January 2003

First let me thank all of you for continuing on with my articles. From the volume of email that I'm receiving I can see not only that they are enjoyed- they are also provoking thought. And if you stand in a place where the articles sit you know that some of the provoked thought is centered around myself. Because of this I've been getting to the local rooms to be accessible for "questioning." So far I've only gotten to speak with 2 people in this regard. One is the best one pocket player that Oregon offers. (Oregon only gets to offer this quality because he's visiting) He wants to play so we're gonna' get that done. I'll call him MR. BILL. The other one was with Mr. Bill and I'll call him.........Dale. And Dale is the one that had the kind of talk with me that I am now going to the poolrooms to make possible. For Dale, he is discussing a difficult thing; and the first step in coming over is complex. I thank him here for that moment. As we spoke there were a few who remained angry and "away." We will have to wait and see what they glean from Dale. I wouldn't want to go through the debriefing they're going to give him. And they could have done as he did and talk. It'll work though because I'll be back and open to a second interview. Here is my gift to you in this season of giving. In order for you to be able to make sense of me you would first have to know whether or not I am skilled in the thing that you value so much- and from there you cannot make sense of me without knowing how I feel about having that skill and from there you would have to know how I feel about competing. And then you'd have to know how I feel about competing with you. Some of you in Oregon are left to sift through a few gambling stories about me with your local heroes. Come and find out the rest of the story. We can name the names and the results. The next gift I'll give you is: that you don't know how I feel about the things that you discuss. You project onto all of this the way that you would feel if you were spoken of as I'm sometimes spoken of. The way that you respond is not the only possible response to what you see as compliments. One of your angers is that I exist without you. You cannot insult me--no matter. And you leave this article with new wisdom as you read that you cannot compliment me either. You see my friend both of those come from within. Words are a form of currency and come in various denominations. You cannot go to China and decide for the Chinese people what your dollar is worth to them. You do not get to come to me and dictate the value that I place on what you say. If you said to me that I was the greatest player on earth and you said it in Swahili, we can't transact because I don't know what value to place on the words. If you said in Hungarian that I was the worst player on earth, we have a like circumstance. I cannot put value to the words. Forget about me and take this new way out into your life. It is a skill of absolute value.

I've got a joke for you. "What is the difference between a pool player and a pepperoni pizza??"
--a pepperoni pizza can feed a family of four.

And now to the meat of this article. I was only going to give you a trick shot this month and call it a day. Then with each poolroom visit something went on that I think you'll have interest in and be entertained by. After the above visit I went to Hot Shots in Beaverton, Oregon. There's a young woman named Alisa working there that has asked me to instruct her and we plan to start in January. She asked me about a trick shot that she heard about and I agreed to show it. I tell you in advance that it's a McGill original and you may never have a chance to master this one. Not because you couldn't master it, you could. It's not likely because in order to practice it you'd have to lock the room owner in the janitor's closet first. Here is a description of the shot. Place a 9-ball in the jaws of the corner pocket. Stand parallel to that same end rail and away from the table (the side of the table you're on is opposite the side that the nine is sitting on) you should be standing 10 to 12 feet away and 3 to 4 feet behind the extended short rail line. NOW-bounce the cue ball off of the floor and go three rails to make the nine. I am at about 85% efficiency on this shot. I made it for her on the third shot. She was shocked and amazed. She just kept laughing and didn't know what to say. Everyone else in the room froze and acted as though nothing had happened. They went out of their way to act as though it was nothing!? I just want to put that in here so maybe it'll look stupid to continue doing it. It is one of the most difficult things that I face. Why do you do it? Pat Sheehan "Man of the Cloth" (see page 12) had me on his radio show for nearly a year as a weekly guest. When he heard about the shot from a caller he rushed me to a sponsors room after the show and I made it for him on the second and third shots. The best I've done with it locally is 4 times in a row at Cue's Billiard's in Gresham, Oregon. Then I was having a class and exhibition last night with a new student named Micke and a young man named Jason. (Jason got nickname "monkeys" because he works at the primate research center) I will describe the shot that they had a reaction to that only my students seem to understand or find humor in. It's the shot that ends the class and I wind up standing alone and with an open time slot. They just leave.

