Weight on the Bridge Hand?
Ask the Master - "In trying to perfect my stance, I've been advised more than a few times not to put weight on my bridge hand, and to let it just rest on the table. But I have yet to hear any logical explanation for this advice. Personally, as a taller player I'm relying on that hand to take a bit of the load off my back, and with it firmly planted on the table, it creates a tripod effect (along with my two feet) that makes me feel more stable. And to top it off, now I see Earl Strickland with a 5 pound weight strapped to his arm to get more weight on his bridge hand!
So what is the story? Is there some reason that I am missing out on or does this just come down to personal preference?"
My best guess at the back story on this oft-repeated idea is that it came from "the old days" when players' stances were much more upright. Their weight was on their feet. If they tried to put weight on their bridge hand, it felt unnatural, more like pushing down than resting some weight. From that perspective, I can see the sense of the idea. However, we stopped playing upright back in the 1950s.
Today's players typically bend down toward the table much more. I teach that your stance should be a big, stable, athletic tripod. We land our feet as perfectly as we can while standing. Then we bend from the pelvis (straight, flat, athletic back – no slumping) and reach our bridge hand toward the cloth. We land the bridge and slide it forward to final position. This move naturally puts a little weight on the bridge, and makes you a tripod. A three-legged object is the most stable.
I also teach "bridge anchoring" as an overlooked fundamental. Once your bridge is fully formed and you're happy with it, I recommend anchoring it to the cloth through a little pressure in a finger or two. For my article on "Bridge Anchoring" and why it's important, request it in an email to Tom@PoolClinics.com. And if one of the greatest players ever thinks having some weight on his bridge arm is helpful, maybe it's worth a closer look.