Monthly Archives: November 2013

Building A One Pocket Game

I started playing One Pocket in January 2013, and I’ve now put together a list of the seven most common shots and moves that come up when I play the game. These are the skills I need to master in order for me to improve my One Pocket game and move to the next level. I’ll be working on these skills for at least the next month.

1. Break shot – The break is arguably the most important shot in that a good break can immediately put your opponent in a very bad situation, or conversely, a poorly executed break shot can immediately lead to a sell out.

2. Short Banks – The most basic shot in One Pocket. This shot is a core skill that must be mastered at a very high level of proficiency to allow you to score “easy” points and punish your opponent for placing object balls near his pocket and leaving the cue ball near your pocket.

3. Long banks – The second most basic shot in One Pocket that can be used to score points from almost any position on the table.

4. 2-Rail Banks – A common One Pocket shot that allows you to shoot up table and place a ball near (or in) your pocket that was originally located on your opponent’s side of the table.

5. 3-Rail Banks (long rail first) – A common One Pocket shot that allows you to shoot up table and place a ball near (or in) your pocket that was originally located in the middle of the table or on your opponents side of the table.

6. 3-Rail shots (short rail first) – A common One Pocket shot that allows you to shoot down table towards your opponent’s pocket and place a ball near (or in) your pocket that was originally located directly in front of your opponent’s pocket. These shots have a devastating impact on your opponent when executed correctly.

7. Running balls- As with any pool game, the ability to run multiple balls in one inning can easily mean the difference between winning or losing. If your opponent knows you have the ability to run balls, it can have a huge psychological impact and will likely alter the strategic and tactical choices your opponent makes. To work on ball running skills, I practice the “L” drill for at least 30 minutes each practice session.  The “L” drill is great for working on cut shots while at the same time controlling speed and spin so you can get position on your next shot.

Over the next few weeks l’ll talk about each of these skills in more detail and provide some tips and tricks for success. For now, it’s getting close to 11am on a Saturday morning, my wife is working a full shift today, and the pool hall opens in a few minutes, so guess what I’ll be doing for the next 7 hours?!  See ya later!



I traveled 2,600 miles to the New Jersey / New York City area and spent 4 days there on official day job business, and never once had the opportunity to visit a pool hall.  The man actually expected me to work while I was there.  What a bummer!  I had wanted to visit Amsterdam Billiards, Society Billiards, Steinway Billiards, Castle Billiards, and Gotham City Billiards while I was traveling, but I guess I’ll have to do that on my next flight out.  Now I’m suffering from pool withdrawal.  I haven’t played in over a week.  No problem.  I’ve already got three One Pocket matches and a practice session scheduled for tomorrow, so I guess I’ll get my fix soon.

Mark “The Snake” Jones

Mark Jones2His name alone strikes fear in his opponents.  Mark “The Snake” Jones.  I vividly remember the first time I met him.  It was in 1988 when I was a student at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, Georgia.  I was just starting to get “serious” with pool and was looking for a place to play near Georgia Tech’s campus.  If I was going to be a serious pool player I knew I needed to have my own cue, so I bought my very first cue from a local billiards supply company in Atlanta.  When I mentioned my interest in getting involved in a pool league, they steered me to a league operator with the American Pool Players Association.  It turns out, there was an APA 8-Ball team playing out of a bar relatively near Georgia Tech called The Beer Mug.  I signed up.

I played with my team at The Beer Mug for a couple years, and often had the opportunity to watch Mark play as The Beer Mug was also his team’s home base.  The thing I remember most about Mark was the intensity of his focus and his game face.  There was something about the way he held himself as he whipped around the table, adjusting his wheelchair, taking aim, and in almost all cases either pocketing a ball or playing a tight safe.  He had a killer instinct and a desire to win that was intimidating.  Everyone in the league knew who he was.  I was actually scared of him, but his tenacity and drive motivated me to be a better player.

