Is your game on the LEVEL?

© 2010 Mike Fieldhammer,

Mike Fieldhammer

Some pool players take some time off during the Summer and others stay in stroke and keep cool. One thing that seems to be true with everyone this time of year is that we are busy!  So here’s a quick tip for you to keep in mind next time you’re in a game.  Keep a level cue.

Play shots with your cue as level as possible.  It is tempting to elevate the butt of the cue on draw shots.  Players routinely elevate unnecessarily on shots where the cue ball is near a rail. A little bit of elevation is unavoidable as the butt extends over the rail. However, strive for the lowest butt your knuckles can stand.

Potential problems with jacking up are as follows:

1. The possibility of a slight Masse’ or Swerve of the cue ball before it contacts the object ball is of great concern.  If side spin is used (left or right English) while the cue it elevated, the cue ball will curve while traveling toward the object ball. The amount of movement is tough to judge and can be a delicate blend of table conditions, speed of stroke, eccentricity of the tip to cue ball contact, and degree of cue elevation.  Minor and unwanted curve in mildly elevated shots is one of the biggest factors to missing shots. Just a quarter inch of movement of cue ball called swerve (or masse’) can make for an awful miss.  The object ball could miss the pocket by many inches.

2. Aiming is trickier with an elevated cue.  Looking down the line of the cue stick past the cue ball to the object ball gets tougher with an elevated cue.  Your head gets higher off the table and your cue points more into the cloth and slate than through the cue ball and at the ghost ball or contact point by the object ball.  Keeping your point of view with your chin closer to the table will aid effective and accurate aiming.

3.  Hitting down on the cue ball causes it to jump off the playing surface.  This is good when you’re attempting to shoot a jump shot, but not so good if you are shooting a draw shot.  Dr. Dave, a great asset to the game, has done studies in his mad scientist lab and concluded that you will have less back spin on the cue ball when it reaches the object ball if you jack up.  This assumes the same cue tip offset from center ball. The hopping cue ball loses spin from the very first hop.  There’s double trouble if the cue ball is airborne at impact, because the contact point will change.  Your cut will be thinner than if the cue ball was on the cloth.

So keep it level, especially if you are going to use some side spin or want the most effective draw shot.

Mike Fieldhammer
Professional Billiard Instructor / 612.802.0519

Mike’s team “Who Needs a Billiard Coach?!” recently won the BCAPL National Team Championship in a field of 674 teams.  Mike is a full time tournament player and professional billiard instructor. Lessons, gift certificates, and very soon the new line of Samsara cues available at the Billiard Coach Store.

The game of pocket billiards is simple, but not easy

© 2010 Mike Fieldhammer,

This article from a series of posts written in coordination with other pool bloggers on the topic of strategy. For related articles visit and use the search term PoolSynergy.

Mike Fieldhammer

“What is the most important thing?” Fast Mikie selected an appropriate April PoolSynergy topic.  One that reflects his personality and if done well, one that could unearth profound nuggets. A topic to challenge our writers to dig up a critical and timeless tidbit to pass along to our readers.  Selecting one bit of knowledge from my lifetime of playing pool and 15 years of teaching billiards is a monumental task. I can just picture Fast Mikie on his hammock with a wry smile while imagining us staring at our screens. I knew I couldn’t throw out any old tip like “keep a level cue”, “accelerate through the cue ball”, “stroke don’t poke” and call it a day. I even considered facing my personal demon “keep your head down and don’t jump up”.  I could have cranked out a passable article, but then it would have been easy for someone to toss out ten other no brainers that would make me conk the heel of my hand to my forehead and say, “Of course! That is much more important.” I think I have come up with a mantra worthy of the topic.

The most important thing is ALWAYS SEEK KNOWLEDGE.  Cultivate a desire to learn and your game will improve as will your enjoyment of playing it.  As a lifelong student of the game, I can say that I love the game more with each passing year.

The time I spend with a cue in my hands is fulfilling. I love it so much that I made it into my career.  I am a Professional Billiard Instructor.  Teaching others the game is the most important part of my billiard related work. I also compete in a heavy tournament schedule in the Midwest and play in several leagues in the Twin Cities. I love travelling to compete in professional tournaments and I photograph these events. I am also a billiard retailer selling “Serious Gear for Serious Players” including cues, cases, and accessories that I personally endorse. So you see, coaching billiards is but one component of my profession and obsession.  One thing I do know for sure is that  a formal lesson is one of the most effective ways for a pool student to learn and to ignite excitement about the game.

Some bloke named Steve Droke said, “Knowledge is power, enthusiasm pulls the switch.

I feel that if a player takes the first step to improvement by making a commitment to learn, I can pass along useful information and more importantly some of my passion for the game.  Facts and techniques are easy to obtain and easily forgotten. Emotion makes a lasting impression.  I’m sure there are students of mine from ten years ago who can’t remember a specific item I taught, but they do remember my excitement and positive energy sharing my love of the game.  I hope that it spurs the players to take up challenges themselves.   Conquering one challenge fuels the charge up the next peak.

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” -Anthony J. D’Angelo

The professional ranks are teaming with players who have never taken a formal lesson. True, but most of these cognoscenti had a hunger to soak up knowledge and the will to play so many hours that they made their own waking moments into a lifelong lesson.  Most of these pros spent much of their formative billiard years nearly locked in a pool room. Lucky ones had professional level players to watch, practice with, compete against, drink beer with, and ask casual questions that would surely be asked in a formal lesson. This sponge-like learning happens daily in your local pool room. Motivated up-and-coming players garner scads of useful tidbits as a railbird or local pool hall rat.

What does one do if he cannot spend 70 hours a week in a billiard establishment?  Take a lesson. Watch Accu-Stats videos.  Read forums. Find your own way to learn. Put that knowledge into action and you’re on your way to becoming a lifelong lover of cue sports.  Jump on in, the water’s fine.

Mike Fieldhammer
Professional Billiard Instructor / 612.802.0519

Mike is a full time tournament player and professional billiard instructor.  He is available for private instruction or group clinics and events. Check out the new Billiard Coach Store:  Serious Gear for Serious Players. Gift certificates are available.