Tag Archives: La Gran Via de Aguada

Ring the Bell, School’s In!

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, when I first got to Puerto Rico, I went on a scouting mission to check out a couple pool places that a friend had recommended.  After visiting both locations, I quickly determined that La Gran Via de Aguada was the place where the most talented locals played.  After my initial visit, I had the opportunity to go back a few days later.  As you may recall from my post on October 28, I mentioned that one issue that I have is the fact that I love to play the game too much.  As such, I tend to either just spread the balls around the table and shoot them in, or just set up practice drills and shoot drills for a couple hours.  Both are fun, and there’s certainly a time and place for both, but on my second visit I was there to do something that I REALLY didn’t want to do…just sit on my butt and watch the locals shoot.  The purpose of my visit was threefold: (1) to gauge the overall level of talent in Aguada, (2) determine who the best players were, and (3) learn something by watching the best players shoot.

Robert Thinking

Thinking before shooting

Watching a good player shoot can be an educational experience, as I’m looking for two things: (1) the ability of the player to control the distance the cue ball travels after it collides with the object ball, and (2) the ability of the player to select good routes.  What is route selection?  As the old saying goes, there are multiple ways to skin a cat.  When a player needs to pocket a ball at one end of the table and subsequently pocket a ball at the other end of the table, the player must, before shooting, take into consideration that there are multiple routes the cue ball can take when moving from point A to point B.  The route a player selects to follow is dependent on many factors, including, but not limited to, the following: (1) the player’s knowledge of the routes that are possible, (2) the confidence that they can execute a certain route, and (3) whether or not there are any balls in the way that would interfere with the path of the cue ball.

Yeyo Shooting

Yeyo Shooting

When watching a good player, it’s actually entertaining to “think ahead” of the player, and try to predict the routes he will take.  On occasion, the player will select a route that surprises you, and this can provide you with valuable new ideas on how to attack problems when you are at the table.   I actually had a great time watching two local guys play.  A very good player named Robert was playing a pretty good player named Yeyo (pronounced Jey-Joe).  I watched them shoot 9-ball for probably three hours, and made the following three main observations:

(1)    Robert and Yeyo both had roughly equivalent ball pocketing skills

(2)    Robert’s fundamentals were very solid and he maintained proper stance and mechanics throughout, whereas Yeyo’s fundamentals lacked discipline: he often jumped up from his shooting stance too quickly, and his mechanics tended to progressively deteriorate as the match went on.

(3)    Robert displayed much better control over the distance the cue ball traveled after his shots, which inevitably lead to better position and much easier subsequent shots.  When Yeyo would take the exact same shot and select the same route, he tended to hit the cue ball a little too hard, and usually over ran the optimal stopping point.  This led to progressively harder shots from less advantageous positions.

Robert Good Form v2

Robert's Form

My observations of Robert’s play reinforced three main thoughts that I have regarding areas that I need to focus on:  (1) The importance of maintaining solid fundamentals at all times, (2) the importance of controlling my cue ball distance, as this will make subsequent shots easier and increase my ability to run the table, and (3) the importance of knowing the exact angle the cueball will deflect after it collides with an object ball.  Sounds like I need to develop some practice routines around these concepts, huh?  I’m already working on item number 1 (see the Myelin building exercise from October 29).  In future posts, I will get serious and describe some very specific drills to work on the remaining two concepts.


Scouting Report

Before leaving California for Puerto Rico, I did a little homework.  I contacted Harold Acosta, president of the Puerto Rican Billiard Federation, to ask his advice on playing billiards on the western coast of Puerto Rico.  Harold provided a wealth of information, including recommendations on a couple places that I should visit while on the island.  The first place he recommended I check out was Eggy’s Pool Room in Aguadilla, since it is located on State Road 2 only a few miles from where I am working.  The second location to check out is La Gran Via de Aguada, located at the intersection of State Roads 416 and 417 in Aguada, several miles south of Aguadilla.

After I arrived in Puerto Rico, one of the first things I did was drive around and check out the locations Harold recommended.   I prefer to do scouting runs during my lunch break, as no serious pool player would be caught dead in a pool room during lunch time.  Why?  Because he probably just got to bed after shooting pool all night!  (Notice I said “he”?  I use the male gender simply because over 90% of all pool players are male.  Why is that?  I haven’t the faintest clue.  When it comes to pool, males have absolutely no physical or mental advantage over females.  It’s a mystery to me, but alas, I digress.)  First on my agenda was Eggy’s Pool Room.  Eggy’s is a quaint little place on State Road 2.  The room was open for business when I arrived, but it was completely empty except for a woman behind the counter.  After entering the room and saying, “Hola,” I walked around to check out the equipment.  The condition of the tables Outside Eggysand house cue sticks will tell you a lot about a room; whether it is a serious players room, or just a place where people like to get drunk and start fights.  The room had seven eight-foot coin operated pool tables in good to fair condition and a snack counter with chips, drinks, etc.  The lady behind the counter was very nice.  Even though she spoke absolutely no English, and I spoke almost no Spanish, we were still able to communicate the key information of interest, such as when they open, when they close, how much the tables cost, and when most people show up to play.  As I walked around the room, I paid special attention to the wall decorations.  You can learn an awful lot about a place just by looking at what the owners and patrons place on the walls; it indicates what they value.  It’s interesting how much information you can pick up.  On one wall, I found a Inside Eggyshuge display board that was filled with pictures of patrons smiling, laughing, hugging, and having a great time.  I could tell this place had a good natured clientele, mostly aged 20-35.  My synopsis was that this is a great place to meet, greet, and court members of the opposite sex while downing a few cervezas and acting cool with a group of your friends.  In my book, this place gets an “A” for socialization and an “F” for serious play.  Not my kind of place…LOL!!  After wandering around for ten minutes, I said my goodbyes, got back in my car, and peeled out of the parking lot….eeeeerrrrrrrrggggggg!  On to my next stop, La Gran Via de Aguada.

La Gran Via de Aguada (I still haven’t deciphered the meaning of the name) is the type of place your mother warned you about.  When I pulled into the parking lot, my hands instinctively shot out for the door locks just to Outside La Granmake sure they were still engaged.  Just take a look at the outside of this place.  What is that on the bottom floor anyway, an auto body shop?  This place looks like the type of establishment where you rent rooms by the hour.  Hummmm… I hate to admit it, but from a pool playing perspective, this place looks promising!  I muster up some courage, then jump from the car and quickly bound up the stairway.  I’m moving as fast as possible to avoid any potential stray bullets from the neighborhood.  After successfully traversing an open doorway, I step into the room and appear to have been transported to some alternate reality.  On the inside, the place is actually quite nice.  The room has eight eight-foot coin operated pool tables in good condition, and five nine-foot tournament tables also in good condition.  There’s even a very large bar area with Inside La Granadequate seating in the back.  I make eye contact with a gentleman who is cleaning the floor, but he doesn’t speak any English, and I…well, you know.  I pulled out my camera and the gentleman smiled and waved me on.  After a quick five minute tour, I’ve discerned that this is a place for serious players.  Yes, there are some instances of the standard bad pool room art, but there’s also something of interest on the walls.  There are photos of some professional players here, and the bar seating is well designed to allow patrons in the bar to observe matches at the tables.  Yes, someone here has a good knowledge and appreciation for the game, and where there is one, there are usually others.  Yes, this is the place I want to come back to.  I make a move to leave, but decide to stop at the doorway and take one last look.  I move my head slowly from side to side, taking in the ambiance.  As I make eye contact with the cleaning guy again, I slide my sunglasses down over my eyes, and say in a monotone voice, “I’ll be back!”