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Billiards Basics: Play Pool Like Minnesota Fats

paul newman the hustler movie shooting pool

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from James Bringman.

“I got a hunch it’s me from here on in. One ball, corner pocket. I mean, that ever happen to you? You know, all of a sudden you feel like you can’t miss? ‘Cause I dreamed about this game, fat man. I dreamed about this game every night on the road. Five ball. You know, this is my table, man. I own it.” – Fast Eddie

You’ve just finished watching The Hustler and all the high stakes action has got you pumped to hit your local pool hall to move the rock with the best of them. Problem being you haven’t touched the felt since your college rec room days and need to get some oil back in that stroke and make the cue an extension of your arm. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling so you can strike up the next local tournament league play or maybe just hustle a few bucks from some of the suckers in the joint.

Choosing Your Cue

Getting back into most sports often requires purchasing a few basic necessities, and buying your own cue is a great way to keep you motivated towards the game. But, if you’re short on funds or are somewhat hesitant about spending money on something that may end up just gathering dust, the house cue is for you.

House Cue

As the name implies, house cues are provided by the pool hall and can be found hanging up in the racks on the wall for your choosing. Most house cues, unfortunately, are extremely abused and damaged in more ways than one, so when searching for a cue, try to inspect a few areas of the stick to ensure you get the best shot possible.

Maybe you have some cash that’s really burning a hole in your pocket or you’re thinking about joining a league and can’t settle with an ordinary house cue. This is the time to purchase a personal cue.

Personal Cue

Now here is where you’ll find the most trouble, picking out a cue that will bring your game up a notch but you don’t know where to start and the price ranges are staggering. Remember, the most important thing is getting a cue you feel comfortable with. Always make sure the weight and the stroke feel good to you and test it out on a table if you can, or check for a return policy in case it doesn’t work out.


If your new cue didn’t come with one, get one. Enough said.

Custom Cue

If you spend several thousands of dollars on a custom cue, hang it up on the wall in your billiards room, and admire its beauty, that’s all it’s really good for. Accidents happen sometimes in pool halls and damaging a piece of wood that expensive isn’t worth the trouble. Or worse, it gets stolen.

Perfecting Your Game

vintage man with billiards balls case

It takes balls to be a good pool player.

The new cue stick is packed in its case and carried over your shoulder as you strut into the dimly lit room ready to run a few sets. But you don’t have a table at home, and your game is a little rusty. Here are three things to remember when practicing your technique.



Your bridge hand should take one of two forms: The Open-Handed Bridge and the Closed Bridge.


This is generally the hardest skill to develop, but with a lot of practice, and I mean hours upon hours of practice, you’ll be playing the long ball day in and day out with perfect accuracy.

Like everything manly that is worth doing, a lot practice will improve your game. Pool halls are one of the few places where a man can escape in solitude and run a few racks to relieve a tough day at the office or invite the boys out for a few games, drinks, and possibly some gentlemanly wagers. Remember, good players usually don’t want to be beat, so be wary of the sharks and hustlers that try to give you some advice; it’s usually bogus and is an attempt to lure you into a “friendly” game that ends with you making several trips to the ATM. And, who knows? All of this newfound knowledge might earn you a manly new nickname at the tables like Fast Eddie, St. Louie Louie, Minnesota Fats, Toupee Jay, or Boston Shorty.