The Ultimate Guide To 9-Ball Pool with Karl Boyes
Chapter 1

Choosing a Cue & Equipment

chapter 1 image

Karl’s bag contains his Predator equipment.

His bag includes:

  • 1x Towel
  • 3x Cues
  • Spare Shaft
  • Break cue - BK3 by Predator. Super light at 17 ounces
  • Chalk
  • Cue Extension
  • Jump Cue

Karl prefers to have the weight taken out from the bottom of cue as he likes the feel better. Your personal preferences will come into play here. Predator cues allow you to slide in different weights at the back to adjust them to your preference.

Some people prefer their break cue heavier as they feel it gives them more power with their break, while Karl prefers his lighter as it feels better for him.

Break cues have extremely hard tips, like concrete. This is usually a preference for players when they like a hard tip to hit the break as solidly as possible.

Karl says he prefers both break and playing cues to have a leather tip, and to have both cues the same but with different weights. You should try this for yourself to see if it feels better for you.

Additionally, Karl has two cues as the break cue’s tip will eventually flatten out over time due to the force of the impact on breaks. If you can play with two cues this is generally recommended, as a flat cue tip can cause inaccuracy in your shots.

Karl plays with a Predator Black 3 series. It’s a £1,000 cue and weighs 19 ounces.

Karl also carries with him a jump cue, which has a super hard tip in a similar fashion to the break cue. It has an adjustable length with a screw at the back, which makes it easy to adjust as necessary if the shot is short or longer.

Karl also doesn’t change his cue and cue tips often. He prefers to play and get used to his cue, instead of dealing with constant change.

Pool cues differ from snooker cues, which can vary greatly; losing your snooker cue can be problematic for a player who has become used to their cue. American cues are as interchangeable as tennis rackets, which is explained by Karl in the video.

In other words, don’t worry about your perfect cue, as you can always pick up another and play just as well!

Chapter 2

How To Master Holding a Cue

how to hold a pool cue

You should hold the cue in a similar fashion to how you pick it up from the table.

Make sure you don’t hold it too tightly; your grip needs to be slightly loose. The reasoning behind this is that you’ll feel the cue ball when you hit it. Once you get used to the feel of the cue ball being hit, you can accurately hit the same shots in the future.

This will be slightly different for different players. It’s personal preference.

Karl holds the cue right at the back and sometimes half of his hand is off the back of the cue. While this is his personal style, he does not recommend it and has missed a few shots as a result of this style. Karl now adds an extension to ensure he has full control at the back.

Karl is 6’2” tall, so having a cue that is long enough is sometimes tricky for him; hence the cue extensions.

Make sure you’re comfortable with the length of the cue so you can hold it correctly before taking shots.

Chapter 3

How to Stand For Optimal Accuracy

How to stand in pool

Your stance is one of the most important elements when playing. Many players get lazy with their stance when they get comfortable.

Karl mentions that in big games players tend to take extra time to ensure their stance is perfect, as they know the importance it plays.

Karl is right handed, so this example by him is for a right-handed person.

He puts his right leg straight in line with the shot, with a slight bend. He does recommend locking this leg when possible, but sometimes it isn’t possible due to table heights and other factors.

Karl emphasises that the main thing is to get your right foot in line with the shot. You should then place your left foot in a spot where you can get good balance, which is usually side-on.

In this position you should have your right foot and arm in line with the pot. Karl’s rule of thumb is to keep a straight right leg and a slightly bent left leg. Ensuring that you get your stance perfect gives you a solid foundation so you can’t move on the shot.

Chapter 4

How to Rack to Win

how to rack in 9-ball pool

Karl told us that his prefered rack system is to use a magic rack which ensures all balls are touching. He also mentioned that he always wants the 9-ball on the spot.

He also mentioned that he prefers the 3-point rule as it means that soft breaks cannot happen. This gives the break more excitement as players have to hit the balls hard and hit a set target of a pot, getting a ball past the line and hitting a certain speed with your break.

