Monthly Archives: January 2011

Pool, Interrupted.

This is only my 4th post for the month of January. Oddly enough, that’s about the same number of times I’ve picked up a pool cue this month…just waaayyy to busy right now to do much pool.  How long will the drought continue?  Hopefully not too much longer, but it will probably last for another two or three weeks.  Until then, best wishes, and happy shooting!

Chet Ito Memorial Tournament

The 2nd annual Chet Ito Memorial Tournament was held last weekend at the California Billiard Club in Mountain View, California. 93 players showed up for the event held to honor Chet Ito, founder of the California Billiard Club, who lost his battle with cancer in August of 2009. For extensive coverage of the tournament, visit Doug Wu’s excellent website, WestCoastPoolplayers.com.

This year the tournament was held as an Open, meaning there were no handicaps given out to players. At first I was a little hesitant to play in the tournament given the $50 entry fee and the high caliber of players who would compete, but I finally decided it was worth the price for the opportunity to play against some of the best players on the West Coast. I have to say, it was a good choice, as I played much better than I expected. On the winner’s side, I made it to the match before the money round and lost to Deo Alpajora 2-8. Deo eventually finished the tournament in 5th place. I went to the loser’s side and made it back to the game before the money round, then lost to Jared Williams 4-8. Jared eventually finished the tournament in 13th place.

I did win a few matches.  I was very happy with my 8-6 victory over a very good “A” player in the second round of the winner’s bracket, but the most satisfying match from the tournament was my 8-3 victory in the loser’s bracket over an “A” rated player which was streamed live over the internet. My proudest moment was my 9 ball run out in rack number 4…a very difficult run that starts with a table length kick shot. You can watch my entire match on Ustream below.

The biggest benefit of having a match recorded is the fact that I can watch it repeatedly and identify things to work on (which are many). Here’s a very brief synopsis my match:
Rack 1: Win. Lots of safes and kicks and the game ends with a 4-9 combo.
Rack 2: Win. I make a shot but lose position. We trade a couple safes, then I bank the 3 and run out.
Rack 3: Win. I’m hooked after the break and foul on a kick. My opponent misses a shot and I make three tough shots, only to lose position on the eight. A few safeties later, I finally finish the rack.
Rack 4: Win. I make a dry break and my opponent plays a safe. Next I make the ESPN shot of the week – a perfect table length kick on the one. I get decent position for the 2, but can’t cut it clean, so I have to pocket the 2 ball using a carom off the 3 ball.  On my next shot I must execute a very tough draw shot off the 3 ball to get position on the 4. To get from the 4 to the 5, I have to shoot a 9 foot stun/draw shot.  I somehow continue sinking balls and run out the entire rack. A very difficult layout I might add! 😉
Rack 5: Lose. We have any early battle for control of the table, the I finally manage to take control and run the rack out…only to lose position from the 8 to the 9…then I dog the 9!
Rack 6: Lose. Lots of kicks and safes. I eventually sell out on a safe and my opponent runs 6 balls and out.
Rack 7: Win. Lots of kicks and safes. My opponent misses a shot and I run 4 balls out.
Rack 8: Lose. I scratch on the break. I miss a shot and my opponent runs 4 balls and out.
Rack 9: Win. Lots of kicks and safes (starting to see a pattern here?) I hit a 5-9 combo for the win.
Rack 10: Win. Kicks and safes again to start, he misses, and I run 5 balls out for the win. Look out for the scratch in the side pocket!!
Rack 11: Win. On the hill, my game play starts to falter a little. I get lucky though and manage to grind my way through the game and eventually make a very difficult cut shot on the 9 to win the match.

How to Lie with Statistics

Being an engineer by training (and by genetic code), I regularly use statistics in my day job and am often amazed at how people can be misled by statistics.  The news media is particularly notorious for unintentionally (or intentionally?) misrepresenting data.  When I was in college, one of my statistics professors shared with me a very entertaining book regarding the misuse and misinterpretation of statistics.  The book, How to Lie with Statistics, was written by Darrell Huff in 1954.  Darrell was not a statistician by trade; rather, he was a journalist who had a keen eye for detail.  In the book, he illustrates some of the most common errors associated with the interpretation of statistics, and how these errors lead to inaccurate conclusions…sometimes with humorous results.  Although the book was written over 50 years ago, the concepts and examples cited are still relevant for us today, and the book has become one of the best-selling statistics books in history.

How does this relate to pool?  Actually, it’s rather simple.  Over the last three months I’ve been able to improve my personal high run score in straight pool by an average factor of about 1.7.  At a rate of 1.7 per month, it’s a rather simple exercise to take my actual high run data and extrapolate it into the near future.  Based on this commonly used statistical technique, I predict that I will beat Willie Mosconi’s straight pool high run record of 526 balls within a few short months.  Don’t believe me?  Well, as they say, “Figures Don’t Lie.”  See the chart below. 

See, I told you so!  I figure after I break the record sometime in the middle of May, people will be standing in line just to get my autograph.  Don’t delay!  You don’t need to get stuck in long lines!  You can order my autograph today!  Just write your name and address on the back $100 bill and mail it to me.  My autograph for just $100!  What a great deal!  BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!  If you order today, I’ll throw in free shipping!  So that’s MY AUTOGRAPH plus FREE shipping!  WHAT A BARGAIN!  Don’t be the last person on your block to acquire this valuable piece of history.  ORDER YOURS TODAY!    😉

International Playing Ability Test (IPAT)

I was introduced to the International Playing Ability Test (IPAT) concept early last year by a fellow pool player and thought it would be a great idea to add the IPAT workbooks to my growing pile of pool practice materials.  I googled the IPAT, read about the tests, then decided to buy the IPAT2 and IPAT3 workbooks.  I was very excited when they finally arrived in the mail last spring.  I tore through the packaging like a kid on Christmas morning.  After flipping through the books and trying to estimate how I would perform on the tests, I put the books on my bookshelf for safe keeping until I made time to use them.  I don’t know about you, but usually when I buy something new, like a new shirt, I tend to not wear it because I’m “saving it for something special.”  Unfortunately, the same thing happened with my IPAT workbooks…they never got used!

Yesterday on New Year’s Eve, I decided to take the IPAT2 test to bring the year 2010 to a close and set the stage for my training in 2011.  This was my first experience using the IPAT materials.  They were obviously written in another language (probably German), then translated into English, so it took me a little bit of time to figure out the intention of some of the exercises.  Overall it took me about 3.5 hours to complete the entire IPAT2 test, but I prevailed, and was able to score an 832.  If you score over 800 points, you qualify to take the IPAT3 test, so I was pretty excited about that!

For each exercise in the IPAT system, there is a target score that you should strive to beat.  I figured this would serve as a good tool to help me identify strengths and weaknesses in my game.  Using the target scores from each individual drill as the bar to judge my performance, I’ve identified strengths and weaknesses in my game as follows:

Above Average:  Draw skills, 9 ball run out skills

Average:  Speed control skills, follow skills, straight shooting, big position skills (routes), endless position drill (routes), standard position shots

Below Average:  Small position skills (routes), frozen rail shots (wwaaaayy below average!)

Most, if not all, experts in the field of performance optimization say the fastest road to improvement is to identify and work on areas of weakness, so my next plan is to work on small position drills and frozen rail shots.  If you are bored with your current drills and exercises, I recommend the IPAT series.  They also offer DVDs to accompany the workbooks that I bought.  I’m sure the DVDs would be great and probably go a long way in helping you understand the concepts and the shots, but I’m too much of a cheapskate to buy them.  Oh well, back to the table!

Oh, and HAVE A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!   😉