Happy Holidays

Just a quick post to say Merry Christmas to everyone. If, by chance, you don't celebrate christmas, then have a good vacation day. :)


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Videotape Yourself For Analysis

Monday night XY and I hit up the pool hall, this time with my old video camera in tow.  We've been talking about videoing ourselves for a while to see what our strokes actually look like from a distance and whatnot.  I set it up in a corner and just left it there.  We played for about 2.5 hours with it running.  Although neither of us really played well, it was still informative to go back and watch it. 

Upon first viewing and after getting past the horror that is watching yourself, it became pretty informative.  It turns out, that despite my sincerest efforts my elbow is not perpendicular to the cue, it's about 5-10 degrees further away from my body then the butt-end of the cue is.  Although my stroke is pretty dang straight, I do want to fix this.  I wonder if this is the cause for those slight errors I continually make, when everything else looks and feels right.

I was nice to get a couple really nice shots on tape though.  This one which I have never tried before.  I didn't feel confident going the other ways to get on the 9 and this idea just came to me when I was looking at it.  I'm actually quite surprised I got it all the way around, but was very happy to watch my plan unfold. I'm not 100% on the exact positions shown here, but this is the general idea.  My draw stroke is pretty strong and because the balls were so close I didn't have to worry too much about deflections on the cue causing a problem.

A few racks later, after a long safety battle and a few missed attempts, I found myself at the table with this layout.  Again, relying on my strong draw skills, I got down, lined up and fired.  The cue ball took a hard right-turn and went right into the 9.  The right-english helped throw the 9 into the pocket and I was very happy. :)

At some point, I will video myself doing some drills and whatnot just for archival/reference sake - and at some further point in the future, I'll get one of those "Dazzle" things that will let me transfer the vids to the computer so I can upload them.

The first rack of the night was the most entertaining.  My first "Golden Break" in over 3 weeks, and it's on video. lol

I tried to study my break form as well, I'm getting good action on the balls and when I hit it properly the cueball is generally in the center-ish part of the table.  Too often though, I hit it with bottom and it comes flying back towards the corner pocket.  Doesn't scratch, but doesn't leave much of a shot either.  I'll continue to watch the tape and look for more little details to either fix or continue to work on.  

I will absolutely continue to video myself - and I think I will ask XY to hold the camera and move around the table to show all the angles of my stance and stroke to see everything that's going on.

For anyone that's reading this - do you do this and what has been your experience with it? Find it helpful? Harmful? Embarrassing?

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Filed Under: Training

Overconfidence is bad, m'kay? (and disrepsectful) (Dale)

I learned another valuable lesson this weekend: Having confidence is good. Having too much confidence is bad.

I had a rescheduled "match" to play my brother-in-law Friday night.  We've never really played before - outside of one night on a bar box in a bar with some strange characters hanging around.  We got there around 8 and he was there warming up and getting used to the size of the 9fts again.  We shot a few warmup balls then started it off.  To make it interesting we decided to play for the cost of the time.  So, I said lets do best of 3 sets, races to 7.

The first set I won 7-1.  Then we switched over to our usual table, it's tighter pockets, but out of the way of the rest of teenagers and bangers throwing balls all over the room.  The 2nd set started off in my favor, winning the next 2 racks.  All the while, I'm goofing around with XY and other regulars and noticing that I'm taking more risky shots when it's my turn at the table.  Before I know it, he's up 4-5 on me.  Then 4-6, then 4-7 and he wins the 2nd set. 

Now it's down to the last set.  The last few racks really went his way, getting great rolls and leaving me terrible when he missed.  The last set started off rough for me.  I was down 0-3 before I realized what the problem was: I wasn't really thinking about the game.  I was joking around with other people, watching the game, but wasn't really in the game.  I finally got on the board when it was 1-5.  Then, I got a few rolls, and he dogged the 9 a few times, giving me 4-5.  I was almost on a roll, then he get a rack, 4-6.  I managed to gain my focus back and get it back to 6-6. hill-hill.

All 3 hours of pool game down to one rack, and I had the break.  Unfortunately, I broke dry and left him a shot on the 1.  Luckily, the 3 was buried and he broke it out, and missed.  I got the table on the 3 and ran up to the 8.  Now, the 8 is on the left long rail about 1/2 diamond from the pocket.  The 9 is on the right long rail around the 1st diamond just opposite the 8.  My shot on the 7 left me around the 2nd diamond nearly straight in on the 8.  It should've been 2 easy shots, but I was so worried about position, I tried to add too much top/right english and threw the 8 in the corner rail instead of the pocket. 