Mark JonesI left the Atlanta area 15 years ago for a job in California.  I often wondered what became of Mark.  Imagine my surprise a few days ago when a friend sent me a link to an article in the Atlanta magazine Creative Loafing.  Surprise, surprise!  Mark is doing very well, indeed.  He will be traveling to South Africa this December to compete for a gold medal in the WPA’s 9-Ball Championship.  I was ecstatic to see Mark again, and I wish him the best of luck in South Africa.  You can read more about Mark and his journey in the Creative Loafing article by clicking either of the pictures above.  Good luck Mark!

Headed to New York

It’s early Monday morning and I’m headed to the airport to catch a 6AM flight from San Jose, CA to the New York / New Jersey area.  I’m traveling there because of my day job.  I don’t mind the occasional business trip, especially when I can take my cue case along.  Each day this week will be filled with various business meetings, animated group discussions, tough breakout sessions, and the like.  But each day when the 5 o’clock whistle blows, I’ll be headed to the edgy pool underworld to live out my alter ego as a ruthless cold steely-eyed pool hustler, albeit without the hustling.  I’ve already mapped out my pool playing plans for each night; in effect, a personal pool tour that will take me through different parts of eastern New Jersey, Manhattan, Queens, and the Bronx.  Hopefully, I’ll have a chance to post updates during the week.  Adios, and good shooting!

One of those days

I got to the pool hall around 11:15 this morning to log some practice time before a One Pocket match that I had scheduled for 1PM.  I started my warm-up with the “L” drill and was shooting pretty well.  Then I decided to practice some progressive rotation drills, and that’s when my game started to fall apart.  Boink, Boink, Boink.  Nothing was dropping.  Normally, when I start shooting badly, it just means that I’m not mentally focused.  My usual method for addressing this is to take a 5 minute break so that I can rest, calm myself down, and refocus my thoughts.   On most occasions, this works.  Today, it did not.  After taking two or three breaks in rapid succession, I realized that I was feeling light headed and slightly nauseous.  Humm, not good.  I cancelled my One Pocket match and headed home.  Now, time for an afternoon nap.

The Ultimate Pool Game?

What is your favorite pool game?  I’ve always preferred 8-Ball over 9-Ball because I favor games that provide a mental challenge.  9-Ball is fun, but it’s mostly a game of execution and angle management.  You know exactly what the shooting order will be; it’s just a matter of figuring out how to get from one shot to the next.  8-Ball (and straight pool for that matter) not only require shot execution, but also require a much more in-depth analysis of possible run patterns since the shooting order is not preordained.  8-Ball has been my favorite game for 20 years.  Now, it’s time for me to move on and try to master another game:  One Pocket.

It is often said that 9-Ball is the “checkers game” and One Pocket is the “chess game” of the pool world.  I started playing One Pocket in January of this year and have really started to love the game.  It’s amazing how complex the game can be, given that it is defined by such simple rules.  The game rules are simple: make 8 balls in your corner pocket before your opponent makes 8 balls in the opposite corner pocket.  All standard pool rules apply.  That’s about it.  Seems simple doesn’t it?  Don’t be fooled.  One Pocket is by far the most complex game I’ve ever played.  There are as many good (and bad) ways to play One Pocket as there are players.  Every player has different strengths and weaknesses, which drives their shot making decision process.  Every time you step up for your turn, there are multiple shot options that you must consider.   Do I have a shot at my pocket?  If I miss, will my opponent have a shot at his pocket?  If I leave the cue ball in a certain spot, will my opponent have a simple (1-rail) bank shot available?  Can my opponent make a simple bank?  What about a 2-rail or 3-rail bank?  Can I attempt a low percentage bank with the correct speed, and still leave my opponent with no return shot?  If I leave my opponent with no clear shot, will he still be able to move 2 or more balls toward his pocket and leave me in a worse position?  Should I take an intentional foul and penalty by freezing the cue ball in the stack without hitting a rail in the hopes that my opponent will sell out on his next shot?  The list of questions and options goes on and on.

One Pocket is an interesting game in that the winner is usually the player with the most knowledge, not necessarily the best shooting skills.  There are several guys I play with who can’t hang with me in either 8-Ball or 9-Ball, but they consistently school me in One Pocket.  Fascinating!  I’m hooked.  Over the next several months I will be studying and breaking down the game of One Pocket.  I will be identifying the key skills that are necessary, develop and execute specific practice routines to improve those areas, and then rebuild myself and focus on improving my One Pocket game.  More on this in future posts.

