Monthly Archives: November 2010

Games to rate your pool playing skills – Part III

Here’s an interesting game that was introduced to me by Mike Fieldhammer.  The game is called FARGO, and was developed by Mike Page, founder of the super popular Fargo Billiards & Gastropub.  Try this one and see if you enjoy it as much as I do…


Rack all 15 balls and break from anywhere in the kitchen.  All balls pocketed on the break are spotted and you start with ball in hand anywhere on the table.   There’s no penalty for scratching on the break.  This is a call shot game; i.e. call the ball and the pocket.  All balls pocketed count as one point.  The objective is to play 10 racks (innings) and add up the total number of points made.

But here’s the fun part…

Each inning consists of two parts:  (1) a random phase, and (2) a rotation phase.  At the beginning of each inning, you place a coin (or other marker) on the table with the heads up, indicating that you are in the “random phase” of shooting.  In the “random phase”, each ball pocketed counts as one point, and you can shoot the balls in any order you choose.  At any time, you can flip the coin over, indicating that you are entering the “rotation phase”.  In the rotation phase, each ball pocketed counts as two points, but you must contact the lowest numbered ball on the table first.  Add up the total number of points scored in ten innings and then compare your performance with the ranking chart below.

Rating Scores
> 220           Pro
160-220     AA
130-160     A
100-130     B
60-100       C
< 60             D


Games to rate your pool playing skills – Part II

Here’s another game to help rate your pool playing skills.  Have fun!

10 Ball Rating Game

Rack up 10 balls and break from anywhere in the kitchen.  Any balls made on the break count as one point.  If you scratch on the break, pocketed balls are spotted.  After the break, start with ball in hand anywhere on the table, and run the balls in rotation.  All balls made are one point.  If you miss a shot, the rack is over.  Shoot 10 racks and count the total number of balls made. After 10 racks, take your total and compare it to the chart below.  This is a good game because it takes several skills into account (shotmaking, position play, cluster breaking, break shot skills, etc.)  The only downside is that it doesn’t cover safety play, which is a critical in the upper echelons of play. 

30-35       D+
36-40       C
41-45       C+
46-50       B
51-55       B+
56-60       A
61-65       A+
66-70      A++
71-up       Pro

Games to rate your pool playing skills

The holidays are a time for fun and frivolity.  With that in mind, I decided to put together a collection of games or assessment tools that allow you to rate your performance at the pool table.  Oh, yay!  A test!  This is one of the first assessment games that I learned…Equal Offense.  Here’s why it is unique…it allows you to compare your performance with the rest of the pool playing world.  Oh, goodie!  Hope you enjoy!

Equal Offense

Rack all 15 balls and break from anywhere in the kitchen.  After the break, spot any balls that are pocketed.  Take ball in hand in the kitchen and pocket balls in any order you choose.  This is a call shot game, slop doesn’t count, and each ball pocketed earns you 1 point.  Assuming you don’t scratch or miss a shot, keep shooting until you get to the last ball, then stop and rack the 14 balls already pocketed.  Now try to continue your run by pocketing the 15th ball and simultaneously using the cue ball to break open the rack, just like in 14.1 straight pool.  If you manage to pocket the 20th ball, the inning is over.  If you miss a shot or scratch at any time, the inning is over. 

After 10 innings, add up your scores and compare your performance with the following chart provided by Tarl Roger Kudrick at the Internet Equal Offense site.  You can use this chart to get a general idea of how you stack up against the rest of the pool world.  Good luck, and have fun!

Equal Offense Pool Rating Chart

If your typical score is You’re probably better than THIS percentage of pool players      If your typical score is You’re probably better than THIS percentage of pool players   
25 5%   76 55%
35 10%   80 60%
41 15%   85 65%
47 20%   91 70%
51 25%   98 75%
55 30%   106 80%
59 35%   114 85%
64 40%   125 90%
68 45%   136 95%
71 50%   160 99%

APA National Singles Championships

Pool can be such a quirkily odd game…especially the way I play it.  I’ve always wanted to compete for the national singles title in 8 Ball.  If you are not familiar with the process, here’s how it works: You must first enter what is called a local qualifier board.  Basically, it’s a single tournament or series of mini-tournaments that you enter locally and the winner advances to one of the Regional Championships that are held in various locations around the country.  There are usually several qualifier boards in any given area, so you have multiple chances to qualify.  When you get to the Regional Championships, you will face 30-50 other players who have also won local qualifier boards.  The winners of the Regional Championships will advance to the National Singles Championships held in Las Vegas around April 28-30, 2011.  The winner of this event will be crowned National Champion and will receive $15,000 in cash and prizes. The total purse for the event is $250,000.