It is fun to see that reaction and I would still rather they stay and ...........well stay and do what, I don't know now that I have thought about it. Here's the shot: stand at the nameplate and place the 5-ball frozen on the rail and on the 1st diamond to your right. Now move it to the left 1 object ball width. It is better for you to move it to the left more that a ball width, say a ball and a third, ball and a quarter, etc. Now go to the opposite short rail and face the nameplate. Place the cue ball midway between the nearest edge of the pocket on your right and the 1st diamond. Now we are going to move the cue ball out from the rail any distance that you like to bridge from to a maximum of 8 inches. And from here we cut the 5 ball into the right corner pocket! Last night this went on the second shot. I call this shot "night-night."

Next month I am going to either write a mini-manual for instructors or about poolroom etiquette and communication. I'll let you decide by email vote which one it'll be. poolclass@webtv.net I also offer an instructors course at the school. You can come to hone your present skills or come and learn to instruct pool.

You cannot know from the articles that I stutter. Cannot talk a lick. It's like I couldn't get a word smoothly across a sentence made of ball bearings. Sometimes I say to players that seem surprised or uneasy -- "I know we just met 'n all but could you possibly spare a vowel?" or I ask if I can buy a vowel. Sometimes I tell'em that although they think that I stutter I don't, it's because I'm dubbed in English. And the all time favorite is that it ain't stuttering, I'm just hooked on phonics!

Time for me to go. I'm gonna email my friend Jay Krause and see what he remembers about our road trip to San Fransisco and Palace Billiards. We may be able to get a good article and story out of it. Jay works with Nabisco and he would play with me nearly every day after work and we had a ball. The problem is that he would come in after work and have a smoother stroke than I had. It was maddening. And more so maddening that he couldn't see it! One of the things that I say to up and coming players regularly is that you can't beat us after work. I thought it even less likely that after work someone could have a smoother stroke than us.

"Ten years lost deep into the forest-great laughter at the edge of the lake."
Thank you and do the work -- McGill The Pool Whisperer

Three Motivations

December 2002

Settle in, cause I'm gonna' get right to the thing. Last month's article has gotten many kinds of responses. Most of them are from people wanting to learn more about me and about pool. Those people and myself are gettin' it done. Others are having a different response, and I have a paragraph of text especially for you. Listen......no one that is miserable about the article has contacted me. No one has asked me what I think in regards to what was said. One young man went so far as to say to Jay, "I bet you're sorry you said those things about Lance, huh?" He remains anonymous in this writing and he's the perfect example of what I want to illustrate. He came to my school with a friend. He left and told everyone that I refused to teach him. He never asked me if I would, all that he was interested in was having me show him how well I play. He came here because two different people told him stories of how many racks I had run for them during a class. One in 9-ball and the other story in 1-pocket. So now he has even more info and becomes even more negative? I don't make sales calls with my skill and every student I have I completely enjoy. I intend to maintain that standard for myself and the people that workout here. There is a lot of negativity around this and no one is coming directly to me. (There are even parts of the negativity that I'm fully responsible for and I'd like to tell you about that - all you gotta do is come and ask.) I'm hearing second hand about how I can't play, and action, and ...takin' me up on it, and on and on. One man is skilled enough and has enough seasoning to offer a closed-door session.

Now, that guy knows some stuff! Do any of you know about the old thunderbird car with the "suicide doors?" That's the kind of doors I put on the school. Suicide doors - even if that chaps your hide you gotta admit it's funny. So for you new people that are not coming here to learn because you're hearing all of the nonsense. Come and ask me. I'll tell you what part is true and what isn't. I don't run the ad in ON THE BREAK so that it'd be more difficult to find me. What I will say about it herein is simply this. None of them said that I'm "The best player that you have ever seen." They said that "They" have ever seen. Beyond this I have no intention of discussing with you what someone else thinks. I'm not an angry man and you don't have to agree with me to be at the school. My school is an open forum for thought. Over the next few months I am going to tell you how I got such an extraordinary level of skill. It is not a pretty story and I am certain that you would not exchange your present level of skill for what I have lived.

