Monthly Archives: August 2011

Why Do You Miss?

A couple weeks ago I was enjoying a glass of wine with a friend I had not seen in a few months, and our conversation eventually turned to pool.  Imagine that!  He had been following my pool progress over the last couple of years, and he asked me the following question: “Why do you miss?”  I immediately gave him the following canned answers: “Because I don’t concentrate, because I don’t think three shots ahead, because I make bad decisions when choosing between an aggressive shot versus a safety, because I get in a hurry and I sacrifice my fundamentals, because I hit the balls too hard, because… because… because…”

After satisfying him with my supposedly well thought out answers, our conversation went on to other topics; however, my analytical mind was stuck in an infinite loop: was my response really accurate?  Sure, all of my responses were valid responses, but I didn’t feel like I was being honest with him and telling him the truth.  WHY DO I MISS?  REALLY?

If I’m on a mission to transform myself and my game, shouldn’t I know the answer?  Shouldn’t I be confident in my response?  You would think so; however, I wasn’t really sure why I missed shots.  In my response to him, I had merely taken some facts that I knew to be true and in one broad stroke painted the best possible answer I could come up with.  I was being intellectually dishonest.  The truth is, I don’t know why I miss. 

It’s time to change that.  I’ve designated today as an official “pool day” for me.  I’ll be practicing at California Billiards most of the day with one primary goal in my mind: I need to figure out why I miss shots.  It’s time to take some of my own advice: (1) practice thoughtfully (with purpose) and (2) take notes.  My plan for the day is to take notes every time I miss a shot to document why I missed the shot.  With my background in statistics and process improvement, I’m quite certain my post practice analysis will identify trends and factors that are contributing to my goofs.  I’ll use that knowledge to plan future practice sessions to focus exclusively on those items and try to reduce or eliminate them entirely.  Because I’m such a data analysis geek, I’ll be happy to share the results with you…I might even provide a graph or two!  I’m sure you can’t wait.  Ha!

The End of 14.1 Season

Last night my 14.1 season came to an end.  Being my first season, I was pretty happy with the results.  In our straight pool league, the top eight point leaders are invited to participate in an end of the season playoff tournament to determine the league champion.  I was lucky enough to qualify.  In the first round of the tournament, both I and my opponent played pretty well.  I started off a little slow and got behind, but was finally able to get my safety game going and eventually prevailed 100-48.  In the second round, I played a guy who is arguably the best player in the league and I didn’t shoot so well.  I was pretty tired (yeah, here come the excuses!), I was hitting the balls too hard, balls were rattling in the jaws, and my pattern play was not very good.  Yuck!  He was shooting pretty good and eventually beat me 120-70.  Oh well!  I took 3rd/4th place and was happy with that.  I also got lucky and ended up taking the season high run title at 40 balls, so I was very happy with that!

I look forward to playing more straight pool.  I have definitely seen benefits in my 8 ball game as a result of my experience with 14.1 as I now see opportunities to break clusters whereas formerly I did not see them.  I’ve also seen improvements in my soft speed control and small position movements of the cue ball.  I highly recommend getting involved in straight pool as I’m sure you will see improvments as well.

Gregory 9 Ball Open This Weekend!

Here’s your chance to help a fellow pool player.  Jeff Gregory, one of the top pool players in Northern California, recently had open heart surgery.  I’m happy to report that Jeff is doing well after surgery, but he has a long road ahead of him as he works hard to get his strength back.  This weekend, the California Billiard Club will be hosting the Gregory 9 Ball Open to raise money to help cover Jeff’s medical expenses.  If you are able, please come out this weekend and show your support for Jeff.  The doors will open Saturday at 11:00 and tournament play will start at noon. Here’s the event poster. See you Saturday!

My Billiard Backup Plan

Do you ever receive catalogs from colleges or local community groups in your area that offer classes in various subjects such as algebra, fiction writing, art history, etc.?  I bet you’ve seen a few of these.  A catalog showed up in my mailbox yesterday and I decided to give it a quick glance to see if there was anything interesting or exotic that might interest me.  JACKPOT!  I couldn’t believe what I found.  If this whole pool thing doesn’t work out for me, I guess I could always resort to Jedi Training!

The Secret to Playing Great Pool

I’ve been reading about pool and playing pool for many years now.  Over the last year and a half, I’ve gotten serious with it and have been searching for ways to improve my game.  Today, I discovered a truly marvelous technique that makes ball pocketing elementary and cue ball positioning effortless.  I would love to share the secret with you, but the margin of this blog is too narrow to contain the explanation.

 Happy Birthday Pierre de Fermat!

