Pool Is Not The Problem ...

June 2003

Well, it's spring and the beginning of the slow time for pool and pool parlors. It's not just slow for pool, although it may feel that way to those of us immersed in pool and the many businesses surrounding it. All things have a season and a time. They all come with their own rhythm. Even the church and the prospect of heaven or hell has seasons! During the time when our country was new, people went to church regularly. Maybe even religiously. During these times attendance was always higher during the harsh winter months than it was in other seasons. So, it was, that during the harsh winter months, more souls were filled with the spirit and were called to a God-fearing and righteous lifestyle. The problem was that baptisms were done in the rivers and lakes in those times and those newly saved and redeemed souls had to wait until spring to be baptized. That was too long for those newly saved souls to wait so large numbers of them strayed and returned to their worldly ways. And as a result of that circumstance we now have inside baptismals. Even the very offering of eternal life was subject to the rhythms of season! What kinds of things do you think that we now see around pool because of the slow traffic flow during fun and easy weather?

I want to tell you about a tournament that I attended. It may not be enjoyable reading at first. Please get through the entire article before you pass judgment on this particular text. Last month I wrote an article entitled "Mad About Pool...?", in which I discussed the anger management circumstances we often find around pool. I included strategy for defeating this problem within ourselves. I don't yet know why this is the article that received the least email response. I think this one will shatter that record. Again, please read the entire text before you begin assessing its value.

The tournament was being held at a Sheraton Airport Hotel. Not only were the top players there from all over the United States, players were entered from Canada and many parts of Asia. I was there with the 2 best players in the room, one a world champion at the time and the other would later win a world title. Because I was with them I was privy to a lot of inside conversations and situations. And, as I have seen at many pool tournaments, before we could even enter the venue, there was fighting in the parking lot. A student and his instructor! Before the men that I was with could change into their tournament clothes they got involved in 2 ugly and pathos filled conversations. One was with a man that wanted to discuss how to handle another man in the tournament that drank uncontrollably and beat his wife often. The second conversation does not warrant repeating and was directed at one of the men that I was with. I know the man that both of my friends learned from and he is an extraordinary and kind man. This person only came over to repeat rumors that he had heard. So then, the people standing around hear it and hold it as truth. (mostly because they hear bits and pieces.) So when they meet this man they already have an inaccurate and negative view of him and he stands little chance of ever being known to them. Now the tournament begins and there is an argument, a loud one that something is fishy about the draw. The 2 players were unevenly matched because someone tampered with the match-ups. After that match finally began and began with the alleged tampering problem unresolved, there was a fight between a spectator and the referee. One of the contestants was the referee's student and the spectator had taught the other man. The spectator thought that the referee was making biased and unfair calls. After that small battle, and some others, there came the finals. And with the finals came dispute over who belonged and how they should match-up. Things were stolen from cars, lies were passed like water bottles, wives were secretly flirted with, some smelled of alcohol, others smelled of "SMOKE" and on it went...in the end the men I was with won the event.

Now do you recognize ANY of that above scenario? Haven't we all seen parts of it and/or all of it happen at many a pool tournament? I have and I'm nearly certain that we see some and often all of it at every tournament that we attend. And so we discuss those things as though there is something wrong with pool. Can you admit that before reading on? We discuss pool and especially pool tourneys in a certain way. POOL IS NOT THE PROBLEM-pool is just sitting there. You see, my friend, the tournament described above was a martial arts tournament held at the Sheraton Airport in Portland, Oregon. POOL IS NOT THE PROBLEM. When I began to write these articles there was only one point of concern for me. I have seen so many articles written and followed by rebuttals. And to me it appeared ugly, mean spirited and personal. Not only the rebuttal- the original articles also. I did not want to be involved in that. I did want to be involved in offering solutions. And that is why I risked letting all of that potential negativity and anger into my personal life. And do not be misled nor misunderstand- I am easy and even excited to be disagreed with-with that I'll move to solutions for some of the nonsense. As I constructed and typed the last sentence I had no idea what form the solution would take. What can I offer in such a short writing? Then and almost immediately it came-I'll tell you what we do and what is required at the school. (McGill's) first know this- sound communication is the way to resolve conflict. So, when communication skills are found to be lacking, conflict abounds. So, almost too simply, when there is conflict, there is also something that has not yet been communicated by one side or the other. I add that if a thing has been communicated poorly, it still awaits being communicated. First let's get some clarity about conflict. it is not infinite and undeffined. For us, there are four possible conflicts and we study ways of resolving (communicating about) each type. For clarity, here are the four possible kinds of conflict. WITH ANOTHER PERSON...WITH YOURSELF...WITH AUTHORITY.. and WITH THE ENVIRONMENT. And in that same order four easy to see examples. Another player...you dogging a shot...the room owner...something wrong with the tournament. Just knowing that there are only those four types can be of help to anyone willing to learn. You can model what follows to suit and fit your personal need. The first thing that is not allowed in the school is known as UNDERMINING. Absolutely not allowed. When someone starts to say what they believe is wrong with someone else or what they don't like about someone they are interrupted and not allowed to finish. It is suggested to them that they have that talk with the individual they are speaking of. a lot of time UNDERMINING comes in the form of a question. What's the story on Jay? As I was asked at the Midway this week. "Have you asked Jay?" for me is one of two possible responses.