Last weekend I entered a local qualifier board at Shoreline Billiards in Mountain View, CA.  I waited for almost two hours for the other players to show up.  Finally, we had the minimum number of players required to start the tournament…four players.  There was me (SL7), an SL5, an SL4, and another SL5.  A cakewalk for me!  Yipee!  My first opponent was an SL5.  I broke and ran the first rack.  “Whoohoo!  He must be scared now!”  And then…the old Me showed up.  Twanng…miscue!  Shank…another miscue!  Kerplunk…a scratch!  And on and on and on it went.  It didn’t take many miscues, scratches, and position overruns for me to quickly find myself in a hole that was too deep to get out of.  Beaten by an SL5.

Tonight I played on another qualifier board.  This time, the player ratings were SL7, SL6, SL5, SL5.  I drew the SL6 for my first match.  I was shooting pretty good…during warm-ups at least.  Then the match started.  I quickly found myself threatening to do a repeat from last weekend.  I had to win 5 games before my opponent won 4.  That’s the nature of the APA handicapping system.  Even though I was shooting ok, in the first two games I somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  So now I needed to win 5 games before my opponent won 2.  My break wasn’t working at all today – I don’t think I ever made a single ball on a break.  Oh well, time to go into safety mode.  I endeavored to turn each game into a nearly unbearable quagmire of defensive moves and cluster creations.  I played hide and seek with the cue ball with the objective of eventually securing an easy run out for myself, putting my opponent to sleep from boredom, or forcing him to run screaming from the building like a crazed banshee warrior.  It was like pulling fingernails with a set of pliers, but I somehow managed to win 5 of the next 6 games.

In my second match, I was playing an SL5.  This meant I had to win 5 games before my opponent won 3.  It started out in a similar fashion – I lost 2 of the first 3 games, putting myself in the unenviable position of having to win 4 straight games to qualify for the Regional Championships.   Hit the replay button…out comes the safety game.  My opponent was a decent shot maker, but made some bad decisions trying to shoot out of the safeties I put him in.  Another excruciating series of games, but I finally won.  Yes, it was ugly.

Oh well, I’m not proud of my performance…very shaky…but a win is a win.  I’ll be headed to Bakersfield, CA in March of 2011 to compete in the Regional Championships.  At least that gives me a little time to regroup, figure out what my current performance problem is, and fix it.  I’m guessing I’ll be playing a lot of 14.1 between now and then.

Mind Freak

Editor’s note:  Regardless of what is documented here, no animals were harmed during the writing of this post, nor in the events that are described herein.  However, reader discretion is advised.

Wednesday night is APA league night for my 8 ball team.  It’s the night when I pull my game together and see if I’ve been able to make any improvements from the previous week of practice.  In general, I usually shoot pretty well, but there are those occasions when things seem to inexplicably fall apart.  I’m happy to report that these events are rare, but they do happen.  This Wednesday night was a prime example.  I was playing the #1 ranked and currently undefeated player in our league in a race to 5 match.  In the first game, he missed an easy shot and I knew it was time to pounce!  Yipee!  I wasn’t nervous at all.  I got up to make the moderately easy shot…and missed!  I was upset with myself.  I sat down and waited.  He made 3 balls then missed another easy shot!  Redemption!  Whoohoo!  Another easy shot for me… *kerplunk*… and another miss!!  WHAT??!!!!!!!  He subsequently runs out the first rack for a win.

On the second rack, another string of miracles occur.  My opponent misses 3 shots in the game… unbelievable… and this guy NEVER misses!  I get up from my seat three times…and only managed to pocket 1 ball in three innings!  Aaarrggghhhh!!!!  I’m about to blow my top!

Editor’s note:  The FCC and generally accepted societal manners do not allow Michael to quote anything that he thought or said at this point in the evening.

On the third rack, my opponent ran down to his last ball, and unbelievably missed yet AGAIN.  I’ve never seen this guy miss before.  Here’s my chance.  Forget the past.  Move forward.  Show him who’s boss.  The 8 ball and his last ball are near a corner pocket… both wide open… no interference… easy to run.   I have 7 balls left, all in the middle of the table.  No ball within 6 inches of a rail… no ball within 6 inches of another ball… a textbook run out opportunity… and my brain freezes.  It goes into complete lockdown mode.  “You gotta be kidding me!”

