Nic Barrow's The Snooker Gym ... "We Train Frustrated Amateurs, To Beat Their Highest Break"

Part 2 of 2: What I learned from having only 7 shots in a best of five (and how this benefits you!)

match play snooker tips Apr 02, 2023

Following on from last week's part one where I made observations about preparing for the tournament, we today talk about learnings club players could take from my experience, mind management, snooker as the ultimate martial art, my playing intentions from the future... and a description of the seven shots I played in the match!

The match, and how my experience can help you

My seven shots in the match

Frame 1


Nic SHOT 1:
From 4 inches off the baulk cushion, I hit the safety slightly too thick and the cue ball finished 18 inches ahead of baulk line

Potted a long red and made 94

I decided to carry on to keep my arm in and prepare better for the next frame - and to show him I was not a complete pushover!

Nic SHOT 2:
From 4 inches off the baulk cushion I potted a red on the pink spot
The cue ball cannoned the pink on side cushion and landed 12 inches above pink spot

Nic SHOT 3:
I screwed the blue into the yellow pocket but lost position on the last red - and conceded

Frame 2

Nic SHOT 4:
I broke, hit the cue ball exactly where I was aiming it, but because I had not even got to practicing safety I judged incorrectly how the side would swerve the cue ball. The cue ball caught the end red too thin, hit the blue, and landed just ahead of the baulk line.

Potted a long red and made 95.
I conceded.

Frame 3

Broke off

Nic SHOT 5:
From touching the baulk cushion I caught the red well and snookered him behind the green

Played a beautiful escape to a red near top cushion

Nic SHOT 6:
I missed a 40/60 shot to nothing in the middle
He potted a long red and made 66 with 67 remaining

Nic SHOT 7:
From touching the baulk cushion I hit the red on the top cushion too thick

Made 30 to seal match

My mind set

My goal in meditation in the morning was ultimately to have joy in what I do - and to act as an example that would inspire others to do so.
I was relaxed, calm, and centred after having spent 20 minutes in meditation in the hotel room - where I also cued up for five minutes on the desk in the room to loosen up the cueing arm.

Even at 66 behind in the third frame, I was not dejected or disheartened and was focused on the battle and trying to get a chance to pot five blacks and clear up. Even though I was in a pretty hopeless position, I actually felt pretty elated that I was in a good 'frame' of mind in that situation.

After the match I was not embarrassed, or devastated, nor did I feel helpless.
In fact I had some admiration for the commitment and standard I showed in my 20s when i could occasionally beat players of that standard.

The only part I did feel bad about were the people who had come to watch me play and all those who wished me well in The Snooker Gym Community Facebook group. That took a bit of extra mind management to park.

After the match, I stayed in the match arena for five minutes just trying to settle my mind and take stock of what had happened.
When I had diagnosed what i should have done better in preparation for the next event, I felt at peace again and the match was parcelled up in my mind. I could then go out and greet my friends and spectators and be mindful to them rather than being a glazed eye snooker zombie 🙂

My game

This game reminded me how much I love it - snooker really is the ultimate martial art for tour ability to practice:

  • Concentration
  • Strategy
  • Process
  • Routine
  • Consistency
  • Parking the ego
  • Mindfulness / concentration / mind management
  • Physical co-ordination and skill
  • Finally, competing against an unbeatable game is good for humility!

I had trust in my aiming / cueing / shot making, or as a Plan B at least was able to pretend that I had trust.

I felt it was a pity I did not make time for 30 hours preparation which would be a minimum in my opinion... and even more of a pity that I did not make enough time for 300 hours preparation!

Decisions and protocols for the future

I have decided I should practice 2 hours a week or so to keep my arm in gear for YouTube and student demonstrations.
As bonus time after the end of some sessions, I am now offering to play frames with students or demo some break building drills.

I can then build up to 2 - 4 tournaments a year with 30 hours preparation at least for each. This allows me to practice what I am preaching to my students, see the game from the competitive side, and get better at playing - which on its own is a life long journey of enjoyment!

The difference between Andrew and club players

Finally, throughout the match I just felt so relaxed and admiring watching Andrew play.
I noticed that he did not play one shot where I felt a jarring in my soul.
This was a different experience to when I watch and coach club players who I specialise in / enjoy working with the most.
In my plentiful time watching the match, I was trying to think of the differences and they are threefold.

In essence it comes down to the fact that almost ALL club players (even up to and beyond 100 break standard commit the following 'cueing crimes'.

First, holding the cue tighter than they need.

  • Hold the cue like it is a soft tube of open toothpaste and you don't want to squeeze any on the floor.
  • Or a small bird - not too tight to hurt it, but not too loose to let it go.
  • Or the hand of a four year old child.

Second, accelerating the cue too fast when changing direction / on the back swing / on the delivery.


  • Imagine you are in the passenger seat of a Rolls Royce, and there is a glass of wine on the dashboard.
  • Imagine how smoothly the chauffeur needs to accelerate / decelerate to go back and forwards like your cue action.
  • Finally, to reach 100mph (160kph) he would need plenty of space to do so and it would be very smooth to avoid getting a glass of wine on your lap.
  • Most club players accelerate their cue on delivery of a shot using speed like a drag racing car - resulting in lots of wine split and the car being prone to weave out of control or explode!

Third, playing the shots with more speed than they need - which makes the pockets smaller.


  • Hitting the back of the pocket with the object ball is a great sound for the ego, but a terrible sound for control
  • Play top spin as a default positional shot, only using stun / screw / speed when you have to.
  • Most club players play 50% of the shots where they could play top spin (where the only error we can make is speed), with stun (where we can make speed AND height errors on the cue ball). Keep it simple!
  • Keep your average cue ball mileage per shot as low as possible
  • Keep your average cue ball speed (and volume!) per shot as low as possible
  • Simply refuse the most powerful shot you would otherwise play every frame - boring I know, but effective!

I hope you got something from these experiences and welcome any comments.

And here is, I think, the only photo I took on the day...

Nic Barrow in The Senior Snooker Tournament at The Crucible, Reading

To left
Neil Craycraft, childhood practice partner - and overall good egg.

To right
Barry Pinches - my opponent in the 1988 British Under 19s (he won 3-2!)

Stephen Hendry's 'Cue Tips' YouTube channel filming room... inside the Crucible Sports & Social Club, Newbury