Not A Victory, Not A Loss - A Goal Accomplished

Last night, I went to pool hall, like usual and instead of playing barbox 8-ball, I decided to play on the big tables since I hadn't played at all since last Wednesday for reasons I'll leave out of this entry. I started off just hitting some balls, playing a very loose version of 10-ball.  Then my team captain came in and asked what I'd need from him to get a game going.  He didn't want to play rotation, so one-pocket was the game.  I thought about it a while and came up with 12-7.  So, we tried that. I wasn't sure what to expect.  It's not a cake-walk for either of us.  He's capable of running 5-7 balls given the opportunity, but not 12.  Just as I'm capable of running 3-5, but not 7. (depending on the layout)  I won the flip and away we went.  I played more conservatively than usual, but also took risks when I felt they outweighed the safe.  After about 3 hours, we ended up dead even.  He was never up more than 2 games, but I was never ahead either.  I never really expected to be ahead.  When we started, I set my goal of not being down more than 2 games by the end of the night.  It's a reasonable goal, given my abilities compared to his and one I felt I was capable of achieving. 

The first few games, I was over-cutting most of my shots and it was really driving me nuts.  But after each mistake, I just laughed or made a goofy noise. I *had* to shrug it off.  So, shortly after I noticed the beginnings of a frustrating night, I made it a mental note to laugh at each and every mistake.  Even though my first reaction wasn't always laughing, I eventually did laugh at it by the time I got back to the chair.  I really think this is what allowed me to come back so many times.

This accomplishment is a direct result from my readings from Pleasures of Small Motions. I'm finding this book to be excellent - and I will have to read it several times to get everything out of it.  Each time I progress to a new level of my game, I find new meanings in its words. I really can't say enough good things about this book.

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Filed Under: Gear · One Pocket · Training

Pool is unpredictable

I'm posting this video because of the last week of pool, this is only thing worth posting.  However, this just goes to show how weird of a game pool can be.  Zack and I weren't playing a race - just playing for a set period of time at a certain dollar amount per rack, and at the end of that time period we'd discuss if we wanted to continue.  I was giving him the 8 ball.  I based that spot on how I played the week prior against Asmir; which was to say I was counting on being in stroke and getting some rolls.  This particular night, wasn't so much the case.  At this point in the match up, I'm down like 4 games, haven't been able to run more than 3 balls all night. Definitely wasn't getting much table love - at least not on the offensive end.  I was missing really well, leaving him hooked, etc, but he was leaving me on the rail when he missed (too much one pocket lately, I think).  Anyway, I manage to get a game, I break, send the CB flying, so he has ball in hand.  He miscues shooting the 1 somehow, and from out of nowhere, I run out!  It was very strange.  It was the only rack where I make it past 5 balls the entire night.  I end the night down 2 games, but this rack all by itself, made it worth it to me.

vs Zack Runout from Johnny101 on Vimeo.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

A More Realistic Representation

I've been posting a lot of videos lately, most of which are examples of my best playing - however, to keep this blog honest I decided to post up some full matches, complete with rants, misses, mistakes, losses and everything else that happens during a game.  You can see a lot of videos, both long and short, at my UStream channel.  The older videos were recorded with my phone, hence the extreme pixelation.  The newer ones were recorded with my Kodak Zi8, converted to mp4 format then broadcasted through UStream Producer and recorded for the archive.

Here's the entire match of me and Asmir playing a race to 7:

And here's the entire match with Zack playing one pocket, race to 3:

Each video is about an hour long, which really isn't too bad considering some matches take considerably longer to play the same races.  Both videos were recorded the same night.  Now that I've figured out how to do it, I'll be posting more full length matches on UStream from the last couple of months. Would love to hear any feedback anyone has about any of them - either here or there, doesn't matter to me.

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Filed Under: 9-Ball · One Pocket

Dr. Cue Classic Artistic Cup IV In St. Louis!

This has been quite a good week for local pool!! I just found out that, in addition to the Johnny Archer/Nick Varner exbo in February, that IN TWO WEEKS, December 2nd through the 5th, there's an artistic pool tournament happening in St. Charles!

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Filed Under: Tournaments

Johnny Archer and Nick Varner - in St. Louis?!!?