And there I stood, cue stick resting in both hands, as a look of bewilderment slowly spread across my face.  My mind was numb, my jaws slackened.  “What now?” I stared at the table in disbelief and I slowly realized I had no idea what to do.  The balls seemed to float in a sea of blue green water.  The laser sharp “lines of attack” that my brain would normally paint onto the table surface for me were mysteriously absent.  I was dumbstruck.  I hadn’t felt this lost in years.  My opponent had one ball left and I had 7 balls left.  I blinked my eyes.  I blinked again.  I didn’t see any shots!  I’m sure there must have been dozens of shots… but I just couldn’t see them.  I looked for safeties.  NONE?  How can there be no safeties?!!  With 7 freaking balls on the table?!!!


After standing in a catatonic state for what seemed like an hour, I finally figured it’s time for me to do something…anything.  I come to the moronic conclusion that I’m thinking too much.  I think I see a cut shot to the side pocket.  I try to fool my brain by quickly getting into my stance and giving the cue ball a sharp jab.  “Maybe my muscle memory will just execute and get me out of this fog.”  There’s a sharp ‘click’ as the cue ball and object ball collide.  The object ball hits the side pocket tit with a sickening thud, like the sound of a wooden mallet colliding with a baby seal’s skull.  Unlike the seal, the object ball DOES NOT drop.  I glare at the ball…THAT DAMN BALL!  Doesn’t it know what it’s supposed to do?!!!  Why the hell did it not go in the pocket?!  x xxx xxxx xxxxx xx xxx xxxx xxx.  x xxxxx x xxx x xxx xxxx xx xxx xxxx xxxxx.  xxxx xxx xxxx?  x xxx’x xxxxxxx xx.  x xxxx xxxx x xxxxxx xxx?!!!  xxxx!  xxxx!  xxxx!  xxxx!   {Editor’s Note: The remainder of this paragraph has been redacted by the council for good manners.}

And so my nightmare continued.  The fog never lifted.  I eventually somehow won three games before the nightmare was over.  I’m not sure how I did that.  Oh, well, I guess there’s always next time.

How Did I Play This Shot?

This was one of the most funnest (new word?)  posts that I’ve ever written because I got some really interesting comments from folks regarding options for either making the shot or playing a safe.  This post taught me something super duper important…no matter how bad things get, keep a cool head, because there are always multiple options to consider.

How would you play this shot? (You are stripes)

How did I play it?  Well, let me first give you a little background on my opponent.  I’d never seen the guy before and had never heard of him, but I knew he was the #3 ranked shooter in his league.  (Okay, I admit it…I research my opponents before my match begins…ahhh, the power of the internet!)  Obviously, he could pocket balls.  I also watched him warm up, and noticed that he was very very comfortable pocketing balls and rolling whitey around the table.  I suspected from the start that I might be playing a lot of safes against him to slow his game down.  In my experience, when I encounter a very hot shot maker, if I slow the game down they tend to get reckless and try for low percentage shots.

For this situation, I considered four offensive shots as outlined in my previous post.  Bank shot B was the shot I felt most comfortable with (I guessed maybe 75% probability of success), but in my mind I just couldn’t justify the risk of missing the shot.  I knew my opponent was a great shot maker, and I was confident if I missed he would either cut the 6 ball in the side or cut it to the far right corner.  After assessing the risks, I thought about the “95% rule” and knew then that I was going to play a safe.  I just didn’t know which safe.   I debated for a couple minutes, then decided to play a “One Ball Safe.”  I decided to hit the 13 ball on the left side about ¼ full, and I put high right English on the cue ball.  The reason is because I wanted to do two things: (1) make the cue ball go to the rail and “hold up”, and (2) make the 13 ball counter spin and also “hold up,” come straight off the long rail and back toward the middle of the table.  This would theoretically put the 13 ball directly in between the cue ball and the 6 ball.  The photo below shows my plan:

This was my plan for playing a safety shot

In order to make the shot, I had to hit the cue ball very softly in order to maximize the “grab” between the two balls.  The edited photo below shows how the balls actually ended up after the shot.  No, I didn’t stop to take a photo of the actual layout in the match.  I was too busy celebrating…internally of course!  But that’s not the end of this story…

This is how the shot played out (retouched picture)

I knew my opponent was a very good kicker, but what happened next was totally unexpected.  In the middle of his next shot, I found myself actually cheering for my opponent to win this game!  He got to the table, held his cue above the playing surface for 10-15 seconds and moved it around like he was directing traffic on an aircraft carrier, then nodded his head and got down to shoot.  He settled and started very slowly and deliberately stroking.  When I saw where he was aiming, I thought, “Oh, yeah, right!  He’ll never do that….{Plink!}”  The cue ball rolled to the second diamond on the lower right rail, between the second and third diamonds on the second rail, the 1.5 diamond (approx) on the third rail, then came screaming of the third rail headed straight for the 6 ball.  “HOLY SH*T!”  It headed directly for the 6 as if guided by a string…a full face on solid hit!  {Bang!}  Direct hit!  The six headed straight for the lower left corner pocket…and missed by 1 inch!  The crowd (including myself) went nuts!  What an F’ing shot!  I got very lucky that the cue ball had followed the 6 for a couple feet, giving me an easy out with the 13 and 8 to opposite sides.

