If your friends don't dance then they're no friends of mine.

Okay, okay, not really. Sorry.

Today two good things happened at the pool hall.  1) I got to hit with a Samsara cue 2) I came up with a new little game for myself.

1) After talking with the hall for a minute, he said he did have two Samsara BarCues left from the original lot of about 15.  So, I hit with one for a while.  Now, the joint was wood-wood with a piloted hole and it didn't meet flush, which I thought was strange.  The tip was very soft and probably the reason for why the "ping" was so deadened sounding.  I could barely hear the thing.  House-cues are louder than this thing.  The shaft it came with wasn't to my liking at all.  I guess that's a "straight" taper - but it reminded me more of a 3-cushion shaft than a pool shaft.  Although it didn't deflect any more than my current cue, it didn't deflect much less than mine either, and for $500 I want something a little straighter.  So... while I really like the design of the Samsara cues, I won't be putting out any money for one of them.  I'll stick to their break-tips though.  Now, I just want to hit with a Schon and compare it to the Carolina, and I'll be ready to make a decision.

2) I was hitting some shots from Byrnes Book of 350 Shots wherein he demonstrated a good safety shot that required "stun-through" action on the cue ball.  So, I started working on that shot.  Then I started working on other safety shots.  Then, I came up with this safety dance:  Throw all 9 (or 10) balls on the table, and then toss out the CB.  Shoot the balls in rotation - but each shot you are trying to get a strong safety out of it.  Freeze the CB and/or hide the OB.  Each time you get at least 65% of the OB blocked, take it off the table (unless it's a really easy kick to MAKE - like if you block the shot, but the OB is in the jaws, that doesn't count).  Go through the rack that way and see how many shots it takes to get through. 

So, you have a goal, you have a score, which means this is a measurable skill drill. Yay!  You could make it more interesting by making a rule on the number of rails used or only half-ball hits or only thinning the OB, etc.  Lots of ways to play safe; which is why I'm calling this in my practice log the "Safety Dance". (hence the title of this entry)

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Filed Under: Gear · Training

Caroline vs Samsara

So, I've been toying with the idea of getting a new cue.  I like my Lucasi, but I'm for sure going to replace the shaft.  Well, for the cost of a new shaft plus a little more I can get a new cue - and if I go custom, I can get a damn nice cue.

Today I hit with a Carolina Custom sneaky pete and while I don't like the look of a sneaky pete, the cue hit pretty darn well.  The standard shaft had less deflection than my current Lucasi too.  The butt felt good and solid and the ping was very audible - it sounded like a real cue.  They even have one in the wood colors I want: Cocobolo. :)

Now, Samsara Custom has a line of what they call "BarCue"; meaning they aren't decked out in elephant ivory and hand-laid inlays, etc.  Which is just fine for me, I don't care about that stuff, and honestly, I hate the idea of paying for it.  They, too, have a Cocobolo cue in this for around the price I was hoping to stay under/around.

Tomorrow, if I remember, I'll ask about them because I'm pretty sure there's a Samsara custom in one of the cases.  They have a unique design pattern on their true customs which I remember seeing on an end-cap the other day.  Their designs are actually some of my favorite, as far as curb-appeal goes, but I can't spend the $2,000-4,000 for one of those.

Has anyone reading this ever played with either?

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Filed Under: Gear

Easy Trickshot Video

Here's a short crappy vid of me shooting a 4-in-1 trickshot. Not the usual 4-in-a-row that most people start with though; this one is a little more challenging. But since I like to think I have a decent draw stroke, this is a lot of fun.

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Filed Under:

Pool + Geek + Practice = New Web App?

So, I'm a programmer by day and as such, I like tracking things... like progress.  I also like writing utilities to do it for me.  I've long read that keeping a practice log is a great way to measure long-term progress, and I've been trying to do that diligently, some weeks moreso than others, but still, I have a notebook with stats being tracked.

Well, rather than trying to flip through the pages to see how I've done, I decided to build a little web-app where I can enter each rack and the stats for it.  Then later I can run reports on average number of shots per rack, racks per match, balls missed, high run, etc.  This part is done already, I just need to enter the info from the notebook and start analysis.

