Why You Probably Won’t Get Better at Pool


One of the most popular questions that I am asked when I’m in a pool hall is, “How can I get better?” My answer is that if you’re asking me this question, then you probably won’t get better. If you think that’s a harsh assertion, let me explain myself.

1. If you’re asking me this question you probably have no idea what your weaknesses are.

If you haven’t assessed your own weaknesses by the time you are asking me this question, there is probably no chance you ever will. The people who constantly improve are the ones who carefully self-assess and work to improve the holes in their games. If you’ve ignored  your weaknesses thus far, then you probably don’t have what it takes to work on something that you absolutely hate until you want to shatter your cue in a million pieces and/or have a nervous breakdown. You’ve probably never felt utterly demoralized and broken down by that one thing that you can’t seem to master, yet you come back day after day and keep grinding. And you’ve also never experienced that moment when it all clicks, and suddenly you have a glimmer of hope, which only makes you double the effort.

2. You want to skip the struggle.

You are asking this question because you want the magic bullet. You want me to say something so profound that your game goes up once my words meet your medial temporal lobe. I can’t tell you how many people I see in the pool hall with gadgets and gimmicks all designed to create a quick fix that will make you instantly better. I see low level players adding an extension to their cue “because Earl does” or buying  different cues in hopes of instantly morphing into whatever champion is using it. These champions didn’t get that way by a gimmick, a gadget or a cue. They got that way because they obsessively spent every moment in the pool room working on the things that they find most unpleasant until they master them.The best players literally shed blood, sweat and tears until they become that way.

3. Your ego is too big

Chances are you’ve asked other players this very question, but upon realizing that your game didn’t magically improve, you came in search of answers from me. Maybe when the other players said your break was too wild, or your position was too weak it sounded like too much work to fix. Or maybe you think those things are already great, and that it must be something else. I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked my opinion about something, and then told me they’d rather do it their way. If your mind isn’t open to new ideas, then your ego will forever hold you in lower echelon of pool.

I’m sorry if I sound callous, but this is the reality of improving your game. I’m not talking about the kind of improvement that happens by default if you keep hitting balls. I’m talking about improving beyond your natural plateau. Improvement that people notice and talk about. The kind that makes people ask you what you’re doing. For that kind of improvement, there are no quick fixes. There is no product you can buy. It’s just you facing your weaknesses. Until you work your ass off to make them strengths. And then your old strengths become your new weaknesses. So you rinse and repeat until that shit is squeaky clean.


13 thoughts on “Why You Probably Won’t Get Better at Pool

  1. Yeah. it’s funny. I’ve had this same question asked of me and other questions that are more likely to result in the opposite.

    Questions like, you were lining up differently than I’ve seen anyone else line up, what were you doing there?

    That’s a little different than what can I do to get better. You’re right that the people asking that question will likely never get better and those that you do answer will as often as not say, “Nah, I’ll stick to my way of doing things”. Yeah, because that’s worked out so well for you thus far that you’re ASKING me about what to do…lol.

    I’ll usually answer that question with “Learn, practice, then learn some more, then practice a WHOLE lot more”.

    Getting good at this game is a bunch of little epiphanies, and those only come with constantly working on yourself and finding the “flaws in your game” like you said and working on those until you’re sick and tired of it and then working on them some more.

  2. I’m not sure why the writer of this article must constantly apologize for being blunt. It also addresses this issue in too many invalid points.

    The answer is simple. If you are not getting better at pool you are either: (A) Lack the eye/hand coordination & memorization required. or (B) You are practicing wrong.

    Perfect practice makes perfect – that is to say, if you practice wrong, you will never succeed in anything let alone pool.

    How do you know if you’re practicing wrong? Get a few lessons from a few different pro level players and take each of their words with a grain of salt (there are few people who know how to properly teach the game to others – just because they are pro players doesn’t make them pro teachers).

    Pros go pro because they get there in a matter of a few years. If you’re not an “A” player after 5 years of playing 20hrs/week, then you’ll probably never get to the pro level. Very few if any exceptions to that rule. Many pros got to at least upper echelon play after just 3-4 years. Keep in mind, that’s playing 40hrs/week minimum.