New York City Pool Tour

I’m traveling to the New York City area next week on official “day job” business.  One of the benefits of my occasional business trips is that it gives me the opportunity to visit pool halls in other cities and meet up with local players.  This trip will be no exception.  There are some fantastic pool establishments in the greater New York City area and I plan to visit several of them.  Here’s my tentative list of places to visit:

  • Castle Billiards, East Rutherford, NJ
  • Steinway Billiards, Astoria, NY
  • Society Billiards, New York, NY
  • Amsterdam Billiards, New York, NY

Does anyone know of other pool halls in the area that I “must see?”

15 And Out

I don’t have much time to practice, but I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple practice sessions each week over the last 4 weeks.  It’s amazing how quickly you can get back to your ‘normal’ playing speed with just a few FOCUSED practice sessions.  When I practice I try to keep each session between 2-3 hours and start with a line drill to get warmed up.  After that, I throw out all 15 balls and pocket the balls in any random order…just to get the ‘ball pocketing bug’ out of my system.  Then, the REAL practice begins.

L DrillI set up 12 or 13 balls in the “L” formation as indicated in the picture to the left, and try to run them in order while pretending the national title is on the line.  I’ve fallen in love with this drill because it requires the mastery of so many different skills.  You must be able to cut balls from multiple angles of attack, control the cue ball speed with precision, apply just the right amount of spin when required, and you must know multiple ways to make each shot in case you get out of line.  When I started doing this drill 4 weeks ago (for the first time in many months), I really struggled just to get to ball 4.  It was infuriating how much my game had regressed.  Today, I ran all 12 balls in 5 out of 7 attempts.  It felt really good.

For my last drill of the day I played a progressive rotation drill.  I started with 5 balls randomly thrown on the table, took ball in hand, and tried to run them in order.  If I succeeded, I’d throw out 6 balls the next time.  If I failed, I’d throw out 4 balls the next time and try again.  For each attempt after that, I’d throw out an extra ball if I was successful or take away a ball if I failed.  After an hour or so of doing this, I was hovering between 7 and 8 on average, which is pretty good for me.  Then I failed three times in a row and could tell that I was starting to get tired, so I decided to stop.  No need to develop bad habits.

I took a 5 minute break, then whimsically threw out all 15 balls and decided to try to run them in rotation.  A pipe dream for sure.  A friend of mine at the next table had taken a break from his practice and was watching me shoot.  I commented to him that I was going to try to run all 15 in rotation.  He said jokingly, “You can’t…you’re not Filipino.”  I responded, “Hey, just call me Efren!”  I took ball in hand and lined up on the 1 ball….and proceeded to miss my very first shot at the 1 ball.  With ball in hand.  *Sigh*  I heard a snicker from the sideline, so I responded, “Hey, I was just getting warmed up!”  LOL.  I picked up the cue ball and tried one last time.  The 1 ball dropped, then the 2, then the 3.  Then the 4 dropped and I had to draw the rock 9 feet straight down the long rail for position on the 5 which was almost frozen on the opposite rail.  Down goes the 5 with perfect shape on the 6.  The 6 goes down, the cue ball nudges the 7 free from a kissing 15, and then it’s off to the races.  Balls kept dropping until I got down to the final 13-14-15.  Fortunately, I was still ‘in line’.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember ever running 15 balls in rotation, so my hands were now sweating.  Out comes the ‘sissy glove’.  LOL!  Can’t let sticky hands get in the way of a great run!  I slowed down and carefully thought through each shot before getting down:  Angle, speed, the landing zone for the next shot, a very slight bit of helping English, and a smooth follow through.  Down they went… 13, 14, and 15.  Wahoooo!  High fives all around, and then I’m breaking down my cue.  There’s no way I could top that, so it’s time to leave on a high note.  Now I can’t wait to get back to the pool hall in a couple days for my next practice session.