How to Play Pool

A mean pool game really will help your street cred at the local dive bar.

billiard balls and pool stick
(Image credit: Sharon Dominick)

You've seen it in the movies — the new girl in town hussles the men in a barroom pool game and catches the eye of the resident "bad boy." Yes, it's a cliché, but a mean pool game really will help your street cred at the local dive bar.

Nothing says "novice" like bad form. If you are right-handed, you want the back of the cue in your right hand. To figure out where your dominant hand should grip, first find the cue's reference point by trying to balance the cue on your index finger. The point where it teeters on its own is the reference point. Your dominant hand should grip about six inches behind that spot. With your left hand, make a circle with your thumb and index finger. Put the cue through that circle, then rest it above the knuckle of your middle finger, the tip of which should be placed on the table. Do not grip the pool cue with your front hand; it's only there to steady your aim.

If your left hand is in front, your left foot should be too; your right foot should be about two feet back. Lean forward and square your hips to the pool table. When you hit the ball, keep your elbow parallel to the floor — this will keep your ball moving in the direction you aimed.

Practice! Playing pool, at least playing it well, is hard, and a small amount of practice goes a long way. To hit an accurate shot, draw an imaginary line from the pocket to the ball. The point on the ball where that line ends is where you want to hit, and ideally you want the ball to follow the exact line you drew. Yes, it's easier said than done. Hence, practice!