If you're serious about improving your pool game, you will need to put in endless hours of practice. Sometimes those endless hours can make you lose the desire to play, so knowing when and how to take a break is just as important as practicing. Taking time off from the game is something that is rarely discussed by players, so I'm going to go over four different types of breaks, and when it is best to use them.

1. Take a vacation from the game. This involves not playing pool, not thinking about pool, and not hanging out in the pool room watching pool. After about a week you will see the game through fresh eyes, and your desire to play will return. A couple of these a year are absolutely necessary not only for clarity, but for your sanity, These types of pool vacations are best when you're in the off season, and you don't have a desire to play.

2. Take a physical break. Take a few days to a week away from the physical game and only visualize yourself playing great pool. 30-45 minutes twice a day will do more for your game than going to the pool hall for hours at a time. This break is the most productive thing you can do for your game when you are in a slump and everything seems to be going wrong. Mental practice has been proven to be at least as effective as physical practice, so breaks like these are not only mandatory when things aren't going well, but can also be very useful when life interferes with practice time.

3. Take a learning break. Take one of your usual practice days and dedicate it to watching pool DVD's or reading instructional books. Gaining knowledge can only make you a better player. Dedicate a few days a month to study the game. There are plenty of free pool streams to watch, and lots of instructional DVD's and books that are filled with knowledge. Other people have spent their whole lives learning to play the game, so listening to them can cut years off your learning curve.

4. Take a competitive break. Play pool as much as you want, but only do it alone. Solo practice is very important for improving your game, and it has twice the benefit of playing others because your time at the table is doubled. These breaks are very important when you are working on specific shots, changing your fundamentals, and especially when you are breaking in new equipment.

One of the hardest things to do when you are dedicated to getting better is to stop playing, but as you see, a break doesn't always mean walking away from the game. Breaks should be used as a strategy to enhance your game, not run away from it. Never feel guilty for putting down your pool cue. Taking time off is not only important for your sanity, it is a critical step toward becoming a better player.