Without proper instruction, pool-players can come up with some pretty creative (read incorrect and sometimes mildly amusing) ways of doing things. Nothing illustrates this more than the variety of well-meaning but unstable pool bridges that you'll see in your local bar or poolroom. A pool bridge – placing your hand on the table in order to rest the cue on it – shares some common duties with its real-life namesake. Both pool bridges and actual bridges require structure and stability to allow the support of another object, be it a Mack truck or a pool cue, without undue swaying. Here are five common ill-advised bridges and how to turn them from condemned structures to feats of engineering:

The Floater:
This bridge is characterized by its lack of connection to the table. In most regular, proper bridges the palm of your hand should rest on the table. In the floater only the fingers, or just the finger-tips, are placed on the table. The idea is that maximizing the surface area of your hand that contacts the table will provide the most stability to keep your aim steady and accurate.

The Pancake:
If you rest your cue on top of a completely flat hand, the cue is going to slide all over the place. In a regular open bridge (called “open” because you don't close your fingers around the cue,) the cue rests in a crook between the thumb and index finger. You make this crook by pressing the base of your thumb against your hand with the top half of your thumb angled up and away to form a vee. This same crook is crucial for turning your open bridge into a closed bridge (called “closed” because your index finger wraps around the cue in a loop.) A closed bridge provides even more security and stability for when you want to hit the ball accurately with power.

The Claw:
This bridge sort of looks like a tarantula with the cue resting between the knuckles of the index and middle finger and is the sign of an uninitiated player. The conversion from open to closed isn't possible with the claw, making this bridge a dead end.

The Undercarriage:
This refers to a constellation of gravity-defying bridges where the cue is placed underneath the hand instead of on top of it. If you look at a bridge and scratch your head in wonder at how the cue doesn't fall down onto the table, you've got yourself an undercarriage situation. This flaw can be applied to two of the bridges just mentioned resulting in sort of a reverse claw or a floater where the cue dangles from a half-closed index finger. The cue should always rest on top of your hand. The only exception is when you bridge by resting the cue on the rail.

On Top of a Ball:
You should never place your hand on top of a ball in order to form a bridge. This is an etiquette violation as well as an unstable scenario. If you need to shoot over a ball, place your finger-tips in a secure location first and then form your bridge. This is one of the few times where the floater is not only recommended, but necessary!