Monthly Archives: June 2011

PoolSynergy: What Makes A Great Tournament?

For this month’s PoolSynergy topic, Mike Fieldhammer wants our opinion on what makes a pool tournament experience great.  I’m sure some people will say it’s the size of the tournament, the venue itself, or the amount of money paid out.  Not me.  What I find most interesting and enjoyable is being a witness to the human element – the interactions between the personalities involved.  Have you ever seen Alex Pagulayan in person?  How did God fit so much personality into such a small frame?  Looking for a truck load of witticisms and one-liners?  Sit next to Earl Strickland while he’s shooting in a match and you’ll get all you can handle.

You don’t have to be at a national class tournament to have a great time.  You can have some really great experiences in smaller local tournaments.  Smaller tournaments tend to give you more opportunities to meet really interesting people.  For example, last weekend I played in the Chico Chaisson Memorial tournament at the Broken Rack in Emeryville, California.  It was a relatively small One Pocket tournament (about 30 players) held in honor of a Chico Chaisson, a gentleman who practically lived at the Broken Rack for years and who recently passed away.  Although the tournament was small, it drew some high caliber players, including Rafael Martinez, George Michaels, Baby Frank, and Billy Palmer.  Being brand new to the One Pocket scene, and since this was my first entry into a One Pocket tournament ever, I was just there to learn the game.  The players that I spoke to were very helpful and willing to give me some pointers before the tournament started.  I continue to be amazed at how open and friendly most pool players are.  In my first match, I played a guy named John Henderson.  Being new to One Pocket, I’d never heard of him.  He introduced himself and we shook hands.  I immediately apologized to him because I didn’t know all the rules, but John said that was fine and he was willing to answer any questions that I had.  I asked a couple clarifying questions about scoring and what to do on scratches, and then we started our match.  My approach to the game was very simple:  I just shot safeties every chance I got, and then tried my best to bank any ball I could see.  When the smoke finally cleared, I had somehow managed to score more points than John, and win my very first One Pocket match.  John was a very gracious opponent, and I wished him the best of luck in the rest of the tournament.  I ended up with a 2-2 record and I was very happy with that result.  It wasn’t until two hours AFTER leaving the tournament and driving home that I discovered that John Henderson was a world class One Pocket player who placed 7th in the US Open One Pocket tournament in May 2011!  And I had no idea who he was!  I guess ignorance is bliss.

The highlight of the tournament, in my opinion, came later that night after I had left.  Richard Cook, a.k.a. Bucktooth, had been watching One Pocket matches all day long, and finally had to get in on some of the action himself.  He negotiated a One Pocket match with Hugo, a local player, with the following restriction: if Hugo would play one-handed, Bucktooth would play him using a broom stick.  I don’t know what the bet was, or who won the match, but that’s not really important to me.  I just hate that I missed such a classic matchup.  Here’s a picture of the match taken by a friend of mine Reid Stensrud.

So, to sum it up:  What makes a great tournament experience?  Meeting interesting people and watching their personalities interact.  It’s almost like reality TV, except, it really IS real!  To read articles from the other PoolSynergy authors, visit Mike Fieldhammer’s blog here.

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A Witness to Excellence

It’s 4:30 in the morning and I can’t sleep.  Last night I witnessed something that really shocked me.  I almost never name names in my blog, because the purpose of my blog is not to be a news source for the pool industry, nor is it to call out any player’s performance (either good or bad) that I happen to see while attending tournaments or otherwise.  However, there are those rare occasions when rules must be broken, or maybe bent just a little bit.  This is one of those occasions.

Yesterday I attended the first stop of the Tiger West Coast Women’s Tour at California Billiards.  I showed up at the start of the first day to be supportive of the tour and to cheer for several of my friends who are competing in the tournament.  Because I’m such a pool nut, and a big proponent of excellence and self-improvement, I often watch tournament matches and take notes on player performances.  My goal with the note taking is three-fold: (1) it allows me to practice analyzing another person’s game to identify areas of strengths and weaknesses, (2) it forces me to think about and analyze my own game to identify things that I need to work on, and (3) in the event that I am able to strike up a conversation with the player after the match, it gives me the opportunity to provide the player with constructive criticism to help them improve their overall performance.

Yesterday I watched a few matches and took notes just like always.  For each player I diligently recorded areas of strengths and areas that needed work.  Then, late Saturday afternoon, I sat down to watch a particular match, and my note taking stopped.  Completely.  Whereas for most players I immediately identify items that need work (stance, stroke mechanics, shot pattern selection, safety play, etc.), in this case, I sat watching for over 30 minutes…and I saw nothing that needed to be improved.  Nothing.  I was mesmerized.  After 30 minutes of watching the match, I turned my head to a friend sitting next to me who prides himself in his ability to clock other peoples’ games.  With a look of shock on his face, he just returned my stare.  He saw it too.  No words were exchanged.  No words were needed.  We both knew we were witnessing something extraordinary… EXCELLENCE.  Excellence personified.  Excellence personified in the body of a young woman from Iowa named Rachel Byrket.  Her stroke mechanics were nearly flawless.  The smoothest I’ve ever seen.  Her safety play was superior to any man I’ve seen recently, and she almost never missed a shot.  And she’s only 21.  The feeling that I got watching Rachel play was reminiscent of the feeling I got the first time I saw Jesse Engel play..pure joy and amazement.  What impressed me the most was her mental prowess.  She seemed completely oblivious to the pressure of the match.  I had the opportunity to speak with her after one of her matches, and it turns out that she is quite an extraordinary young woman…very down to earth, very approachable, very intelligent, and very driven.  I’ll bet you’ve never heard of her, but you will soon.  I am going on the record now with my prediction that in a few short years Rachel will be the new face of women’s pool.  She has the talent, she has full support from her family, and she has the desire to compete and win.  So, step aside Black Widow and step aside Duchess of Doom.  There’s a new young gun rising up behind you, and one day soon, Rachel is going to be THE very best.