Today I'm adding a second part specific to drills: which drill, how many attempts, how many shots to get through it, and was it completed properly. 

All of this would make playing a lot easier if I had someone else to count shots and whatnot, I keep losing count when I really focus on the game; but if I keep count, then I lose focus. *sigh*

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Breaking the 1-pocket barrier

So, something interesting happened this past weekend. We were at the poolhall, it was late in the evening, and I wasn't shooting too well.  I was playing Josh, who's about my speed so it's usually a good game, and after a while, he asked if I wanted to play some 1-pocket.  Well, I haven't ever played. Not once. I've watched it from afar quite a few times and I tried to watch a match or two on youtube, but it's hard to dedicate that much time to the game.  I've turned down lots of offers at my usual place because I'm on a limited time-line there and this game takes a while.  So, it's late, it's Josh and I say, "Eh, why not?"

So... we play it even, first to 8-balls.  The first game, was a real learning experience - as you can expect I lost... badly. Something like 8-2 (fouled a few times, but oh well).  The 2nd game went a little better. I started seeing the smallest hint of patterns and defensive moves.  I still lost, but it was closer, I think 8-6.  The 3rd game, was much better.  I learned very quickly that unless it's a dead ball, don't try it if you don't need to.  I also learned very quickly that leaving your partner with absolutely nothing is almost more fun than making  a ball for yourself.  I took my time with most shots, evaluated the percentages, and calculated the leave if I missed.  As a result, I owned that game.  I won 8-2!

Offensively, I made some good cross-bank shots and got pretty good shape for the next ball.  Defensively, I nearly always left my opponent behind the stack, or frozen to another ball.  Whenever he got a ball close to the pocket, I kicked it away, even if it meant passing up a chance to make a ball in my pocket.

Overall, it was more fun than I expected it to be; but I won't be switching schools just yet. ;)

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Filed Under: One Pocket

[Pool Synergy] The Merger of Pool and Business

I am happy to introduce guest author: Steve Jennings.

Steve is a BCA Advanced Certified Instructor and this month he's a guest author for the topic: What training, experience or activity outside of the pool world can be employed to improve one's pool game?

As a lifelong poolplayer, and a professional billiards instructor, I have often found myself taking things I learn in my day to day life, and applying them to my pool game.  Over the years, I have come to understand that pool is just a microcosm of life.  Many of life’s lessons can be directly applied to one’s pool game.  Sometimes, they are the obvious little rules of life that fit neatly into a 4 ½ by 9 foot rectangle.  We have all heard the old saying that “Practice makes Perfect”.  And while that is a good philosophy, it’s not quite accurate.  “Perfect Practice makes Perfect” is more appropriate.  We know that we must practice in order to improve, but our best improvement can only come if we are practicing the right things the right way.  Or how about “Knowledge is Power”?  That would seem to say that the more we know, the better we will become.  But knowledge is only power when application is included.  We must take whatever knowledge we gain and then apply it to our game in order to gain any benefit.  With that in mind, anytime I learn something valuable, I try to find a way to apply it to my pool game.

Several years ago, I worked for a very well known and well respected large corporation.  When I decided to move into management with them, I began an intensive 3 month training program.  During that training, I was fortunate enough to get to learn from the CEO and founder of the company.  This man had a way of breaking things down to their simplest form.  And in one meeting, he made a simple 7-word statement that really stuck with me.  He said “You can’t manage what you can’t measure”.  Throughout my career in the business world, I found this to be true on nearly every level.  A good manager has to be able to measure the results of every activity in order to control those activities for which he is responsible.

So what does that have to do with pool?  Quite simply, we are the “managers” of our personal development, and we are the one who must manage what happens when we are at the pool table.  And if we are to be good managers, we must find ways to actually measure every aspect of our pool game.  I can’t tell you how to do this, but I can tell you how I do it.

There are three things we control on every pools shot. Those things are Angle, Speed, and Spin. (There is a 3 letter acronym that makes that very easy to remember!)

To measure your angle, we have basic geometry to lets us measure cut angles for different shots.  I use a system that takes 6 different angles that, with some flexibility, will cover most all of the shots that come up on the table.  So when I look at a shot, I need to decide which angle is the closest to what I am facing.  If it’s a number 3 shot, I know where to aim to make it.

