Big Bad Bern said:
I once had an article I ran across on the internet in which you described the way you hold the cue with your middle finger. I have long since lost it and was wondering if you could explain it for me and/or post pictures.
Would this be the type of stroke that Harold Worst, Mosconi, or Greenleaf would have used.
What is the advantage of this type of stroke.
What stroke length would you recomend (ie. short and snappy or long and fluid).
What are your views on stance and other fundamentals.
Thanks in advance
Here is a copy of the article that you probably read. It is basically what I think about the entire setup and stroke. I have made some clarifications to the grip section. The article is sort of a compilation of sorts from posts I made that are many years old, so sorry for the poor English usage
If you still have questions about the grip after reading the post, I will be more than happy to do some photography for you. Here it is and good luck:
I believe that most serious amateurs spend all their time tying to figure
out things "to do" to make their stroke better. What they should be doing
IMO is spending the time to figure out what to eliminate. Basically, this
is what I mean about changing the way you need to think about your stroke.
When the stroke goes bad, it means that there is too much, rather than not
The stroke is the single most important controllable factor or variable in
the game. Therefore, it should be worked on constantly.
When we first learn to hit the balls, we learn to lay the cue down on the table aiming pretty much at the final aim spot. From there, we are instructed to walk into the shot
by placing the feet (in almost every book) and head, and bridge hand
according to where the cue stick is. I think we forget this from time to
time and place the body first, then the cue stick. Well, at that point, of
course the stroke might be crooked because parts of the body might be "in
the way" or contributing to inward or outward swings in the back and front
So point one is IMO:
Aim the cue before going down on the shot. It doesn't have to be perfect,
but let the cue establish its space first and foremost. To re learn this
might take some time and maybe some embarrassing moments at the pool room
lining up like a beginner. But remember there is a reason that in just
about every great instructional book, the cue stick line is established
before anything else happens. Many stroke problems may automatically
disappear if a player who was having trouble would just go back to this for
a while. To bring this back to the stroke trainer issue, imagine that you
are using this trainer to train your muscles how to deliver the cue in a
straight line. Well, if the body placement isn't perfect, you are training
your muscles to make minute adjustment to and away from the body, to keep the cue
straight. Going back to stance and alignment, allowing the cue to have its
space first, it has nowhere it "has" to go because nothing will be in its
way. This will not solve all the problems, but it is a core competency that
I think many ignore or forget about.
Next, I try to think of the stroke as this- letting the speed, and
direction, of the cue's mass (including the mass of all that is connected to
it (part of the weight of the arm) work without too much interference. With
that said, how do we get the cue moving back and forth in a straight line?
After step one, isolate the muscles that are good for the stroke and think
about them. Hold your elbow up in the air so that you are pretending to
stroke to and away from your body. Reach your bridge hand over and lay it
on the triceps. As you pull away (backswing), what do you feel? What you
feel is the only muscle that should be doing any noticeable work. Now, put
your hand underneath and feel the biceps on the front swing. You may not
feel anything except for at the end of the front swing, at which point the
biceps will flex a lot. Do you get the point? One muscle on the way back
and one on the way to the ball.Limited variables.a minimalist approach. But
how do you get to the point where only those are working? And don't worry,
the wrist and hand and fingers are coming. Now pretend that you are going
to swing for real; actually stand up and make the form without the cue
stick. Pin your elbow up in space and let your arm dangle from there,
completely relaxed. Many people have a hard time relaxing their arm so that
it hangs perfectly down. Your fingers will be slightly curved if your arm
is truly relaxed. Once relaxed totally, and unless your arm has been
disfigured somehow, you should be able to see a line perpendicular from the
floor going through the pocket between the thumb and first finger (which
consequently is where the center of the cue stick goes!), through the middle
of the lower arm, and finally through the elbow. If this is not the case,
you have more relaxin' to do. So where are we.oh yeah,
After doing step one, move into the shot so that you
grip the cue (later) with the line of your grip, elbow, and forearm
perfectly perpendicular to the ground.
Now we have this situation- the cue is frozen in space, as well as your
grip, your lower arm, and your elbow. Try to imagine your stance and bridge
arm still able to move around, while everything else is frozen. The next
thing is the stance, isn't it? Stance.while I am firm about there being a
"right" way to stand, all that means is a way that is consistent. But the
two important things about the stance are this: 1) DO NOT GET IN THE WAY of
the stroke and 2) be balanced and comfortable. What I mean by #1 is that if
you stand too close to the cue, doesn't your arm want to move away from the
body? And if you stand too far, won't the arm want to come back to the
body? If you stand the right distance, there will not be any extraneous
influence on the stroke arm. What is the distance? It differs for
everyone. The easiest way to find out is to practice a little with steps
one and two in mind. This is the point where a little Tai Chi practice
comes in handy. Most of us practice the stroke full speed, or sometimes
just a little slower. To find out about the influence of the body on the
stroke, move the cue stick so damn slow back and forth.to the point it will
take about 45 seconds to reach the ball. Do this while perfectly relaxed.
