Ongoing Education
Recall vs Billiards

November 2003

Each time that I begin an article, the first thing that crosses my mind is what’s goin’ on in the world away from pool. And each of those times I find that whatever the outstanding event is, it somehow, and easily, relates directly to pool. This month it was the recall election in California; and I most certainly thought there would be no way to include that in this text. Well, that lasted for less time than it took to complete the thought. One ruler of Bavaria - Maximilian II. Lost his kingdom in 1704. Yup...he got himself recalled. He was deposed for losing $3,600,000.00. And he lost it playing billiards. So pool cost him $3,600,000 AND a kingdom. Maybe he thought that because all of his subjects in the kingdom were shaped like “backers,” that’s what they were. (I’d like to do an article on backers so if you have an interest in that please let me know.) Annnnd, here we go. To the mail.

A lot of confusion and frustration seems to come from players that play on various sized tables. I’ll put as much of a foundation here for you as I can. So much comes to mind that I’m gonna sit down here and discuss it now in the school with Mike (who asked in person) and tape the answer. I’ll type it in here word for word: “first, let’s agree that most of you go to the next table size and continue playing as you normally would. That, simply won’t work. At this point, I’ll focus only on 9 foot tables and 7 foot bar boxes. That’s the most common case for what we’re discussing. FIRST, MOVING FROM THE 9 FOOTER TO THE BARBOX: 1). Players moving to the barbox will make more balls. 2). They’ll also play worse patterns and much worse position than they’re used to. 3). Most balls are played to the corner pockets; when you play on a 9 footer you play to the outside of the corner pocket. If you do this on the barbox, you lessen the size of your target by HALF! Play the barbox to the inside of the corner pockets. This is all of course, for the lovely speed. If you’re hitting firmly, aim for the center and favor the inside (SEE DIAGRAM #1). 4). Avoid the side pockets while you’re new at the barbox ..... you ain’t gonna play’em well (maybe not even later.) 5). When faced with an angle to the side or more angle to the corner, choose the corner. Often you’ll see how that will naturally help with cueball position in a lot of situations. The position and patterns will be different because there’s so much less room. The size difference is 16 square feet! Imagine a cueball sitting in the middle of a tile floor 4 feet by 4 feet; that’s how much room to move around you’re losing. I mention patterns because within this limited amount of space, you have to be more specific with the stone. That means a pattern that would work 100 times on the 9 footer may never work on the barbox. “Never” is lousy odds. To support this even more I’ll tell you these 2 things: if I could only bet on 1 game of pool and didn’t know what the game would be; just have to choose a player- I would’ve chosen Luther Lassiter. He played on the (10) and the 9 footers. He had a thing he called “getting his cueball” meaning that even though he was playing on the 9 footer, he would practice on the 8 footer. The cueball is harder to control because of the 8 and a half square feet of difference and still maintains nearly the feel of a 9 footer as far as shot making. I include this to support and illustrate that even the best know how effective the differences are. (I should mention that the reason the shot making remains nearly the same is that a pro is playing shots that are routinely 18- 24 inches long whether it’s a 9 or and 8 footer.)

Now: Moving from the barbox TO THE 9 FOOTER: 1). Play to the outside of the corner pockets. 2). You can make more use of the side pockets and, do so sparingly. Especially in 9 ball, a lot of run stoppers are played into the side pockets. 3). Play shorter (length of shot) cueball position and move more toward defense in your overall strategy. Different tables REQUIRE different styles of play. They also require different skill sets. If we eliminate Jim Rempe and Allison, we readily see that the transition from a snooker table to the 9 footer isn’t easy. Snooker requires far less speed and jump shots aren’t even allowed. Cueballs are only fueled with a lot of english when playing safe and, there’s no power break shot in snooker. (The break is nearly identical to our 14.1 break.) On 9 footers, everything is the exact opposite. So snooker players don’t have the stroke necessary to dominate us and we don’t have the touch needed to dominate them in their game. The differences in what is required is so large that it’s generally conceded that if a champion from 9 foot table play, went to Sheffield, England (where the championships are played) and did nothing but play snooker for a year, that player wouldn’t even end up in the top 100. So whichever equipment you’re good on, expect to be less skilled on the other.” [end of tape.]

The next question is about getting a 2 rail hit getting out of a safety. Most players seem to have 1 rail and 3 rail systems that work for them. On every skill level the question seems to be the 2 rail hit. This brings up a point that it’s mandatory for you to know and you’re probably walking around without. 1 rail, 2 rail, and 3 rail, systems translate to all table sizes, from barbox to 12 footers. They’ll WORK EQUALLY on every table size. WHAT WILL CHANGE IS THE CONTACT POINT ON THE 4TH RAIL! The system I’ve chosen to give you, is known as CUEBALL “POSITION 5”. I chose this one because it can also be utilized as the 3 rail hit it was meant for and can be extended to make a 4 or 5 rail hit. Here’s what we know: when the cueball sits in what we would call a corner position and now are calling position 5——in shooting the 3 railer- the first rail hit and the third rail hit, will add up to 5. (that’s the 2 long rails) So, from this position, if, to get out of a safety, you want to hit a ball that sits at diamond 3, (SEE DIAGRAM #2) you know to hit 2 because diamond 2 and diamond 3 add up to 5. Play with this several ways. It can be the foundation for 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 or 7 rail hits. Don’t stop looking until you see it. NOW— a bag of gold nuggets. Not even as joke. Each thing that follows can improve your game while you’re reading.

