The Mind-Boosting Benefits of Billiards: Enhancing Brain Health Through Pool

We all know that nutrition and exercise greatly affect our overall health and the functioning of our brain. But healthy food and physical activity are not the only things that contribute to our cognitive and overall well-being. Did you know that playing Pool can give your brain a boost?

Most people do not realize that playing pool is much more than just a fun time at the bar. Playing pool can actually sharpen your thinking, improve your memory, and help you maintain an emotional balance.

Most people are familiar with what a pool game is and the basics of playing it. We all know it involves a big felt-covered table, cue sticks, and lots of colorful balls.

But there are actually many ways to play pool. Each pool game comes with its own set of rules and strategies. The main objective of different pool games is to use the cue stick to skillfully strike a white ball that will hit other balls and hopefully guide them into one of the six pockets.

Here are some of the main pool variations:

Eight Ball:

Most Popular

  • 1 White Cue Ball
  • 1 Black Ball
  • 7 sold color Balls
  • 7 striped Balls

Each player/team is assigned the stripes or the solid color balls. The first one who pockets all of his ball and the black ball at the end wins.

Nine Ball:

Fast

  • 1 White Cue Ball
  • 9 Numbered Balls of Same Color

The goal of the game is to be the first player pocketing the 9th ball. The first ball contacted by the cue ball must always be in numerical order.

Snooker:

Tactical

  • 1 White Cue Ball
  • 15 red balls
  • 6 colored balls 

The goal of the game is to score as many points as possible. First, we must pocket all the red balls giving the player who pocketed a red ball 1 point for each red ball. Then all the colored ball in a numerical order (based on the points they award) should be pocketed. First the yellow ball [2 points], then the green ball [3 point], brown ball [4 points], blue ball [5 points], pink ball [6 points] and eventually the black ball which gives 7 points.

Straight Pool:

Strategic

  • 1 Cue Ball
  • 15 Numbered Balls

The goal of the game is to be the first player scoring 150 points [we play some variations until 100 or 200 points]. Before each shot, players must nominate their target ball and if that ball is pocketed, it earns them a victory point. The process continues until the player misses or commits a foul. Then the pocketed ball is returned to the table again. 

What cognitive abilities can playing billiards help you boost?

Focus and concentration

Focus, sustained attention and concentration are the building blocks of success on the billiards table. The game demands your full attention.

For each turn, you need to analyze the table, decide which ball to aim at, and calculate the right angle to strike and the amount of force to apply.

While having good focus skills can certainly be advantageous when playing pool, you can enjoy pool without having them and actually develop them over time.

Problem-solving and strategic thinking

Skill and precision are not the only things required to master billiards. Billiards is also a very strategic game that may have the power to boost your problem-solving skills.

Here are a few examples of problems a player may need to solve during a billiard game:

  • Challenging Shots

Some shots in a billiard game may seem hard and sometimes even impossible to make.  

  • Long Shot: When you aim to hit a ball that is at a significant distance from the white ball (also called "cue ball").
  • Bank Shot: When you need to try to first hit the rail and then hit your target ball.
  • Jump Shot: Making the cue ball jump over another ball to reach the target ball and hit it.
  • Massé Shot: Making a strike that makes a ball to spin and curve around obstacles.
  • Combination Shot: aiming the cue ball to strike a "ball" that will help put the target ball into the pocket.

Problem-solving skills play a significant role in achieving successful shots. They help identify which shot is required in each specific situation. 

The players need to take into account all possible shots and obstacles that may affect them. Then decide which shot is best to go for. All that while evaluating the risks of failure and chances of succeeding.

  • Planning ahead for the next shot

Thinking about the cue ball position for the next shot is part of the advanced pool strategies that can make a big difference. Spreading the balls across the table or keeping them in clusters is also a strategic decision. 

