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Shot Routine: Establishing Consistency in Your Game

Updated: Dec 12, 2021

As stated in the previous lessons, pool is all about consistency. The use of a consistent shot routine will create consistency in your game and help minimize the number of mindless unforced errors we are all guilty of making. This is a shot routine I developed for my own game based on Mark Wilson's recommended shot routine from his book "Play Great Pool".

  1. Analyze & Decide

  2. Visualize & Aim

  3. Step into Stance

  4. Pause

  5. Practice Strokes

  6. Pause

  7. Back Swing

  8. Transition

  9. Forward Swing

  10. Follow Through

  11. Analyze

Analyze & Decide

If you have ever played in a league, you have probably watched a team mate make a very questionable play. You have probably made a questionable shot yourself and questioned why you would ever choose to go for that shot. These types of mental errors can be minimized by taking a few extra seconds to analyze the table. Take a fresh look at the table every shot. Whether you are approaching the table after your opponents turn or continuing your turn at the table, taking a fresh look will help allow you to analyze the table and identify the best shot from your current position.

This process can take as little as a few seconds when the table state is obvious, but you could spend upwards of 30 seconds in more difficult situations. While deciding on a shot, I advise that you keep a certain distance away from the table as it will help you to see more of the table. If you stay too close to the table, you are likely to look at the table in different sections as opposed to viewing the whole table as one big picture. This broader view of the table will serve you to make better decisions.

While analyzing the table, you should be trying to identify the shot or series of shots that gives you the highest probability of winning the game or set. During this time, you will decide on cue ball path, cue ball position, object ball path, spin, and speed. Once this decision has been made, you should be 100 percent dedicated to the shot that you have chosen. If at any point further in your shot routine you feel uncomfortable or are second guessing your decision, start back over at this first step. Indecisiveness while shooting a shot will typically breed poor results. Whether you will make the shot or not, find comfort in knowing that you made the best decision that you could have made at the time. Every miss is an opportunity to find a flaw in your game and improve it.

Visualize & Aim

The next step in this process is aiming and visualization. Stand behind the shot shift your eyes between where the cue ball is and where it should be when contacting the object ball. This will help you visualize the actual shot line and ensure that you are getting properly lined up on the shot. Once you have a good feel for where the shot line is, place your right foot wherever you normally put it (I recommend toes to the line) and vision center over the center of the shot line.

Step into Stance

Once you have gotten your foot and vision center aligned on the shot line, begin getting down on the shot. Step out with your other foot, place your bridge hand on the table, let it slide into position, and get down on the shot. Be sure to keep your vision center aligned over the shot line the entire time while getting down on the shot. Typically you will start off with the majority of your weight on your shooting side foot to keep your head over the shot line while standing up, but your weight should be evenly distributed by the time you get down on the shot. Your center of vision, shooting arm, grip hand, Bridge, and the entire cue should be on the shot line. If you are not properly aligned, stand up and re-align yourself. You should never make a major adjustment once you have gotten down on the shot.


You may make a few practice strokes as you are getting down on the shot to dial in your spin and alignment, but be sure to take a pause, or a "moment of silence" where you stop all movement and make sure you are aligned to pocket the ball and striking the cue ball at the desired location.

Practice Strokes

During your practice strokes, you are dialing in the shot and getting a feel for it. While doing these strokes, you should use similar eye shifts from the cue ball to the object ball as you normally would on your final stroke. Many players will take smaller and smaller practice strokes as they dial in on the shot, dialing in the precise location on the cue ball that they intend to hit.


Once again, take a pause in movement and check your spin and aim to ensure that everything is exactly as you want it. Your goal here is to have 100% trust in your aim and spin so that the only thing you have left to focus on is the delivery of the cue.

Back Swing

The back swing of your final stroke needs to be slow, deliberate, and just as straight as your forward swing. An accurate back swing play just as big of a roll in a precision cue delivery as the forward swing. A back swing that is not straight will set you up for a shot that is off your mark. If your back swing is rushed, you will need to engage and tighten your muscles to slow it down and get it moving back in the opposite direction. This jerky movement is likely cause inaccurate cue delivery.


The transition between your back swing and forward swing should feel natural and occur at a constant and smooth acceleration. Almost akin to the way a pendulum slowly comes to a stop before beginning its acceleration back in the opposite direction. Any kind of jerky movements will make precise cue delivery unlikely.

Forward Swing

A successful forward swing will be straight, level, and smooth. As you finish your transition and begin your forward swing, remain straight. If you set up properly to the shot, you shouldn't have any reason to steer the cue left or right. Steering the cue left or right introduces inconsistencies in your stroke and decreases your accuracy and precision. In the same way that staying horizontally in line is important, it is just as important to remain vertically consistent. This means avoiding any elbow drop (or elbow raising) prior to contact with the cue ball. Ideally, you will have no elbow movement throughout your entire stroke through the follow through, but it may occur naturally on higher power shots as the cue naturally comes to a stop. If the elbow moves up or down prior to contact with the cue ball, it will change your contact point on the cue ball. If you were aiming slight bottom, you may end up hitting center cue ball. This could cause a miss, and will certainly decrease your ability to control the cue ball. Lastly, the acceleration in your forward swing needs to be smooth and you should continue to accelerate the cue all the way through contact with the cue ball. Any jerky movements will once again diminish your accuracy. Any attempt to slow down the cue prior to contact will tense up your muscles and diminish precision cue delivery.

