Nic Barrow's The Snooker Gym ... 'Improving Your Game, From Every Angle'

Screw Back Secrets

Jun 14, 2018

A client of mine emailed me this morning saying that he could not screw back and would either see the cue ball stopping when it hits the object ball or jumping over the object ball.


For screw back, go through this simple checklist to make sure you are doing things right:

  • Keep head still during shot
  • Get consistent at 6 inch screw shots first
  • Hold the cue looser
  • Make the backswing slower, more controlled, and flatter
  • Start the delivery slowly and gradually accelerate the cue
  • Ensure cue finishes delivery at same height that you addressed cue ball
  • Stay down until both balls stop moving – especially when you miscue, so that you can diagnose what your cue action and technique did / did not do
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Great Expectations

Jun 07, 2018

One of my regular clients recently sent me an email the type of which I sometimes see: one of frustration with the game!:


The Problem

‘Hi Nic

Just got home and feel the need to relieve my frustration by writing it down…

So, for the second time this week I’ve lost my temper during a match.

This time, after missing a shot and leaving it for the 1000th time over the pocket, I threw down my cue, ok not hard but hard enough  for people to notice my anger.

I’ve come to the point that I’m wondering why I’m putting in all those hours.

It’s fun when there is progression like this week when I play effortlessly, but now….

Anyways… I’ve tried to find a positive to end with and I found one:

I used to have these very deep ruts that took weeks or months to get out of.

Nowadays I seem to have ruts that last for a day or even just one frame.

I hope that these ruts will get less deep and take less effort to get out...

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How Professionals Play Snooker….

May 31, 2018

This week I had a great weekly email from a client in our Platinum Partner Programme client... Eric Oostergo from Belgium

It showed very clearly the difference between how most club players play snooker, and the extra efforts and routines that professionals have to apply to play well. I have included the email and my responses below, but it is important to realize that professionals are not good enough to play snooker at a good standard WITHOUT applying these fundamentals.

I hope you enjoy the article, that it adds something to your game, and that you can leave us some comments with your thoughts.




I went to the European Masters for three days and saw a lot of pro’s in action, sitting almost on the front rows. It was quite odd to see that it’s not at all how it looks on TV.


Some observations I made:

  1. As you said last week, they’re very process focused.

  2. They really commit.


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Should I stay, or should I go?

May 24, 2018

When I was learning the game, I would have dramatically increased my improvement rate if I had stayed at the venue until the end of the one day tournaments I entered, instead ‘throwing my toys out of the pram’ and just running away from the venue if I did not win it!

Why would this have helped? So that I could learn what it is like at the end of an event. This would have been invaluable to me in terms of preparation for future tournaments and learning:


Motivation and incentive.

Knowing I was going to stay until the end regardless of my result would hugely incentivise me to keep winning my matches, as to stay and watch others win would be mental agony.


The playing standard required to win.

On the occasions I did stay on to the end (perhaps due to travelling to the event with the eventual winner, or having only being able to travel the day after the event), I learned so much about the standard required to win. One of these events was when Chris Small beat...

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Do you think you are good at the yips?!

May 16, 2018

Many players over the years have come to me staking a claim to the greatest case of the yips the world has ever seen. Very rarely, though, are they any good at demonstrating the yips! 90% of the time, there is a hidden cause in technique or thinking they are not aware of, which is where a coaching session is useful. On the assumption their technique is set up correctly and they still cannot hit the ball smoothly, then it is likely to be shot anxiety that is the cause of imperfect cueing.


A client of mine emailed this week to express concern at his ‘yips’, and I offered a couple of ideas which I have seen help others over the years….


“To get the release of the cue working to your satisfaction I would say will need a quarter of your total playing time devoted to drills that focus only on delivery.

Ultimately, if you can deliver to your satisfaction with no cue ball in the way, then the only reason the release is not to your satisfaction is that...

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Reflections on the 2018 World Championship Final

May 13, 2018

On May 7th 2018, I witnessed the greatest, most impressive snooker match I have ever seen.

