Knowing the most common snooker mistakes will help club players avoid them. Here, we present a list of the 10 most common mistakes in the order they occur as a shot is being played.
1. Not having a consistent pre-shot routine
The first thing to note is that there isn’t a model pre-shot routine an aspiring snooker-player can pick from the shelf and apply to their game. When you watch the professionals play you’ll see that, although they all approach every shot in the same way, it’s a way that is individual to each of them. What’s important is that their routine is rarely altered. That’s because, over time, they have developed a routine that they know works well for them. Club players will often vary the way they approach their shots, with predictably variable results.
A pre-shot routine describes the actions a player takes from the point of approaching the table to the moment they execute the shot.
It starts with standing behind the shot and lining it up. That is when the player plans what they want to do with the cue ball after striking the object ball (not whilst they are down on the shot, as we will discuss later). Position upstairs, potting downstairs is a helpful phrase to remember this crucial point. Many people develop the good habit of chalking their cue whilst they figure out what they want from the shot.
Once the shot has been decided, the routine then includes the way the player adopts the stance and brings the cue to the bridge hand. Kyren Wilson has a noticeable foot-shuffle as he lines up his shot and he brings his cue down in a chopping motion, whereas other players sweep their cue in from the side. The routine also includes the number of feathers (or practice swings) a player will take before striking the cue ball.
More sophisticated routines may include deliberate positive thinking, visualising a successful execution, and tuning-out distractions. Whether or not these are present, what is essential is that a routine is developed through observing what works and then sticking to it.
2. Aligning the shot wrongly
One of the most common snooker mistakes I see is when club players stand behind the shot at a slight angle or off-centre. This will result in them choosing the wrong line. It is important to stand astride the line of the shot with the belly-button exactly on the line and shoulders square-on. Some players will stand too close to the table or too far back without realising that it is easier to see the line from around 24″ behind where your feet will be placed. The image below shows a correctly aligned player.
Mis-alignment can also be caused by poor cue placement under the chin. Sometimes this happens because a player is unaware of which of their eyes is dominant. Here’s a link to a simple guide to finding your dominant eye. However, our recommendation is to find a SightRight trained coach with the proper equipment. SightRight is a different theory that many professionals have adopted. Surrey Snooker Academy’s resident coach, Brian Cox, is one such person.
3. Gripping the cue in the wrong place
There are several occasions in the course of a match when a player needs to adjust their grip on the cue, but there is one basic rule that should otherwise be followed: the forearm should be more or less perpendicular to the cue. Club players often make the mistake of thinking they always need to hold the cue at the butt-end. Take a look at this picture of one of our club players for a good example of the correct grip for most shots.
A player’s body size and shape will affect where they need to grip the cue to achieve a vertical forearm. Shorter players need to grip higher up the butt of the cue than taller players.
4. Gripping the cue too tightly or too loosely
Gripping the cue too tightly is another of the most common snooker mistakes, especially when club players are taking a shot that requires power. Too tight a grip causes a player to snatch at a shot, exaggerating any unwanted side. Predictably, snatching usually leads to a missed pot. Tightening the grip just before impact causes deceleration and a reduction of spin, again usually resulting in an unexpected outcome.
Conversely, too loose a grip on the cue leads to a lack of control. On rare occasions a loose grip may allow a player to achieve a deeper screw shot although, under normal circumstances, the grip should be firm but relaxed.
5. Wrongly placing the bridge hand
Body shape and size plays a big part in where a player places their bridge hand, as does their grip. However, in my opinion as a professional coach, the most successful bridge is one where it is solid and allows the cue to follow through by between 4-7 inches after impact with the white. This, of course, isn’t possible if the bridge hand is too far from the white. For a light-hearted take on this subject, check out my blog on the bridge hand.
6. Focussing on position instead of the pot
Of the most common snooker mistakes, this one regularly trips club players up. They may have a consistent pre-shot routine, good alignment, the right grip and a well-placed bridge hand, but when they get down on the shot they lose focus. Position upstairs, potting downstairs means that, once decided, the pot (or safety shot) is the only thing a player should focus on. So often, players take their eye off the pot to track what the white ball is doing and miss as a result. If you’ve chosen the right shot, the white will do what it should. Just keep your eyes on the object ball until it reaches its destination.
7. Not striking through the cue ball
Many club players have a pronounced tendency to jab at the cue ball instead of striking through it cleanly. Jabbing at the cue ball means that none of the intended spin is imparted from the cue. To make the cue ball react the way you want it to requires that the tip of the cue remains in contact with it as long as possible. Your cue tip should push smoothly beyond the bridge hand for at least 4 inches.
8. Hitting shots too hard
Another of the most common snooker mistakes I see every day is the unnecessary use of power. Snooker is a game of finesse, and hitting the cue ball too hard takes that finesse away. Power almost always reduces accuracy. Perhaps club players who play on poor quality tables can be forgiven, but on a good cloth, the cue ball will glide easily across the table for most shots.
9. Not staying down on the shot
Just as important as the pre-shot routine, is the post-shot routine. Club players will often play their shot and immediately stand to see how the balls have reacted, as the player in this picture has started to do.
A good post-shot routine involves staying in place and watching the object ball until it has reached its destination. That observation allows a player to learn from any mistakes and correct them for subsequent shots.
10. Not keeping the cue in contact with the chest
Number ten in my list of the most common snooker mistakes is allowing the cue to come away from the body as the shot is played. When this happens, it is practically impossible for the cue to travel in a straight line. When the cue doesn’t follow a straight line, unintentional side spin is imparted to the cue ball, causing it to take an unexpected path. Take a look at how the player in the video clip below allows his cue to come away from his chest by at least a couple of inches. Once this was corrected, his game improved significantly.
Be alert for these mistakes because, once you’ve corrected them, you’ll become a much better player.
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