These ten items came to mind recently when I was for "tips from a pro pool teacher". There are links to further stories under each topic, too. Enjoy!
What is commonly called the “ghost ball method of aim” doesn’t work effectively in pool. The pros use a different method—one of the chief reasons I wrote Picture Yourself Shooting Pool and write for About.com and InsidePool Magazine.
2. Get Taught
Most shooters learn billiards on their own, unlike tennis players and golfers who constantly rely on teaching pros. Find a good teacher and ask them to mentor you!
Chalk the right amount between shots. Apply chalk to your cue stick’s tip like someone applying lipstick on their lips, completely and evenly but lightly.
A good pool cue is a finely balanced instrument. Between shots hold the cue about halfway along the butt end with your shooting hand and about halfway along the shaft end with your bridge hand, and you’ll measure your body better to the cue ball as you assume your stance.
You’ll often hear “while shooting, the lower arm hangs from the elbow at a right angle to the table, straight down toward the floor”. The more correct statement is “your lower arm forms a right angle (or nearly so) to the cue stick”. The stick on most shots is on a slightly tilted plane above the table. In other words, if the cue is raised or lowered, your arm angle should change to meet it and help provide a quality stroke.
“Chin above the cue stick” is another pool myth. Don’t strain your neck to post your chin above the stick. Your arm must be on the shot aim line but your head and neck should rest on the middle of your trunk comfortably, left of the stick for right handers and vice versa for lefties. Sighting will be fine as your eyes can adjust instantly to find the target from this improved head position.
How to choose a pool cue by weight? New players want heavier sticks around 21 ounces in weight that stay on the shot line longer due to their increased mass. Intermediates and experts want lighter cues for more subtle mastery of ball speed and spin. Most pro pool players use 19-ounce cues or less, and 19 oz. makes a good choice for you after you’ve played pool for a year or two.
The little known game of 7-Ball is a great practice game for 9-Ball fans. Two fewer balls on the table provide an easier layout from the break yet adequate challenge for your skills.
Pick a specific spot for the cue ball to land on the next shot. Get there by choice of stroke speed rather than feel and “touch”. Commit to a personal speed of stroke like “medium” or “soft” before bending to shoot. Maintain a follow-through about the same in length as the length of your backstroke.
Most amateurs use sidespin or “english” far too often. I use a quarter-tip here or a dash of english there when needed. I’m always practicing center ball aim and sometimes go 30 minutes or more without english on any shot. This builds great confidence in shot making ability by limiting variables of spin.