On The Snap


Last week something awesome happened with my stroke. I rediscovered my *snap*. I hadn't realized it was gone until it showed up again, which might explain why my game as of late has been so stagnant. I knew my stroke was lacking efficiency, but couldn't nail down what exactly was missing. I checked my stance and alignment and I felt like I was bringing my forearm forward before my wrist, but I wasn't getting the kind of CB action I'd expect. I had only recently realized that I'm not following through the cueball, consequently not finishing my stroke. 

So I started to focus on following through.  I even went back to the beginning (and waited for Vizzini) and shot balls off the foot-spot to check my follow-through and stroke line. I was able to pinpoint why I wasn't moving the 3-6 inches beyond the cueball and that helped me feel a little better about things.

Then, in the middle of a set with my practice partner I felt my wrist truly "snap" through the cueball.  And a light went off in my head. I spent the rest of that set trying to enforce that feeling on every shot, no matter the speed. The next set we played, I played much more consistently and much truer to my actual ability. Even though I lost the set on the hill, I was happy at how I played. I told Mike that only in retrospect can I explain that previously my wrist had been stiff and trying to control the cue whereas now I'm back to "throwing" it through the cueball.  My pocketing is more consistent and I'm moving the cueball around with less effort and more accuracy.  I don't feel like I'm fighting the cueball anymore.

The next night was Masters league and I was both anxious and scared to play, hoping that my stroke would still be there.  I had to focus a little bit to get it back and not fall into my old habits.  I didn't play terribly well, but that was because I made bad decisions at that table, I didn't miss shots, I just decided to make everything much harder than it needed to be.  Oh well. 

Friday, I met up with Mike again and we played a couple of sets of 10-Ball.  I lost the first, but won the second, then lost the 3rd.  But, even though I lost the night, I still felt great about how I played overall. I made some really great shots over the course of the night.  For example, here's a really nice out from me, and there's enough various angles here so that my wrist action can be seen. Jump to the 3:34 mark for the start of the run. It's the first rack, so I guess you can wait for it too if you like, or hit the link below the video. (The shots on the 3, 5, and 6 specifically).


I do get the rolls through this set, admittedly, but I also take advantage of the opportunities when they come; which is more important, in my opinion, than getting the rolls.  Most people get opportunities, but not everyone can take full advantage of them.  This has been my biggest obstacle of the last year. I'm hoping to finally clear that hurdle and leave it firmly in the past.

Monday was my other league night and I was playing another B player (we play even). I found myself down 1-3 and playing on a table that I really, really hate and it was my 3rd week in a row playing on it (losing the last 2 weeks).  I decided to not complain about the table and just wait for the table to spit out the balls for the other guy it had been spitting out on me then cleaning up when I got the chance.

The universe took notice of my change of mindset and it gave me the opportunities I sought.  I fought back in the set and even had a break and run - the first in a league match in many months.  Towards the end of the set, every rack was just one inning, unless I played a safety.  I played smart, simple shapes, taking longer shots which ensured good pocket-speed, instead of forcing the cueball around the table for an easy next shot.  I ended up winning the match 9-5.

I stayed and played Mike a quick little race which didn't go well for me as I had gone and stuffed myself silly on mexican food immediatley after my league match.  After he left, I played a race to 9 with another local who was looking to practice his 9-ball game. My food had finally settled and was out of carb-coma by now. I had another break and run during that set, and won that 9-6. 

Overall,  I'm gaining more confidence and I'm getting a lot more comfortable with my stroke. Most importantly, I'm actually excited to play again. And this is awesome timing... as I'm heading out to Olathe, KS for the Midwest 9-Ball tour stop there this weekend. I'm really hoping to stay on the right side of the bracks for more than 1 round this time. 

I'll report back next week with results.