The second response being my direct suggestion, that he ask Jay. And then he began (still!) to begin listing all of the gossip and rumor. I interrupted him and said that I don't want to know. I got the opportunity to say to him that he could rest assured that I give him the same respect when someone else begins speaking to me about him in that negative and undermining manner. I congratulate the few of you that will adopt this. You will end up with fewer acquaintances and you'll be more trusted by your friends. The rest of you will remain in the undermining mode and you know why. Now, the four conflicts. For the conflict with ANOTHER PERSON: first be willing to receive their entire communication. The sooner in their communication that you find yourself interrupting them, the less skilled you are at sound communication. Then own their communication as valid. Add that information to what you already have. That does not mean that you agree. A person would have to be pretty messed up to have conflict with you while you're listening to them. Listening is an actual skill and one that can be learned and improved upon. Listening to "them" takes a certain level of humility. And humility doesn't mean meek. It is simply being where you wanna' be relative to a "thing" when you respond do so with compassion; have their passion along with them. ----- for conflict with YOURSELF: simply be still and decide. The conflict is either the result of being undecided or your own knowing that you decided against your instincts. Get to a quiet part of the pool room and instead of sulking get quiet, get still and decide something. You will find some resolve (less conflict) even if you decide what later turns out to be the wrong thing! When you are in conflict with yourself you're uncertain. Get decided. For conflict with AUTHORITY: for pool players this could be conflict with a room owner, tournament director, referee and even a backer. This is a simple story about agreements. Some spoken and the rest of them being implied. Keep your agreements. In this instance your actions are the form of communication. In playing in an owner's room or under the scrutiny of a referee, with another player and even with a backer. Communicate clearly what the rules are. Notice that it will take listening on your part to even get to making a sound agreement with an authority. This conflict is about honor, dignity and respect. Understand that merely by playing you are agreeing to spoken and implied agreements. Honor your agreements, have a dignified manner and respect authority. Remember that these are communicated though actions. ----------for a conflict with THE EVIRONMENT: this is another area where the communication comes in the form of actions. In the case of conflicts with our environment where we cannot improve on it, we have two choices. That is to adapt or leave. Discussing what's wrong with the tables, pockets, cloth, music, noise level, lighting, temperature, food, hours, rates, an so on is completely useless toward anything positive. It's your environment and you chose it. Adapt or leave. "BYE."

I can't list all of the names of those that responded with questions and comments on last month's article about anger. I believe that this article responds to nearly all of that mail. I am getting a lot of angry mail because I haven't responded to questions about myself or the school in any of my articles. One of the smaller reasons for that was that I didn't want to use the articles to promote my school and certainly not to promote myself. Next month I will carefully choose a few of your McGill questions and give you elaborate answers. And for Steve K. in Portland and nearly 200 others stacked up over the months.....SYSTEMS next month!

do the work- mcgill - the pool whisperer

Mad About Pool!?

May 2003

Most days when I come in now my email inbox is filled! When I began doing these articles I responded personally to each email that I received. I can no longer offer that. To get to answering as many of you as I can, I've decided to experiment with a question and answer format. Please note that I'll be choosing a question to represent every level of ability so that we all gain some of the information that we're looking for. I say "we," because each time that I teach, my own learning extends far beyond the information I'm covering with the student.

