The Break

As it turned out, I did not get a chance to practice anything new today.  One of my pool buddies was there, so we played some 9-ball.  I lost count exactly, but I think the final score was something like 9-4 in his favor.  This is pretty typical.  He's just a bit more consistent, and he can slice those balls into places that make my head spin.  Definitely a weak point in my game.

However, just before I left, I watched this video on How to Break and thought I'd give it a try.  This is more about body movement and getting good power behind your stroke.  The few times I got to break, I tried that technique - with varying results.  This is, of course, expected - but it's promising, I think.  I'm in the market for a break-cue now anyway, so before dropping cash on a specific cue, I should learn how to break properly.  I know I have some defects in my break stroke, but if I can work out a decent form, I can start to focus on controlling the cue ball after the break.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Gear

Frozen Balls + Throw

As I was double-checking the few new links I added, I saw this video:

I actually haven't seen that done before, so... I'll be trying that today. :)

Previously, I had ran across several videos that explain and demonstrate throw (as involved in bank-shots), like the one below, which proved very helpful in my game.

I've made a lot more bank shots in the previous few weeks because of that video.  I have known for some time about how the speed of the bank shot affects the angle off the rail - especially when coupled with the angle going into the rail - but I couldn't quite figure out why some of them were either banking far off or hardly at all ... Throw was my answer.

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Filed Under: General · Training

Getting Some Help

I mentioned earlier that I've been really trying to get a bit more serious about my playing.  As such I've been on the lookout for training tools.  Here's what I've picked up so far:

How to Play Pool Right - was a video suggested to me by the guy at C&C (Cue & Cushion in the links list) when I asked him about training materials.  It's a pretty informative video - if you can get past the 1985 video production quality.  I picked up a few fundamental things I had not known before - and things to watch out for, like squeezing the cue and it's tell-tale signs.  Also the pendulum position for your grip.  I figured there was a special spot, but I didn't know what it was.  The video also gives some basic training guides to ensure your stroke is accurate.  Honestly, I need to work on those things - but given that I only have an hour or so a day to practice, it's hard to forgo gameplay with such limited time available.  In the advanced section he explains and demonstrates the effects of deflection (often called squirt).  It added a whole new level of complexity to the game.  All this time I just thought I was aiming wrong.  In a way, I was - but now I can at least say that my ideas were correct; but my execution was missing a key component - compensation for deflection.

About a month ago, I picked up a Jim Tempe Training Ball.  And while it has been helpful in spotting flaws in my stroke (any clean cue-ball would do this, I suppose), it's difficult to play with because you have to "reset" the target after each shot and that takes away from the pre-shot routine.

Last week, I bought a Pro Cup Measle Ball.  It was, at first, a little distracting having those extra dots on the ball when trying to set my aim-spot.  But it didn't take long at all to get around that.  Now I can see, more visually, the spin I've put on the ball.  Before this, I had to wait to see how the ball reacted to a cushion before I could tell if I hit the ball center or not.  It's much easier now to tell when I've make a mistake.  It's also much more fun to watch it spin around the table - from a childish point of view. hehe

The last few weeks I've been scouring through YouTube to try and find some good practice exercises and have found a few.  So, it's nice to have variety in practice, but I'm wondering what else is out there.

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Filed Under: Training

Players I Like

Everyone has their inspirational figures in whatever they do. In pool mine are (in no particular order):
(keep in mind that the only tournaments I saw on tv were WPBA 9-ball championships and trick-shot champs)

Jeanette Lee The Black Widow. She is fun to watch, a deadly shot and seems to be willing to help out others with the game.

Mike Massey Trick-Shot champ for a whole lotta years. I've never really seen him play any standard pool, but looking at his achievements on that site says I wasn't watching pool when he was winning every title around. He makes an interesting cameo in the movie Pool Hall Junkies.

Allison Fisher Again, discovered by sunday afternoons ESPN WPBA tournaments. Extremely solid player - and she is friendly on tour. A friend of mine got to play her and she was so very nice.

Monica Webb I like her because she reminds me of me sometimes. She has the shots, the ability, but she falters from time to time. Although she did finally win the WPBA 9-ball championship, congrats to her.

Most recently, thanks to BilliardClub.Net's youtube channel, I've been able to learn some of the male players of the game. Of course:

Efren "Bata" Reyes - Just amazing. Simple, solid and ridiculously good.

Tony "The Tornado" Drago - I really like this guy because, again, he reminds me of me. Not in his flaws, but in his style. He plays very quickly, almost as if from the gut - but his brain just works quickly. I've found that the longer I look at the shot, the more likely I am to miss it. When I play at my "natural" speed, it's quite a bit faster and I tend to be quite a bit more successful in both shot-making and position.