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Filed Under: Stroke

On Meltdowns

This past Monday was my in-house league night.  I'll spare the details of the match and sum it up saying that I lost, not terribly, I got to 7 (going to 9) and I made some great shots, but the real point of this post is ask the internet a question:

Everyone knows a variety of ways to keep yourself calm during a match.  What do you do if you find yourself in the middle of meltdown, fully recognize it, and all the usual tricks just don't seem to work.  Not breathing, not taking a break, not laughing; none of the usual methods to keep yourself in line are working. How do you recover from that?

The "give-up stroke" sometimes works, but when you're not playing well, the rolls don't go your way, so as soon as you start to reign in the mental game, something else, sets it off.  Opponent misses, gets safe, pockets spitting a ball out, or rolling a 1/4 inch too far, etc.

Tuesday morning I realized what the biggest problem of all was... I was tired. I didn't feel tired at all Monday, but Tuesday morning came and I couldn't barely remember anything from the previous day; which is a sure sign that I hadn't slept as well as I thought Sunday night.  Combined with my rush to get to league after having to work late, leaving me no time to warm up, and really hating the table I had to play on, it's really no surprise I lost my head.  But, hindsight is always 20-20. 

Probably the best shot of the match for me was this one: my opponent missed the 5 in the bottom corner and it snuggled up next to the 8.  I could actually see an edge of the 5 relatively easily, but not enough to pocket it easily.  I recognize that the carom off the 8 was dead in the side, if I could just get there. I looked at doubling the long-rail, but my angle was a little too much fo rme to feel confident to hold it on the rail.  I looked at kicking in front of the 9, but then I'd have to open it a little, and again didn't feel confident.  Finally, I saw that I had enough room to squeeze behind the 9 and straighten it out and it should head right towards the 5.  I lined it up, sent it and everything went as expected.  My opponent gave me a "great shot" compliment even.

However, I over-cut the next shot on the 8 and gave that rack away. And that's how the bulk of my match went. :/

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Filed Under: General

Practice Updates

I've been doing decently at getting some alone practice time over the last week or so. I've been working on speed control and position routes mostly.  I did do about 30 minutes playing with "The Gates" over the weekend. Man that's a tough one. (below - just shoot through the gates 1.5 lag speed and dont touch the balls.  I was able to do it 4 times in a row, but never more than that.  Not sure if that's my stroke or just a weird part of the cushion. heh, never really saw any spin on the object ball, I even used a stripe to help identify that.)

After that, I worked my draw speed for a while. Setting up a shot, 1 diamond apart and drawing it consistently back 1 diamond, then 2 diamonds, then 3, etc until I was hitting the end rail.  I then increased the shot distance from 1 diamond to 3 diamonds and did it all over again. Next, I had a friend throw out a random number and I had to draw it that many diamonds. I was surprised at how well I did, considering I've never really done well at this drill (though it's been at least 2 years since I tried it). So, in comparison, there is definite improvement, but always room for more. 

On Monday, I finally got some time to work on that Kid Delicious clock system.  I had some trouble with the 5 and 6 lines, but the 11, 12, 1, 2, 3, and 4 were all spot on and quit helpful.  I shot each shot 10 times and I was able to find an accurate cueing spot to reproduce each position.  I experimented with various speeds which really shortened the angles, also great to witness. Even though I know it should, actually doing it and finding ways to control it is so much more important than just reading about it.

The 7-10 lines were totally random for me.  I'm assuming that he's suggesting the cueball is stunning into the rail and then the inside spin in carrying the cuebal down to the end-rail.  So, that's what I shot, even though it's anything but a "medium" stroke, for me.  Even still, all of those lines were hitting between the 1st and 2nd diamond (opposite the pocket), with no real consistency.  I wonder if my setup was incorrect (not exactly a half-ball hit, I mean).  I worked on this drill for probably an hour though, and it was informative, so even though I couldn't get the results he indicated, it was still a good a experience.

For my next practice routine, I really want to work on elevating my cue. Shooting over an object ball or jacked up on the rail.  Also, I need to set up an actual banking drill.