The first question comes from Sheila, M.- aside from the kind things that you said about my sense of humor, you also noticed that I include philosophies that you can use beyond the pool table. And that leads to her question. "What is your philosophy on pocket billiards?

My philosophy for pool is as follows: "You are entitled to every ball that ain't tied down...if you can pry one loose, it ain't tied down."

The next question is one that may interest all of us that play pool. The answer is prompted from a question from an email sent by Steve, H. in Boise, Idaho. "Can you tell me ways to hide my anger when I'm not playing the way I know that I can?"

I was watching students in a tournament at the PARADISE in Portland, OR this week and got some of this same discussion. A man sat with me at different times throughout the night asking a variety of questions about anger and frustration. First, his point of view and question: "I feel that I have to psyche myself up to play because when I don't I play lousy. So, I rev myself up to get really mad at this guy. I mean really (expletive) angry! I put it in my head that he has raped my sister and robbed my house. He has stolen from my family. I urgently notified him that I "got the picture." (I didn't want him to escalate to the point of having a stroke and knocking over my soda.) As I begin to write what my response to him was, I wonder if he'll sit with me this week?

Here is most of what I said to him: "Excellent" was the first thing that I said. Followed by, "I'm going to respond to you in the form of a question -- I wanna be certain that I'm understanding you. So, in your mind are the things that you listed separate incidents or one extended, violent, sociopathic outburst designed to improve your play?"

No answer. I continued: "So after the assault on your sister and the stealing from your family and from your home, ALL that you wanna' do is beat this guy at a game of 8-ball?" My question had the effect of him having to pee "really bad." And I haven't seen him since. And for those of you that ask the many questions about frustration and anger via email: there are two groups for us to discuss. The group that hides their anger, they are stiff and frozen, and the group that melts down and crazy goes nuts. If you're in the hiding, stiff and frozen group, ADVANCE directly to the crazy go nuts group, otherwise, you can't win. Then begin to use what you learn here. First understand that anger is a logical response. Does that sound like I'm suggesting anger? Well, you're correct. I am! The first step toward solving anger is to have anger. The first step is to be angry. That is not a place where you want to spend your time. It is however a fine starting point. As a matter of fact, when you're angry, it's the only starting point from which you can succeed. So once that we agree to anger being a fine starting point, what's next? Know that your anger about your performance is a conflict with reality. You are at odds with what is true. Do you like those odds? Here's the gold nugget: WHAT COULD'VE HAPPENED, DID HAPPEN. (I know. it's rough, I don't like applying that to my life either.) What could've happened, did happen. Your tantrums are in direct conflict with that reality. Your girations, cursing, ball and rack throwing, spitting, quitting, and so on, are all designed to have us believe that you are a better player than that. That you are suppose to make that shot. Well, you could not have made that shot.

Let's say that you've made that same shot each time you've had it for the last 3 years. Your level of skill is that of a player that made the shot for 3 years straight and then missed one. YOU GOT IT? That is your level of skill on that particular shot. And you are spending time working to have us see you differently. end your care for what others think of your play. If you take what we think of how you play pool into a Starbuck's, a venti coffee will still cost you $1.60. That's what our opinion is worth.

Competition and certainly, healty competition does evoke reactions from the players and the key word is healthy. The last question for this month came without a name: the question concerned practicing on a snooker table to improve your pocketing ability on a 9 foot table.

answer: I beieve that this technique works and it is not something that I suggest. It's like losing you keys outside and then looking for them in the garage because there's better lighting. Train you mind, your eyes and your body on the nine foot table. It feels remiss to write during these difficult times and make no mention of the war. I will not burden you with my politics. I will say to you that no matter what position we take for or against the war, it only makes sense that we support the young people that represent and protect us under fire and threat of death. And: there was a peace rally in Portland last month, attendance 14,200. Attendance at the Blazer game, 18,000. shhhhhhhh.....

Trick or Tool

April 2003

"Hey, McGill, have you played pool all of your life?" "Not yet." And, if you know me at all, could there be any other answer?

