Do you “think” in “spoken language”?


AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
My pool table has been full of crap the past couple months, so I go to my leasing office garbage 7' table with a 1' roll off (not exaggerating). When I play on this table, I just throw all 15 balls and make them in any order just to have fun. Yesterday I tried singing to myself while shooting, and not thinking about the shots at all. I think it mostly worked, in that I was not using my inner voice for the shots, but rather for the singing. ha ha.


AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
When you are looking over the table, and planning your run, are you “speaking” in your head (phrases, sentences, etc,)?

Or, can you remove all language from your thoughts. If so, can you describe what is in your head?

I tried removing language yesterday and was unable to when planning a run.

Same question for broader life. Is all your thought in “spoken language” inside your head?
yeah, pig latin.


Well-known member
What prompted me to ask was working on improving thinking speed at the table. Then I got to thinking in general if everyone has that voice in their head, in life in general.

If one has to "speak in their mind", then the rate of their speech is the limit to their thinking speed (I suppose). Some players are simply so fast, I wonder if they have an inner voice. Maybe the best example of this is speed chess. Do those guys verbalize in their heads the possible chess moves?
At the table I think in pictures. I 'see' the patterns. Visualize the path of the balls. In regular life I do have a running commentary but have gotten better at spending more time in the space between thoughts.

Re: Chess players. Magnus Carlsen was asked in an interview how long it will take him to figure out a position on a chess board if they were to quiz him like with flashcards. He said that he wouldn't figure it out, he'd just know what to do. It might take him some time to sort out the 'why' of the move, but said the move would be known to him for just about any standard game layout they could show him. Kinda makes u think about just how much memory of games past and logged games of greats in books plays a role in playing top chess. Some moves are just the best moves in a spot. Why figure them out if you can just remember a game someone else did the figuring out in?

I think top pool players see patterns in a similar fashion. Obv it isn't exact like on a chess board, but similar shots and the way they connect to others come up all the time in games like 9b. Sometimes it seems like Earl glances at the table and the rack is solved. Darren Appleton, even more impressively, sees 8b patters crazy fast. Saw a game he commented on and he was giving you 4 connected balls to start before the balls stopped rolling off the break. Ridiculous speed and ability to recognize patterns.
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Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
Silver Member
Accurate or not, I had to call the communications something so I settled on verbal and nonverbal. Standing up planning a run I am usually in verbal thought mode early in an inning. When the table gets so open the run is obvious I go to nonverbal mode.

Down over the shot I should always be in nonverbal mode. I have planned out the inning, all that is left is to get out of the way of the unconscious and my body, let them execute my plans. Missed shots usually occur when my conscious wants to butt in!

Auctioneers have a saying they use to prompt bids, "Think long, think wrong!" I find that to be true in another meaning, think long carrying that thought down over the shot, I will probably miss it. One of the hardest things to learn was to get up off of a shot when my head wouldn't shut up! Conscious and subconscious need to stay out of the way, the unconscious is driving this train.

For awhile I was afraid if I turned things over to the unconscious I would have a train wreck before the conscious woke up. However, the conscious is sitting up in a corner somewhere wide awake. If it sees a problem coming up it will nudge the unconscious. Until then the unconscious is running the show.

While all kinds of different numbers are thrown out, it is generally acknowledged the unconscious is more powerful than the conscious, maybe even a thousand times more powerful. Do we want the weak conscious running things or the much more powerful unconscious? Thinking in words is for the conscious. The unconscious may be working a thousand times faster, no time for words.


Ghost of OBC

Active member
There’s a concept called verbal overshadowing that putting words to something that is visual in nature can screw up your visualization. It’s probably not a good idea to verbalize too much when thinking about your angles.
This. No words when playing. I won't talk to anyone when I'm playing seriously. I try to stop talking/thinking in words a few minutes before I start playing. Just pictures. They are more accurate than words anyway.
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Billiard Tech Researcher
Silver Member
I always imagine I am doing a beer commercial. Sometimes I am an extra, sometimes the camera is on me, sometimes I do something with a good reaction.


It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that ping.
When I'm playing good I pretty much look at the table layout and know if it's worth running or letting the other guy move the furniture around for a bit. If I am thinking verbally (with language) I try to shut that up asap because it's just my dumb ass head trying to argue with myself and talk me out of performing how I need to perform.

I try to never argue with myself, if my gut feeling is to kick, I kick, if it's to jump, I jump, etc. The more aggressive I play the better I do so I just try to stop being chicken s### about hard shots. Just let 'er eat. Better to go out shooting than giving something a half-a## effort. Pool isn't life or death and I just play better if I don't think about outcome or who I'm playing. Head talk makes me concerned about the game and being concerned makes me tense... and being tense is a sure fire way to under perform.

It's hard to describe but I play much better when just trying to feel the perfect shot/stroke without thinking about leave at all. I walk around the table for my brain to have time and multiple angles to map the rack. I don't think about it other than maybe something like "The first 3 balls are natural to the next then I have to stroke the CB downtable. If I need a breakout I just try to break it out every shot until it's the OB. The CB goes to an opportune location and I shoot the next shot. If I miss they don't have any real chance of making the next shot. Sometimes it's just a ruse to let them attempt contact and move the balls enough to give me another shot. All this seems to work best if I'm not thinking about it but just feeling shot after shot.

A rack is runable or it's not and it probably doesn't require much thinking to tell which state it's in. I think 1P has helped me with this, you take opportunities and leave none, when it's time to stomp the gas you stomp the gas.


Where does language come into it when thinking in terms of pictures?

When assessing the possible shots to play, you may call the shot a "double", a "bank" or whatever, but language is not relevant here when what you are considering and imagining is a picture!

L.S. Dennis

Well-known member
I speak two languages, English which is my mother tongue, and Italian which is the language of my heritage. I can't really comment on this relating to pool, but I can tell you that in order to really say that you can speak a second language is when you start thinking in that other language as well. Once you reach that point I believe you can safely say that you are fluent in that second language.
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