6 Common Snooker Mistakes: Are You Guilty As Charged?

Last week, we looked at five tips and strategies for improving the mental side of your game. This week, we look at six destructive habits (and common snooker mistakes) that could break it for good.

These are what I call club banger vices.

They are things we know we shouldn’t do… but still we do them anyway.

Often they are accompanied by that screaming voice in the back of the head (“Kieran, god no, stop feathering, you know how this story ends.”)

There are a few ways you can look at improving your game.

But probably the most fruitful is one of the hardest: cutting out the all-too-common snooker mistakes of the average club banger.

Which of the traits below do you recognise?

It Doesn’t Pot, But If You Don’t Buy a Ticket…

This is a common occurrence around the black spot, particularly at the start of frames, and especially if playing a safety would require some careful thought.

(Which, for most club players, is not why we came to the dance.)

The dilemma: A red hovers tantalisingly close to the jaws of a pocket — if you could just squeeze past that obstruction. And judging by the table, this would be a Billy Big Bollocks break. We’re talking double digits.

But there’s a small problem…

“Don’t think it goes, Harry.”

“Yeah? Why you going for it then?”

“Maybe it does…”

A few seconds later, the reds splatter everywhere. An absolute car crash.

Sure enough, the table did not lie. The red did not in fact pass. You shake your head and tut, dragging your smoking cue tip away for another lap of the shadows.

“Nah, don’t think it went Harry.”

“Yes it f***ing did, John… it had to be dead weight. Dead weight! You clubbed it like a seal.”

Takeaway: If you’re not sure whether a ball pots, firstly, it probably doesn’t. But secondly… the “exploratory smash” is not the way to find out. If you have to cheat a pocket, or squeeze past an obstruction, pace is your best friend.

Everybody Is Watching, Let’s Make It A Quick Show

Is there anything that messes with a player’s pre-shot routine quite like the indignity of being invited to play a shot whilst the guy at the next table waits?

The infamous snooker queue is a real psychological tug-of-war.

It starts as two players realise they both need to occupy the same spot between two tables:

“You go first, mate.”
“Nah, all yours, I’m still working out what to play.”
“Alright, cheers mate.”

You politely nip towards the firing zone, purposefully avoiding any walk in to the shot, and instead flopping on to it sideways like a sorry Salmon. Do I even know what I’m playing? Too late. There’s a queue. Conscious of the seconds passing and the eyes burning a hole in your head, you take two hasty feathers and absolutely lash the cueball.

Not quite in the direction that you were intending.

Meanwhile, the other guy steps in, pots the black, and continues his break…

Haste makes waste, dear friend.

Takeaway: Don’t be peer pressured. If you’re not comfortable, don’t play the shot. If there’s somebody waiting on the next table, let them play first.

Table Is Too Messy For A Safety, I Better Clear Up Then

We’ve all seen this.

Something goes badly wrong in the opening exchanges of a frame.

The outcome is horrific.

A red has strayed the full length of the table and parked itself – in open play – a few inches from the yellow spot.

Worse than that, we can’t actually hit the stray red to send it back. There’s only one solution.

It’s time to pump the remaining 14 reds up to baulk!

One after one, the reds fly back towards the yellow, green and brown spots. Each player manfully taking his turn to try and screw behind the black. To no avail.

Before you know it, the table is in complete disarray and the only question is which player will snap first.

Once that happens — and it always happens — the game swings to the opposite end of the pendulum. Given that there is now no conventionally safe place on the table, every shot is a pot attempt. What started as the world’s longest and ugliest safety exchange turns in to the wildest Mexican gunslinger fight Rileys has ever seen.

To an audience of bemused Juniors on Table 4.

What’s the solution?

These frames are typically won by the player who regains control of his shot selection and plays the better containing safety.

At club standard, even the messiest tables have safety options. It’s not always about covering all possible pots. But rather about covering the easiest opportunities and forcing your opponent in to a shot where his percentages are against him.

