Watching professional players is a good habit you can have in order to learn techniques and shot selection from the players that have mastered them to the highest level.
The issue, however, is that when you watch players long enough, you start to notice traits they have but can’t work out why they do it.
Does it serve a benefit and why are they doing it?
One such example of this is players tapping their middle finger when lining up for a shot. There are a number of players that do this on the pro circuit, so many that it can’t just be an individual trait and there must be a reason for it….
Read on as we look to answer the question of why do snooker players tap their middle finger?
Why Do Snooker Players Tap Their Middle Finger?
There is a small debate about why snooker players tap their middle finger on the game table while lining up a shot.
Some people suggest it is as simple as a nervous habit that players unconsciously do. Others argue that it is nothing more than a ritual. Mark Selby was quizzed on this very subject and said that for most players tapping their fingers, this could be a ritual to aid concentration before a shot.
Having a certain ritual helps players to focus on the task at hand – regardless of what sport they play and this is seen as a psychological queue to get them into the “zone”.
Therefore, it can be hard to see if this is something that you pick up from watching other players or if it comes naturally.
So, the reason snooker players tap their middle finger is either due to habit or ritual because it’s something they’ve done from an early age (after watching professional players do it). Some experts think it’s done as a psychological queue to get zoned in on a shot and block out distractions.
Below, we’ll cover some of the more common theories as to why snooker players tap their middle finger and whether or not there is any benefit to it – just in case you’re wondering if you should do it for a better shot.
1) Is the Middle Finger Tap a Ritual?
It could be that snooker players tap their middle fingers before cueing off as a type of pre-shot ritual. Many athletes perform the same ritual every time and consider it bad luck if they don’t.
Things like a baseball batter tapping the tip of his shoe and then the plate in a certain spot is one example. Another example would be a basketball player sticking out their tongue as they go up for a dunk. The most common is a tennis player bouncing the ball a few times before they serve to get into the rhythm.
Rituals become ingrained into a players technique and you’ll find the nervous system and muscular system becomes used to following these rituals during certain circumstances. This means that once a player gets used to tapping their middle finger, it becomes a habit and very difficult to stop.
2) Is Finger Tapping More of a Nervous Tick?
Could this tapping be something of a nervous twitch, like when a poker player licks his lips before playing a winning hand?
Some guess that this is an unconscious nervous movement that the player is unaware of.
Snooker requires heavy concentration so it is possible that it is simply an involuntary nerve twitch. Players such as Kyran Wilson, Steve Davis, and Barry Snark have all been recognized for doing this.
3) Could Tapping Be a Sign of Injury Due to Injury?
It has been mentioned on several occasions that long-term damage to the wrist could account for the player’s finger tapping.
Carpal Tunnel among other nerve conditions has been suggested to be behind the involuntary movement. Since the position used when cueing is unnatural as far as the angle and way in which the wrist is held, it seems logical that nerve or wrist damage could happen.
4) Is the Finger Tapping Strictly Technique?
Some more experienced players will tell you that it is a by-product of a well-rounded technique and a sturdy bridge hand.
Similar to the foundation of a house, the bridge hand acts as the strong base for a well-executed shot. As the player firms up his bridge hand, that small ever so important twitch applies the finishing touches on the transfer of energy to the cue ball.
Some players feel as if tapping their middle finger while firming up the bridge hand helps with timing. To execute the perfect shot the bridge hand should be sturdy and firm, and at the right moment, making the shot.
It is a hard metric to measure but it is speculated by some that the timing of the finger tap and the backswing on high-level players coincide. With some players, the tapping is barely noticeable while other players aggressively tap. Let’s take a look at which players do this and are known to be the “tappiest”.
Which Players Are Known for the Finger Tap?
These are some of the names that are known for going a little extra with their tapping
finger. Dean Reynolds, Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan, and Darren Morgan to name a few.
Hands down the player with the most exaggerated finger tapping in the world of professional snooker is Tony Meo. Tony Meo won the -19 British Open in 1978 and also won the 1989 British Open while emploring his fun to watch tapping middle finger.
Will Finger Tapping Help the Average Snooker Player?
The truth of the matter is that although there is thought to be some truth to the helpfulness of this finger tapping, it does not equate to skill.
Tapping the middle finger on the table on purpose does not turn the average player into Ronnie O’Sullivan, but it does appear most often with more experienced players.
Some players never adapt the noticeable move to their play style. It seems to be something that either accompanies your game as you advance to the top of the sport or you never do it, so to speak, the tap picks you, you don’t pick the tap.
Should You Start Tapping Your Finger While Cueing?
Players that attempt to tap their finger on purpose do not report their snooker game improving. Nothing tops experience so if you enjoy the game just keep playing and focus on the fundamentals.
The more time you spend working on the fundamentals of the game and improving on the little things the better you will get. By improving your all-around game and building strong fundamentals you can work your way up.
Remember that these players have been playing for years to get where they are at (some have played for decades).
Why Do Snooker Players Tap the Edge of the Snooker Table
You might have read this and thought “the middle finger tap before a shot is not what I noticed”?
This is because another instance of finger tapping being used during a snooker match is when used to congratulate one’s opponent after a good shot, an example could be getting out of a very difficult snooker or placing the player themself into a difficult snooker.
This is common practice in the pro leagues. This is most likely due to the level of concentration that is needed to be the best of the best. Very few words are spoken during a championship match of snooker.
Most people involved in sport or games will have a habit. This could be in relation to technique, a ritual, or a combination of the two and one of the most common in snooker is tapping the middle finger.
This finger tap is often observed in top players and as a result, beginners will copy this and start doing it from a young age. This makes it difficult to know if tapping the finger is a natural instinct when playing snooker (to get you into the zone) or if it’s a learned habit from watching the pro’s do it and simply copying it.
The reason most people tap their finger before a shot in snooker is a combination of the above an is likely to be a habit picked up by watching someone else do it first – like a popular pro player.