So, nothing is even close to being in stone - it's not even mud right now - but there's a chance that these two legends will be here, in St. Louis, in February!!  Keep checking back for more info.  I'm trying to get all the details and whatnot in order, but I'm really excited that this is even a possibility!! *deep breaths*

They're part of the Legends and Champions Tour and as luck would have it they have a nice little gap in their scheduled events which surround St. Louis, so they're trying to put something together here.  Check out the site for all the other tours and events.


Filed Under: General

More 9 Ball Action Videos

This past weekend I matched up with Asmir again.  Overall, I did pretty decently, but nothing special.  I had a few runs, but only 1 run-out from the 2 sets we played.  You can watch it below.  The summary is that he broke, lost the cue ball off the table, and after negotiating the pattern from the 1 to the 2, I was able to figure out the rest of the rack pretty easily.  I did overshoot position on the 8 pretty badly, but was able to recover to make the 9 to win the rack and the set. :)

vs Asmir - Runout From the Break from Johnny101 on Vimeo.


My previous runout videos have all come during practice, so this is something of a "goal"... I ran out when it mattered, no do-overs, etc.  I had several 5 and 6 ball runs from the night, but would still lose position or jar a ball along the way somewhere.  Sometimes I was so sure I was out that I was immediately confused when a ball didn't drop.

Sometimes, a little luck goes a long way too.  I was definitely getting the rolls most of the night.  Here's a rack that's one example. I get a nice roll/safety on the 1 with a slight masse shot.  Then later, after missing the 5 pretty badly, my opponent misses a combo leaving me a simple carom.  After the carom, I hit the 5 SO BAD it 2-rails and then kisses off the CB to drop in the pocket. heh Thanks definitely go to Fast Lenny for the shirt; it was highly appropriate.

vs Asmir - A Little Luck Always Helps from Johnny101 on Vimeo.

I'm not sure why the video stops there, I know I didn't cut it off when I edited it, but oh well.  I do NOT scratch, as it looks like it might there at end.  The CB bounces off the rail and comes to rest in the center of the short rail area.

After we finished playing, I played Zack some one pocket.  First set I gave hime 9-8 and won three games in a row.  The next set I gave him 9-7 and couldn't barely make a ball, he won 3-1.  At that point it was 2am, I had been up for about 20 hours so we called it quits for then.  I'll post some 1P videos once I get through all of them and pick out the nice bits. heh

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Filed Under: 9-Ball

[Pool Synergy] Three Tips To Get Better Practice Results

Pool Synergy

This month's Pool Synergy is all about triads of tips.  Well, actually, it's about the wide variety of information required to improve your pool game - and we're delivering those in a handy little packages of three. Be sure to check out all the tips provided by clicking the logo above!

For my entry, I decided to share with you an excellent way to get the most out of your practice time.  In a nutshell, there are three things you should do while practicing:

1) Choose the correct drill.
2) Record the results from the drill.
3) Analyze the results.

Drills serve two purposes: First and foremost they show you what you do not know. Secondly, if done correctly, they will force you to improve.

The first point is one of the most important things to consider when practicing and often the most overlooked unfortunately.  It should be the easiest to figure out, but in reality the majority of players don't know what to practice.  Sure, lots of us have a variety of little shots and layouts we like to work on from time to time, but what are they really doing for us? They're just something to do while you're bored and waiting for someone show up. Think back to the last time you really practiced. I'll wait... ... ... got it? You probably started off doing a drill you're pretty good at to get warmed up.  Then you went on to a more difficult drill.  If you did well at that one, you might have ran it again, or you might have gone on to another drill.  If you did poorly, you probably tried it again.  If you failed the drill again, did you try it again?  And the time after that? Sooner or later you probably got frustrated and went back to an easier drill.  One that you can succeed doing, to make yourself feel good. Or maybe you gave up the drills and just tossed balls on the table and starting shooting.  There's nothing too wrong with that, but there is a problem.  The drill(s) you frequently can not finish are not fun. They require too much work, and they can get into your head; make you feel a little depressed about your game.  Understandably, those are the drills you avoid so you can keep your opinion of your game on the positive side of things.  Alas, the heart of the problem!

The drills you do not execute well are the exact drills you need to be working on the most.