The epic world final saw Mark Williams stave off the heroic attempts of John Higgins to overturn him. Even four immense, once a tournament, clearances in eight frames was not enough to knock the unflappable Welshman.

Whilst still fresh in my mind I wanted to capture my observations in the match, having had the added fortune of front row seats with my wife.



Both players have technical ‘imperfections’ that are not ‘textbook’.

For example John pulls his cue back onto his bridge, and Mark cues on occasion very close to his hip. But in the same way that sprint sensation Michael Johnson showed with his startlingly upright running method, performance at the top level is not only about mechanics. Dedication, passion, temperament, experience, and grooving a method that works for you are key components in competing at the highest level.

Both players have...

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Your New Year Snooker Resolutions – updates, feedback, and ideas… (Part 3)

Feb 21, 2018

3. Focusing on cueing more than aiming

Here is feedback from Dennett N, in Canada

Thank you, Nic, for putting into words these very helpful insights that you have acquired during your many years of experience. Based on my own 50-year love affair with Snooker, I agree with everything you‘ve said here, especially your emphasis on the crucial and overwhelming importance of straight cueing.

Here was my reply:

Yup - but most snooker players new to the game are so fixated on the result of potting the ball that they cannot see beyond that to the far more important process of cueing. Ironically, the better they get, the less they are fixated on the result and the more they let go and trust... accepting it much more so when they miss. The better the player, the less they judge themselves – and observe curiously what happened – when they miss.


Here is feedback from Keith…

Hi Nic , just a quick update the improvement in my potting and cue action was more or less...

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Your New Year Snooker Resolutions – updates, feedback, and ideas… (Part 2)

Feb 17, 2018

2. Commit fully to a line of aim

Feedback from Patrick H.

Hi Nic,

I was having a miserable time last week. After a month off snooker, I seemed to have gone backwards – despite improving last year, largely down to more focussed practise – often using your tips and techniques.

Then I read Number 2/3 and everything changed. I started to commit to the line of aim and balls started to go in. Then I managed to keep my eye on the object ball consistently as well, and suddenly I made a total clearance with the line-up. This is the first time I’ve done this in about 25 years (I think I managed this two or three times when I played a lot in my late teens). Needless to say, I was over the moon!!!

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Your New Year Snooker Resolutions – updates, feedback, and ideas… (Part 1)

Feb 14, 2018

I hope you enjoyed the TSG New Year’s Resolution in January.

In summary, the 3 resolutions were:

  1. Watch the object ball properly all the way to the pocket – even if you don’t want to.
  2. Commit fully to a line of aim – even if you are not sure the ball will go in.
  3. Focus on cueing more than aiming – because without good cueing, good aiming won’t help you.

You can read them in full detail here:

Resolution 1
Resolution 2
Resolution 3


I thought you may be interested in reading some of the responses to that series of emails, and I am including those below…


1. Watch the object ball properly all the way to the pocket

Here is one from Will F about the power of watching the balls properly:

Thanks Nic,

I tried this (striking the ball on the third stroke) -plus staying down in the shot, watching the object ball into the pocket and my success increased markedly. I won man of the match! No big breaks yet - but concentrating on my cueing to...

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Top 3 Snooker New Year Snooker Resolutions: Number 3/3

Jan 11, 2018

Continuing our New Year Snooker Resolutions, here is number three:

New Year’s Resolution number 3: 
Focus on cueing more than aiming.

Your problem is CUEING, not AIMING!

90% of players who tell me they have trouble aiming or sighting the ball actually have trouble because of their cueing errors. Aiming becomes EASY when your cueing is perfect, but almost all club players want to bypass that step and ‘get on with the business of potting’. Snooker is NOT a game of potting or positional play – it is a game of CUEING… the balls just act as feedback for what your cue has done on every shot. There is more over-emphasis on aiming in snooker than any other topic… where the target should instead be to deliver the cue straight, and consistently. What you can try is to focus NOT ON POTTING the ball, but on HITTING IT WHERE YOU ARE AIMING (whether you pot it or not). So, you are downgrading your expectation from POTTING THE BALL, to HITTING THE BALL...

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