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Filed Under: Stroke · Training

TAR 37: Shane vs Corey - REMATCH

I just found out about TAR 37, happening November 1st-3rd.  It's a rematch of the first TAR match ever (which is available On Demand, btw, and you should go watch it).  This is an all-around match up, 8-Ball, 9-Ball and One Pocket.

From the announcement:

All games are rack your own with a traditional rack played on the TAR Diamond 4.5 x 9 table. The schedule is as follows:

November 1: 8 Ball Race to 30
November 2: 9 Ball Race to 30
November 3: 1 Pocket Race to 8

I'm planning on being out of town that weekend for a tournament, but I'm still gonna but the PPV because hopefully either the tournament room or the hotel will 4G and/or wifi!


Filed Under: 8-Ball · 9-Ball · One Pocket

The Clock System by Kid Delicious

In an effort to further memorize this positional guideline, I've drawn it up (based on the video example I watched over the weekend).

Each of these shots is a half-ball hit and shot at a medium speed, "Around a 5 on a 1-10 scale." according to "Kid Delicious" aka Danny Basavich. Each ball number relates to the "hour on the clock" if you places a clock on the aiming part of the cue ball.


During his demonstration the end-rail positions were all very close between 7 and 11.  The forward roll sends the cueball towards the upper right pocket, but the inside spin shortens the angle (or vice versa, however you like to understand it). So, my memory could be a little fuzzy there.  He had a LOT of "hours" that went between the 1st and 2nd diamond.  I'm more interested in the 12-6 range myself.  It all makes perfect sence when it's drawn up like this. 

I'm looking forward to trying these routes because it a) forces accurate cueing and b) will help me better find/execute positions downtable from this shot.

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Filed Under: Training

An Honest Reflection

I played some of the worst pool I've played in a while on Thursday and Friday last week. Thursday I lost an APA Masters match on the hill to a guy that I should've easily beaten.  Friday I played my teammate whom I haven't beaten in 5 weeks, and continued to lose to again.  Though I won one of the 3 sets, and played decently, it was only because he made more mistakes than I did. A problem he corrected quickly in the 3rd set. 

I've been writing here about being frustrated with my game and saying that I'm going to work on things - but I haven't really done much.  At this point, I'm sick and tired of writing that I'm frustrated with my game.  So I hope this post will finally be the kick in the ass I need to actually do something about it.  Sort of a pool intervention.

I realized a couple of things that I haven't been doing for as long as I've been upset with myself:

1) I haven't been watching any professional pool: so I'm not inspired.

2) I haven't been analyzing my own game (watching the videos I take while playing): I'm not looking for flaws or improvements.

3) I haven't been paying attention to my fundamentals at the table: they are falling apart - alignment and follow-through, namely.

4) I haven't been adhering to my pre-shot routine: not picking a position route, not visualizing the shot and not executing.

5) I haven't been excited or really cared about the game in general: I'm not giving the game it respect it deserves.

6) I haven't been working out (physical fitness, not pool drills, though I haven't been doing those either).

7) I haven't been playing any other games than 8, 9 or 10 ball: I'm bored generally, even when I'm competing.

8) I haven't been watching instructional materials: I'm not cementing existing information or learning new options.

All of which leads to the biggest reason I'm playing so poorly lately: I have no mental focus or stamina at the table.

Just a few months ago, I wrote about how my mental game had improved and I was both letting go of my mistakes and keeping emotion out of the equation. Somehow during all of the above, I've lost the ability to let things go, to just accept the table as it is, to not get upset when something goes wrong and am becoming a consant boiling pot of frustration and emotion which keep puts me on fult tilt.

So, Saturday I decided to watch a number of different instructional videos. All older ones, like Earl Strickland's Pool My Way and Kid Delicious' Clock System, Freddy The Beard's Banks That Don't Go But Do and Byrne's trick shots Vol 3.  Shorter videos I knew I could finish without getting that blank stare. I enjoyed Earl's video a lot; it was informative and also broken up with some fun stuff in between the learning (trick shots mostly). And while it's hard to listen Danny Basavitch (Kid Delicious) talk, I really like his clock system example and will be working on that system tonight for sure.

