How a person holds a cue stick greatly influences accuracy and general success in billiards. A successful shot requires steady movement in both hands. That means no sudden jerks or jabs--the kinds of movement that often cause the cue stick to move. Jerks and jabs lead to miscues and scratches, and that means a poor pool game.
Comfort and Consistency
Dr. Dave Alciatore and billiards writer Mason King say the key to a strong billiards game begins with finding comfort. That goes for both a player's stance and how he holds the cue stick.
While there are some fundamental essentials to holding a cue, nobody can play well without a sense of comfort. Additionally, a player's success with a given grip depends greatly on his consistency. Shooting one great game of pool doesn't mean the player has a perfect grip. Perhaps it was luck. If a players shoots well consistently, however, it's a sure sign of a good grip.
If you don't think a light grip is important in pool, imagine how difficult it would be to carve a turkey or slice an onion if you held the knife as tightly as possible. A grip that is too rigid is sure to fail. It causes muscles in the fingers, wrist, arm, elbow and shoulder to contract and tighten. That leads to a less fluid motion. Plus, a player is more likely to jerk the cue stick offline.
A loose grip allows the muscles to relax, which is crucial during the stroke motion, and it also allows cue stick to slide easier during the shot. Without a good slide, the cue stick can catch, causing it to jump offline, and that leads to missed shots. A light grip is particularly important to remember for hard shots, which tend to cause players to tighten their muscles during the stroke.
Some players prefer to cradle the stick in their fingers. Others prefer to let it fall onto their palms. Still others like the feel of the stick tucked right in the crevice where the fingers and the palm meet.
The key, Alciatore says in a Billiards Digest article called "Shoot Straight with Our Fundamentals Checklist," is simply to maintain the aforementioned light grip and go with the hold that feels most comfortable to each player. Another consideration is to ensure that the grip allows the forearm to be perpendicular to the cue stick at the point of contact with the cue ball.
The bridge's primary function is to provide stability for the tip end of the cue stick. A good bridge ensures that the cue slides easily and that it doesn't stray up, down, right or left of the original target. Players use a variety of bridges, but most fall into one of two categories: open or closed.
The open bridge features the palm side of the hand pressed onto the table with some fingers spread and others bunched together to stabilize the stick. The open bridge allows the cue stick to slide across the top of the hand. Typically, the thumb and knuckles form a "V" shape that helps to keep the cue stick stable.
The closed bridge is similar to the open bridge counterpart. The primary difference is that the finger nearest the thumb is curled around the cue stick to create a tight crease through which the stick moves. The middle knuckle of the middle finger also helps to steady the cue stick during the stroke. The downside of the closed bridge is that the curled finger can sometimes cause friction and disrupt the smoothness of the stroke. This is especially true when the finger is sticky or slick.
Bridge length also matters. A short length between the bridge and the contact ball ensures more accurate tip contact, but it also allows the grip hand more opportunity to stray offline. A grip further from the cue ball allows for more power but reduces the accuracy of the shot. Generally, a bridge 6 to 8 inches from the cue ball is a fine middle ground.