Ask The Master - Tom, I am 63 years old and been playing pool for a long time. I never took any lessons in my life time. I have read books, watched other great players and enjoyed the game with passion. I thought I was shooting the game with my best ability.

The other night I was playing a guy and he beat me pretty bad. I have been going back to basics and doing my best to change my stroke. I have always jabbed and had a poor follow through. I don't have any problems with the short shots, its the shots longer than a cue that I miss a lot. I am holding the cue now with three fingers. I have changed my stance. I never take any longer than 5 seconds on a shot. I don't do the butterfly eye on the object ball.

If you would be so kind to tell me what practice techniques that you use to improve your stroke performance, I would appreciate your advice.

Sounds like you're really trying to do the right things. Without actually seeing you, I'm going to touch on two areas that may be of help.

1. Poking: You'll never play consistently well as a poker. Pokers have very poor speed control and are blacked out during the hit. I've done a lot of work with curing poking. If you'd like to read my article on the subject, send me an email and ask for "Curing Poking."

2. Missing shots when balls are far apart: Most likely you are not hitting the vertical axis of the cueball, even though your eyes & brain tell you you're on it. If you regularly see sidespin on the cueball that you did not intend (typically left spin for right-handers), you have this problem. Your eyes are not in the right place relative to the shot line. I can fix that at pool school.

For practice, I suggest you shoot several hundred dead straight shots with the balls 4 or 5 feet apart. Use all the balls, so you can see any spin that gets produced. Observe closely. You will gradually adjust your stance, head, and stroke to go straight. There are many stroke & alignment drills, but again, I'd have to see you.

Best Wishes,

Tom Simpson