Monthly Archives: June 2012

14.1 Secrets Revealed

I did a little research this morning and found that the “secrets” my opponent used against me were not really secrets at all.  They are described in detail in Philip Capelle’s masterful tome Play Your Best Straight Pool.  In the chapter appropriately titled “Safety Play,” he explains several full rack safety plays that can wreak havoc on your opponent.  In my 14.1 match on Tuesday, my opponent used the safeties shown below to almost completely stop my offense.  He would make a ball or two then leave me frozen to the rack.  I did my best to shave the edge of the rack to avoid opening up any balls, but inevitably I would loosen one or two and he would pocket them and then freeze me back on the rack again.  Talk about death by paper cuts!

If you want to get better at Straight Pool, I highly recommend Capelle’s book.  (I also recommend a huge dose of patience!)  For these shots, just hit the cue ball with natural follow, make a full hit on the object ball (the yellow highlighted ball closest to the cue ball), and use just enough energy to make at least one ball go to a rail.  These are simple but devastatingly effective shots.  If you take 10 minutes to practice these shots whenever you are at the table, you will have a new weapon in your arsenal that you can use when you are feeling particularly nasty.  Incidentally, I seem to have more success with the yellow highlighted balls as opposed to the center ball (ball number 6 in the diagram below).   I need to spend some time practicing these shots myself.

Back of the Rack

Side of the Rack

14.1 Secrets

Last night I opened my 14.1 match with a 26 ball run and thought I’d have an easy time racing my opponent to 80.  I was wrong.  Over the next seven innings, every time I got up to shoot I was looking at a cue ball that was frozen solid to the back of the pack.  My offense was completely negated.  From that point on I had to fight tooth and nail for every single point.  In the middle of our match I jokingly asked my opponent to tell me his secret for sticking the ball to the pack.  He declined.  Near the end of our match, with the score tied 75-75, I begged him to tell me his secret and I even offered a bribe to loosen his jaws.  He just grinned and said, “No, this is worth a whole lot more than money can buy.”  After the match was over, he finally spilled the beans and shared his secret with me.  Tomorrow, at no additional charge to you, I’ll share his nasty little technique for playing devastating safeties against the pack.

APA Masters Championship

How did I not know about this earlier?  This August in Las Vegas, the APA is hosting the APA Masters Championship, a team Open (non-handicapped) tournament that will be held immediately following the APA National Team Championships.  The top prize is $10,000, and money is paid out to the top 25% of the field.  Each team can have up to four players on the roster, with three players actually playing in each match, and the event has a tournament structure similar to the U.S. Amateur Championships.  Am I going?  You bet!  All I need to do now is form a team…

What I’ve Been Working On

I haven’t been online for several days, so I thought I’d give a quick update.  Here’s what I’ve been working on over the last week or so:

One rail kicks – I haven’t practiced kicks in several months and this deficiency is starting to show in my 9 Ball game.  I think I committed six or seven ball in hand fouls a couple weeks ago during a league match, and as a result, I almost lost.  Frightening. 

Super thin cuts – This is a pretty useful skill in 9 Ball, but an absolutely essential skill in 14.1.  You can play some devastating safeties in 14.1 with a super thin cut and a frozen rack.  Learn how to do it and use this skill to your advantage.  Don’t know how to practice this?  Stay tuned.

Lag shots – Who practices these?  Lag shots have the power to earn you the first break in 8 Ball and 9 Ball and help you avoid the first break in 14.1.  Don’t you think it’s a good idea to practice them?

Banks – I stopped working on my banks several months ago and I can tell I’ve lost my touch.  Although I do my best to avoid bank shots whenever I’m competing, if I do get out of line (which is often), banks can be a very useful tool to get out of a jam.

Shooting off the rail – I often find myself shooting off the rail in 14.1 matches.  It’s a good idea to master this shot so you don’t miscue and choke during a match.

Baltimore Pool Scene

I work in the medical device industry and recently had the opportunity to travel to the Washington D.C. area to speak to the FDA.  Being the pool nut that I am, of course I carried a pool cue with me.  After my flight landed at BWI, I got a rental car and traveled a few miles east to the city of Glen Burnie, Maryland.  I figured most billiard establishments in the area would not have a full kitchen, so my first objective was to score a fast dinner before hitting the pool halls.  When I got to Glen Burnie, I eventually found a Checkers Burger joint and quickly dove into a couple greasy burgers and an order of fries.  Nom nom nom! 

After satisfying my fat and carb crave, I headed over to Big Daddy’s Billiards.  My pre-trip Google search had revealed that Big Daddy’s is the annual home of the Maryland State 14.1 Championships, so I figured this place probably had some pretty decent equipment and some good local players.  I figured Monday night would be a relatively slow night and I was thinking I could get in a little practice time and then possibly lock horns with some of the local talent.  I got to Big Daddy’s just as the sun was setting and a heavy rain set in.  Darn East Coast weather!  I sat out in the car staring at the Big Daddy’s neon sign for a few minutes, then decided I probably wouldn’t melt, so I went inside.  Talk about a shock…the place was absolutely packed!  Monday night must be a big APA league night as every table in the joint was taken and several people were standing around waiting for tables.  I went to the front desk and asked about getting a table, and I’m not exactly sure how I managed it, but I somehow got a table immediately.  Beginner’s luck?