Before we get to the exciting part of this let me first give you the promised high english or follow information. For the basics you can go to any book. Follow is the easiest stroke to learn because it's what the cue ball would do naturally if left alone. (But we don't leave it alone do we?) for those of you that are new to pool all you need to get an understanding of is the importance of adjusting for english in your bridge hand instead of raising or lowering the butt end of the cue stick. Most raise the bridge so that the cue tip is above the center of the cue ball. (This takes the palm and meat of their hand off of the table.) Once you're skilled, that will work fine. While you're new, learn to get low or high english from you bridge hand as it rests flat on the table.

For the rest of you world-beaters, here's the high top technique for the month. Place an object ball approximately 1 and 1/2 ball widths from the long rail and halfway between the corner pocket and the first diamond. Cue ball placement is as follows: line your cue stick up with the object ball and the first diamond past the opposite side pocket-place your cue ball along that line a distance from the rail that you are comfortable using FLAT rail bridge. Now use high right or left English and be generous with the speed that you choose. Either right away or within a few "feel" strokes you'll find the cue ball taking on the same effect that we would want with draw - except that we don't have to risk the miscue that often comes with long draw shots! As you begin to master this shot begin moving the object ball further from the rail. Then blend that with moving the cue ball up and down the rail. In going up the rail you'll find this stroke more difficult and down the rail it'll be easier. It is possible to use this technique with the cue ball as far up the rail as you want to go. Technically we are not using follow, we're using spin and a perfect amount of follow and speed. The shot seems to work best at a touch above center. And even if you use low, you'll need so much less low, that miscues will become nearly nonexistent on this type of shot. In Mcgill's, the cue ball is referred to as the stone. Techniques like this are known as romancing the stone. Have fun.

The Three Motivations:
Learning, Practicing, and Playing. One of the largest reasons I have the stroke that I do is found in the title of this article. I have three distinct motivations for being at a pool table. Notice that I didn't say, three motivations for "playing" I said I have three motivations for being at the table.

Motivation #1: LEARNING- when I arrive at the table specifically to learn, I come to the table and learn. Nothing takes me from that purpose. Nothing. Not who's watching, not gambling, nothing takes me from what has motivated me toward the table at that time. Whether I'm alone or playing someone, I continue along that path. Once that I know that I'm out, I do one of two things. I find out what the balls will do if I just hit'em, or I find out what it's possible for me to make'em do. The rest is to watch every shot. Everything that happens at the table can be reproduced. And everything that happens will be of future use to you. even jumping the cue ball off of the table and on to the floor will be of use to you. A miscue will be of use to you. So if you're missing shots and looking away, turn around and watch. See what happens and think about a way to use the very thing you saw in an 8-ball game, then a 9-ball game, and then a 1- pocket game. Watch the worst players in the room and see what the balls do. Log all of it and recreate what you can. If you're doing this and are tempted to watch the best players you will defeat the whole purpose. Find the worst players and sit to watch. You will come away with a world of new possibilities. "The least creative player is the player most fearful of failure."

Motivation #2: PRACTICING- when I went to work I had a ratio that would be impossible for you to live up to. For every hour that I was playing for money, I would have in 100 hours of work. That means that I had to put in 2,000 hours before I went to a match. (planning for no more than 20 hours of work) I played 90 hours every week. 12 hours per weekday and 15 hours Saturday and Sunday. If you work another job or you make your living at pool- get a ratio for yourself. Once you have it keep it, it's just one more extension of management skills. I choose a thing to practice EVERYTIME I'M AT A POOL TABLE. On a day that I chose to work on force draw- I shot force draw every single time that it was possible. Not every time that it left me a shot, not every time that I would win the rack with it, I shot what I had decided to practice. Every time that it was possible to leave myself a force draw shot I played that position. Have a purpose and have intent. My students often get to play with me and they can all tell within an hour or so what I'm working on that particular day. Sometimes I play shooting everything with high english, other times I only use banks and kicks the entire day. Most of the time I play through without ever playing position. All of this is practicing. When practice is the motivation -I practice.