So when its time to do drills, be sure to choose the ones that you struggle with - and give them 100% of your attention and effort.  If that means shooting the same shot until you make it 10 times in a row requires 100 attempts, be prepared to give it 100 full attempts.  If that means attempting a 9-ball IPAT layout drill and resetting the entire rack every time you miss or bump a ball, be prepared to do a lot of walking around the table.  Realize and accept these consequences before you start the drill.  You can not expect to finish every drill perfectly the first time you try it - no matter what you're level of play or shotmaking ability.  If you don't want to walk around the resetting the balls, use that drive to finish the drill correctly. Focus on the shot, the speed, the position - the more often you get out of the drill, the better your focus and in-game play will be. 

See what just happened there?  You were fighting the drill and it was making you frustrated, but now you're using the drill and gaining multiple benefits.

So, now you should see both purposes of the drill.  But, there are even more ways to utilize drills to help your game. Not all drills lend themselves to such easily observable progress.  Just because you finish them isn't enough.  Here's where the 2nd point comes to light.  All drills yield statistics.  How many attempts? How many shots? How many misses, bumps, jars, blown positions, scratches, stops, draws? In each drill there are a number of variables you must master in order to complete the drill.  These variables are vital in recording progress.  Afterall, if you're not interested in progressing, why are you doing drills?  So why not do as much as you can to get the most from your drills?

Here's how it works: Get yourself a notebook, a phone app, an excel spreadsheet, a video camera - it really doesn't matter; just as long whatever you choose, you use reliably.  Personally, I prefer the video camera option because that means I don't have to focus on writing down my shot attempts; which can be distracting from the practice itself.  Just as long as you go back and watch the video - and record your performance.

The details of the drill itself aren't as important here, depending on your skill level.  I like Joe Tucker's mentality that allows you to cater the drill to your ability.  If you're a C player, don't make the drill impossible by requiring pin-point position on a 9-ball drill, for example.  Or, more to the point, if you're doing his Rail Workout for example, he allows you to move the cueball back to a shoot-able position if you get too out of line.  Similarly, if you rattle the object ball and leave it in the jaws, just knock it in and continue - if you have position that is.  Obviously the higher your skill level, the less you're allowed to bend the rules. 

However the really important thing here is that you record your performance accurately.  If you're practicing breaking and running table (not the ghost though), count every shot, count the banks, the kicks, the caroms, the jumps - and those that you miss.  Count your high run for the rack, whether it's 2 balls or all 9.  Do this for the entire session. If you're struggling with spot-shot type shots, run the "Angle Drill".  (watch the preview video found here to see Thorsten Hohmann run it)  If you don't run all of the balls in succession, don't worry about it - record the number of attempts it takes to get through all of the balls - even if it takes you 37 tries.  If you're having trouble with small area position control, run the "L" drill.  Again, record the number of shots it takes you to get through, or the number of attempts if you reset after a miss.  However you do it, be consistent with your score keeping.

Now, for the final point: analysis.  It's almost impossible to recognize progress on a day to day level. I like to look over my stats on a monthly basis.  It allows me enough time to get plenty of data gathered, while not being so overwhelming that it's impossible to manage. For example, let's say that Monday's were your dedicated practice night. On those nights you only did drills.  That would be great actually. You can take the scores from each Monday during a single month, average them, then compare them with the previous month's numbers.  Do this for all the drills you ran and you should start to see an improvement. It can be a slow process - depending on what you worked on the previous month. If you're not seeing a marked improvement, try comparing the current month's number to those from 3 months ago, or 6 months ago, or a year ago. The rate of improvement is dependent on the amount of work you put into it.  If you compare numbers from the same drill 6 months apart and there's no difference, then you're either not recording your stats properly, or you're not focused on the drill.  It's possible that drill is still beyond your ability; which means you need to alter the drill, or focus on a less advanced drill.  If you think your stroke is off, there are ample straight-stroke-drills you should run to see if that's an issue.

As long as you keep good records, you will see improvement (providing you're actually working on your stroke, stance, aim, etc).  Also, just because you routinely complete a drill doesn't mean you should stop doing it.  There's always improvements to be found.  Use pocket-reducers to pin-point your accuracy. Add blocking balls to the layouts to give you obstacles to avoid or break out, depending on the mood.  Shoot the drill opposite-handed or with a bridge or behind your back even (Bustamante, anyone?).

Drills should be challenging and hopefully you will find a way to have fun doing them. If you're having trouble making them, shoot me an email and I'll see if I can't find a way to help you enjoy them a little more.