I ended up shooting solo for about three hours.  I was on a nine-footer with somewhat generous pockets (between 4.5 or 4.75 inches I think).  All the tables around me were taken with APA league matches.  I got into my mental trance mode and was shooting pretty darn good.  I occasionally paused to drink coffee and scan the room looking for anyone who was non-APA and who might be looking for a game, but no such luck.  The place was packed with leagues and I didn’t see anyone that I thought would be interested in a game.  After checking my watch and realizing it was a little after 10pm, I finally decided it was time to head over to Silver Spring, Maryland to check into my hotel.  On the way out, I flashed my APA membership card, got a 15% discount (Bazinga!), and headed out the door.

So there I was, 10:30 at night, driving in heavy rain in an unfamiliar area, headed to an unfamiliar city, with no map and no directions.  But hey, fear not, I have my trusty iPhone right?  I looked up the hotel address and Google mapped it.  The hotel was only about 30 minutes away, but then I noticed my iPhone battery indicator was at 8% battery life!  Crap!  I reached into my travel bag for my car charger…WHERE’S MY CHARGER?  Evidently, it was still plugged into my car in California.  DOUBLE CRAP!!!  Time to implement a battery preservation strategy: (step 1) Glance at map, (step 2) memorize the next 3 turns, (step 3) turn off phone, (step 4) fear getting lost, (step 5) turn phone back on, (step 6) go to step 1.  After several iterations, I finally got to the hotel with 1% power remaining.  WHEW!

I checked into my room, unpacked, got my stuff ready for a meeting with FDA in the morning, and then realized I was hungry again.  (After all, I hadn’t eaten in over two hours!)  Time to search for food!  It was after 11pm, so I was guessing most restaurants were closed.  I sought guidance at the front desk and they told me there’s a McDonald’s relatively close by, so I headed out searching for grub.  Now, the funniest thing happened to me on the way to MickeyD’s.  I was in downtown Silver Spring at 11:30pm and was about to cross the street when guess what I saw?  On the other side of the road I saw four guys walking together as a group and they were headed away from me…and all of them had nice leather cue cases on their backs!  WHAT?!  Had I made it to the Promised Land?!  The light was red and I couldn’t cross, so I yelled at them, “Hey Poolplayers!  Where’s the pool hall at?!!”  The last one turned, and yelled back, “Galaxy Café, right over there!”  He pointed to my left, so I turned in that direction and realized I was standing about a hundred feet from the Galaxy Billiards Café…sweet serendipity!!!  I thought I heard angels in heaven singing and strumming harps…or maybe that was just my imagination.  Regardless, it was too dark to take a picture of the exterior of the building (I got the picture the next morning) so I went inside to check it out.  The place was filled with players…serious players…like manna from heaven, my hunger went away!  I hung around for about 30 minutes, watched a few matches, but I didn’t have time to play.  I needed to get up very early in the morning so I had to pass on this one.  The next time I’m in the area, though, I’ll definitely hit Galaxy and find a game or two.

Galaxy Billiards Cafe – Inside

Reality Check

Do you know how many balls you can run on average without missing?  Most people overestimate their playing ability.  The discrepancy between a person’s actual playing ability and their perceived ability is a key factor in determining who wins or loses a match.  When you compete, you don’t have to be the better player to win.  All you need is a more realistic view of your true capabilities so that you can make better decisions and alter your game strategy accordingly. 

If you play eight ball, think about this scenario.  Suppose your opponent breaks and makes all seven of his balls, but he misses the shot on the eight ball.  Now it’s your turn and all you need to do is make eight shots in a row to win the game.  Can you do it?  If you have a realistic view of your abilities and you know you can’t make eight shots in a row, you could make a conscious decision right now to take a few easy shots and then play a safety to tilt the odds of winning in your favor.

In order for you to make this decision appropriately, you will need to know how many balls you can make on average without missing.  Here’s an easy way to get an estimate of your balls per inning (BPI) average:

BPI Assessment

Toss eight balls on the table.  Make sure that no ball is within six inches of a rail and no ball is within six inches of another ball.  (This eliminates the need for you to break clusters or attempt any tough rail shots.)  Start with ball in hand, and see how many balls you can pocket without missing a shot.  When you miss a shot, count the number of balls you were able to pocket and record that number.  Do this 10 times in a row and calculate the average number of balls per inning you were able to pocket.  This will give you a quick estimate of your BPI.  Repeat this assessment several times to get a more accurate estimate.

Armed with a realistic estimate of your BPI, you can now change your game strategy to accommodate your actual playing ability.  A key factor in winning games is your ability to assess and manage risk, and in order for you to adequately manage risk, you must have a realistic view of your true capabilities.

The Best T-Shirt Ever

I’m always looking for cool and interesting T-shirts to wear to pool tournaments, and last week I saw what I believe to be the best tournament shirt ever.  EVER!  Here’s the picture…I’ve gotta get one!