  • Choosing the right strategy

Different strategies can be used to play the game. You can play a game focusing on your own balls and your own achievements. Pocketing as many balls as possible is the main part of this strategy. Another way would be to keep an eye on your opponent's balls and position your balls in a way that can make it hard for the opponent to score.

You can start playing pool without initially strategizing. Players of all levels can enjoy pool. A beginner can start just by aiming, striking, and getting familiar with the game mechanics. As you advance and gain confidence in the basics of pool, you'll naturally find yourself incorporating strategies into your gameplay.

Spatial awareness and visualization

Spatial awareness is all about our ability to understand the placement of objects and their relationships with one another. When it comes to activities like playing pool, spatial awareness is incredibly important. It helps us to visualize the angles, distances, and ball paths. All the info we need is to plan our shots, execute them and achieved the desired results.

While having good spatial awareness will give a player a string advantage, the game is not solely about visualizing angles and trajectories. Cue ball control and strike technique are also very important. A player can develop spatial awareness skill while continuously practicing the game.

Does the pool contribute to mental well-being?

Emotion Control and Patience

Both patience and emotional control can be developed during playing billiards. There can be a relatively long downtime between shots and that is a great opportunity to practice patience.

During the game, a player will probably make some mistakes and inevitably experience setbacks. Those will force him to deal with different emotions: frustration, disappointment, anger, excitement, and many more. Not being in full control of those emotions during play can negatively affect the gameplay. Maintaining a positive mindset and not letting negative emotions take over is one of the powerful skills that can be obtained from this game. Emotional control can then contribute to maintaining a friendly environment, not being overly competitive, respecting opponents and also being able to embrace challenges and see them as an opportunity to learn something new.

Stress Relief

As with most board games and other enjoyable activities, the pool also provides a temporary escape from the pressures of daily life. The game requires you to focus and think about strategies and naturally shift your focus away from stressors.

This redirection of attention can help clear the mind and relieve stress.

The social interaction that usually comes with a game of pool contributes to the feeling of relaxation, sense of belonging and overall well-being.  

Where you can play billiards?

Pool is a very popular game and there are various places you can play at. There are dedicated pool halls and pool clubs where you can find lots of pool tables. Bars and pubs will usually have a pool table and that may be a good option for people looking to play pool in a casual social environment over a drink. You may also find pool tables in recreational centers and sport clubs and there is also an option to set up a pool table at home.

How to fit a pool table into your home?

Having a pool table at home is a convenient way to enjoy the game whenever you want. However, not all homes have enough space to place a standard 7 feet/8 feet or 9 feet table. 

How much room do you need around a table?

The length of cues used for the game dictates the required free space around the table. Pool cues are usually 140-150 cm in length and therefore it is best to have at least 1.5 meters of free space at each side of a pool table. That means that you need to add 3 meters to the width and the length of the table to calculate the required room space.

7ft Table

Play Area:         

198cm x 99cm

76" x 38"


Required Space:

5m x 4m

16' 5" x 13' 2" 

8ft Table

Play Area:         

222cm x 111cm

88" x 44"


Required Space:

5.2m x 4.1m

17' 1" x 13' 5" 

9ft Table

Play Area:         

254cm x 127cm

100" x 50"


Required Space:

5.5m x 4.3m

18'  x 14' 1" 

If you don't have enough free space to fit a standard size table *, there are smaller table options * and foldable tables that can be a brilliant solution. It is better to go for a smaller table and have enough free space to maneuver around it than getting a big table and not being able to freely move the cue and make shots. 

4-in-1 Multi Game Table

Mini Pool Table 

Conclusion

Whether you play billiards on a 9 feet table at a club or on a foldable mini table in your apartment, remember that you are not only having lots of fun but also providing numerous benefits for your brain health. So grab your cue, invite your friends and family and let them enjoy the cognitive benefits that billiards has to offer.

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Katia

Katia is responsible for graphics and content design. She is a mom of two beautiful children. Katia spends her free time searching for and trying to solve different brain games and teasers. She also likes board games, puzzles and crosswords.