The 3rd. Motivation: PLAYING: and that means wanting to win. Please refer to the management article in THE BREAK October issue. If you're an instructor and play pool with your students I suggest that you blend all three of the motivations every time you're on the table with them. You will come away with a stronger arsenal and they will see exponentially, more possibilities.

The language that I use is referred to in nearly every email that I get. A lot of people seem to enjoy it and see the humor around it. So I'll get back to puttin some in each article like I said I would. You got romancing the stone, which is one of my favorites. Sometimes you can get a "customer" to go to others and borrow more money to play further. They even go to the ATM. You get to choose the time, just make sure it's the perfect time and yell out, "DEAD MAN WALKING." If you inflect it right you'll never hear more laughter in a poolroom.

Thank you for following my articles
Do the work -- McGill The Pool Whisperer

"Learn to play....have class."


November 2002


What you are about to read is not an article; it is word for word as spoken by Jimmy G- a billiard enthusiast; promoter; pool room owner; professional gambler; and a man known, enjoyed and respected on the pro tour. It is in response to and in support of the article that Paul Marquez wrote in July. ["Who the hell is lance McGill... and who cares?"] Jimmy G's words have gone from tape to paper without edit. I don't know jimmy's reason for wanting this; I do know that the others want to be heard and that they are relieved to have a volume of support for what they have long argued. Darin Walding, Jay Reed, Jeremy Nelson, and Scott Barnard have all taken part; my commentary will follow in the form of a suggested workout-

JAY REID: I have known Lance McGill for 11 years now and I want to say that this man has shown me nothing but good from day one. He is a blessing to me and I feel very fortunate to have him in my life. I am thankful that I took the time to get to know him it would have been my loss had I not. I have learned a great deal from him as well, both in pool and in life. He has such a compassionate caring way towards people; he is one that will truly sacrifice and go the extra mile for you. And the answer is yes in case you want to know. This man has the most powerful stroke I have ever seen. We only gambled once- races to 9 for $20.00 [because he liked me] he was running racks and as uncomfortable as it is to see a race to 9 go by without shooting what was worse is that a lot of the racks looked alike and even worse than that he didn't look like he was doing anything. To this day I can still tell you my exact words to him and to this day I still cannot believe they came flying out of my mouth. Here's what I said. Get this now- I said, "that's ok, you don't have to hit anymore balls for me" - highly unlikely for a pool player with my pride and ego. Thank you for your time and teaching McGill.

DARIN WALDING: I founded the billiard club at Portland State University, I placed high in the collegiate nationals, and I have played Mike Massey, Earl Strickland, Nick Varner, Johnny Archer, Jose Parica, and I have seen more than that. I understand the difficulty that may come from what I say here. And what I say is this, Lance McGill plays one pocket better than Reyes and Parica combined; he plays straight pool like Mosconi did; he plays 9-ball better than Earl [it's called level eleven] and he plays billiards like Hoppe. That is of course all disputable and it is my opinion. What I can tell you is that he is the only player having something like this written about him and that alone is a clear indication. After 11 years of extraordinary instruction I see and realize that he has gone beyond a place that I can get to- I am pleased to leave him there.

SCOTT BERNARD: I'm one of the top bar box players in Portland and have enough ability and experience on the 9 footers to stand with most players. I was fortunate enough to begin my pool playing experience being sponsored by Jimmy G., because of that I got a lot of attention and quality instruction from the top local players. I have gone to the major tournaments. I have exposure and know what pool can look like when it's played on a world class level. For me this is an easy matter. "Lance McGill is the best pool player that I have ever seen. That's all I want to say."

