Although everyone I shoot with wants to learn how to play pool like the pros (if they're not already a billiards professional!) it takes more than just long, boring hours of drills with repetition.
It takes the kind of focused, intelligent shot practice I'm describing below, from a recent lesson with a student who flew over 20 hours to see me from halfway across the world…
...Follow the practices below, they're quite fun and easy in most cases. You need not practice for hours at a time (like my student) to develop a pro-like stroke.
Also pocket a few easy cut shots, using the softest possible strokes and hardest possible strokes, from your "perfect medium stance" for medium speed strokes. Then do the same, "super soft" and "super hard," but using your cue and bridge distance like a ruler to bring your stance, head and both hands close in for soft and far back for power.
In other words, learn how much control you can safely retain, and how and hard and soft you can hit from medium stance/medium bridge distance, and then move your feet instead of your hands and cue stick before assuming a full, complete stance, to modify to shoot softly (and also hard).
Shoot a few balls from near the second diamond from a 70- to 75-degree angled cut, to both the left and right sides of the table in the corner pockets (ball near the middle of the short rail, shooter somewhere to one side or the other inside the kitchen.
Shoot a few of those very tough cuts now, using straight strokes and then semi-massé (intentional curved strokes), then go back to the second diamond and "let the regular strokes flow" once again. Do you get any squirt or deflection? Is it okay to squirt if you properly throw the cue ball into the diamond to compensate? FEEL the cut action on the object balls-physically impossible, you say? You can get great sense at impact time regardless.
When all of the above have been completed to your satisfaction, rack ten balls into a triangle shape (leaving the final traditional row of five balls out of the rack). Don't break with a super hard break, but with a hard break taken straight into the head ball from near the head spot (opposite the foot spot, or in other words, almost straight into the head ball from near the middle of the head string).
Look at the break and the ten or less balls remaining, identifying all the aces, kings, queens and jokers on the table. Take ball in hand and try to run the table in two innings or less (as in bowling, a strike is all ten after the break, a spare is all ten with only missing once).
WHENEVER you miss a second time in the ten balls after ball in hand off the break, re-rack and start again. If you break a ball in, take ball in hand, run one, miss, run two more and miss-you've made four balls, you're done, rack ten more and break once again.
You can also put an object ball one diamond by one diamond from the corner as I suggest, and cut it into the nearby corner pocket. Use the specialized english strokes and other strokes we've studied to play position with the white ball. Don't get lazy on the "easy" object ball or it won't fall.
Take cue stick underwater and check for no resistance on stroke. Only underwater can you sense absolute resistance or lack of resistance to forward motion. (Just kidding. Don't try this, readers, inside your home pool for pool. - "Quick Draw") :)
Recall that you can stroke between two golf tees set on a billiards table to confirm a straight stroke or a tendency to crook one way or the other.
It's best to set the tees to either side of your cue stick while aimed on a cue ball, then look at the target object ball or pocket to simulate actual stroking conditions during tournament play. You can bring the tees in more tightly when you feel your relaxed, classic stroke is more laser-straight without deviating to one side or the other.
Note, too, any tendencies you have (such as always knocking down the right side tee when you miss a straight stroke through center cue ball. (Most right handers have problems hitting to the right of where they've aimed.) How to play pool like the pros? Kill those tendencies!
Be sure to use what I call the "calm and win technique" as we've discussed. Practice now to be ready for upcoming tournament play.
And, of course, what I've promoted to enhance your ability to cinch long, straight-in shots will be a big boon to your game.
You can also use my "cushion devastator shot" to get sharper. Be sure to keep that object ball challenging enough for your skill level. And take no prisoners! You are looking for absolutely killed, dead as dead can be, stop shots. No replacing the object ball with the cue ball at impact.
Do not tolerate rolling forward or backwards off impact, even fractions of an inch...
Good luck to you, and to all my About.com readers, at the tables.