I was seriously disappointed with my performance.  In retrospect, I never thought I'd have to play a 3rd set, and certainly not go hill-hill.  I understand people get rolls and others don't and I'm fine with that, but honestly I never should have let it get that far.  I thought about the mistakes I made all night and into the next day.

I did two major things wrong: 1) I didn't stay in the game because I assumed I would win regardless. 2) I disrespected my opponent by not taking him seriously. As such, I deserved to lose and am glad I did.

So, Dale - if/when you read this: Good job!  Thank you for the lesson in manners and I apologize for the disrespect.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

So Much Pool To Watch!

So, I posted the other day how I've been watching the Mosconi Cup on youtube all week, last night I tried it on my PS3 and found that it works there too; albeit a little more pixelated on the bigger screen.  This morning, I find out that Simonis is providing a LIVE and FREE video stream for the Touring Stone Classic starting today, for the next 4 days!!  If anyone is interested, you can find it here: Touring Stone Stream (via AzBilliards.com)

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · One Pocket

My First Break and Run!!!!!

Today's big pool story is that I finally - FINALLY - completed a break'n'run!!  I've never done it; not in practice, not in a game.  The most I've ever done is ran 2-9.  Today... I did it! With a bit of luck, I will totally admit.

I wish I could remember the layout, but it one of my first games and I played many today.  I broke, make the 8.  The 1 was blocked by 2 other balls all along the long rail.  I had intended on shooting the 1 off to the other side, leaving the cue behind the wall - but I hit it too hard and somehow the 7 at the end of the string dropped into the corner.  The 1 carom'd off another ball to push it up towards the side pocket on the other side.  From there, I ran out - with some pretty good position play.  I overran a few, underran a few, but nothing was so bad that I really killed myself.  When I shot the 6 and got a little long on the 9, I thought: "How many balls is this now?" Then immediately pushed that thought from my mind and focused on the 9.  After it sank, I thought a bit more... Then asked my opponent, "Did I just run those?" He said, "Not the whole table." in a tone that was akin talking to a kid who was trying to gain appreciation.  But then I thought about it.  I don't remember missing anything, and I only had to run 7 balls to get out and I don't remember him at the table at all.  I HAD to have to run out.  I just know it.  I KNOW IT.  I let it go and decided to move on, but I know I did.  I remember moving from the 4 to the 5, I know I sank the 6 cuz it dropped me on the 9.  The 3 is only ball I can't exactly remember - but the table was open and he's not the kind of guy that would leave it with all those balls.

The next rack, I broke dry and he ran out; which kinda killed my high, but oh well.  Now that I know I can do it, and have done it... I will definitely try to do it more often.  Of course, that's always the plan - but I know that I'm not quite to the point where I can predictably get position for all balls.  I still need a little luck here and there; and I'm perfectly okay with that.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

The Mosconi Cup

I have been watching matches from the Mosconi Cup whenever I get a chance.  I hadn't really put too much effort into researching this event, but since it was flooding the forums all last week, I decided to go ahead and check it out.  WOW!!  I can't believe I was so nonchalant about it before.  I had previously thought it was another "Masters" type of tournament, and in a way it is - but it's much more competitive; and with varying formats that really keep you glued to the tube.

Most notably, I have discovered Dennis Hatch - a name I've also seen flooding the forums in the past months in relation to this event.  How I haven't seen any matches of his before this, I don't know - but he is quickly becoming my favorite male player.  He is so energetic, supportive, and holy cow what a shot maker!

I also watched a few doubles matches and those looking extra stressful.  Basically, whatever shot you make, where you leave the cueball is where your partner has to shoot.  So, instead of it being trading off innings (like I had assumed) you're actually trading off shots.  So, if you mess up position, you have just screwed your partner.  Normally, you would just have to deal with it and you'd be okay with that - this makes you far more responsible.  It's really quite something I'm not sure I could handle right now. haha

If you want to check it out, hit up snookeram's stream on youtube!  If you like watching some incredible pool being played, you won't be disappointed in these!!

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · General · Tournaments

[Pool Synergy] Push The Ball

This month's issue of Pool Synergy is all about "Billiard Tales". Specifically those [sometimes] little conversations that spark growth and education.

I've been playing pool on and off since I was a teenager and whenever I got the chance I always tried to work on my game, or what I thought my game consisted of in retrospect. It wasn't until I had the misfortune of having my cue stolen, along with the rest of my truck earlier this year, and was forced to buy a new stick did I really start to pursue pool as a student. It was a coincidental time I suppose, I had just recently discovered a new pool hall - one for adults and serious players as opposed to the theme-based bar with obnoxious colored felt I had previously frequented. I was in need of a new cue and I decided that along with a new cue, should come new knowledge.

