticks in a tense, tight grip. This can negatively influence your shots and cause a great deal of discomfort during the game.
Conversely, a grip that’s too loose offers less accuracy and control over the cue stick. So ideally, your grip shouldn’t be too tight or too loose.
Again, there is no particular way to grasp the cue stick. Some players find that holding it with the thumb, index finger, and middle finger (like in the picture above) can help add more power to your strokes. Others prefer holding the stick with their whole hand and resting it on their fingers.
So take the time to discover what works best for you.
I generally have my students practice this on an empty table with just the cue ball. Attempt to make a completely straight shot and don’t move the pool cue when you touch the ball. The white ball should roll straight back to the tip.
See which grip allows you to do this more consistently.
2. Make a Bridge
While you hold the pool cue with your dominant hand, the non-dominant hand (the bridge hand) is positioned on the pool table to form a bridge. The “bridge” offers support to the cue stick so that it can move back and forth smoothly and while remaining stable.
A proper bridge creates a solid foundation for the pool cue, allows it to move smoothly, and helps you shoot accurately. On the other hand, a bad bridge won’t keep your cue steady, causing it to move sideways, thereby ruining the accuracy of your shots.
So let’s learn how you can form a good bridge. You can create several bridge variations depending on how you position your fingers. I’ll discuss the most common types below:
As the name suggests, the cue stick lies on top of your hand in the open bridge, leaving the stick ‘open’ from the top.
The following steps will allow you to understand how to form an open bridge:
- Place your bridge hand on the table and press your thumb against your pointer finger. Then lift your thumb so that the tip points upwards, creating a ‘V’ shape. This is where the cue will rest.
- Spread your remaining fingers out on the table, almost like a tripod, to create a stable base. Firmly plant your palm and fingers to ensure the bridge doesn’t move when you hit the cue ball.
- Raise or flatten your knuckles to alter the height of the bridge.
An open bridge is a common bridge used by beginners as it’s easy to set up and provides more visibility, making it easier for players to shoot. However, the cue stick may slip out of place since it’s not held in place from above.
There are several open bridge variations depending on how you position the pool cue on your hand. Use the one that you feel the most comfortable with.
The closed bridge technique can add more precision to your shots, so it’s a good choice when you need to make more accented shots. So even though it can take some time to master, it’s well worth the effort.
As the name suggests, the cue stick is enclosed within your fingers in a closed bridge. The following steps will help you form a closed bridge properly:
- Place your non-dominant hand on the table and make a fist.
- Spread out your middle finger, ring finger, and pinkie finger.
- Cross your index finger over the pool cue so that it rests against your thumb, forming a closed loop around the stick. This prevents your stick from wobbling when you hit the cue ball.
- The cue stick rests on top of the middle finger, providing stable support for the stroke.
Like the open bridges, there are several closed bridge variations you can use. However, opt for the one that is the most comfortable, stable, and consistent for you. And no matter which one you prefer, make sure the heel of the palm is always firmly planted against the table unless you’re playing a steep cue angle.
As the name suggests, this kind of bridge is used when a cue ball is close to the rail and players don’t have enough room to create an open or closed bridge. Therefore, they use the rail as a support and make a bridge on it.
If the cue ball is 4 – 6 inches from the rail, follow these steps to form a rail bridge:
- Place your non-dominant hand on the rail.
- Form an open or closed bridge on the rail, or create a semi-closed bridge by putting your index finger over the pool cue and placing the cue between your thumb and index finger.
However, if the cue ball is really close to the rail or touching it, you can use another technique. Here, you can use the index finger to guide the movement of the cue stick. Make sure to keep the thumb pressed against the pool stick.
Sometimes, you may need to vary your choice of bridge depending upon the position of the balls on the pool table. For instance, if a ball comes in between you and the cue ball, you may need to use an elevated bridge.
Follow these steps to form an elevated bridge:
- Place your index finger on the table so that it’s almost perpendicular to it.
- On the other side, plant the tip of your pinkie firmly down on the table and tuck in the middle and ring fingers to create a tripod.
- Now lift the thumb upwards and bring it close to the index finger so that a ‘V’ is formed where the cue will rest.