Pierre de Fermat, 1601-1665

10 Quick Tips to Improve Your Game

For this month’s PoolSynergy topic, Samm wanted each of the PoolSynergy writers to come up with a list of 10 things related to pool.  I immediately thought about making a list of the 10 most important things to remember when trying to improve your game.  At first I thought this would be an easy topic to write about, but unfortunately when I brainstormed the topic I came up with many more than 10 ideas.  Ugggghhh!  After considerable reflection, and a little bit of hand wringing, I was finally able to prune my list down to ten thoughts.  I hope you find these tips helpful and wish you the best of luck in your game!

  1.  Practice Alone – Solo practice should be the heart of your improvement program.  Spend at least an hour per week focusing on your weaknesses.  Are there certain types of shots that give you trouble?  Set up a troublesome shot and shoot it 20 times in a row.  If you can maintain your focus, shoot it even more.  Once you master that shot, work on the next most troublesome shot.

  2.  Take Notes – Keep a small notepad or use a smart phone to take notes during your practice sessions or during matches.  Make notes on what shots you miss and why you miss them.  This will provide you with a list of things you need to work on during your next solo practice session.

  3. Work on Fundamentals – It may sound like a cliché, but you should always work on fundamentals.  Your stance, bridge, and stroke influence every single shot you make.  Most players don’t work on fundamentals, although they should.  If you do, you will improve faster.

  4.  Find a playing partner you can beat – You can’t practice solo all the time.  Find someone who is slightly less skilled than you and play them often.  This will give you confidence in your ability to play and win.  It will also give your partner some good practice playing a better player.

  5.  Find a playing partner you can’t beat – Find someone who is slightly more skilled than you and play them often.  If you are not getting blown away, this will motivate you if you occasionally can pull off an upset, it will push you to improve your game, and will give you a chance to learn from a better player. 

  6.  Play in handicapped tournaments – Handicapped tournaments allow you to experience the pressure of playing in a tournament and at the same time gives you a fair chance to win or finish in the money.  Handicapped tournaments also tend to be a little less competitive and more friendly, so it’s a great way to get your feet wet.

  7.  Play in Open tournaments – Playing in an open tournament requires you to really pick up your game.   Open tournaments are usually more competitive, and allow you to see where your game really stands in the pantheon of pool players.  If you don’t want to play in an open, at least make an effort to attend one and watch how the players handle themselves and the pressure.

  8.  Try to eliminate English – Keep it simple.  Using English reduces the accuracy of your shots, so try to use just center ball, follow, and draw.  If you make an effort to plan ahead properly (three shots ahead), you can drastically reduce the need for English.  Give it a try in one of your solo practice sessions.  Slow things down and think before each shot.  I bet you’ll be surprised at how well you can play without English.

  9.  Work on speed control (a.k.a. distance control) and play for longer shape – Proper use of cue ball speed can make up for many other weaknesses in your game.  Not sure exactly how the cue ball will come off the object ball, or exactly how the cue ball will come off that rail?  Good speed control can allow you to run the cue ball farther around the table and land in the ‘fatter’ and more forgiving part of the landing zone for your next shot.  Your next shot might be a little farther away than you want, but at least you’ll have a makeable shot.

10.  Get some quality one on one instruction – Arguably the most important tip.  If you want to improve fast, there’s no substitute for working with a knowledgeable instructor.  Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy way to identify a great instructor.  If a person is a great player, it does not qualify them to be a great instructor.  I’ve taken lessons from professionals that were worthless, and I’ve taken lessons from amateurs that were priceless.  I’ve also taken lessons from amateurs that were worthless and lessons from professionals that were priceless.  Coaching is a skill, just like any other skill.  I recommend finding 3 or 4 different instructors and paying for one hour of instruction from each.  Afterwards, evaluate each and see which one was the best fit for you, then get more instruction from that person.

I hope these tips help you improve your game.  To read articles written by the other PoolSynergy writers, visit Samm’s website.

Thanks Billiards Digest!

I was checking my blog traffic yesterday and noticed a few hits from a URL which contained the characters ‘…billiardsdigest…’ Curious, I decided to click the link to see what I would find.  Guess what?  Billiards Digest picked my blog as the best pool blog of 2011!  Yipeeee!  They also cited a friend and fellow PoolSynergy blogger Melinda Bailey’s blog as the runner-up pool blog for 2011!  Congratulations Melinda!!!!

I took a screen shot of part of the article and included the excerpt below (not sure if I’m violating any copywrite laws here, if so, let me know!)  You can read the full story at the Billiards Digest website.  Both of our blogs will be featured in the August 2011 magazine edition of Billiards Digest.  I want to say “Thanks!” to all the folks at Billiards Digest for the recognition and kind words.  This was completely unexpected.  I really do appreciate it!