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

The Psychology of Potting (The 3 Player Method?!)

aiming sighting & potting psychology Feb 22, 2021

“Our success at Amazon is a function of how many experiments we do per year, per month, per week, per day.”

Jeff Bezos

In the same way, POTTING skill is simply a question of how many experiments (shots) we execute with the following in place:


1. Complete commitment to one line of aim, even if you are unsure if the ball will go in.

EVERY SINGLE PRO has this uncertainty on some shots.

I have found that not understanding this is the biggest potting mistake of sub 40 break players as they tend to believe there is a way to 100% know the line of aim on every shot.


Many players do not WANT to accept this as fact because it will then mean their model of the game as solvable falls down, which may lead to perceived lack of enjoyment.

Indeed, this correct aiming and potting model guarantees occasional shot result failure for every snooker player who will ever live.

Consequently they abandon trial and error and stop observing what is going on, in favour of chasing the latest doubt free aiming mirage.


What we CAN guarantee, though, is winning on every shot experiment by extracting learning from it.

This is a far healthier approach for our mental health as players!

I believe snooker is a great meditation on, and practice for, living with the uncertainties in day to day life.


2. A delivery that you know to be straight.

The irony with many club players is that they don’t even consider this will be a reason for missing… “Because how hard can it be to deliver the cue straight?!”.

The fact is that top pros all live with uncertainty about whether they will deliver the cue correctly or not.

All pros are doing is their absolute best to aim correctly and to deliver correctly – and the player with the smallest average potting error over their career (IE the Greatest Of All Time!) is Ronnie.

No pro knows they will deliver correctly which is why pressure exists – if they knew on every shot that they have the magical aiming secret and magical grip secret to deliver the cue straight, then there would be no doubt they would ever miss.


3. Watching the ball all the way to the pocket without judgement, and to gather visual data.

Try this little thought experiment. Imagine the first day Ronnie O’Sullivan started playing snooker.

Imagine also on every shot he ever played, that as soon as he touched the cue ball his eyes would close tight, he would not hear the balls reacting, and would not know the result of the shot.

Would he ever have made a single 20 break in his career?

The opposite of these restrictions is to watch the object ball with observation and no judgement until it has his pocket or cushion, and then switching without delay to the cue ball until it stops moving. This is the perfect post shot eye routine to give you all the data you need from the shot for self diagnosis.


As our member and PGA Golf Professional Ben O’Dell said to me recently about a blue in the middle he played in a frame:

"I wasn't sure it was going in to the pocket on the line I had committed to, but I knew that if I cued straight and missed that I was one shot closer to never missing it again."

This microscopic consolation 'win' on every single shot is the currency of long term improvement.

Ben, though, does have two secret super powers in this regard:

  1. He has learned to prioritise process / observation / learning, above fixation on shot result.
  2. He is a teaching golf professional, so had made this approach to shots automatic over the years.


In our Beat Your Highest Break Club ( Zoom call last night, Woldai Wagner and I were discussing the points above and the conversation gave birth to the idea of THREE PLAYERS TAKING THE SHOT.

  • One player to commit to the line.
  • One to deliver the cue straight.
  • One to observe the ball all the way to the pocket.

Woldai also gave the idea that, as with human rights, each person or shot should be viewed equally and without favour – and given the respect they all deserve…


Here is the Youtube video of my full conversation with Woldai.