Why trust us? We take expert advice, test, research and select products independently. If you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission read more.

How to Play Pool

Learning the fundamentals of pool, such as how to grip a cue stick, how to stand and the proper stroke, are essential if you want to be come a good pool player.

Learning the fundamentals of pool, such as how to grip a cue stick, how to stand and the proper stroke, are essential if you want to be come a good pool player. This guide will take you through the basics of how to play pool.

Playing Pool Tips

  1. A cue’s tip will affect how it strikes the ball.
  2. Make sure your cue stick is straight.
  3. Most people grip the cue too tightly.
  4. An open bridge is easier to use for beginners.
  5. During the stroke, only your lower arm should move.
  6. Use the ghost ball method to aim your cue ball.

Introduction: Sometimes it begins after watching The Color of Money or The Hustler. Other times it begins during a visit to a local bar or a friend’s house with a pool table. Of course, it doesn’t really matter how you developed the desire to play pool. What matters is the game of pool. You want to know how to play, but don’t know where to start. The following page will walk you through the basics.

Step 1: Learn the Terminology

  • Although it is not required for you to know the proper pool terms, it will go a long way to making you look like you know what you’re doing. If you walk up to the table and announce you’re going to hit the white ball with your pool rod, everyone will know you’ve never played pool before.


Cue: Also called a cue stick. The long, tapered rod, usually wooden, that is used to strike the ball in pool.

Butt: The larger end of the cue opposite the cue tip.

Cue Tip: The piece of material attached to the shaft end of the cue stick.

Balance Point: The spot on a cue where it remains level if held by one support. This is usually 18 inches from the butt end of the cue.1

Joint: The spot midway on a two-piece cue stick that allows it to be broken down into two separate pieces.

Shaft: The thinner part of a cue where the cue tip is attached.

Ferrule: The piece of material at the end of the cue shaft where the cue tip is attached. It is usually plastic, horn or metal.

Pool table: A billiard table with six pockets.

Bed: The flat playing surface of the table.

Cushion: The cloth-covered rubber which forms the outer perimeter of the playing surface. The slanted part of the cushion that is cut at an angle is known as the jaw.

Rails: The edges of the table, which are not covered by cloth, which attach to the cushions.1 The short rails at the ends of the table are known as the head and foot rails. The long rails are known as the right and left rails, determined when one stands at the head end of the table and faces toward the foot.

Diamonds: The markings or inlays (which are not always diamond shape) on the rails that are used as reference or target points.2

Head of table: The end of the table, usually marked with the manufacturer’s nameplate, from which the opening break is performed.1 If you draw imaginary lines between the center diamonds on the short rails and the second diamonds of the long rail (at the head of the table) you will find the head spot.

Foot of table: The end of the table where balls are racked or positioned at the start of a game. If you draw imaginary lines between the center diamonds on the short rails and the second diamonds of the long rail (at the foot of the table) you will find the foot spot.

Cue ball: The solid white ball. It is the only ball you can hit with your cue during a game.

Chalk: A dry substance that is applied to the tip to help prevent slipping between the cue tip and the cue ball.

Mechanical bridge: Also known as a crutch, bridge stick or rake. It is a grooved device mounted on a long wooden handle that is used to support the striking end of the cue when it is impossible for the hand to do so.

Rack: A wooden or plastic triangle used to gather the balls into formation.

Basic Parts of a Game

  1. Bridge: The arch formed by the hand that holds and guides the striking end of the cue during play.
  2. Break: The very first hit of a new game.
  3. Frozen: When a ball is touching the wall or another ball.
  4. Kiss: When two or more balls make contact.
  5. Miscue: A stroke where the cue’s tip slips off the cue ball, usually resulting in a bungled shot.
  6. Object ball: The first ball that a cue ball hits.
  7. Pocketing or sinking a ball: Getting a ball into a pocket.
  8. Scratch: When the cue ball gets hit into a pocket, is hit off off the table or fails to hit any balls.
  9. Shot: A shot begins when the tip of the cue touches the cue ball and ends when all balls stop rolling. There are various types of shots, but some of the basic ones include:
    • Angle shot: A shot that requires the cue ball to drive the object ball in any other direction other than straight. Also known as a cut shot.
    • Bank shot: When you hit a ball off the side of the pool table.
    • Jump shot: When the cue ball or object ball is caused to rise off the bed of the the table.
    • Combination shot: When the cue ball hits an object ball, which then deliberately hits a second ball. This is can also be called a carom.
  10. Stroke: The movement of the cue as a shot is executed.

Step 2: Choose a Cue Stick: The most important thing that you will do before playing pool is select a cue stick. Selecting the right cue stick can make a good deal of difference in how you play, so take the time to select the right one.

  1. Check that the cue stick is straight. You can determine if the cue is straight by laying it across the table and rolling it quickly with your fingers. If the cue tip rolls unevenly or wobbles, don’t choose it because it is warped. If the shaft of your cue is not straight, it could ruin your shot.
  2. Check the tip of the cue; it should be curved and rough. A tip that is too flat, round, worn or smooth can cause a miscue. You want the tip to be curved about the same amount as a nickel or a dime.
  3. Choose a cue stick that feels right to you. The standard weight of a pool cue is between 17 to 21 ounces. The weight is written on the butt of the cue. Balance point is part of the cue that can change how it feels. The balance point is the spot where the cue stays parallel to the floor when it is balanced on two fingers. Sometimes the balance point is closer to the tip, while other times it is closer to the butt. Since the balance point is where you will want to grip your cue, you should check to see if you can maintain the proper stance with the cue.
  4. Chalking the Pool Cue Stick: You may have noticed a little blue cube sitting on or near the pool table. This is the chalk. The chalk is used to improve friction between the cue and the ball, which will give you a better shot. To apply the chalk correctly, gently brush the chalk onto the tip until an even layer of chalk is on the tip. Do not chalk from side to side or spin the tip into the chalk. Try to keep the ferrule from touching the chalk. Chalk your cue before every shot. Never blow on the tip or tap the tip on the table to remove excess chalk.

Step 3: The Proper Stance: Your stance is very important when making your shot. In essence, your body will form a tripod between your feet and your bridge hand on the table.

  1. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart: The tips of your feet should be pointed away from each other at a 45-degree angle.Your rear leg will be straighter than the front leg.
  2. If you are right-handed, move your left foot forward. If you are left-handed, move your right foot forward.
  3. Relax your leg muscles and bend your knees lightly.
  4. Line your chin up with the aim of the cue ball and center it over the cue.
  5. Your stroking or calling arm (the one that is moving the cue) should be bent at the elbow and should not hit your body. The upper part of the arm should be at a 90-degree angle to the cue.
  6. Your bridge or leaning arm should be slightly bent.
  7. You should be able to stay in this stance without putting your bridge hand on the table.
  8. You can check your balance by asking someone to nudge you while you are in this stance. Your body should not be easy to move without having your knees locked.

Become a member

Sign up for our newsletter to get exlusive new content and giveaways.

By continuing, you accept the privacy policy.
No spam. Unsubscribe any time!