This month I want to move you toward being more creative. One certain way to effect a change in yourself is to change your language. Often I hear people say that they are confused. When they are working in the school I have them change "confused" to "undecided" and at that point, they begin to see that a change would come simply from deciding. When they answer, "I don't know," we reword that response to "I haven't looked at that long enough to have an answer." For most of us there is a point in a pool shot where we stop looking. I urge you to learn a new kind of looking. If you watch a player shoot an intended shot and miss - they come flying up from the table and stomp away. Meanwhile, the balls are doing fascinating things. Things that can be reproduced. (the balls are there to instruct us: not FORCE us to learn) players are absent and have turned their backs on a wealth of knowledge. I suggested to you in a previous article that you watch the worst players in the room. That is important to do and it's important to do so with new looking. When you see a miss, yours or theirs, find 2 ways that you can use it in the 4 major pocket games. One way to use it for offense, and one way to use it for defense. Everything that you see the balls doing will have a use. Scratching, object balls on the floor, cue ball on the floor, whatever you see the balls do. Design uses for it. If you come across one that you can't workout, email it to me and I'll send you eight uses.

The best way that I can think of to motivate you is to show you uses of things that you may have already seen and not used creatively. The first trick shot that I learned was the object ball perched atop 2 other balls on the end rail. The proposition was to make a good hit on the perched ball. The answer was in shooting the cue ball slowly at the pyramid and bumping the table lightly to have the top ball come tumbling down to the table bed. I later revised the shot to be less carnival like. I set the balls as near to a corner pocket as possible on the short rail. I then hooked the stone in the adjacent corner. (the 2 one-pocket corners for reference) I then shot a jump shot 3 rails to make the perched ball. The vibration of the jump sent the perched ball tumbling. Now when I am behind balls at my own corner I can shoot he jump shot over the interference and go 3 rails to leave the stone in the jaws of their pocket. From the described situation, even losing a ball looks good. Better than good. It's most excellent.

There is then a trick shot like the previous one that only involves the cue ball. Place the cue ball in the jaws of your pocket (as in one pocket) and about one inch from the lip on the long rail. Shoot a moderate jump off of the opposite nose of your pocket to go 3 rails to their pocket. Tips: the natural 3 railer will be going to the 1st diamond at their pocket: the closer you want to get to their hole the higher you want to jump the cue ball. And don't worry; the bounces will slow the cue ball to the perfect speed. Depending on the equipment I like 3 bounces to the diamond and 4 bounces to get to their pocket. You'll likely find that a useful cue ball maxes out at 4 bounces. This shot can be controlled and manipulated many ways with varying degrees of running english. NEXT: become familiar with the over and under the bridge trick shot. From your pocket use this technique to use the ball you are banking to their pocket to remove balls and score the duck in your own pocket. (you'll be scoring the ball in your pocket with the cue ball) in a tough spot you can be banking back toward your pocket and jumping over the stack to do business at their pocket. Look it over and find new toys. At the speed you will be banking, you may not be able to pocket balls - you will, if you have one sitting in your pocket. And that one being easy to make, allows us to direct our attention to a ball that they may have sitting easy or for us to conduct other business. Always come to the table knowing where you can do business. THE MOST FEARFUL PLAYER IS ALSO THE LEAST CREATIVE PLAYER." Most of us don't create because we have a fear of either, failing or a fear of looking foolish. I used to get a lot of angry talk about how I was just a trick shot artist and really couldn't play. (most of the talkers couldn't hit the poolroom floor with a handful of flour.)