Players can determine how the break will play out when inspecting the rack. If some balls are not touching a pot can be predicted and it makes the break easier and less fair.

The Mosconi Cup, for example, always has the 9-ball on the spot and disallows players from inspecting the rack. This saves time but also stops players from using a particular shot with a predicted outcome in mind.

Chapter 5

How to Break Like A Pro

how to break in 9 ball pool

Breaking is dependent on the rules of each individual tournament. Karl tends to break from the left and hit the 1-ball hard, so that he gets the cue ball back up the rail with left-hand spin.

Getting the cue ball in the middle of the table is key as it opens you up to the most amount of playable shots once you’ve played the break.

In terms of placing the cue ball, some place it near the cushion and grip their hand over the cushion with a hard grip. This keeps the hand stable and gives you the best chance of a strong break.

Some competitons make you break from a little “box” at the centre back of the table. This is to make the break harder and makes it much harder to achieve the same shot that you would get if you broke from the left.

Karl recommends slight side spin instead of back or top spin on the break, to get the cue ball off the rail and back up to the centre of the table.

In terms of his stance, he takes a different approach compared to a normal in-play shot. Karl stands more side-on with both knees bent. As he hits the break his head picks up and he pushes/jumps through. This is a natural movement and is optimal for power from the break.

Karl’s fastest break shot speed is 28 mph, which is incredibly fast for a break!

Chapter 6

Cue Action & Timing

cue action timing

Karl emphasises that you must be smooth on the delivery of the shot. His best piece of advice is to “feel” the shot and the cue ball.

Karl advises that you don’t want to be a seesaw and move quickly; more important is a smooth rhythm that allows you to feel the shot you just played.

Karl does a little bit of feathering but always pulls back slow and pushes through his shots. This is the most important part of the shot, while feathering is down to personal preference.

Other tips from Karl including having your arm at a 90-degree angle, and re-setting yourself if you feel that you got down in the wrong position. This is the most common error behind missed shots.

Despite this advice, Karl has plenty of experience with changing his mind whilst down on the shot. He finds that he tends to miss when this happens, so he always recommends making a decision about the shot before getting down, and sticking to it.

Chapter 7

How to Bridge For Different Shots

how to bridge in pool

The biggest error when bridging is in failing to form a base that’s solid and doesn’t move. When the thumb is too loose and the hand is only semi-anchored, the cue will move when taking the shot and this causes inaccuracy.

You’ll need to keep your hand flat and pull at the cloth with your fingers to get anchored, so that your hand isn’t going anywhere.

Karl prefers to keep his hand flat on the slate and pull his fingers and knuckles up when he needs to bridge higher for a stun shot or top spin.

American pool players also tend to use the loop bridge, and Karl believes it feels more “effortless” than the traditional style. Karl has come from an English pool background and is used to the traditional bridge, but at times prefers the loop bridge and will be using it more in the future. Karl feels the loop bridge allows him to get a better reaction from the cue ball.

American pool cues maintain the same thickness all the way to the tip, which means that if you feather with a loop bridge you’ll have that constant thickness and feel of the cue. As a result, it won’t move sideways and you can keep more control.

An English pool cue gets thinner towards the tip, so a loop bridge wouldn’t work as the cue would have space to move from side to side.

Try both and do what feels best for you.

Chapter 8

How to Use a Rest

how to use a cue rest

Karl is 6’2” tall, which means that he hasn’t had to use a rest very often. He told us that he doesn’t feel entirely comfortable with a rest and can play with both hands if needs to be.

The biggest mistake when using a rest is to hold the rest in your hand in the air, meaning the rest isn’t solid and anchored to the table. The rest should be treated the same way as your bridge hand.

Karl’s best piece of advice on this is to have the rest at an angle from the cue so you can see exactly where you are hitting the cue ball.

Keep the rest on the table and make sure it’s in a solid position and doesn’t move.

Again, if you’re not comfortable with using the rest make sure you practise and also practise using both arms to hit the ball. This will ensure you use the rest to a minimum whilst playing.