My opponent's response? A 3-rail kick that missed by 1 inch!

I think I’ll call this safety the Frerking Shot, in honor of Gary Frerking’s precise description of it.  Congrats Gary!  As with all of my contests, you win…well, nothing really.  Just a pat on the back!  😉

How Would You Play This Shot?

Last night I was in an 8 ball match against a pretty tough player when I suddenly found myself in a very difficult situation.  I had broken the rack open to start the game, but didn’t make a ball.  My opponent started running the solids but missed his last ball.  With most of the solids out of the way, I decided to run the table out and had nearly completed my run when I made a HUGE mistake and lost position on my last object ball.  Arrgghh!  I was very frustrated, so I stopped play, whipped out my iPhone, and took a picture of the layout before I continued shooting.  See the actual photo from our match below.

How would you play this shot? (You have Stripes)

In my next post I’ll tell you what I did, but for now here’s my question for you: How would you have played this shot?  In the edited photo below, I’ve provided the 4 options that I initially considered.  Can you think of any other options?  What would you have done in this situation?  What do you think I eventually did?

The first 4 shots I considered. Are there other options? What did I do?

Have fun!  😉

Three Tips For Your Defense

November 2010 is the one year anniversary of PoolSynergy, and founder John Biddle is the host of this month’s PoolSynergy topic.  This month, John asked the following question to the poolsynergy authors: “If you could share only 3 tips related to pool, what 3 tips would you share?”  I’ve been working a lot on my defensive game lately, so I decided to write about three simple but devastating safeties that any beginning, intermediate, or advanced player can use to win more games.  The three safeties are: (1) The half ball hit safety, (2) the one ball safety, and (3) the stop shot safety.  If you want to see tips shared by other PoolSynergy authors, visit John’s blog here.  Hope you enjoy!

(1) The Half Ball Hit Safety
The situation: The game is 9 ball. You broke and ran, but lost cue ball position on the 9.  Now what?  Do you play for a tough bank shot to the corner pocket and hope for the best?  Are you kidding me?  Just play a half ball safe and let your opponent take the risky shot.  To make the shot, just aim the center of the cue ball at the right most edge of the 9 ball.  You may even put a half tip of right spin on the cue ball.  Hit the shot with speed to put the object ball in the center of the left side rail.  Now your opponent has to make a very tough shot.  Sure, he MIGHT make the bank, but 80% or more of the time he will sell out and give you the win.  Those are pretty good odds in your favor!

The Half Ball Hit Safety

(2) The One Ball Safety
The situation: The game is 8ball. Your opponent broke and ran but jawed the 8 in the corner. You ran down to your last solid but lost cue ball position.  Now what? Do you play a tough bank shot to the side pocket and hope for the best?  Don’t take a risk like that!  Just play a one ball safe and get ball in hand for an easy win!  To make the shot, just stroke the cue ball gently with center follow and hit the object ball so that it comes softly off the rail and the cue ball does the same.  Now the object ball is between the cue ball and the 8.  Your opponent will be required to hit a tough 1 or 2 rail kick.  If he misses, you get ball in hand and an easy win!   

The One Ball Safety

(3) The stop shot safety
The situation: The game is 8ball. Your opponent broke and ran but jawed the 8 in the corner. You ran down to your last two solids, but can’t figure out how to run the last two balls.  Now what? Do you play the seven ball in the side pocket and hope for position on the 1 ball?  Why take that chance?  Just play a stop shot safe and get ball in hand for an easy run out!  To make the shot, just stroke the cue ball gently into the one ball by hitting the cue ball a half tip below center.  The one ball will bounce off the rail and stop in front of the corner pocket.  The cue ball will now be hiding directly behind the 7 ball.  Now  it’s your opponent’s turn, but he must attempt a tough 1 or 2 rail kick.  If he misses, you get ball in hand for an easy run out and the win!   

The Stop Shot Safety