Friday, March 26, 2010

Johnny Is Moving

Two things of note today:

1) Blogger has finally decided to make things easy and added the ability to use templates to pretty-fy yourself.

2) It doesn't matter to me because I'm moving!!

My new blog is

All of my existing entries (aside from this one) have been moved to the new site.  The new site has a much cleaner look and feel, but with all of the same features. So, please, update your bookmarks/feeds/etc.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

More Tournaments

I'm always be looking for ways to improve my game and one of those ways is to put myself in pressure situations.  Lately, when I've been feeling good, I've had the idea to play people for some small amount of money just to add a little bit of pressure - but that, strangely enough, hasn't really panned out too well.  Meaning, I can't find opponents that are comparable to my level.  They're either far above me or considerably below.  As such, I'm looking for tournaments, small local events primarily.  There are a few weekly events available, but I'm leery of them.  Mainly because they're all on barboxes, and I don't play as well on them as I do on the 9fts. 

Well, I've decided that I must put those equipment limitations away otherwise I'll never get any training.  There's only the hope of a random 9ft open tournament twice a year and I want to do more than that, so I must adapt my playing appropriately.  If I'm to be a good all-around player as I want to become, I must be able to adapt to the table - both in size, speed and reflections. 

I'm not sure that I'll make the weekly tournament for this week since I'm currently pretty sick right now, but next week there is a very big tournament.  A Midwest 9-ball Tour stop happening at The Break, over in Cahokia, IL.  I'll be attending probably as a spectator since I'm not sure I feel prepared to take on some of the big names that will show up.  I'd like to go tonight, if only to watch, but I know that I'll end up staying there all night and I just don't feel good enough, physically, to do that.  I would love to get out of the house though. heh

In the meantime, I'm going back to watching the Diamond 10-Ball Championships happening at the Super Billiards Expo down in Valley Forge right now!

Monday, March 15, 2010

[Pool Synergy] Pool and the Mainstream

This month's issue of Pool Synergy is brought to you by Alison Fischer of NYCGrind. Click the logo above to view the complete list of this month's articles.

The topic of discussion for this edition is "Pool and the Mainstream".  My own interpretation of this topic yields many thoughts, but I'm going to focus on how the public views pool and what the pool world can do to help itself.

Think about your city, how many places can you find a pool table? You might not even realize it, but it's probable that you could drive no more than 5 minutes and find a table. Pool tables are in nearly every bar in every town. I bet you all knew someone in highschool who had a pool table at their house. In the rich part of town, I bet most people with a big house had a pool room, complete with walls covered in pool posters and accessories.  Big company executives sometimes have pool tables in their offices, on their yachts, in their beach houses.  Pool is everywhere, but it is nonexistent in the mainstream sports world.  How can this be?

I think it all boils down to how the general public is entertained; especially in the United States.  Think of the two biggest sports in the US: Football and Baseball.  Why are they so popular?  Honestly, think about it for a minute.  The action comes in very small spurts.  Most plays are over in a matter of few seconds. How does this keep millions of people entertained for hours at a time?  Some say it's the anticipation of a big event; a 50 yard touchdown run, a 3-run homer, etc.  Basketball is a non-stop action sport, as is hockey. Yet, people seem to prefer baseball to basketball; football to hockey.  Why?  It could be because the rules for hockey and basketball and somewhat more complicated than baseball and football - to the average viewer.

It follows then that the more complicated a game is, the less entertaining it is to the general public.  I don't really want to believe that.  I want to believe that the general public is educated and perfectly capable of understanding what's going on while watching a masters game of Chess or Go.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.
People like to watch what they know - not what they have to learn to watch.
In addition to this, is the celebration that happens during an event.  A home run is very exciting when surrounded by 40,000 screaming fans, absolutely - and anyone can share in that enjoyment, regardless of skill level or understanding.  They know it was a good hit because it easy to determine based on what they can see: the distance the ball traveled.  The same follows for any "spectator sport" of this nature.  When the outcome of a play is easily determined by simple observation, people like it.

I think this is why sports like golf and even bowling are as popular as they are: it's easy to determine the outcome by visual means.  "That ball is very close to the hole now, must have been a good shot." "All of the pins are down, good throw."

Pool doesn't have this luxury.  To someone who doesn't play pool, a great positional shot means nothing.  All they see is someone making a series of "easy" shots with no understanding how they ended up with those easy shots. To be able to enjoy watching pool, the viewer must already know how the game is played and what's involved in making those shots.

This is something of a catch-22 for the sport of pool.  In order to gain new audiences, they must make it available to the masses.

Fortunately for us, the foundation for this mass expose is already being laid.  There are literally hundreds of free online web-streams showcasing pool around the world being shown on the internet almost daily.  With each new stream, comes new games, new commentators, new characters for the public to follow.  Some of them are serious, some are mellow, others are lighthearted, and a select few are just downright funny.

My hope is that sooner, rather than later, someone from the big networks will see one of the larger streams and realize that the public actually likes pool. Once they stop and realize this, they'll be more eager to be the first ones to market it, nationally, globally even.

ESPN is currently the only channel that regularly shows pool on tv.  The organizers of the WPBA were clever enough to make an arrangement with them for this privilege.  I sincerely hope that other professional pool organizations (WPA, BCA,etc) follow in their path.  Bringing men's pool to tv would in the least, more than double the number of events to cover - thereby doubling the number of advertising spaces; which should make it easier to sell to other broadcasting networks at some future date.  Once the networks start making money, the leagues can start getting more sponsors - which will lead to the players earning more - which could make the dream of being a professional pool player for a young player something far more tangible than it is today.

