In the third and last photo we see the end of the stroke and must examine the important elements of this position. 1) The hand has passed the arm, ideally reaching maximum acceleration in the moment of contact with the cue ball. Note that the index finger’s second knuckle leads everything forward. 2) These photos of my stroke confirm to the trained eye that I learned the game while the old timers still held the secrets. A careful look reveals that the butt of the cue has slid about six inches through my hand, a motion sometimes called a slip stroke and one that guarantees a long follow through and smooth, uninhibited acceleration. One may argue that this motion adds complexity to the stroke but I would insist that the old-time, straight-pool players developed strokes more sensitive to the delicate changes of a more demanding game. Whether the cue slips through the hand or not, the basic throwing acceleration of the pool stroke should occur on almost all shots, even ones with a very short stroke and short follow through, such as a snip draw for example. On those shots we learn to throw the cue a shorter distance instead of trying to shorten the stroke by holding it back.
Breaking down the pool stroke into these three stages and stopping the hand at each one in a mirror will help you learn the motion quickly. Begin with your eyes on your hand and shape it at each stage to match the corresponding photo. Then with your eyes on the table, move the cue into each position before looking at the mirror to check the hand’s alignment. From there you can begin to move the cue back and forth through the range of the stroke while watching your hand. Since the sight of balls tends to scare us and cause tension, spend some time practicing the motion with no balls on the table. Finally, try some shots with a cue ball and a long, smooth powerful stroke with a long follow through—twelve inches or more. Pay attention to your hand in the moment that it meets the cue ball. Many players, in the moment of contact, feel the collision and reflexively pull the cue backwards. Mastering these steps with a relaxed grip will eliminate any such movement as you learn to throw a screaming tip through the cue ball instead of moseying up to push a weak tip at it.