Chapter 9

How to Back Spin

how to back spin

The back spin is often called a screw or draw back.

The main issue amateurs have with the back spin is that they don’t deliver the cue through the cue ball, so in effect they play a stun shot most of the time.

Making sure you push through in a smooth, accelerated manner will give you the back spin you need. You’ll need to aim low on the white ball, using a flat hand anchored to the table. Do not jab the ball, and make sure to follow through the shot.

If your bridge hand is raised you risk chipping the ball, which can also happen if you hit the ball too low. Make sure you become familiar with the area of the cue ball that needs to be hit for a back spin shot.

To get a straight shot to screw back at an angle you’ll need to also add some side spin, essentially hitting the cue ball low and to the right or left.

Chapter 10

How to Play with Top Spin

how to play top spin

For top spin you need your bridge hand a lot higher, and you’ll need to push through. The delivery is the same as that on a back spin shot, but you should hit the top of the ball instead of the lower part.

Make sure your bridge hand is raised, and use a nice smooth acceleration through the cue ball.

We recommend that you use the drill Karl explains in the video to master both top and back spin.

Chapter 11

How to Master The Side Spin

how to play side spin

Playing the side spin shot is tricky, as Karl explains in the video.

Karl explains how adding side spin can cause the object ball’s destination to change. You’ll need to get used to how the side spin affects the object ball: if you hit it with right side spin it will go more to the left, so you’ll need to adjust for this in the same way that golfers adjust their shots to compensate for wind.

A longer distance between the cue ball and the object ball also makes it harder. If possible, try to avoid side spin as it’s a very tricky shot to master.

Chapter 12

How To Accurately Play a Jump Shot

how to jump shot

The biggest mistake amateurs make when playing a jump shot is not following through with the cue. They worry that the cue will hit the cloth and ruin it, but this won’t happen if you have a controlled, smooth cue action.

If you merely jab at the cue ball, it won’t jump. The cue needs to do the work. Karl’s tip is to align the shot as if the ball between the cue and object ball weren’t there. This will help with your alignment and aim.

Once you get this alignment correct you’ll need to adjust your bridge hand and raise it. This creates the angle you need to chip the ball.

Your bridge hand height also depends on how long the jump shot is. If the jump shot is longer you need to lower the bridge hand slightly and the ball needs to travel a longer distance.

The aim is to get the ball to land over the ball as fast as possible to avoid the cue ball bouncing off the table or bouncing when it hits the object ball, which usually results in a missed shot.

Chapter 13

How to Play a Stun Shot

how to stun shot

Many people play the stun shot by accident when they try to do a back spin shot. This is usually because they don’t follow through and they hit the ball at the centre.

To hit a stun shot you need to hit the middle of the cue ball but avoid pushing through as you would for other shots. Instead you should stop the cue at the cue ball.

This shot is more about control than power, but many amateurs make the mistake of hitting the cue ball too hard.

Chapter 14

Learn How to Double Back

how to double back

Every table is different. The cloth, cushion reaction, heat and wear and tear of the table will impact on your double shot. Make sure you test out the table first, as explained in the video.

If you hit the ball harder, the ball will end up at a different angle, so it’s important to calibrate this prior to a match. Use the diamonds on the side of the diamond pool tables for guidance.

If you hit it hard the ball seems to “square up” meaning the angle it bounces off at is reduced drastically compared to a soft shot.

This video explains the whole process in detail.

Chapter 15

The Biggest Mistakes Amateurs Always Do

biggest pool mistakes

Karl told us that he frequently sees amateurs with their bridge hand positioned wrongly, they cue quickly and hard when they should be concentrating on the reverse, they move their head a lot, and they play too quickly.

Rushing is one of the biggest mistakes, but getting down and hitting the ball quickly is another way in which amateurs frequently go wrong.

Karl’s top three tips are:

  • Walk into the shot and ensure your stance is correct
  • Make sure your bridge hand is a solid anchor to hit the best possible shot
  • Feel the shot instead of just hitting it; feel the reaction of the cue ball to get more experience on how to influence it