SHARON L asks about how to choose between 2 difficult “jack-up” shots as in DIAGRAM #3. Take each shot to near completion go through everything except the contact stroke. Stand behind the shot, approach and get into your stance. Begin actual warm-up strokes and go through half of the contact stroke. Do this again with the other option. Then choose from whatever you experienced which of the shots feels best to you. Also be prepared for your opponent to interrupt with, “What’re you callin?” This is guaranteed to happen because they don’t see anyone take this time and care.

Randy wants to know why the banking system he learned for simple banks, “isn’t reliable?” LOOK, the angle in equaling the angle out thing is a myth. It’s MISINFORMATION so stop using it! If the balls fell as they do in those diagrams and the cloth remained new for the remainder of your life...that mythical system would be perfect. Oh, I forgot....you’d also have to shoot a speed that may or may not reach the pocket. I can give you a guideline to use if you started with this system when you learned (simple) banks. Either add one-third or two thirds of a diamond to the point the equal in equal out system leads you to. You’ll find that more of your banks go in immediately. The least it’ll do is change and correct your understanding of those banks. Remember that it’s a guideline and so, can be guaranteed to work as such. I think that the more skilled you are the more you’ll be surprised with this one. Also remember that slow speed banks are affected by the cloth and worn cloth shortens the angle.

For the emailer (no name was attached), that asked about ways to relieve pressure when you draw that monster local champion: touch your teeth together as lightly as you can. Even lighter that that. See how close you can get them without them actually touching. You’ll reject this at first and IT ABSOLUTELY WORKS!

For Chef Adam in Houston and the others of you that asked about throw: for frozen or nearly frozen balls- you can expect to throw a ball one inch for every foot of distance it travels.

And the often asked question this time from Sheila, who’s become a regular: the system of hitting the frozen object ball and rail at the same time works about half of the time. Why is that? I’ve read it so many places?! Another myth—first, visualize the width of a credit card. Then hit that much before the object ball.

For Justin who asked how he can add more speed when running an object ball down the long rail? He says he can make nearly all of them until he needs speed for position on the next ball. You’ll find that jacking up either the slightest or a little bit will gain the result you’re after.

For the position questions including Amanda’s, and for most of you to be able to help improve your position play right now I can tell you this one thing. Play in such a way that you’re always working on the third object ball. The angle you want to have on the third ball dictates how you play the first ball. Continue through your racks this way.

Someone asked about buying a cue and not being allowed to chalk it up. I suggest that sellers stock some tan chalk and buyers go in with tan chalk and the shop owner may learn something from you. The tan is easy to remove and blends in not only with the tip color- it also blends in on the shaft! Such a simple solution to be so under utilized.

A lot of you say that practice is boring no matter how you vary your work. All I’ll say in that regard is this simple statement. The road to mastery passes directly through boredom. To get to mastery you must be able to get through boredom. Like life, pool is mind over matter; if you don’t mind, then winning won’t matter. Do the work.




Ongoing Education

October 2003

I've gotten to see a lot of pool in my lifetime. I knew that from the start. And, now, that I'm getting mail from around the country, I can see the magnanimity or the volume of pool that I've been exposed to. During the time that I've been a contributor here, there's been a different thing in each article that prompted the bulk of each month's responses. For the last 2 months, the most popular thing has been the exclusive information that cheese and I offer to readers of THE BREAK. So, before I tell you this month's funny stuff, let's get to the exclusives. The stuff that you can use immediately after you read it.

DIAGRAM #1: the proposition here is to run-out the 2 balls as shown. No mechanical bridge and no jack-up pool allowed. More than a proposition, you'll be able to use this in a game once you put in ten minutes worth of hits. You'll find that it's difficult when you begin and then it becomes realistic, and from there it moves to being easy. For most, it'll be as reliable as using the mechanical bridge AND, less trouble when romancing the stone. (working the cueball) It only has a use from one kind of cueball position and that fact alone makes it more a "legitimate" hit than just a curiosity. Place the cuestick 2 to 2 and a half inches behind the first object ball. Now, bridge the cuestick in your hand like so. Get the stick [between] your thumb and index finger much like you would if you were picking up a piece of lint. The point will be around the midway point between the joint and the tip. Now, learn, and do, what it takes to be comfortable and at the same time, have the tip be a half inch off of the slate. Getting comfortable with this is the only hard work on this shot because it's so uncomfortable as to be discouraging. Once you're reasonably comfortable, put your shooting hand palm down on the table about 6 inches behind the butt of the stick. From this position, you just hit the butt of the stick FIRMLY with the palm of your hand. The harder you hit the butt on your first few attempts the faster you'll get this technique. I say ten minutes just to be safe, I think you'll have it in 4 or 5 minutes. I learned this shot on a snooker table because of the extra length that is constantly in play. I don't know who I saw do it first - I just remember it being known. The player that I can credit it to around pool players is Jerry Briesath- known for his instructing and knowledge of exotic shots.