In pool school, we also teach a scale to measure speed.  Speed on a pool table is not measured in miles per hour, but rather in the distance the ball will travel with a specific stroke speed.  I use a scale ranging from 1 to 8 to measure different speeds.  My number 1 speed is a simple lag shot, while a number 8 would be the speed I would use for my break shot.  For reference, each number higher would cause the ball to travel about 2 diamonds beyond the distance for the previous number.

As for spin, we simply measure that by the amount of tip offset from a center ball hit.  I measure a tip of spin by the area of the cue tip that actually makes contact with the cue ball.  If you look at the chalk mark left on the cue ball, you will have a good idea of what I’m talking about.  If you look at some of the training balls on the market, they are marked to show those increments. In any case, using this method will allow you to apply up to 4 or 5 tips off center and still make good solid contact with the cue ball.  Those simple measurements will allow you to develop control of the amount of spin, and what kind of spin, you are applying on every shot.
Measuring the results of your practice time is just as important as anything you do in your quest to improve your game.  About once a week, I take a few minutes to measure my performance.  I put 10 balls out on the table and give myself ball in hand and start shooting.  If I miss a shot, I take that ball off the table and continue until the table is clear.  I do this 5 times, and then write down in a log book what my percentage made was for that week.  This way, I can easily see if my shooting percentage is improving, staying level, or even falling off.  This helps me plan for my practice sessions for the next week.

These are just 4 ways that I have found to take some very sound business advice, and use it to help my pool game.  How many more can you think of?

For more interesting stories and articles on this month's topic, click here to read the index!


Filed Under: Pool Synergy

Shafts Shafts Shafts!! ARGH!

Oi.  So, it's come to my attention that I have the ability to pick up a new shaft in the next couple of weeks.  Now the big problem: WHICH ONE!?!

I've already discussed the Predator Z2 and the OB-2 cue to death, but I'm still undecided.  Add to that, the off-chance of picking up a 1st gen Z for a lot less money and I'm really confused.  Rumor has it the 1st gens are potentially better made because the manufacturer kept all the wood pieces together to make the shaft.  The 2nd gen is a random assortment of pieces to make the shaft.  Does it matter? I don't know.

On top of all of that is the choice of whether or not I actually want to force myself into a thin shaft lifestyle.  I will, of course, always have my original shaft (now with new Talisman tip) and if I really find that playing with such a thin shaft simply isn't for me, well, then I can sell it and pick up an OB-1 or 314. 

[Geek Mode]
The OB-1 is an awesome name... Obi-Wan Kenobe.
314 is equally awesome: Pi
[/Geek Mode]

I will have the opportunity to hit with both shafts, but neither of them will be attached to my own cue, so how much of what I like about the hit is the cue and how much is the shaft/tip?  Lastly - how much will I adjust to the shaft versus trying to force the shaft to my liking?

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Filed Under: Gear

New Tip: Talisman

I just dropped off my shaft to get a new tip.  I'm trying a Talisman tip, suggested by a discussion on tips with a pretty knowledgeable guy at C&C.  If I don't like it, I can always switch it out. I mean, it's $20, not free, but still, it's not like changing shafts. Should be ready by Wednesday, but I'm not sure I'll get back there until Friday.  I really can't wait to try it though.

In other news, I did the break, take BIH, and see if I can run out for practice today.  I never did all 9 in a row, but generally I only missed once, or hooked myself after making the shot so I shot it again.  The layout is below:

And the CT layout:

Strangely enough, the 2 balls that gave me the most trouble was the 1B, getting behind the 2 back to where the CB was originally.   The other was the 3B, either I'd make it and get behind the 8, or I'd miss.  It was pretty frustrating actually.  But, I played through this rack about 12 times and I like this layout because it has some difficult position shots, some using top, others draw and some with a bit of english.  I will remember this layout in the future.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · Gear · Training

It's Good To Have Goals

So, taking inspiration from this blog and this blog I'm going to form and post my goals for this year - and [current] the end-of-the-road goal.

My end-all goal, as of now, is to be able to win a local tournament.  This will not happen this year, but it's where I'm aiming for now.  Start small.  I haven't picked out a tournament to win because there really aren't any tournaments in this area - at least none that are played on the 9' tables.