Note: If you feel you need to jerk the cue forward to get it to speed, then you probably need to take a bigger back swing. A lot of instructors encourage players to take a bigger back swing on higher power shots, and a shorter back swing on low speed shots. This usually comes with changing the bridge length to a longer or shorter bridge length as well.

Follow Through

As stated before, the cue should be accelerated THROUGH contact with the cue ball, NOT TO contact with the cue ball. The most important part of follow through is allowing the cue to naturally come to a stop as your pendulum like arm reaches the end of its stroke. The cue tip should come to rest at least 4 to 6 inches past the point of contact with the cue ball. If it comes to rest prior to reaching this mark, work on continuing acceleration through the cue ball.


The final step in your shot routine should be an analysis of the shot you just performed. Take a quick note of where your cue ended up. Did you have a sufficient amount of follow through? Is your cue still on the shot line, or has it deviated off to the left or right of the shot line. Did you make or miss the shot? Did you hit the spin you were expecting to hit and control the cue ball in the way you intended? If anything did go wrong, try to identify the errors in your game that caused it. If you take this kind of approach of analyzing mistakes that you make and trying to correct them 1 by 1, you will get better at the game at an alarming pace.

Every miss is an opportunity to find a flaw in your game and improve

You didn't miss because a guy walked past your table, you missed because you lost concentration and didn't keep a straight stroke. Look internally, not externally for reasons you failed to get out of a rack. The people who blame others for their own shortcomings are the same who never improve in the game. Every miss is an opportunity to find a flaw in your game and improve. Make marginal improvements every shot over tens of thousands of shots and you'll quickly become one of the strongest players around.

One thing I would like to add to this though is that some shots are just difficult to make, and you just need to accept that. Don't beat yourself up over misses that were likely to occur. Don't be upset that you missed a 9 ball sitting in the middle of the table while you were frozen on the back rail. Low percentage shots are low percentage for a reason, and stressing over not making them is senseless. Put 100% effort into every shot and you have no reason to be upset because you will have left everything on the table.


It is now time to put everything that you have read together into a solid foundation of sound fundamentals. The following drills will help you develop a consistent and accurate stroke. These drills are all about precision cuing which is the key to the higher levels of play in this game. It is imperative that you put your full effort into these drills when performing them. If you are going to dedicate time to practicing them and improving your game, do yourself the favor of not wasting your time with 50% effort. On all of these shots, be sure to approach them with the full shot routine I have laid out above.

Being able to accurately identify and strike the center of the cue ball is an essential skill in pool. Not being able to do so results in unintended left and right spin on the ball which in turn can cause you to miss both your position and the shot.

In this drill, you'll be looking strike the cue ball dead center, bounce it off of the 2nd diamond on the short rail, and let it return to the tip of your cue. This drill is great practice as it requires you to stay down on your shot and doesn't allow you to move the tip of your cue left or right before or after contacting the cue ball. While extremely simple, the feedback this drill gives you on your drill is superb. I suggest you perform this drill multiple times every practice session until you can consistently score at least a 9 out of 10 You should try this drill at all different speeds and different amounts of top and bottom spin.

This drill allows you to test how straight your stroke is a and quickly identify horizontal errors in your stroke. Its goals are similar to that of the Stroke the Line Drill, but this drill leaves you much less margin for error and the feedback is much more obvious. You can start off practicing this drill with no cue ball. Once you get use to it, you can add the cue ball and can slowly move the balls closer and closer together until there is less than 1mm on either side of your cue. You should perform this drill for 10 to 15 minutes every practice session until you are able to consistently score a 10 out of 10.

This drill is something you will never really graduate away from practicing. I use to watch professional level players work on this drill for about an hour every day. While you are working to improve your game, I recommend you doing this drill once every practice session. I like to start this drill about 30 minutes after I start playing. It gives me some time to warm up and loosen up my arm, but I still have the mental focus to concentrate and put 100% effort into every shot. The highest I have ever scored on this drill is a 93 out of 100 on a 9ft table with standard sized 4 1/4" pockets.

I love this drill because it not only gives you the feedback of missing a ball, but you can see if you accidentally put some left or right spin or if your alignment was off. Just like with the back and forth drill, you can shoot your shots at varying speeds and amounts of top and bottom. I usually dedicate the first 30 to stop shots, the next 30 to follow shots, another 30 to draw shots, and the final 10 back to stop shots. Be sure to put 100% effort into every shot and analyze where your cue is pointing, whether the cue ball had unintended spin, and if your alignment was correct.

I will not be giving a performance requirement for this drill as there are simply too many levels of players who will be going through this course. All I ask is that you make this drill a regular part of your practice routines from here on out.


There has been one theme persisting throughout all of these lessons on the fundamentals, consistency. As I stated at the beginning of this module, consistency is the key to becoming a great player. Its all about mastering the fundamentals and delivering your cue to the cue ball accurately and consistently. The drills I have given are not the most fun to practice, but they are what will help you improve your game the most. Your approach to the table on every shot should be the same. From deciding what to shoot to analyzing what happened after every shot you take, you will develop a consistent routine which will allow you to take note of your weaknesses and strengths.

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