The next exclusive has no diagram and doesn't need one. Simply visualize the cueball and another ball wedged in the jaws of a corner pocket. Usually the pocket is large enough that half of each ball is below the playing surface; they're not on the table and they have yet to fall into the pocket. If you haven't seen this or had it happen to you, you're likely to view this as a trick shot. It's not. I've seen this regularly throughout my own play. The last time I saw it was about 8 months ago when it happened to David Fricks playing in a ring game at McGILL'S. At the end of his shot, there the balls sat, perfectly as described above. The nine and the stone wedged tightly in the jaws of the corner pocket. Many reasonably skilled and knowledgeable players in the room and none of them knew a shot here. They discussed rulings and such and then, they were ready to rack, all of them except David Fricks. He had to repeat a number of times that he wanted to "shoot at it." After the 3rd or 4th time they finally heard him and were curious to see how he was going to solve this seemingly unsolvable position. Sensei Fricks (as I know him) has a wry and pleasant smile on his face when he's immersed in the creative side of pool playing. It's a smile and a glow. It's like he has not only just swallowed the canary -- he also has a buyer for the empty cage. He had that glow and smile as he walked toward the puzzle, arriving with only the shaft in hand. He bent down at the corner and placed the shaft, tip first, up into the pocket from below: stroke up into the cueball. The cueball will find it's way onto the playing surface and the nine ball will fall straight down into the pocket. Work on the speed of this one because you can scratch in the diagonal side pocket or one rail in the corner. If you really want some work get it to the point that you can get to any pocket with the cueball from this shot. It's gonna come up. And you're gonna be kicking yourself instead of kicking at the nine.

The next one came to me as he result of an emailer that questioned my statement that "anything that happens on the table will have a use in regular play." He has insisted that the miscue has no use and I should therefore rescind or at least add an asterisk. His words, not mine. OK, so here we go...place the 9 ball a half diamond from the corner pocket and frozen to the short rail. Now freeze the cueball on the 9 ball and at a 45 degree angle. This angle need not be exact. Go to a flat bridge on the end rail lined up for a miscue on the outside edge of the cueball. Shoot about half of your power break speed and be certain to miscue. You'll be delighted to see the 9 ball roll mysteriously and easily into the pocket. Miss it with more speed rather than less. It'll hold as much speed as you can muster. Do you want more miscue uses next month? Writing still feels risky for me and my way of getting through it is to give you laughter. So, to that end: TBS, the Superstation prides itself on having the best of both TV worlds, sports AND movies -- they proudly announced both in last weeks promo with the following graphic- DUMB AND DUMBER/USC vs. OREGON. Real life proving once again to be funnier than anything that we could create. And more: there's lots of ways to ask someone to get in and play. The most effective ways attack the ego. The most creative way that I found always kept [most] of the room in good humor and always got a game. All you need is someone in the room with an expensive stick. You know, like a stick worth $3000.00 or more. As soon as you see this kind of stick, ask 'em about it. Believe me...they're gonna tell you about it. And somewhere in the midst of their grandiosity, you ask, with an entirely unreadable face, "that's not false ID is it?" You, my friend, will have found yourself a game.

Now, to the work for this month>> most of the diagrams I received about 1-pocket solutions fell under 2 distinct categories: KISSES and the ENDGAME. This month I'll give you the info on getting out of the kiss when banking balls to your pocket. First, the guideline, another one of those things that you can use immediately after you hear it. Look to see IF THE CUEBALL HAS A CLEAR PATH TO THE CORNER POCKET. If it does, there's no kiss!
See this illustrated in DIAGRAMS #2 and #3. You might mess this up while you're learning it and learning the kind of accurate looking that it demands. I use this in EVERY rack that reaches the endgame. The rest of it is to remember this: hitting more of the object ball slows the stone and less of the object ball speeds the stone up. It's this unnatural speed that negates the natural kiss. The rest is to affect both ball paths with spin. The technique that it'll serve you best to master is known as "crossing a ball." Easiest described as a bank where the cueball gets underneath of the banked ball. Ask a good 9 ball player if you can't visualize it. They use it routinely when they play safeties. Note that in DIAGRAM #4 we're using the kiss to remove a ball from, their pocket. Shooting into and, letting the kiss happen. Let the kiss happen and the cueball will be kissed back to the end rail while the object ball will have been kissed up table. The best way that I know of to learn about kisses is to learn to set bank shots up so that the kiss is "on." Not as easy as you think. Learn to do this for all kinds of banks no matter how many rails you're using. This is a way that you might well end up with a solid understanding of kisses after only one days work! Now, that has to be worth the work. For those of you that do this work, you'll gain a huge advantage in games that you otherwise would lose because of a bad kiss.

Thank you for your participation in the email inquiries and solution requests. I'm enjoying them and continue to answer as many personally as I can. Lastly: my favorite country song is "7 Spanish Angels." second to that is exactly as I offer it to you here...in life and in pool. I hope you dance.

McGill




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