One of my goals this year is to improve my ranking from 4 to 6, on the scale my local hall uses, which is "Missouri 8-Ball" league rankings, if I remember correctly.  The scale goes from 2 through 9.  2 being an absolute beginner, no position play, poor mechanics; 9 being an A or AA player - likely to run several racks in a row. In my first tournament (fail), they gave me a rating of 4.  They were considering giving me a 5, I think because of how interested I am and how often I ask questions and seek information; I'm glad they only gave me a 4 though - it was the right call.  I feel like I should be a 4 or 5 now.  I feel like I have improved over the last 2 months and I hope to be able to show that somehow. 

I don't know what's really expected of a 6-rated player - but I do know they are expected to be able to run a rack with a good layout, play good position, have good knowledge of safety play.  I feel like I have that ability - on a really good day.  I know the ability is there, I've done it - but it's not consistent; and that's what separates the top players from the others.

Another goal is that I want to seek out other good players in the area and play with them, learn from them and hopefully help each other with practice; be it drills or position play or safety play or just general stroke training. I have a pretty strong feeling that if I had a solid practice partner, things would progress a little quicker.  I like playing Morris cuz he's a pretty good player, but I dont think he seeks out information and he never practices - always plays other people.  That's good practice too, but sometimes you just need time to work on a shot.

My last goal is that I want to work towards running a rack successfully at least once a week.  I play often enough, albeit in small amounts, that I think this is feasible.  I'm learning new patterns all the time, it seems, and there's no reason I can't run 7-9 balls, provided the layout is decent.  The key to doing this, in my opinion, is entirely based upon speed control and the subtleties of english.  Speed control moreso than english, I think.  I have to be able to reliably get the cueball 2, 1.5, 1, 1/2, 1/4 table-length after contact - and depending on the fullness of the contact adjust to account for the loss of speed.  Every table is different, but there are general guidelines.  On a slow table what is 1 table length might be 1.25 on a fast table so while I'd overrun it, it should be simple enough to account for the difference after only a few shots.

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Filed Under: 10-Ball

First 10-Ball Break'n'Run!!!

I'm pretty busy this afternoon with post-processing photos, but I just wanted to post about something that happened at the pool hall last night.

First off, let me remind you that I recently changed everything about my pool playing.  On Friday, I played and was seriously contemplating going back because it was just murderous.  I realized now that I was too focused on my body and didn't really focus on the shot.  And that's fine - I expected to get worse before I got better, but it's tough to accept that sometimes.  Friday night, we went to the pool hall and I played a little better.

Last night we went back to the pool hall and had a little bit of time to warm up before our game partners arrived.  Apparently, it was just what I needed.  After everyone was warmed up, we racked up a 10-ball rack and I broke.  Got a good spread, made a ball on the break but the 1 was nearly married to the 3.  Good for me it was wired to the corner pocket.  After some consideration, I took the shot and sank the 3, leaving a longer than I wanted shot on the 1.  The 2 was sitting good after that.  I took a lot of time lining up for the 1, but I made it and stopped the cue ball.  After that, things get a little hazy in my memory as to where each ball was because we played for the next 7 hours. heh.

The major point of this entry though is that first rack... I ran the entire rack!  I got a few rolls and had to make a few difficult shots, but I used my stroke when I needed to, and I played smarter position than I have in a while.  I'm learning (strangely enough) just how useful center-ball is.  I'm seeing the tangent lines easier and I getting better at controlling my speed.  Although I came up short on the 10 and left myself with a pretty thin cut, I still rattled it in.  I could not believe it.  I still can't believe it!  I WISH I had the video camera with me.  I meant to bring it, but in a rush decision to get there on time I just forgot to grab it.

The rest of the night we played teams and/or ring games, which, in my opinion, are a sure-fire way NOT to get in-stroke, so no other game was as impressive.  Although I played pretty well all night, winning more games than losing, I also missed a lot of shots I shouldn't have. 

Still, I had a great time, and again, thanks to Gene and Gary for showing me even more tricks and sharing their knowledge with me.

This is one of my goals for this year - I want run a rack at least once a week.

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Filed Under: 10-Ball

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