    The real question you have to ask yourself is – why do you want to get better? Do you want to be a pro? Do you want to live a starving artist lifestyle but with a nomadic and uncertain gambling aspect? Sounds worse than being an actor in LA to me. What is your goal “level” – B Player? A Player? Open? Pro? I’d ask that question even before “Why am I not getting any better?” Know your own limits and feel if “getting better” at pool is even something worth doing.

    1. I love that you point out the memorization!! I have a japanese buddy with an incredible memory!! He will shoot a one pocket shot out of no where or make what looks like a total flyer in 9 ball!!
      Then, tell you that either he or someone he played made that same shot on him 10-15 years ago and he’s been waiting for it to come up again!! It’s amazing watching him at times and hearing all his opponents clammering that he “Shit Out”…. When really…he has the money to take chances and the confidence!! And the MEMORY along with a solid ability!!

      As a side note, he’s better than I am in everyone’s mind!! BUT, how he remembers this too I don’t know….but L lifetime I’m up on him over $2000.00! He hates playing me in tourneys cuzz its a battle I usually win!! Here’s why….when he gets in dead stroke and runs 2-3 racks usually flawlessly 1 stroking balls in!!

      I will immediately when I get the chance….play non stop safeties on him and make him kick for 10 minutes!! He almost daughter n when in one tourney I was doing it with 3 ball run outs and ball in hand ha-ha!! But I knew if I came up dry on my 9 ball break! Off to the races he went!!

      For money, I would guage his stroke first!! But in a short race tourney….I went immediately into a safety game!! Took him a bit to refine himself! Another guy…..would fold like a lawn chair the minute I shit a ball in!! Pissing and moaning I couldn’t play and all I did was shit balls in!! So every match….I would just crash a nine ball rack early and often and once he got enflamed like hemroidal tissue!!

      I got out the sunscreen and waited for the lawn chair to unfold!! Learn the players….the falacy is your playing the table not the player!! BS!! Unless your playing the ghost!! KNOW YOUR OPPONENTS TENDENCIES!!
      I went 4 years and thousands of dollars gambling with the right player at the right time without a loss of my cash! Was I playing top flight players?? Hell No!! I was under handicapped and under respected and it made my wallet start feeling over appreciated 😉

  3. I would like to start off by saying there’s bits of good information here. One thing I would like everyone to consider is that if a weak player is asking a pro, or upper level player how to get better, or how to do something it is because they can see how well you may play. Not every player wants to spend 40 plus hours a week on the table for the rest of their lives. Some fortunate players have had great teachers or instructors and have been able to make leaps and bounds of improvement. It starts with fundamentals, proper practice, proper shot routine along with a strong comprehension level and periodical evaluation, goal setting, 100% heart, 100% effort. Being healthy also helps. Thank you for your time.

  4. I don’t ask “How can I get better”, I ask “How can I be more consistent”, I could make an 8 ball clearance One frame, then be incapable of potting a ball in the next frame.

  5. That is exactly the way it is Jennifer. People want to be good players without putting in the effort to really master the game.
    I myself used to play at a very decent level, even being able to run a rack witjh just one arm, but when i got married and had children i stopped playing pool for 12 years. It’s the hardest thing to come back to a decent level without going back through the motions of lining up walking in addressing the shot and pushing that cue through in a straight line. When you get to a decent level this all becomes automatic and you sort of just look at the aiming point and it goes in but when you haven’t played for so long you have to go back through the basics again or you will never get back. You need to be dedicated, to disciplining yourself, to regain that solid stroke and all the techniques associated to get that white where you want it to go. The game becomes easy but you have to go through hell and back to get there.

  6. People need to stop asking pros how to get better they need to ask instructors. You don’t ask tiger woods you ask who taught him. Teachers are not pros but they make pros, people don’t them enough credit. Just because a person is not learning fast that doesn’t mean they can’t it just means they have the wrong teacher. As we were all taught that no question is a bad question everyone keep trying and keep asking questions and I will see you on the pro tour.

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