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Pool Instruction: CueTips #16 The Pre-Shot Routine

Posted on by Mark Finkelstein

Do you have a consistent pre-shot routine?

Do you have a consistent pre-shot routine?

By NYC Grind Contributor, Mark Finkelstein

Happy Holidays! I wish each of you a Happy and Healthy Holiday season.

In this lesson, I would like to talk about a basic error that everyone makes from time to time. It happened to me last Monday night! And I know better.

I was playing a friend at Slate’s, and ran a tough rack to the nine. My heart was pumping because this was a great out, and the win would put me on the hill for the set. I was in the cat bird seat. Or so I thought. I had this shot on the nine to win the game:

I rushed to get on the shot, and somewhere in my head it just didn’t feel right. But, the adrenaline was running and what did I do? You guessed it. I rushed the back stroke, didn’t pause or relax and missed it by a half a diamond. Of course my opponent went on to win the next two or three games from there.

So what did I learn from that mistake? Well first I didn’t walk in to the shot. I just got down on it and wasn’t exactly sure where I was aiming at. Next I didn’t get control of my breathing and mind. I had a bunch of thoughts racing in my head, none of which had anything to do with the shot at hand. Probably the biggest mistake I made though was not listening to that little bug in my head that said this doesn’t feel right. My subconscious was trying to tell me something, but in my excitement, I didn’t listen.

What great players do at this moment is to stand up and reset. Get in to the shot correctly using your normal pre-shot routine, relax and make a great stroke. Lesson learned again.

So how can reading about my error help you play better? Well, first you need to recognize what you do as a preshot routine. However you do things when you are playing well is what to look for. Tension level, breathing, number of strokes, visualization, table approach etc. Monitor what you do when you are playing well and remember it. The hard part is to call up those same feelings when you need it. Practice the same way you play.

Here is a frustratingly difficult exercise for you to practice you pre-shot routine and develop your stroke. Get a book of matches and take out 5 of them. Put them on the head rail so the head is just over the nose of the rail.

What I want you to do is approach each ball with your game face and pre-shot routine and smoothly stroke the cue ball at the match head, trying to knock it off the rail. If you can do 5 in a row you might think about quitting your job. Make sure you follow your pre-shot routine every time. I like this exercise because you get to use your pre-shot routine under pressure. Just wait until you get 4 in a row and you are shooting at the fifth one. That feeling is pressure, and how you cope with it will determine how good a player you will become. Practice this and you will be pleased with you results.

Happy Holidays and see you on the road.

Mark Finkelstein is the House Pro at Slate Billiards on 21st Street in Manhattan.

If you have questions, or would like to see a particular topic addressed, you can email Mark at

This entry was posted in Pool Instruction, The Latest and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • JT

    Mark, great article. One of the things I love most about this game, is that the outer artistic expression begins from within. Through the game, we can work on becoming masters of our emotions, thoughts and mechanics.

    Each opportunity at the table allows us to work on our pre-shot routine, until the lines start to blur. Once a player is firing on all cylinders, he/she has the ability to transcend the pre-shot routine into the sublime state of “Flow”. A learning lesson for me has been to focus on my fundamentals and pre-shot routine on every shot and honor each shot fully.

    I have a tendency to rush a shot, because I am already shooting the next shot in my head… which awakens me back to the present moment. Through working with a pre-shot routine, I have noticed that it conditions me to respect each shot equally.

    Thanks again Mark for this valuable exercise, and perspective on this very important topic. I am sure this is a topic that every pool player no matter the speed can empathize with.

    Happy New Year to everyone on the NYC Grind!
    -Jerry T

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