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Filed Under: Pool Synergy

WPBA Amateur Nationals

Just in case there are any ladies that run across my site, you should know about this event:

WPBA Ladies’ Amateur National 9-Ball Championships
November 19-21, 2010

$1,500 ADDED
PLUS Winner Receives A Paid Entry Into The WPBA 2011 US OPEN

Player’s meeting begins promptly at 6:00 PM on Friday, November 19th, 2010

Formats: Race to 7, alternate break, double elimination, finals one race to 9, played on 9 foot Brunswick Ventura tables, red-circle cue balls, Simonis cloth, TV table will be (table 2) a 9 foot Gold Crown IV

Tournament Venue:
Wynkoop Brewing Company
Located at 1634 18th Street, Denver, Colorado

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Filed Under: Tournaments

Don't Play With Mixed Balls

Okay, yes it's juvenille - but there's a valid point to it, I swear. This weekend, I decided to run some drills and whenever I do drills, I use my measel cue ball.  Those dots come in handle for stop-shot drills, etc.  However, shortly after starting an IPAT layout I've completed before I noticed I was having an absurd amount of difficulty with frozen-to-the-rail cut shots.  So, I abandoned the 9-ball layout and went to the Karen Corr Drill.  However, I was again having just an obscene amount of difficulty getting passed the 1st or 2nd ball.  This was highly upsetting as I've been doing very well at that drill for some time - and the first 3 balls are 95% hangers with position when I usually run the drill.  I fought and fought and finally made it to the 4th ball once.  I hit it so terribly it looked almost like I tried to 2-rail bank it.  I shot that shot, one shot, for 18 solid minutes. I have it on video even.  I never make it. Not once. I would try and adjust my aim, but that was going rail-first (at best) and I knew it was wrong. I'd adjust and *clunk* hit the ball thick again! Everytime it looked right, it was wrong. When I lined it up too thin, it was closer, but still never went. I didn't count the shot attempts, but it was probably at least 2 a minute. In the end I finally gave up because it was starting to give me a conscience.  I went back to playing 10-ball just to see if there another shot I couldn't make, maybe there's a connection? I didn't find any other shots that gave me any trouble - but frozen balls were still an issue.

It dawned on me later that the measel ball is Aramith-sized.  I'm not playing with Aramiths, I'm playing with Centennials.  Those are different sizes than the Aramith.  When you put the measel ball inbetween 2 of the other balls you can see the measel ball is a bit taller than the others.  For nearly all shots, this difference is negligable, however for frozen-rail shots, it's this difference that was causing me to hit the ball too thick, essentially trying to bank it down the rail. I would aim the shot as I know it should be hit, but I would hit it thick. So, after all the arguments I've heard from people how they dont like the measel ball and how it affects shots - and all the times I said that's ridiculous, it's never bothered me, blah blah blah... Now, I finally see it.  Most of my measel ball usage has been with aramith balls so of course I wouldn't see it.  When I play at SportsCenter though, there has been an issue with it. I don't think I've ever had the eyes or knowledge to really pick up on the difference.  Perhaps in the past when I didn't have an issue with anything I wasn't aiming correctly.  In fact, I'm nearly 100% certain that's what it was.  So it's ironic that in order to see my improvement I have to fail - miserably and desperately - at a drill I've been running for over a year. 

Speaking of drills... this month's Pool Synergy is going to be quite informative, across the board. I can't wait to read all of the other author's entries!  Check back here on the 15th for more info and links!

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Filed Under: Training

League Update - Best Night So Far!

I really wasn't expecting too much from league last night. Last week, I gave up my only game by scratching on the 8 because I was careless with the shot. Actually, that's not entirely true, I knew the scratch was there because when I saw it, I was reminded of a guy I played in a tournament who scratched on this shot. That was my doom. However, given that, I didn't think I'd play more than once, and considering the amount of weight we were giving to this team, it's possible I wouldn't have played at all.

In a race to 16, we gave the other team 10 (TEN) games on the wire. So, we had to win SIXTEEN (16) games, they only had to win six (6). That means 2 things: 1) We should steamroll them and 2) we can't afford to play loose. It's that 2nd point which made me think I wasn't going to play.