JIMMY G- I know every modern player. Not from tapes or what I've heard. I know them and I know what the problem here may well become. Lance McGill is happy where he is and won't go out of his way to prove any of this. Him proving it to you or for you is none of my business. I want to tell you what I know and what I've seen, most importantly that I saw it for 3 years straight EVERY NIGHT. He was not "in the zone." He lives there- that means that often I was watching this level of play for 2-3 months straight each and every night! He would go out of town for a few days and when he returned he got right back to work. When he worked he was there from before open to close. He had a key and would usually be there when I arrived and it would be rare that he left before I did. This man was giving it 12-16 hours every day. One day he was breaking and racking when I arrived. Breaking, looking at the result and then rack and break again. It was about 11am when I arrived; at 2am he was still breaking and racking. He was doing a job. He would send someone next door for Chinese food and stop to eat, make a few jokes with us, and then right back to work. That level of work is unheard of and what makes it worse is this: he already had, by far, the most powerful and effective break I had seen in my life! And from there he saw fit to do that level of work! I may be the only poolroom owner in the history of poolrooms to go over and ask a player to please "take a little off of that break?" That was on the gold crown with a light right above. When he was working on table #6 where the light was in the ceiling he would hit the ceiling over and over until he wanted to stop and use the gold crown. One day I asked him to not hit my ceiling anymore and he never did it again. He was also considerate enough to put a swatch of billiard cloth under the cue ball to save wear on my cloth. I sat and asked him about the break that day and he showed me. "When I break Jimmy, if I get to play the one ball here next [he points to the lower left hand pocket] I'm out. He did it a few times including the run out and then he broke and showed me the one ball next in THAT corner. He was making between 3 and 5 balls on the break and just pointed to the obvious out. And he did it over and over again. Anybody could win with that break. The more fascinating thing is that all of his students have more powerful breaks than the rest of us so he can also teach it. The rest of this is easy and I've seen people and students of his argue this until they were blue. I doubt that they will have that argument with me. Varner, Sigel, Strickland, Archer, whoever you want to name- Lance McGill has the most powerful stroke in the game of pool, the most accurate and the most powerful. If you have questions I am known and easy to find-

COMMENTARY: I agreed to all of this because I want you to listen. I want you to use the workouts that I designed. The stroke and accuracy you're hearing about here is the result of some things. I want to offer you those things and have you succeed from their use. Those of you that do the work will have a like result. If pool is not your life and you can only work at it a limited amount of hours you will still have the opportunity to gain more power and accuracy than most. The first thing I recommend is that you spend some of your practice time on a billiard table. You need not be proficient just have the basic understanding. There is of course a limit to the percentage of your time that is useful and you can email me for help in deciding how much time you should spend on billiards and the other things that follow. And while we're discussing billiard balls, when you want to gain an understanding of the kind of stroke you need for monster draw- use a billiard ball with a regular sized object ball; then when you have that, use the billiard cue ball and a snooker object ball; and from this you will have the monster draw. After some daily work on the billiard table go to the 9 ball break. This is the fastest and most effective way to go from warming up to in stroke. You will be surprised at how well this works.

I didn't design it, I noticed that after my power break workouts that I was playing immediately in dead stroke when I moved to the next step: after the 9 ball break workout I go to working on my high run in straight pool. Find the high run that you can do daily and make it happen. Begin with the standard 14.1 stack shot. [Ask any player or find it in a book on straight pool.] Next is what I call the island exercise. Place the 15 balls randomly on the table with every ball at least 10 inches away from the rails. Take cue ball in hand and run the rack having the cue ball never reach a rail. If this was all you did for 2-3 weeks, if it was all of the pool that you played during that time you would begin seeing patterns that you may not ever see no matter how long you shoot pool. This exercise will also allow you to develop uncanny sense of touch and feel far far ahead of schedule.

For high top or power follow see me next month or email to get it in advance. If you are relatively new to pool and want to learn please come in, otherwise please leave me here quiet and peaceful. Somebody do the work.

-- Lance McGill The Pool Whisperer

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