Instructional

Big Red Instructional: Part 2 of Bridging

Erik InstructionalHello again everybody, I had a nice ten days in Qatar for the World Nine Ball Championships. I was only able to come away with one match win but I was pleased with my performance overall, as I lost two close matches while my opponents played well. Today we are going to continue our instructional about bridging, focusing mainly on bridging from the rail.
In the first article we talked about the open bridge; before I begin today’s piece I would like to clarify a statement which I made regarding the open bridge. Previously I stated that an open bridge is used on 70% of shots. I just wanted to make it clear that I meant 70% of shots that are not rail shots, in other words the cue ball is accessible from the bed of the table.
While watching some matches at the World Nine Ball Championships, I noticed a bridge that was coming up quite often, even more than I had previously realized. I call this the over the top bridge from the rail, meaning that your index finger is over the top of the cue lying on the rail.
There are three main bridges that are used when playing shots off the rail.

#1 An over the top bridge
#1 An over the top bridge

#2 A level open bridge
#2 A level open bridge

#3 An off the back of the rail bridge
#3 An off the back of the rail bridge

The first bridge you always want to look for when playing shots from the rail is an over the top bridge. Any time you are drawing a ball or playing a shot with follow at medium speed or more, this is the ideal bridge. It is actually a very easy bridge to execute.When using this bridge, make sure you bend your thumb underneath your palm to about you ring finger then place it down on the rail with the cue lying on the rail. This creates a very solid base and tight controlled area for your cue to stroke through. The second part of this bridge is the most important part of execution because this is an area where most pros and amateurs differentiate.
You want to “press” your index finger over the top of the cue, and not lie it flat over the top of the cue. This creates a tighter bridge which is always the goal for all bridges. Notice now that relative to the angle your cue is taking on the shot, you will either have two or three contact points with your cue. The three contact points are the knuckle of your thumb, the inside of your middle finger and the knuckle created by pressing your middle finger. When the cue is elevated to play draw you will usually have two points.
Note: This bridge can be used for very long distances from the cue ball and very short distances from the cue ball.
The second most common bridge from the rail is an open style bridge, mainly used for hitting balls at a pocket weight speed and when following the cue ball. It is very important to note here that although this is an open style bridge it is not the same as the open bridge used when the cue ball is in the middle of the table. The main difference is that you take your thumb away from the top knuckle of your index, which creates a type of backwards letter J shape. This allows you to again lie the cue flat on the rail, which is of the utmost importance. If you use a normal open bridge on top of the rail you will be creating an unnecessary and detrimental angle with your cue.
The third most common bridge from the rail is a bridge where you bring the back of your hand off the rail which allows you to create a type of extended rail at the same level as the actual rail. I would only suggest using this bridge on slower speed pots and pots that are lower in difficulty. Depending on the angle of the shot you might have 3 fingers as the base of the bridge or all four fingers. Somehow this bridge can give you a little more feel but I would use it only sparingly because the back of the bridge is floating and is weaker.
Some players, particularly professionals and I, would say mostly Filipino pros will actually use a close bridge on the rail, the same as the one used on the bed of the table. But I will tell you right now that your hands have to be very flexible in order to keep the bridge low enough. They would only use this bridge when trying to power draw a ball off the rail. There are also rare situations where you will use a raised open bridge to dig into the very bottom part of the cue ball.
In summary, look to use the three bridges that I outlined with frequency relative to the order that they were presented in. Note that the exact meticulous execution of how the bridge is formed is very important. I’ll be back in couple of weeks with my next article. Finally I am very happy to announce that Canadian champion Paul Potier is now on-board with the Straight-Pool team and will also help out our readers with instructional advice.

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