But, it turns out we were short-handed. I arrived late, so I missed the first round, which is fine, as I never play the first round if there's ever a choice. I did play the 2nd round, and considering I hadn't hit a ball at all, I played pretty well. Came to the table with a back-cut down the rail shot. Made that, and cleared the pocket for another ball, but in doing so, I also pocketed a solid. Because I missed my next shot, the table was still open. It didn't matter though, the guy still took solids, and left me with stripes - which is what I wanted in the first place. His bad, solids were problematic. He made a few then missed. I started my run and a few balls later I tried to break up another cluster but missed the break out. I decided to play a safe and locked him up behind the 8, leaving the only ball he can hit, the same cluster I had just missed. So, he breaks it up and leaves me pretty open with 3 balls left. I run out. :)

After that, our 7, Tattoo John, went home cuz he was sick and it was obvious he wasn't needed, even with the gigantic spot. So, I got to the play next round. I lost the lag, and here's the table after my opponent breaks dry. (see the cue-table layout below) I meander around the table a while and decide that I absolutely want stripes. How to start? My only real shot is the 14. The 10 goes as well, but with it being right by the side, I wanted to save it for later, I can use it break out the 15 if necessary. So, I lined up on the 14 and sent it in. Then I looked around and I didn't like trying to play 3 balls ahead for an iffy shot on the 15 or 12, so I decided to slice that 12. I've been hitting those pretty good lately, and if I miss, my opponent still has a lot of trouble to deal with. As it happened, I sank that one as well. Now, to clear the upper half of the table. Start with the 13, come back for the 9 or 10, depending on where I end up. After the 13 dropped, I knew I had to form a plan for the 15, which only went in 1 pocket. If I could get straight on the 11, I could follow down and get on the 15. So, what gets me straight on the 11? A stop-shot on the 10 would do it. So... how do I get there? Draw back a little bit on the 9. Okay. Well, I over hit the draw shot because I forgot just how quick this particular table was. It was my first draw shot of the night. So, I get a bit out of line and have to super-slow roll the 10 in. It was so slow in fact, that the 10 nearly didn't make it the 2 inches it had to roll. The opponent was very vocal about the last-minute "plunk". "Are you f'n serious?!" he shouted. I just laughed and said, I didn't think it'd make it either. A few other comments and laughs came and went. I took a minute, several deeeeep breaths, and got down on the 11. After it dropped and I had shape on the 15, I heard another "You gotta be kidding me!" from him. I took aim on the 15, sent it rolling and then watched the cb, making sure it didn't go too far. I called the upper corner, took some more relaxing breaths and sent it down the table and in the pocket. "kerplunk!" To see the progression of the shots, click the arrows in the lower right hand corner of the diagram below.

As it happens, because Tattoo left, I got to play another game. This time, it was the hill game for us. They still needed 3. I was feeling good, but also very nervous. I've never played a hill game for us. But, I was excited to give it a try! I lost the lag again and the guy didn't put up a really good break. But, even still, it would have to do. I walked around the table a few times deciding who had the most problems, finally deciding on solids. I start my run. 3 in the corner w/inside to get on the 5. Roll forward on the 5 to get on the 1 to break out the 4. Make the 5, make the 1, knock the 9 away from the 4. Make the 4, but miss the kiss on the 12, end up a little lucky to be in the narrow window for the 2 on the other side. Even better, as I make the 2 and break out the 8, but I've left myself the wrong angle on the 7. I try and power-stun the CB off the 7 into the side, uptable and back over for the 6, but being jacked up, I don't get enough stun on the ball and I end up hidden behind a few balls. I kick 2-rails at the 6, but don't hit it hard enough, so no rail foul. Opponent makes a few balls, misses, leaves me a pretty straight, pretty long shot on the 6 which I have to juice up with top to get back down table for the 8. I over-cheat the pocket and the 6 banks back down table and crashes into a few of his balls. I had position though. He makes a few more, misses again and leaves me open on the 6. It's nearly identical to the shot I played on the 10 in the previous rack. Slow-roll into the side, then the slice I had on the 12 earlier, only replace the 12 with the 8 - and that's the game! I won the game and the match for our team!

3 wins, no losses; overall, a great evening for me! I was actually happy with being in a league on the way home. I think the other guys knew how important that night was. They all congratulated me on a night well played and for winning the hill game. I needed some positive encouragement, so that really hit the spot. :)

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Filed Under: 8-Ball

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