The Subtle Art of Reducing Miscues


Have you ever talked crap to your buddies about how great you are at pool? Of course you have. Naturally they call you out on it and you have no choice but to defend yourself.

To prove to them that your pool game is superior to theirs you invite them over for a few games of 8-ball so they can witness firsthand how much of a billiard beast you really are!

You get your rack nice and tight in preparation for the most epic break ever performed by a mere mortal. You whip out your Predator BK3 Break Cue just to prove that things are about to get serious. You can tell your buddies are starting to get nervous. “They don’t know what they’re in for,” you say to yourself.

You take your position at the head of the table. You look back at your friends one last time with a cocky smirk on your face because you KNOW what’s about to happen. You draw your cue back as far as it can go. With all your body weight put into it and then some, your feet come off the floor as you slam your cue forward with enough force to knock an elephant off its feet.

“BAAAAAAAAM” is the sound everyone expected to hear, including yourself. But instead all you hear is laughter, and its not because you farted when you went Super Saiyan (Dragon Ball Z reference) on the break!

They’re laughing because IT happened. This IT is the worst thing that could’ve happened in this moment. What is IT, you ask? IT is a miscue. And it’s quite embarrassing when it happens in a moment like this.

If you play pool long enough you’re bound to experience a few embarrassing miscues. This is especially true for beginners who haven’t had enough time to learn all the ins and outs of striking the cue ball properly. But whether you’re just starting out or have been playing for a while, there are a few things you can do to help decrease your chances of miscuing. Lets talk about them now so you don’t end up like this poor guy who embarrassed himself while trying to impress his friends.

What is a Miscue?

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with what a miscue is, allow me to explain. A miscue occurs any time you attempt to make contact with the cue ball and you strike it too far off center. This results in the cue ball deflecting off your cue with very little energy or accuracy instead of traveling straight ahead toward your desired target. This can be quite frustrating for new players especially if they don’t know why it’s happening.

Fortunately there are only a few factors that contribute to miscuing so tackling this problem is fairly straight forward.

They are:

  • Lack of chalk
  • Worn out tips
  • Not knowing where to strike the cue ball
  • Playing while intoxicated.

We’ll be discussing 3 out of these 4 factors and I’m certain you can tell which one I’m leaving out.

Factors That Contribute to Miscues

Tip Condition

Playing with a worn out or mushroomed tip is always going to increase your chances of miscuing. When a tip reaches the end of its usable lifespan it typically doesn’t hold chalk as well as it used to and this is a problem if you find yourself miscuing often.

Also, playing with a deformed tip may cause you to think you’re striking the cue ball properly when you’re not. Because mushroomed tips are irregular in shape, it can be hard to tell where exactly you’re hitting the cue ball. And even a small deviation from your intended point of contact can cause you to miscue.

Another thing to consider is the type of tip you’re using. Tips come in different hardness’s and each one serves a different purpose. Hard tips are used on break and jump cues because they transfer the most amount of energy and they hold up better to shots that require a lot of force. However, because of the material hard tips are made from, they don’t hold chalk very well. Therefore miscuing with a hard tip is more common than doing so with a soft tip.

Soft tips are usually made from leather and are the best when it comes to chalk retention, which in turn translates into less miscues. Because they hold chalk so well, they are most often used on playing cues where cue ball control is vital. Having a good quality, well maintained tip on your cue will definitely help cut down on the amount of miscues you are experiencing.

Chalking Up

We all know that chalking up is essential to the game of pool. But most of us, when just starting out, don’t exactly know why. It seems to be more of a ritual of sorts rather than something that’s actually important. Similar to how a basketball player has a routine he performs every time he’s at the free throw line, or a baseball player when he’s standing in the batter’s box

But unlike someone who spits on Homeplate, taps his left foot twice, grabs his crotch and spins around like Michael Jackson before taking his first swing, we as pool players actually benefit from the pre-shot ritual of chalking up.

The main benefit of chalking your cue is that it reduces your chances of miscuing. Chalk provides a “grippier” surface to the tip of your cue which translates into better contact with the cue ball. This added “grip” helps prevent your cue from deflecting off the cue ball when you hit it too far off center. Its for this reason that its important to apply chalk before every shot.

If you’ve ever watched a professional bodybuilder lift weights, you’ve probably noticed their hands covered in chalk. This is because chalk repels moisture and provides them with a better grip while lifting heavy weights. And although playing pool doesn’t require us to have extreme hand grip strength, using chalk on our cues provides us with the extra grip we need to make better contact with the cue ball and avoid miscues. The principal is the same.

What is not the same, however, is the way chalk is applied. Bodybuilders like to grab two heaping handfuls of white powdery chalk dust and slam them together while pacing back and forth in a frenzy in preparation for a 800lb deadlift (sorry for the stereotype).

This simply isn’t necessary when applying chalk to your cue. Instead, just take your cube of chalk and brush it across the entire surface of your tip. There’s no need to endlessly spin your chalk around the tip of your cue creating a cavity big enough for a tarantula to crawl into. This is overkill and it wont provide you with any additional benefits, unless you consider a pile of chalk dust on the floor resembling an anthill a benefit.

Improper Shot Placement

Knowing where to strike the cue ball is paramount to the game of pool. This is something that needs to be learned early on and mastered over time.

For most shots taken, striking the center of the cue ball is your best bet. But as you progress as a player and look to improve your skills, you’ll quickly learn that using English is vital to advancing your game. English is additional spin you put on the cue ball in an attempt to control its position on the table after it makes contact with an object ball.

This is done by intentionally striking the cue ball off center, thus creating more spin. This additional spin on the cue ball affects how it will react after making contact with another ball. The problem is that when just starting out, it can be hard to tell how far off center you can go without miscuing. And trying to find the “sweet spot” can be tough for beginners.

There are, however, a few ways to learn how to do this. You can always just practice, practice, practice, until you figure it out. This is do-able but can be very frustrating and time consuming. Or you could watch some YouTube videos or get a veteran player to coach you though it. Having someone teach you one-on-one is a great option if you can find someone with the time to do so.

But if you prefer to practice on your own, you can always buy a training cue ball. A training cue ball is a great tool that shows you just how far off center you can go without miscuing.

One of the best ones I have found is the Jim Rempe training cue ball. It’s made by Aramith, the biggest name in the billiard ball industry, so quality is top notch. The neat thing about this training ball is that it has a beginner side and an advanced side, which makes it useful to players of all skill levels. It also comes with its own manual, showing you exactly how to use it, as well as providing you with other tips to help improve your game. Click the link above or the pic below to check it out on Amazon.

Conclusion

Miscuing is just part of the game. No matter how much you practice there will be times that it just happens. Hopefully this article has helped you understand what causes miscues along with what you can do to help prevent them. If you have any questions feel free to reach out or check out our other helpful articles for all of your billiard related questions.

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