Sunday I made myself watch some professional pool.  The Action Report uploaded a number of US Open One Pocket matches from earlier this year that I didn't get to see at the time.  So I watched SVB vs Scott Frost and Justin Hall vs Earl Strickland. I've really been chomping at the bit to play some one pocket lately. I just love the creative strategy aspect of the game and I miss the learning experience of seeing shots and getting to try them out right then and there, instead of watching the pros do it.  I will find a one pocket game this week if it kills me.

In general, I am holding myself responsible for getting to the practice room at least twice a week for starters. I hope to spend at least 2 hours working on specific aspects of my game, whether it's fundamentals or shot-making or position or speed drills. Then I want to spend at least an hour of challenging myself by playing the ghost.  I'm going to do it the proper way this time, and work my way up the ghost ladder, so to speak. Start with the 3-ball ghost, race to 9 and go from there. I need to actually do this instead of trying the 9ball ghost with a two-inning option.  I need to put in my "ghost dues" so to speak.

The drills and the ghost should help me "train" my mental game and focus.  And the nature of having to fade mistakes should help train my emotional responses.  I've also started working out again and while I have missed that sore feeling I need to prepare myself for any adverse affects working/defining new muscles might have on my fundamentals (this was an issue 2 years ago).

The US Open 9Ball Championship begins this weekend and I aim to buy the whole PPV event and watch as much of it as I can (though my cell reception at work terrible, I might have to figure something out for during the day).  Beyond that TAR has also released a number of older matches available for On Demand viewing (and for super cheap), so I hope to grab a few of those as well.

I'm already getting excited about the payoffs from this work I have planned and if I keep those goals in mind, I should be able to stick to my regimen.  I have the will power, I've done this before, physically when I was frustrated with being an overweight guy, now I need to harness my will and drive again and do it for my game. 

This blog should, I hope, return to being more of a practice and informational blog rather than a whine-o blog.

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Filed Under: General

Practice - Reference Lines

After my league match last night (which I won, after being down 0-4, I came back to win 9-6), I hung around and did some practicing.  I wasn't doing very well with some of my usual drills, so instead I decided to focus on a single shot and experiment with position routes.  For whatever reason, there are two nearly identical shots which sometimes give me more trouble than they probably should. 

I set the shot up and swung away using all different kinds of english.  After a while, I noticed a pretty repeatable pattern.  Below is what I've discovered works for me and my stroke.

The majority of these were shot at around the same speed: Approximately 1.5 lag speed (3 table-lengths).  The shots with orange and green lines (sometimes purple) do require a stronger throw, 2 or even 2.5 lag speeds.


Here's the position routes of the same shot with draw:



The other shot is nearly identical, but don't freeze the object ball and move the cueball to the 1st diamond:



And here are the routes for draw:



As you can see, there are a lot of lines that are dangerously close to both the side and corner pocket; which makes this, in my opinion, a very important shot to understand.

I didn't diagram the 1st show with the ball not frozen, but the routes are mostly just widened going forward and shortened going backward.  Similarly, the 2nd shot with the ball frozen, sent the cueball through the top-right quadrant for nearly all forward shots, regardless of english.  For draw, it was nearly impossible to do anything to keep the cueball above the side pocket on the left half with even half-lag speed.

This drill really helped me realized why I so often scratch on these shots; it turns out what I think the cueball will do is nothing at all like what it actually does.  Seems odd that I'm just now realizing this, since I'm usually pretty good at predicting the cueball path, but everyone has their own "demon shots". 

I would love to hear your thoughts on these routes/results.  I hope to actually catch a video of these routes sometime to further help me visualize and memorize these.  If/when I do, I'll be sure to share it here.

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Filed Under: Training

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