As I mentioned in my post yesterday, when I first got to Puerto Rico, I went on a scouting mission to check out a couple pool places that a friend had recommended. After visiting both locations, I quickly determined that La Gran Via de Aguada was the place where the most talented locals played. After my initial visit, I had the opportunity to go back a few days later. As you may recall from my post on October 28, I mentioned that one issue that I have is the fact that I love to play the game too much. As such, I tend to either just spread the balls around the table and shoot them in, or just set up practice drills and shoot drills for a couple hours. Both are fun, and there’s certainly a time and place for both, but on my second visit I was there to do something that I REALLY didn’t want to do…just sit on my butt and watch the locals shoot. The purpose of my visit was threefold: (1) to gauge the overall level of talent in Aguada, (2) determine who the best players were, and (3) learn something by watching the best players shoot.
Watching a good player shoot can be an educational experience, as I’m looking for two things: (1) the ability of the player to control the distance the cue ball travels after it collides with the object ball, and (2) the ability of the player to select good routes. What is route selection? As the old saying goes, there are multiple ways to skin a cat. When a player needs to pocket a ball at one end of the table and subsequently pocket a ball at the other end of the table, the player must, before shooting, take into consideration that there are multiple routes the cue ball can take when moving from point A to point B. The route a player selects to follow is dependent on many factors, including, but not limited to, the following: (1) the player’s knowledge of the routes that are possible, (2) the confidence that they can execute a certain route, and (3) whether or not there are any balls in the way that would interfere with the path of the cue ball.
When watching a good player, it’s actually entertaining to “think ahead” of the player, and try to predict the routes he will take. On occasion, the player will select a route that surprises you, and this can provide you with valuable new ideas on how to attack problems when you are at the table. I actually had a great time watching two local guys play. A very good player named Robert was playing a pretty good player named Yeyo (pronounced Jey-Joe). I watched them shoot 9-ball for probably three hours, and made the following three main observations:
(1) Robert and Yeyo both had roughly equivalent ball pocketing skills
(2) Robert’s fundamentals were very solid and he maintained proper stance and mechanics throughout, whereas Yeyo’s fundamentals lacked discipline: he often jumped up from his shooting stance too quickly, and his mechanics tended to progressively deteriorate as the match went on.
(3) Robert displayed much better control over the distance the cue ball traveled after his shots, which inevitably lead to better position and much easier subsequent shots. When Yeyo would take the exact same shot and select the same route, he tended to hit the cue ball a little too hard, and usually over ran the optimal stopping point. This led to progressively harder shots from less advantageous positions.
My observations of Robert’s play reinforced three main thoughts that I have regarding areas that I need to focus on: (1) The importance of maintaining solid fundamentals at all times, (2) the importance of controlling my cue ball distance, as this will make subsequent shots easier and increase my ability to run the table, and (3) the importance of knowing the exact angle the cueball will deflect after it collides with an object ball. Sounds like I need to develop some practice routines around these concepts, huh? I’m already working on item number 1 (see the Myelin building exercise from October 29). In future posts, I will get serious and describe some very specific drills to work on the remaining two concepts.