I do know a lot of trick shots. The shots that I am known for are STROKE SHOTS. Every stroke shot that I now amaze you with began as a shot I didn't know and that you saw as ridiculous. I didn't see failure or foolishness. I saw joy and creating. If you set-up a trick shot and then accidentally knocked over a potted plant, if it fell on the right ball the potted plant has a good chance of making the shot. I love trick shots and I am completely aware of the skill and understanding that it takes to give a 2-hour trick shot exhibition. That is, for me, ever so slightly related to STROKE shots. If you want an easy way to tell which one you might have just seen at any given time, here's a rule of thumb. A solid and useful guideline: Trick shots make you laugh, stroke shots make you cry. Isn't that easy? The main point is for you to begin to use trick shots and variations of trick shots in your play. Here's a guide to the new looking. -OBSERVE: just be looking, not looking and relating it to what you already understand. Looking. ANALYZE: see how and where you can do business with the new info. Find our what's true about it. MEASURE: become familiar with the info. Familiar and accurate. CREATE: find ways to use the new information creatively. I just had a weekend of work in the school with "sugarbear" from Washington. We worked on the very things that I'm putting in this article. CREATING. I want to mention to you players and especially new players in Washington to seek out an instructor up there named "SARGE" AYLESWORTH. With most new students I ask them to hit a few balls to show me their stroke. Usually I get to say, "my goodness, that's not a stroke, that's a cry for help." Don't worry; it's funny, not mean. Well, with sugarbear, I got a pleasant surprise. He has a smooth, rhythmic, sound and effective stroke. It's without waste. His stroke is without hair. It is also the result of working with SARGE. I knew sugarbear 21 years ago and he wasn't even headed toward that fine hit that he has now. You can reach SARGE at (206) 719-2695. Call him up. Sugarbear has invited me up to HARVEY'S and I'll be setting that up with him next month. D'ya think Bill Cress'll go with me? What about Jay Reed? I'm gonna go ask 'em tonight.....

"To an evolved individual- an individual that is "cooked" you cannot be indifferent nor intimate. You cannot offer harm nor benefit. An evolved individual will not fall to your displeasure nor rise to your honor and praise.



February 2002

"Ten years' searching in the deep forest; today great laughter at the edge of the lake."

That was the quote I intended at the end of last months article -(I left the first line out when I sent in an edit.)

For the balance of months that I contribute here I have decided to focus on one pocket. My intention is to have you win more racks from what you read here and for the B player to come to some advantage when matched against more skilled players. When you are new at one pocket the biggest mistake you'll make is to take a stab at a shot we call the "no, no."....kicking at a ball on the short rail toward your pocket. This ball will be frozen to or very close to frozen on the end rail. There will be positions where it is absolutely the correct shot and I'll cover those in the form of guidelines. The newer you are at one pocket the more important it is that you ignore your excitement and instinct to kick that ball. And I do know how good it looks sitting there, believe me. Shoot one or two from the position that you think it's likely to be in and notice that if you didn't make it that you left your opponent the "lovelies", an easy bank off of the long rail. I said one or two instead of twenty or thirty because with that many hits you'll lock in on the shot and start liking it instead of running from it. It's like a hand grenade. You wouldn't pick it up, right? Well this is like a hand grenade, but it's wrapped in mink. Let it go. On this kind of shot, (and I'm only calling it a shot so I can write about it because you are going to shoot at it.) I'll give you the guideline that I mentioned earlier. With the object ball one diamond or less from your pocket you may live through shooting the "no, no." One diamond or less from the opponents pocket you may again live through shooting at the "no, no." Most will blow up in your face and you're left spittin' mink. You'll find that the closer the object ball is to the opponents pocket the more likely that the cue ball will head up table, see now, that's a good thing. The cue ball heading up table can be the beginning of the "lovelies." THE MORE OF THE OBJECT BALL THAT YOU HIT, HOWEVER, THE WORSE THAT IT GETS FOR YOU. So, another guideline: for the shot where the object ball is near the opponents pocket, when you miss it, miss it on the side that the cue ball hits the rail before hitting the object ball. Now you want the guideline for missing the one near your pocket, right? Well, there isn't a guideline here for that. You can't afford to miss that one. It's called the "no, no" remember; and we're only covering them 'cause you're gonna shoot at 'em. One pocket is a fascinating game and you will wind up with plenty of situations where this kick is the correct shot so I'll cover some of them: in pool there often comes a time when you have to "go." Positions often dictate that you go 100% offense. So you're shooting it because you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Then often the kick will have a natural safety to the stack or up table behind balls; and then another: a lot of the time there are balls blocking the return bank. In this case you have to be able to gage your own accuracy and your ability to leave the blocking balls as they sit. Sometimes you get lucky and end up with the free "no, no." That's the one where when you miss it, it becomes a blocker for the return bank.

Do you notice that I didn't say "if" you miss it? Does that help you some? It could. Help you some I mean.

