The basics of billiards

To get off to a good start with billiards, it’s important to master the basics. Familiarize yourself with the equipment first of all, then learn about the stance and positions to use. In billiards, the bridge (positioning of the fingers to properly direct the cue) is a key notion and one of the first terms we generally learn. Stance (positioning of the legs and arms) is not to be neglected either. Then all you have to do is make the right move to reach your target.

Find out everything you need to master the basics of billiards with this tutorial by Florian Kohler, alias Venom, multiple world record holder in artistic billiards.

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The billiards table: :

Billiards is played on a table, comprising a structure, a slate and a playing surface.  Traditionally, the structure is made of wood, the slate is of mineral origin and the playing surface is made of felt. For outside play and maneuverability, Hyphen, the outdoor pool table from Cornilleau, comprises a stainless steel structure, a synthetic slate in solid-core laminate, and a playing surface in rot-proof textile. A pool table such as Hyphen has six pockets, while a French billiard table has none. There are several sizes of pool tables. The length is always twice the width. It is generally between 2.1m and 2.8m. Hyphen’s playing surface is 2.2m long, a very popular size.

The cue : 

The cue is essential to the game. It is characterized by two main parts: the butt and the shaft. It can be disassembled to take up less space in the sleeve. The ferrule and tip are found at the end of the shaft. The role of the ferrule is to ensure rigidity between the wood of the butt and the tip. It ensures the quality of the impact with the ball.

The balls :

Balls come in different sizes and colors depending on what type of billiards you're playing. The white ball is the cue ball. The other balls are object balls. French billiards is played with 3 balls: a red and two white balls, one of which is marked with a black dot. Pool uses 16 balls: one white, and 15 balls numbered 1 to 15. Finally, English billiards is also played with 16 balls: one white, one black, seven red and seven yellow.

The chalk : 

The chalk is a cube of limestone that you rub on the tip of the cue. It prevents the cue from sliding off the ball, keeping it precise. Don't hesitate to apply it regularly: it tends to wear off fast. Gently rub the chalk onto the center of the tip and rub in a circular motion from center to edge. By doing this, you’ll avoid wearing down your cue and help it last longer! Cornilleau pool tables come with chalk that’s the same color as our playing surfaces: gray.

The triangle and diamond : 

The triangle is the most-used aid for positioning the balls. It’s used for setting up play for the most popular variation of billiards – 8-ball – and also other games, e.g. 10-ball or straight pool (14-1). The diamond is used to place balls in the starting position for 9-ball.


Finger positioning: the different types of bridge

The closed bridge

Positioning your fingers correctly is essential in billiards, as it allows you to aim the tip of the cue accurately and to be precise in your shot.

The closed bridge, which is extremely common among players of all levels, consists of making a sort of very solid tripod with the middle and ring fingers, or even the little finger, while placing the palm of the hand on the table and creating an opening between the thumb, index and middle fingers. This opening must be tight enough to guide the cue correctly.

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The open bridge

To make an open bridge, first place your hand flat on the table and slightly raise the angle of your fingers. The thumb, which is also raised, is used to slide the tail between this finger and the base of the index finger.

The redesigned open bridge

If the ball is very close to the cushion, i.e. too close to place your bridge on the playing surface, you can place it on the cushion. We recommend using a slightly revised open bridge when the ball is right alongside the cushion. To compensate the fact that it’s impossible to position the palm of your hand as a stable anchor point, spread your fingers further apart to lean them on the edge of the table.

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The curly bridge

If the ball is a little further away from the cushion, we recommend opting for a loop bridge. This involves passing the cue between the index and middle fingers, using the thumb to guide the cue under the hand.

Leg positioning

Make sure that your stance is stable, then adopt a posture that feels natural and in which you are at ease. For a successful shot, it is important to be in a comfortable position when striking the ball with the cue. One foot should be slightly forward and the other slightly back. Then bend the knee of your front leg so you’re at the same height as the table.

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Arm positioning

Slightly bend the elbow of your front arm for increased flexibility. The cue should be almost parallel to the playing surface. Your forearm at the rear end of the cue should be perpendicular to the cue.

How to hold the cue for a good shot

For your shot to be as precise as possible, it is important for your rear hand to be correctly positioned and not to grip the cue too tightly. You really only need to use the first two or three fingers to hold it, not your whole hand. You need to make a light, ample movement to carry off a precise, powerful shot and add spin.

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