- As you’ve probably figured out by now, making an elevated shot requires a lot of finesse. You need to make sure they don’t touch the ball while making the shot. It’s not something that I would recommend beginners to attempt.
Now that you know how to hold a pool cue when the cue ball is near the rail, let’s take it to the other extreme – the cue ball is so far out in the middle of the pool table that you can’t make a bridge easily.
This is when you can use a mechanical bridge, a piece of equipment that supports the pool cue when you take your shot.
Follow these steps to set up a mechanical bridge correctly:
- Place the mechanical bridge right behind the cue ball.
- Line up the shot by putting the cue stick on one of the indentations and imagining a direct line from the cue tip to the cue ball.
- Take the shot in one continuous motion.
3. Take the Best Shot
Now that you know what to do with both your hands, it’s time to learn how to deliver a good stroke. Ideally, you want to create a pendulum stroke. Here are the steps to follow:
- Begin by lowering your upper body towards the pool table and keeping your knees slightly bent. Get into a relaxed, comfortable position.
- Position your arm so that the forearm is perpendicular to your pool stick. At the same time, you also need to keep the forearm perpendicular to the back arm.
Your elbow acts as a hinge allowing your hand to swing back and forth like a pendulum. However, your upper arm and shoulder should remain still.
Aim to hit the center of the cue ball by looking down your pool cue. Create an imaginary straight line that runs along your pool stick to the cue ball towards the target ball (the one you intend to hit).
Practice your shot by swinging your cue stick back and forth a couple of times, bringing the cue tip close to the ball without striking it. This is to ensure you’re consistently straight, not to show off or generate power.
Once you’ve planned out your move and practiced, swing your stick backward a final time and drive the cue forward in one smooth stroke. Make sure to keep your grip relaxed throughout the entire shot.
Apply the right amount of force to your stroke depending on how you want the object ball to move. For instance, if a ball is close to the pocket, you may need to apply less force to nudge the ball in. However, a lot more force is needed when making the break.
Tips to Help You Hold a Pool Cue Better
1. Maintain a Comfortable Loose Grip
A good grip offers more control and improves shot accuracy. A very loose grip can cause your pool stick to swerve in different directions, while a death grip can cause muscle fatigue and ruin the accuracy of your shots.
The secret to a great pool game lies in maintaining a comfortable grip throughout the game.
2. Perfect the Basics
Beginners typically start playing pool with the open bridge. So get it right. When forming the closed bridge, make sure there are no gaps between the index finger and the pool stick. It could create an unstable stroke. On the other hand, you don’t want to create a tight loop either as this could restrict the smooth motion of the cue stick. The goal is to create a loop that guides the cue stick yet offers minimal resistance.
3. Build on the Basics and Vary Your Bridge Styles
While it’s good to focus on one type of bridge, at times, you may need to use a more advanced technique. So it’s best to practice all the different kinds of pool bridges discussed today to ensure you can strike the cue ball from anywhere on the pool table.
4. Follow Through With Your Stroke
Complete your stroke with a follow-through. So instead of stopping at the moment your cue stick connects with the cue ball, continue to move your arm forward, almost as if you want to shoot through the cue ball. This ensures your contact is correct and your strokes are more consistent.
5. Wear a Glove
The last thing you need is high humidity or sweaty hands preventing the pool cue from gliding smoothly between your fingers. The smooth surface of a pool glove reduces friction and facilitates cue movement.
Alternatively, you’ll see baby powder in some pool halls – you could use that for the same purpose (I prefer it!).
6. Focus on Overall Body Alignment
Body alignment is essential for shot accuracy. So while it’s important to position your head, forearm, elbow, and hand in the same line as the cue ball, you should also look into the position of your feet.
Secure your feet on the ground in a comfortable stance in the direction of your shot. Distribute your weight evenly on both feet, about shoulder-width apart.
Over to You
The secret to playing pool like a pro begins with learning how to hold a cue stick and mastering the position of your hands. The grip hand needs to be loose yet controlled, while the bridge hand needs to become the stable foundation on which your pool stick rests. Both hands need to work together to enable you to shoot the cue ball with accuracy.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about putting all this information into action. So the more you practice your strokes, the better you’ll get. And that means it’s time to grab your pool stick and play pool.
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