I feel I have to mention this next one because it was by chance that I stumbled across her blog - which solidified by decision to buy a measle ball - and also to create this blog.

Liz Ford A fairly new (2005) pro player who I would like to watch progress. So far, her blog has been entertaining and informative. Thanks Liz!

Who do you like?

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

Intro and Background

I've decided to use this blog as a space for me to keep track of little tricks, lessons, tips and experiences involved with my newest hobby of pool.

I've been playing randomly for years. I had a table at home when I was in highschool, but after that only played whenever a bar had one available. (Frequently you could find me at the table at Rocket Bar [RIP] or at Hi-Pointe [RIP].)

It seems as though my job search would lead me to more pool. In 2001 I took a job in Chesterfield, which inevitably led me to Chesterfield Billiards about a year later. It was a fantastic place. They had seven 9ft tables and 12 7ft bar tables. The place was well kept, clean and the food was pretty decent as a bonus. I played mostly during my lunch hour which was a limited exposure, but still valuable. It was there I learned the true meaning of "a lot of green". The cue-ball loved to sit on the rail it seemed. It was also there where I purchased my first cue; based almost entirely on the look and only a little bit on the weight and performance. However, it was a valuable learning experience. Having my own cue meant I was able to play with a consistent tool. I abandoned the vice of hand powder for a shaft-slicker and I learned the value of tip maintenance. I played there quite a lot and often after work for a few hours. Sadly the hall closed and I had to move on.

As luck would have it, another job switch in 2004 placed me close to another venue. So, between 2004 and 2007 I played at least three times a week at The Pink Galleon. It was nearby, almost always empty, and it served food. I practiced several things during those hours, trying to solidify my game. I tried to ensure my form was the same each time - first and foremost. Secondly, I tried to learn how to use english properly. There was another player there frequently, I believe his name was Sascha [he was Russian], and we used to play whenever possible. He was very consistent and was an excellent source of tips and tricks. He continued to school me on the table though; and all the while telling me I had to get over to this other pool hall with nicer tables, but an excellent staff and selection of products. I never managed to get there.

I switched jobs in 2007 which moved me away from the galleon. I spent the first year at my new job reading during lunch and didn't get to play too often. Then one day I decided to see if there were any pool halls near my work. As it turns out, there was: Cue & Cushion. This is a full service pool center. They sell everything related to the game and are a family owned place. I started going there once in a while to check it out. It's a very serious place - not for the kids. Groups of older men playing one-pocket with some serious attitudes towards it. Specific tables reserved for one-pocket play only as well as two 3-cushion tables and a snooker table. Most tables are 8ft, but there are two bar tables, complete with the annoying under-table tunnel system for the balls to follow after being pocketed. After some hindsight, I realized this was the place Sascha was telling me to frequent for services and playing.

I've been visiting that hall at least three times a week now for the better part of 6 months and in that time I've learned an awful lot. I've purchased two cues and a number of other accessory items from them. To be fair, one cue was purchased for my step-daughter who is also very fond of pool. We'll get to that later. I bought a new cue to replace one that was stolen (along with my truck a few months back) and now I play with a Lucasi E7. A big thanks goes out to Chris who works during the day there for helping me, answering all of my inane questions and giving me a pretty good deal to boot!

Over the years I would catch 9-ball and trick-shot tournaments on ESPN sunday afternoons and I couldn't turn them off. I would study, as best I could, their form, their choice of english and watch in amazement their position play. Of course, the next day I would go to a hall and try those same trick shots. Sometimes it worked, usually it didn't. Of course, I didn't know anything about deflection or throw back then, so I could never understand the shots that required that knowledge - not surprisingly.

I've become somewhat absorbed by pool lately. I watch pool videos online when I can, I search for other pool players' blogs, I watch other players at the hall, I listen to the instructors when they're giving lessons.

Generally these days I primarily play straight pool when alone to practice my position control - but also play 9-ball with a few other regulars from time to time. I'm trying, again, to build a correct form which is throwing my game off quite a lot. In addition to that hurdle, I'm also trying to be more precise with my english and speed control. All together it makes for quite a frustrating hour sometimes. Other days, everything comes together and I'm always happy and surprised when I get lovely position.

I expect that if I could ask 10 pros what the biggest key to the game is they would say: consistency. It's that item I lack. I have the shots and I have the processing power, but my stroke isn't consistent enough to do what I want it to, yet.

So far all of my work has been self-powered. I have no delusions of being able to tour playing pool, but I would be very happy to play (and place) in some local tournaments. Until I'm confident in my game, I will abstain from them and continue to work on my fundamentals.

I would love to meet other players to play with some time - people who are close to my skill level (which I can't identify because I'm not APA rated - no league involvement) who are friendly, but competitive and open to the sharing and exchanging of information.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

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