I started off doing what I usually do with new topics of interest: scour the internet for information. And boy did I find it. I found loads of it. But trying to wade through all of it was not an easy task. Just trying to filter out the noise from the content in the popular forums was a challenge; but a worthy one nonetheless. After a few months of watching videos, reading articles, blogs, forums and even picking up a 'how-to' dvd, I thought I had a pretty good idea on what constituted a good stroke - and I worked avidly at building that stroke. So when I found myself continuing to miss otherwise easy shots I chalked it up to my eyes playing tricks on me or being off balance in my stance or any other thing that wasn't directly related to the stroke I had been building.

As any pool player can tell you, follow-through is just as important as the backswing portion of a stroke. In addition to many other aspects of the game, I concentrated on my follow-through, making sure the tip was, as Jerry Briesath states "4 to 6 inches beyond the cue ball". Yet, I was still missing shots I should make, I wasn't getting the action on the cue ball I expected, english wasn't being applied or backspin died out before hitting the object ball. I was at a loss and started to wonder if perhaps the cue or tip was my barrier. "Look how far my tip passed the resting point and how hard I hit it - it shouldn't be possible for the cue ball to just stop! It's supposed to come back at least 8 inches with that much draw." became something of my personal mantra for a while.

I struggled with issues like that for another month, every day at the same pool hall with just about all the same people around. I asked for advice, help, tips from anyone that would give them, and I listened to other players talk amongst themselves to try and pick up on something, anything that would alleviate this ailment in my stroke.

One day I was working on some rudimentary angle drills trying to get various positions from them when at some point I just became frustrated and stared at the table a while. As it happened, on the touch-screen game a few feet away was one of the local instructors that will sometimes hang out between lessons. I finally decided to ask him for help. My initial question was about how to aim for the particular shot on the table, and while that was helpful and I had many other questions, I also didn't want to push my luck, since I wasn't paying for his time. It seemed fortune favored me that day because after watching me try out his suggestion and seeing my continued frustration shot after shot, he walked over and said, "You're hitting the cue ball; don't do that. Push the ball."

I stopped and focused on that phrase for a few moments. "Push the ball?.... hrmmm ... Push.. the... ball!!!!" Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head. It was my biggest "EUREKA!" moment since I started learning. I had to try this, so I set up the shot, got down and focused on "pushing" the ball, instead of hitting the ball. The speed was the same as it had been before, the aim was the same - but this time, everything worked. The object ball dropped and I got the cue ball back to the other side of the table, right where I wanted it. I was ecstatic! Everything that people had told me, everything I had read in various forms and most notably Jerry's definition of a stroke involving "throwing the cue through the cue ball" finally made sense. Everything made sense. It was as if I was finally at peace with my stroke. I no longer had to force the stroke because I was no longer focusing on the hit, my contact point with my cue wasn't exactly on the cue ball - instead it was past the cue ball. I started to envision the entire stroke mentally, seeing the cue push through the cue ball. I spent the rest of the day pushing the cue ball all over the table with tremendous success. I left that day almost giddy.

Now I'm positive that I had heard or been told or read that phrase months earlier, but it didn't make sense then. My guess is that I wasn't in tune enough with my stroke at the time for it register. Whatever the cause, that day it hit home like a bomb. From that very day forward, my pocketing percentage went way up; and whenever I feel like things aren't going well, I fall back onto that phrase. "Push the ball." It's the quickest way for me to get back in stroke and keep me there.

The conversation wherein I learned how to stroke took no more than 5 minutes and had I not been open to critique it might still elude me. If there's a moral to this story, it's this: You will never know when the final piece of the puzzle will fall in your lap. Always be open to learning. Knowledge is whimsical and you can not predict its serendipitous nature.

For more great articles and stories from this month's issue, visit http://www.pooltipjar.com/2009/12/poolsynergy-volume-ii/

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Filed Under: Pool Synergy · Stroke

Zen Pool and the Karen Corr Rail Drill

I finally got a chance to sit down and finish Zen Pool over the weekend.  I wish I would've picked this book up a few months ago.  In an earlier post I mentioned the video "How to play pool right" which is where I first learned about deflection; and while that was a big help, it would've been even better to have more of a diagram to study rather than a video.  This is only one reason I would have wanted this book earlier. 