I really think that the next generation of pool players are going to change the pool world - and even more importantly - the entire public opinion of pool.  The level of players currently found in the pro-am and junior leagues is outstanding and, hopefully, once the public gets wind of this new crop of talent they'll want more of it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TWO!! Successfully Completed IPAT 9-Ball Layouts

So, as I've mentioned in earlier posts that I often run a number of drills during my practice time.  Several of them are 9-ball layouts, and some of those are part of the IPAT (International Playing Ability Test).  Typically when I run those drills I don't hold myself to a particularly high standard - meaning that if I miss a ball, I keep shooting just to see if I can get back in line.  But I had never successfully ran the entire table without fouling or missing before.  Yesterday, I was determined to do it.

I started shooting/warming up with 10-balls tossed out, I did that for a while until I felt decently in focus.  Then I started with this layout:

As far as layouts go, this is what most would consider "fairly easy" - but given the trouble it's caused me over the last few months, I wouldn't call it that.  Yesterday, however, I really felt confident that I can and would run this table successfully.  I almost always made it to the 6 before really getting out of line and having to start over for one reason or another, and it was frustrating to be sure, but I kept at it. Took several deep breaths before each re-rack and started again, keeping in mind the mistakes from the last run.  Not letting them scare me, but using them to let me know what I did wrong and how I fix it this time.

It took me 9 failed attempts, but on the 10th, I did it.  I ran it. I can't say perfectly because I got a little thin on the 9 ball, but I made the shot. I made all 9 shots, sequentially and with relatively decent position!  I finished it and wanted to let out of a giant YEAH!!!  but no one would've understood, so I gave myself a small fist-pump and went to write down my stats.

You can see a video of how this layout is ran here, courtesy of ForceFollow

After I gathered myself from my happy place, I decided to move on to the next drill instead of ruining this one by trying it again.  I picked up this layout from my binder and arranged it on the table:

Now this one is a bit tougher in my opinion - although on my 3rd attempt I ran to the nine and got a little cocky with it and super-stroked it, which much to my extreme dismay, left the 9 jarred in the pocket.  That only game me more drive to finish it because I came so close that time.  Unfortunately, it took me 15 attempts, but I successfully completed that one too!!  And again, I wanted to give a big HELL YEAH, but again opted for the quiet celebration.

I went on to the next layout:

But this one eluded me.  You'd think getting from the 3 to the 4 would be simple, and it should be, but since I always got too long on the 3, I ended up with bad position on the 4 to make an easy transition to the 5.  I once made it to the 7, but played it too cautiously and jawed the ball.  I went on from there as if I had made it and ran the last two easily enough - but this will be the next drill on my plate for sure.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Ultimate Pool Challenge Game

After reading Samm Diep's review of the Ultimate Pool Challenge Game, I decided that I needed to get it.  So, I just ordered it.  With any luck, it'll be here by the end of the week and I'll have some new things to do over the weekend.  Anyone that enjoys new tricks and is looking for a fun way to challenge themselves and their friends should really check this out.  You can see a PDF containing 5 sample cards here

If anyone does get it, please make sure you buy it by clicking through the PoolDawg links on any of your favorite player's websites to help them out as well. For example:

Help Samm Diep.   (click the link she provides in the article to purchase)
Help Liz Ford. (just click the PoolDawg banner to enter the site then buy what you need)
Help Sara Rousey.  (just click the PoolDawg banner to enter the site then buy what you need)

Friday, March 5, 2010

More Kicking

I just have a few minutes, but I've been meaning to post this since Tuesday...  After my 8-ball league, I played a teammate some cheap 9-ball sets... it turned out to be a great time.  My 2 personal "super shot of the match" moments are below:

These were a bar-table with the usual questionably-reliable rails/cloth.

He played safe on me, and after a long while of looking around for various options and really not trusting the 1-rail kick with english (to avoid the side-pocket), I opted to go 3 rails at it.  It worked and I got a rewarded even. :)

A few games later I ended up nearly dead straight on the 7-ball.  Earlier in the night I hit a power-draw shot in this situation and actually overran position, so I was hesitant to do it again.  Instead, I cheated the pocket a bit and loaded it up inside-force-follow to back down-table.

I am REALLY liking my new stroking skills - as well as my new diamond systems. :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Got Stroke?

So, last Friday night I went back to The Break and met up with Gene for some good practicing.  It wasn't an outstanding night by any means, but late in the morning he noticed some things I was doing wrong with my stroke.  So, after a lot of explaining and re-explaining and demonstrations, I think I finally got it. :)

I found the basics of a proper stroke a while ago and describe it in this post (towards the bottom) but was never able to really put any power into it.  It was almost always a finesse type of stroke.  I did see my accuracy improve greatly though and have been trying to work on making every shot this way, but I still had some issues maintaining it.  Well again thanks to Gene, I was able to work out some timing kinks in my stroke and can now put some real power into it.

After we worked out the issues, we just shot a variety of power stroke shots, including these:


It was really amazing to see that cue ball dance around the table, knowing that it was *ME* that was doing it. I was almost giddy shooting these things.

I gotta say, I absolutely LOVED the amazing difference in the sound of my cue - it has such a distinct *PING* to it when it's stroked.

I really can't wait to get back on a table and continue shooting these shots - along with the others from the last time we had a learning session. 

I feel like the roadblock I mentioned in this post has finally been overcome.  I had a strong feeling I was on the verge of a new breakthrough, and I think this could be it.

Now, only the last of my very serious areas of concern remain: speed control.  Just lagging up and down a table is fine, but I have to be able to quickly and knowledgeably adjust speed based on my perceptions of the table-speed, the cut angle and the english I'm  using.  I think now with my new skills and the existing drills I have, I can seriously work on this last, largely misunderstood, area.

I think I'm in prime shape to prepare myself for the tournaments coming up later this year. :)

Now I can finally get this shirt: