When I was playing in a 9 ball tournament two weeks ago, I made a couple shots that I thought were pretty tough and improbable. It got me thinking…why not put together a collection of the most improbable shots that I have made or I have personally witnessed, and share them with the world? Making a shot that elicits cheers or positive comments from spectators is one of the magical things that keeps me and others addicted to the game of pool. What could be more satisfying and motivating than planning a shot in your head that no one else sees, getting down to shoot the shot knowing that most of the spectators have no clue what you are about to attempt, then pulling off the seemingly impossible? Pulling off a miracle shot can make you feel like Tiger Woods felt a few years back when he was stuck behind a tree. He didn’t give up, he just hit the golf ball off the side of an adjacent tree and it ricocheted up on the green, setting up an easy birdie putt. But hey, I’m no Tiger Woods, nor do I play golf, but I do occasionally get lucky. So here goes the first installment in what I will call my pool shot hall of fame. How is it that I can remember this shot, even though I shot it over twenty years ago? Keep reading, and you’ll understand why it has been burned into my memory forever.
Hall of Fame Shot # 1
Date: Spring, 1988
Location: Dunwoody, Georgia
The Game: Eight Ball
The Shot: A kick combo rail first carom rail carom shot
The Story: I was playing in a pool tournament at a sports bar that had just opened in Dunwoody, Georgia. The game was 8 ball, and I had just committed the cardinal sin that most beginning and intermediate 8 ball players make: I had attempted to run the table even though two of my balls were tied up, effectively preventing my run out. If I didn’t figure out a way to complete my run, my opponent would very likely run the table and I would be eliminated from the tournament. At this point in my pool playing career, I didn’t even know what a safe shot was, but in this case it probably wouldn’t have mattered. It’s tough to play a good safe when you only have one or two balls on the table and your opponent has seven. At first I thought my only option was to load up on adrenaline, blast the balls open, and hope for the best. But was that the best option? Hummm. I studied the table, acknowledging the fact that my last two balls were almost kissing. They were separated by about a millimeter. Suddenly, I noticed that the line of centers of the two balls was pointed at an angle to the rail such that if the second stripe hit the rail, it would come off and collide with one of his solids. The line perpendicular to the estimated collision point between the stripe and the solid was pointed to the tip of the long rail a couple inches in front of the pocket. This meant that the second stripe, after colliding with the solid, would probably hit the rail very close to the pocket and either go directly into the pocket or collide with the 8 ball and carom back into the corner pocket. The serendipitous arrangement of the balls had in effect created a massively large corner pocket. I couldn’t believe my luck. For some unknown reason, the pool gods had smiled on me: there was a slight chance that I could make the second stripe in the corner pocket! I had only one problem: I couldn’t hit the second stripe directly because the first stripe was in the way, and I couldn’t hit the first stripe at the correct contact point because the angle from the cue ball to the first stripe hid the contact point and there was a solid ball in the way. I had to figure out a way to hit the two stripe combination shot straight on in order to have a chance to make the shot. The solution? Just kick the cue ball off the opposite rail to get access to the correct contact point. I pondered how much energy would be required in order to complete the entire shot, and I came up with a massive estimate. I knew that a lot of energy was going to be lost on the collision between the second stripe and the solid due to the very very small component of force vector involved. I studied and studied and studied the shot. My opponent finally couldn’t take it any longer and exclaimed, “What the fuck are you looking at? Stop stalling and shoot!” He was pissed. A couple of his friends snickered. I turned, “What did you say?” “You heard me, just shoot something. There’s no way you can make any of your balls so just shoot something!”
We weren’t playing call shot 8 ball, so technically I didn’t need to explain the shot ahead of time. In this tournament anything counted as long as you hit one of your balls first. I couldn’t resist. I knew it was very unlikely I’d actually make the shot, but I put on an air of confidence: “OK, here’s what I’m about to shoot. I’m going to hit the cue ball off the opposite rail and make it bounce back and hit the first stripe. The first stripe will combo the second stripe. The second stripe will hit the rail, bounce off, and collide with your solid. After it hits your solid, my stripe will go sideways, hit the same rail again here (I pointed), come off and hit the 8 ball, then carom into the corner pocket.” He could barely contain his laughter and gave me the “you’re a stupid idiot” look. One of his friends rolled his eyes and said, “Jeeze!” Now I was pissed. I spent the next 20 seconds in my stance just stroking and stroking, studying the opposite rail, and making absolutely certain that I didn’t screw up the kick. All I had to do was hit the kick shot correctly, and the pool gods would take over from there. I took one last stroke, then hit the shot with as much force as I could muster. Here’s how it played out:
The cue ball came off the opposite rail and hit the first stripe straight on. The two stripes collided, and the second stripe came off the rail and collided with his solid, bounced back to the first rail exactly where I had pointed, brushed up against the 8 ball with a gentle click, then rolled VERY slowly to the edge of the pocket, teetered briefly, then dropped. The crowd went wild. My opponent’s face turned blood red and one of his friends yelled, “HOLY SHIT!” What a rush! I had an easy out from there, and finished off the rack. I didn’t win the tournament, but it didn’t matter. I had made the shot of a lifetime.