Bridging the gap

Written by David Sapolis

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Too Loose

A loose bridge can cause two problems.

  1. The shaft can slip from side to side causing an inaccurate stroke on the cue ball.
  2. The shaft can slip up and down on the stroke and the follow through causing an inaccurate stroke on the cue ball.

This is the primary reason that I stay away from the open hand bridge unless it is absolutely necessary. Even when it is necessary, I will try to find away around it. The bridge needs to hold the shaft firmly to ensure that the tip makes contact with the cue ball precisely where want it to. A loose, unsteady bridge places that in jeopardy.

Skipping through all of the BS, too tight means too tense, and we are not striving for tenseness. A tight bridge causes your shoulders (emphasis on the plurality) to tighten up as well. The bridge is supported by the non-shooting or bridge arm. This arm consists of all 8 parts. If the shoulder on the non-shooting side is tense, I can bet the other side is tense as well. When this happens, the shaft tends to be pushed downward into the felt. An excellent example of this is the break shot in 9 ball. Look at a table that has been played upon quite a bit. You will see a mark that leads from the break spot to the top of the rack. Down near the break spot you can see where the tip and the shaft of the cues have contacted the felt. This is caused by tenseness in the breaker’s shoulders and bridge arm. When the breaker releases his break power, the weight is transferred downward, causing the shaft to contact the cloth. The effect is also aided by the fact that the bridge hand is squeezed so tightly that the shaft stops at a point PRIOR to the extent of the follow through, hence the shaft of the cue has nowhere else to go but downward into the cloth. (Mike Sigel’s break is the perfect example of this).

This actually zaps the power FROM the break by effecting maximum follow through. Many players (when breaking) believe they are generating power into their break, when they are actually just generating tenseness into the mechanics of the task. Quite simply, a tight bridge eliminates and hinders maximum follow through, therefore it should be avoided at all costs.

A key to identifying this flaw is that generally there is no bend at the elbow. There should be a slight, relaxed bend at the elbow, and the wrist should also be relaxed. The loop should allow the shaft to guide freely. I’ve said this before, "NEVER SACRIFICE ACCURACY FOR POWER". There is a difference between being effective and being explosive. Only use enough power that you can control. So what is just right? For me and most players, I take the crease of the bend in my thumb and place the nail of the forefinger there. By doing so I will have a stable bridge in MOST situations. From this position, it is easier to elevate the cue and remain stable. This will vary from person to person, but for the norm, it allows the bridge to remain stable, and not too loose or too tight.

Too Far Away From The Cue Ball

This is extremely important to accurate shooting. I perform an experiment when my students are addressing the cue ball. I go to the butt of the cue and wiggle it from side to side. I have yet to do this with a new student without having the tip of the cue move completely off the face of the cue ball. I then have the student move the bridge hand closer to the cue ball until the wiggling is minimal. This flaw is the primary cause of "mis-hitting the cue ball" as well as "coming up short" on position. Take 3 or 4 inches off of your follow through and I guarantee that you will soon be "punch stroking" the cue ball to overcompensate for the lack of cue ball action. This is a good example of how one bad habit can breed other bad habits. Your hand should be no more than 4-6 inches from the cue ball depending greatly on the situation.

When using the mechanical bridge, most players will unconsciously place it as close to the cue ball as possible. Yet, when bent down over a shot, the same player will resort back to 8 inches plus away from the ball. The closer the bridge hand is to the cue ball, the more accurate the stroke will be.

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About The Author: Blackjack David Sapolis played professional pool for 20 years in The United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

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