There are players, who when they first picked up a cue stick, developed bad habits and poor fundamentals. Some of them have become so enthusiastic about pool, they they’ve learned to shoot and play well anyway. But most players, when observed with poor fundamentals, are categorized as beginners and bar bangers. A pool hustler can often use this as a tool to win.
Grooving in the necessary muscle skills to automate this tactic requires a significant amount in practice time. It’s like practicing an acting role. Few players would normally be interested enough to invest the time. But the master gamesman uses these so routinely, that any observer, however keen, would not realize it is a façade.
The presentation of this trick has to violate one or more of the basic shooting fundamentals. It can be bad feet positions, seemingly awkward grips on the stick, or some body movement during practice strokes. When well performed, watching these violation of best practices can mesmerize your attention.
Here are some examples, as observed by the author:
- While doing practice strokes, the upper body rises slightly with the forward movement of the cue stick. It looks like he is bobbing slightly on each back and forth. On the execution of the stroke, the body rises, and also leans into the shot. What you don’t notice, is that this is done after the cue tip hits the cue ball.
- Gets down on the shot, lines up on a shot, and does a couple practice strokes. Then picks up his whole bridge hand and places it to the side for a couple more practice strokes. The bridge hand is moved back into position. Can be repeated several times before the actual shot is stroked. He’s already got the shot lined up in his head. All of this is for show only.
- When doing practice strokes, pumps his elbow up and down. On the backstroke, the cue butt lifts up. On the forward stroke, the elbow drops. During the actual stroke, he is as solid as a tree.
- Shifts his weight alternately from the front foot to the rear foot and back, as he does his practice strokes. This rocking back and forth repeats until he executes the shot. You may not notice that just as he gets ready to stroke the shot, his weight is on his back foot.
- Sets up normally for a shot, but shifts his head side to side. Tilts his head one way and takes several practice strokes. Angles his head the other way and repeats. Eventually settles on something and shoots. He may also squint with one eye, like aiming a rifle.
- Sets up with an awkward stance, does some practice shots, and then rises up and come back down on the shot in a slightly modified position. Repeats this until he "gets it right".
When observing any of these gyrations, you may experience a slight tightening of stomach muscles in anticipation of his stroke execution. When he doesn’t, and backs off on the shot, there’s a slight feeling of disappointment.
To be fair, some players do have weird setups caused by ingrained bad habits enforced with years of playing. Somehow the problems were overcome enough for the shooter to become a good player. Regardless, whether any of these are intentionally designed to distract your attention or is an automatic routine, it is still disconcerting to watch.
The solution is simple. Don't look at the execution of the shot. Focus your attention anywhere but on the playing area. Close your eyes, waiting to hear the click of the balls. Or perform some of those long delayed maintenance tasks. Or, simply focus your attention on the action on another table. If you can't see any of these violations in fundamentals, you can't be bothered by them.