Fargo Flip — Fun for All

by Bob Jewett

Bob Jewett

I recently had the pleasure of playing in the nicest pool room I’ve ever visited: Mike Page’s Fargo Billiards in Fargo, ND. It has bar- and full-sized tables and a full-sized bar along with a great menu. The rest rooms alone are worth a stop — how many pool rooms can claim that?

During the visit I was reminded that one of the most fun pastimes in my first pool hall was the almost constant ring game which had from three to six players. There were several games that we commonly played including nine ball and partners rotation. The games were as much social as “commercial” and they allowed a wide range of players to compete together.

In Fargo, Mike introduced to me a ring game he calls “Fargo Flip.” It can be played with any number of players from three on up, and we had from four to eight players in our game. The basic game is nine ball which is played by two teams. The “Flip” comes at the start of each game when each player flips a coin to determine whether he is on the Heads or the Tails team. The Tails always break. After the break, it is played like Scotch Doubles with each player taking one shot with turns rotating among the members of the team.

The order of play is up to the members of the team, but once each one has shot, they have to maintain that order for the rest of that game. At first I thought this would be confusing and lead to aguments but there was never a problem. There is some strategy if you really want to work at it, such as putting up a weak player if the shot is either very easy or hopeless, but mostly it was the closest person to the shot who took it if the order was still open.

Coaching is allowed. This can be a great benefit to the weaker players as they learn some of the strategy and possible shots, but the coach needs to be careful to speak to the level of the shooter. A beginner won’t be able to spin the ball with inside follow to come in short on the fourth cushion, so don’t ask him to. This kind of mistake I see all the time during coaching time-outs on league nights where I play.

The rules of the game are just like regular nine ball. This is different from most nine ball ring games in which many of the rules — such as ball in hand for any foul — are suspended. Pushouts and safeties are played as usual.

At the end of the game each player on the losing team pays each of the winners one jellybean. (In jurisdictions where social wagering is not illegal, you might consider playing for quarters or dollars instead of jellybeans.) So, if the Heads win and there are five on the team against the three Tails, the Tails each throw out five jellybeans (making 15) and each of the Heads picks up three jellybeans (also making 15). Be sure to have lots of jellybeans or change available. Before the flip each player should make sure he has as many jellybeans as there are other players, since after the flip he may be alone against the rest.

Players are free to enter or leave the group at the end of each game. If you need to take a bathroom break, just say you’re out for a game and don’t flip. If a new player wants to get in or a player returns from a break, he just waits for the next flip. In general, the majority can deny entry to a new player, but if Efren or Shane showed up, I’d want him in the game.

Is the scene at your local venue getting a little stale? Try Fargo Flip for a little variety.

Follow Perfection

Follow Perfection

by Bob Jewett

Bob Jewett

Back in 2005 I proposed an exercise in which you tried to make the nine ball with a series of draw shots from an object ball. Here is a new challenge which will help you perfect your follow angles and speed.

The goal is to make the nine ball into the corner pocket labeled “P” by pocketing the one ball in the side and following to the nine. You don’t have to make it in a single shot. Just leave the nine ball wherever you bump it to, put the one ball back in its spot and take the cue ball in hand. To place the one ball consistently, use a small chalk mark or a donut-shaped self-adhesive paper reinforcement.


In the diagram, I show some right English on the cue ball. If the cue ball hits the cushion just before the nine, the spin will help a lot. You can also play the shot without side spin, and that will be best when the nine ball is off the cushion. In any case, you will want full follow on the cue ball — that makes the angle the cue ball takes off the one ball more predictable.

At first, try to just bump the nine a little. If you hit it hard enough on the first shot to get it to the pocket, a full hit will knock the nine to the other side of the table. As you get to know the angle better, you can be more aggressive with the power.

Regulate the path of the cue ball by how full you hit the one ball. Since the one is going to return to exactly the same place on each shot, you should soon know where the cue ball will go when you shoot from the direction of the A or B diamonds, and gradually for points in between. For example, on your table you may find that if your cue stick is over diamond A when you shoot, the cue ball will land on the cushion by diamond C, and shooting from the direction of B will land on the short rail just to the right of pocket P.

Besides having full follow on the cue ball for all shots, you should try drive the one ball into the middle of the pocket. Putting it in the left or right side will change the carom angle a lot, so even though the shot to make the one ball is easy, precision pocketing is required to get the cue ball on the correct path.

If you knock the nine ball out into the middle of the table, you’re going to have to use extreme measures to get it back. Rather than use draw and try to hit the ball on the tough side, let’s say that you can spot the one ball in the middle of the table to herd the nine back to the left side.

To make this into a scored drill, count the number of shots it takes you to pocket the nine. An easy way to do this is to use the solids in order rather than just the one ball as the object ball so you have an automatic count. If you have a practice partner, challenge him to see who can do it in fewer shots. Try playing the strict rules in the challenge: the one ball has to go on the spot shown.