Why do players miss?

As a snooker fan for a number of years now I have seen thousands of missed pots but every now and again I stop to wonder…why? A stupid question perhaps but one that as a non-player of the game I feel is perhaps worthy of exploration…


Cueing in a straight line, hitting the cue ball dead centre…two basic requirements of a top snooker player that sound so easy when written down but in practice can sometimes prove to be anything but. If a player’s technique and cue action is flawed then it is likely to be something that will let them down at a crucial moment, while players such as Shaun Murphy who have a rock solid cue action are always going to be a threat.

The man with the textbook technique in the 1980’s was of course six-times world champion Steve Davis who with the help of his father learned to play based on the famous book written by the legendary Joe Davis. In recent times however even he has had trouble with his technique, commenting back in September 2008:

“I noticed I wasn’t striking the ball in the centre,”

“I was favouring cueing on one side and it was affecting my alignment.”

Another great, Stephen Hendry has also said in recent years that he has developed a technical fault in his game which I believe to be a similar problem and it is perhaps no coincidence that his results have dipped as a result.


Alternatively perhaps it is not that the player is cueing badly, but because they are aiming badly instead. For a professional player I imagine that alignment and aiming are relatively basic skills, but while the players sometimes make the game look easy, at the end of the day they are humans and will make mistakes occasionally.


Undoubtedly another significant factor, pressure gets to all players at some point and causes them to miss balls that they would not ever miss under normal circumstances. Indeed you will often hear a player saying how well they are playing in practice when the stakes are low and there are not millions of people watching across the world.

Under the lights and in front of specatators however, with several thousand pounds at stake and for some further down the rankings their very futures, sometimes anything can become missable. As said above, the players are only human and when various other thoughts are entering their mind, players can be distracted from doing what is necessary to play the shot correctly. It has been said of Stephen Hendry that his mid-1990’s success owed much to the fact that under pressure he retained the ability to think clearly where others could not and I think that there is more than an element of truth to this.

Obviously however this mental factor is inevitably linked to technical aspects insofar as the pressure they are under causes them to cue a shot badly, to hit the white in the wrong place or to aim their intended shot incorrectly.


You often hear commentators remark on how when players get older, their concentration is not quite as good as in the past and that this causes them to miss simple shots such as a black off the spot which they would never normally miss. Stephen Hendry is an obvious example as he occasionally misses shots like this for no apparent reason and he has himself commented in the past on how important it is for him to maintain his concentration during matches.

Much like pressure this is surely inextricably linked to other more technical aspects.


A more or less obvious factor depending on how you look at it, could it be that changes to a player’s eyesight can somehow cause a difference, resulting in technical errors such as those described above?

One played who has decided that his sight is an issue is Stephen Maguire who recently underwent laser surgery in an attempt to help his fortunes on the table. Another famous example of course is Dennis Taylor with his famous glasses.


So why do players miss? Are there any obvious factors that I have overlooked? Feel free to comment, particularly players who will be able to offer more of an insight than a watcher of the game such as myself would.