In this exercise, you will see how badly the other muscles want to get
involved in the stroke, and how much influence they have if you let them.
Whenever you feel the cue getting off path, relax. After a few tries, your
arm should be able to relax enough to do this without interference. If the
body is in the way, a crooked stroke will be inevitable. If the body is out
of the way, the cue will travel along a very straight line using only the
needed muscles for back and forth swings. Find the location where your feet
go and remember it! It may feel uncomfortable at first, but just try get used to it quickly.
Head placement and bridge placement- You all know where the bridge
goes, so put it there. The bridge should have no influence on the stroke.
It is only there to keep the front of the cue from going away. The head
then should be placed in a location that is comfortable and consistent.
Some players place it under the dominant eye. Some under the chin. I
advocate under the chin, but not because it will make you any better.
Placing the cue under the dominant eye makes it difficult to check if the
placement is consistent if things are not going well. If the cue is under
your chin, it is easy to check. Also, I like both eyes to be equidistant
from the focal point. If the cue aim line is under one eye, and the head
perpendicular to the aim line, the other eye is focusing on the hypotenuse.
Do I think that means that a player will be less accurate? No. But I think
that over long periods of time, it can lead to tired or stressed eyes. I
have had some conversations with an ophthalmologist billiard student of
mine, and he thinks it is also potentially likely, but didn't know for sure if there is
any truth to it. So anyway, if you are a dominant eye placement kind of
guy, and find that after long periods of play that your eyes get way tired,
maybe try a center placement and see if there is any change. And if so, let
me know. What about head elevation? I don't think it matters much as long
as it is consistent. On shots where I need to see the angle, I stand more
upright. On shots where the hit is what makes the shot for me, I get down a
little more. It is possible that I am doing myself a disservice by doing
this, and maybe I should stay in the same place all the time. I am still
thinking about this part, but really believe that a player can learn to play
well at any altitude.
The stroke itself is a non issue, really. Just pull back, push forward,
with a nice relaxed pendulum. If you want to pause at the end of your final backswing, fine. I think
that for people who struggle with stroke, this should not be a part of the
routine for this reason- if you are constantly worried about delivering a
good straight stroke, pausing at the end of the final backswing gives you
time to think about all those things you could do to mess it up. Rather,
what you should be focused on is the aim point. If you can pause and stay
focused without worrying about the delivery, great. I happen to like the no
pause theory.and in the game, if it happens to pause, it is subconscious and
ok. If you are consciously pausing, I think you are finding a way to screw
up the stroke. Maybe you wont, but maybe you will.
The grip I like is this- the cue rests on the middle finger (my delivery
finger) which is curled under the cue along with the first and fourth fingers, which both lightly touch the cue. The thumb
points straight down and basically locks the cue in place. Sometimes the thumb slightly bends under, but it is subtle. I think the wrist should be as relaxed as possible during the stroke. Many players cock the wrist back and forward to keep the cue stick level. I think that is too much and creates more variables than needed. If the wrist is relaxed, it will look to others like you are "using" it. That is because it looks different than most, not because it is true. The grip is nothing special and is not anything like the old time players used to use. This grip is more along the lines of the top Euro players of this generation. It really is just a simple grip with the middle finger being the trigger finger. I have used this grip for over ten years and think it is one of the stronger aspects of my game.
In your practice regimen, be sure to include several "stroke" shots. That
does not mean fast, but instead, quality stroke tests. Some of those shots should be very very light shots, like straight rail shots.moving into medium shots.and
finally into strong shots. Do it from small to large like how golfers practice (going
from wedge to driver in their practice) so that you can work your way into
the stroke. There are tons of great shots in Daly's Billiard Book for under
$10. You can test how straight your stroke is by hitting center ball up and
down the table so that the cue ball comes back to strike the cue tip. I
know this is old fashioned, but there is no better way of knowing one way or
another if you can deliver a straight stroke. Do this until you can do it
almost all the time..and relax, relax, relax, during that process.
In conclusion, the best strokes are those "without" rather than "with."
Those strokes with the least variables are the easiest to control. That is
not to say that a stroke with a lot of variables wont work (ala Efren and
Sang Lee types), for they obviously do. But I bet those players spent much
more time tweaking their strokes than they had to. Imagine how great they
play now.now imagine how great they could play if their strokes were even
more consistent than they are now.