The next big mistake that newbies make actually occurs while they are shooting the correect shot, the one rail bank off of the end rail. The instance I'm speaking of is when the cue ball is near the foot rail as they bank toward their pocket. They know that they have a good chance of making it and if not the ball will be left near their pocket. So, they shoot the good speed and the ball doesn't go, and it's also successfully near their pocket on the long rail. And then they realize that the cue ball activity was nearly a stop shot and again they have left the "lovelies" for the opponent, the bank off of the long rail. Of course, there are hundreds of places that you could leave the cue ball. We cannot cover all of those here, so: when you get this shot during the opening look to see if there is a way to leave the cue ball where you wanted to leave it when you broke. Look to leave the cue ball in the range of the middle diamond. (from their pocket) During the middle game look to hang the ball up and protect it with the stack. This is superior to making it. During the end game look to play nine ball next race. There I go again with the wisecracks. It's just so unlikely that you can win the end game. Too much to know. Here's some of what to pay attention to. If you miss and leave the object ball on the short rail near your pocket: if you leave the cue ball at the long rail on your side you are leaving them a 2 rail bank. And if you take this same object ball and leave them away from that long rail ANYWHERE up table you're leaving them that free "no, no" and a nothing to lose position. And let's go over one more thing that puts you in a position to win more one pocket racks when you leave the work in this article. This tip will be ESPECIALLY GOOD for those of you that play on the same table regularly. And I promise you that when you use it you will be in racks immediately that you were not in yesterday. Please remember that I am only recommending this to those of you that are playing on the same table almost daily. For you nasty boys you have the touch and feel to use this anywhere so I would just suggest that when you're on the road: warm up and read this shot without anyone knowing what you're looking at. It should only take you 3-5 hits. Here's the shot: first-from the spot that we all want to leave the opponent when we use the standard break, learn to get to their pocket with a 3-rail kick. You will be able to get behind that end ball that didn't go (and came off of the short rail) with a good safety and likely you will have turned the break around. If you're using this and it is the correct shot what you will be satisfied with is a BACKSCRATCH. GETTING THE GOOD SAFETY IS JUST A LUXURY. There are patterns in break shots that right from the start leave you in what looks like one of those positions where you gotta "go." One option is to back scratch 2 and make'm run 10 instead of only having to run 8. The option that I like is to be willing to take the first back scratch like this and actually play for the safety. On a table that you know it is really easier than it sounds. Certainly easier when you design it as a back scratch and come out of it with a good hit. Learn, no, master this from 4 positions. If you do you will win games by being able to turn breaks around. Position #1 is at the diamond (3rd. down from your pocket) then each of the remaining 3 positions is one cue ball up toward your pocket. Learn to play this shot to hit anywhere from one and one-half diamonds from their pocket on the long rail. Do this work and I assure you that your wins will increase. So the third mistake that the newbies make is easily worked out. They shoot for nearly impossible safeties. When you think that the position is difficult look for a simple solution. I suggest doing so directly. Difficult to simple, that is a good sound text to eliminate the 3 one pocket "uglies."

The email votes that I received were well in favor of the poolroom etiquette over communication. I want this opportunity to be spent well and spent on teaching. If the next article is short enough I will include etiquette at the end of the one pocket instruction. I care that people get from my articles to winning more racks in as short a time as possible. I actually want it done in impossible time. For those of you that want to hold me to it or were looking forward to it email me and I'll write and send the etiquette article to all of you at once.

I have a favorite student this month and it's because of her work ethic that I want to mention her. Martha Hartsell from the Eugene/Springfield area came up and worked this month. I can tell you that she is putting in every hour that is available to her. If she continues along that path and her opportunity stays in place she will get there. I encourage the pool community there to support her effort and they may one day be housing a player to be reckoned with. And now I have a story that's about the language that you all seem to enjoy so much. I played a young man 9-ball recently and I only charged him $2.00 per rack. He liked the fact that I said that I won't play you for $2.00, I will "charge" you........ So now he's runnin' around "chargin'" everybody. That however isn't the language that I want to share with you. He was going into his jeans about every 3 minutes and we were really having a good time. After watching him go in his pockets over and over again, I said to him, "Hey, you know what? Why don't me and you just trade pants?" I am soooo funny.

For the record: consider for yourself the condition necessary for hating a person. No matter the experience. How can we do so without knowing everything......EVERYTHING about them? Your hating is akin to you taking the poison and expecting us to get sick. I am so out of here-

Do the work -- McGill

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