Takeaway: When the table is in disarray, it’s harder to “see” a solution. Instead of surrendering all safety in protest, play patiently and weigh the percentages relative to your opponent’s ability.

If I’m Going To Miss It, I’ll Leave It Nice For You

A classic snooker mistake

Your opponent needs pink and black to win.

You just need the pink.

You’ve got some margin for error because the black is tied up on the bottom cushion, and obviously, you have no intention of moving it.

Best of all, your opponent has left you with a long crack at the pink to walk away covered in glory and Staropramen…

What do you do?

That’s right…

You launch that frame ball like a ballistic missile. Oops. It misses by a mile, cannons the black off the cushion, and leaves both balls over the jaws in open play.

There’s a popular cue sport saying:

“If you’re going to miss, miss it well.”

Often this boils down to the pace you play the shot, but it can also mean targeting a far jaw to leave the ball safe if you miss it.

Another classic example is when your opponent needs snookers. Any chance you get at the table should be played with the intention of a) potting the ball, and b) leaving it in a position where a snooker is difficult to obtain if you miss.

Typically that means playing the shot dead weight.

If you miss, it stays over the pocket.

What do most of us do?

“Nah, nah, John. I keep telling you. You can’t be leaving me long straight blues. Watch this…”

Chalk loaded, cue pulled back to the hills… crash, bang, wallop. Pot missed and oh look the balls are suddenly perfectly arranged for a simple snooker.

Takeaway: If you’re uncertain with a pot, look for a way to mitigate the risk. And then make sure you commit to the plan. If your opponent needs snookers, keep the object ball AWAY from danger zones.

I See Your Terrible Miss, And Raise You… A Shot Out Of Anger

The thinking goes like this:

Right, my opponent just played a stupid shot. Therefore I’m due an easy pot. I can’t seem to find one though. Guess I better take on this suicidal wafer thin red to the middle bag. After all, good chances don’t come around often…”

Who are you playing – your opponent or the table?

We’ve all played those frames where the opponent has chance after chance, misses them all, and somehow leaves us with nothing. The table looks like Christmas Day but your own personal view of it is about as pleasant as a turkey’s arse.

Can you stay cool and pick out the right shot in the face of injustice?

Or will you decide… no.

No, this simply won’t do.

“I did not come here tonight to straight bat forward defend your same old f***ing bull****, John.”

We all know how the story ends.

A wild swing and a miss.

A tame edge to gully.

Your opponent wheeling off to celebrate at the bar as you’re forced to “Rack em up, mate, probably got time for one more.”.

Of course, the scoreline reads 3-1 to him.

Takeaway: Forget what your opponent just did. Play the table — not the man. You can always slash his tyres later.

I Play Better After A Pint, So I Had 7 Of Them

Alex Higgins famously made one of the greatest clearances of all time in a World Championship semi final.

What often goes unmentioned is that, according to his opponent Jimmy White, he was absolutely leathered at the time.

The problem is… one of the reasons we remember Alex is because he was an exception. Just like the cue action, his drinking habits are not for reprinting in anybody’s coaching bible.

Still, for many club players, a couple of pints is actually a useful tonic.

It settles the nerves, loosens the muscles, and maybe even gets the cue arm going.


But there’s a fine line between healthy lubrication and the p***-faced shanking that takes over as last orders approach.

I’m of the opinion that if you’re playing club snooker for the social aspect — enjoying a few frames and a few drinks — that’s good enough justification to keep on with the same old. It’s a good laugh, right?

But if you want to improve your performance?

There’s a reason why the pool hall hustler sips Coke, and the pros drink water. It’s not to be a boring old fart.

It’s simple: being able to stand straight with single vision produces results.

Who’d have thunk it?

Takeaway: How smashed you are matters.

What are the classic common snooker mistakes that haunt your own game? Let’s hear it in the comments!

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