The book starts off with a strong sequence of articles/chapters talking about the mental aspect of the game: how to spot when you are 'in the zone' and ways to push yourself there.  All those sections were beneficial to me. The author talks about needing to trust your stroke and how hard it is to get to that point.  How it's important when you're not playing well to fall back on your fundamentals to get through the tough times. However, his talk about fundamentals were vague - stance, stroke etc - were almost glossed over.  He did mention other resources for more in-depth review of those specifics, but I was personally hoping for more pool-related information (so I wouldn't have to go through multiple titles at once).  I could have also foregone the recaps of matches he watched which seemed almost like filler material to get the book to the required number of pages for print.  They are good examples (stories) of what he's talking about - but they seemed a bit out of place; breaking the flow of information.  It's just my opinion though. 

The book, I think, is a good book - especially for beginners and intermediates, but honestly anyone above intermediate probably won't get too much out of it - unless they have no mental game (which is unlikely as they've progressed to that stage somehow).  Still, I would recommend it for just about anyone, it's very affordable and even if you already know everything, it's an entertaining read.  I'm sorry Max, but I don't think it will awaken the master within by itself - but it will help nudge the master in the right direction.

The Karen Corr drill I posted about the other day...  I got to try it yesterday - almost all variations posted among those 6 videos.  Surprisingly, it didn't seem quite as hard as I thought it would be.  However - I also took advantage of the leniency given by the video.  Still - it was not easy and it did shine a spotlight on the deflection issue.  IMO, this is the best way to learn your own cue's deflection rates.  I learned more about how my cue deflects with different distances and speeds yesterday than I have for the 6 month's I've owned this stick.  I strongly recommend doing this.

If you can't ride the rail past the side pocket then when you get position off the the 3rd ball, just shoot the last three in the other corner - it allows to try deflection on the other side of the ball - theoretically the same - but a good exercise nonetheless.

Side note: the wind chill is 5(f) today - and overnight it'll drop to below zero.  Guess I'll have to start wrapping my cue case in a blanket to walk across the parking lot.

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Filed Under: Training

A note for myself

Try this drill someday when you are feeling really good... otherwise, anger, frustration and disappointment will win:


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Filed Under: Training

A Bit of Practice - The L Drill

This weekend was pretty low-key.  I was supposed to have a friendly match with my brother in law, but he had his wisdom teeth removed earlier in the week and wasn't feeling up to playing; which I completely understand.  So, I went to the hall anyway and decided to do some work.

I warmed up with my new "usual" warmup exercise (see the Warm Up Drill video in a previous post), a few times around the table.  Then AJ asked if I cared to shoot a few games - sure.  So we played a while, then it got busy and he went to help at the counter.  Amongst all of the games, somewhere I found myself out of line and was jawing every other ball.  So, during this break, I did a stop-shot drill at varying distances along the long rail.  After that, I tried the "L" drill for the first time:

I did the drill on each corner.  Well, lets just say I worked through each ball in the drill on each corner.  I was unable to successfully run the balls in order without missing, all 9 in a row - but I never expected me to do that anyway.  My position play is decent - meaning I know where I want the CB to go, and generally how to get it there - but my speed control is lacking and I tend to overrun position.  When I try to combat that, I underrun by a significant amount.  Of course, the 2nd time I shoot the shot, I'm usually able to get it just about right.  Having the first shot as a guide is great - and I do learn from it - but it's very frustrating to so consistently come up short or long on a shot - and so rarely exactly on the spot.

I think I found this drill to be easier than the 9 balls down the center of the table drill.  Maybe because I was only working with one pocket? Or Maybe because getting position up the center line is easier for shorter distances?  I do know this ... by the time I was rounding the corner of the "L" my position was around the 1st diamond past the side-pocket (too far away).  This happened nearly every time I tried this drill.  Which inevitably led me, in an attempt to correct this, to come short on the last 2 balls.   It's strange, even the 4th time through the drill, I still managed to make the same mistakes - even while thinking that I can correct them.  *shrug*

My "shot of the night" was actually 2 shots back to back.  The situation: 9-ball game, opponent has left me half-hooked for the 5 ball.  I know I can hit this ball with a slight masse around the blocker - I think maybe if I'm lucky I'll make it, but I'll definitely hit it.  Well... I made it!  But, then the ball creeps on over to hide behind the 9 ball - hooking me for the 6.  It's essentially the same shot, so I line up, jack up, and pull the trigger ... and to my amazement, and those watching, I make that one as well!!  Here's the layout:

I quickly threw this layout together, and the 9 might not be in the exact spot.  It was only a half-ball (at most) blocker.

I spent the rest of the night playing one of the employees, making some good shots - working on safety plays rather than attacking all the time.  It was a good time.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Training

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