Tag Archives: Straight Pool

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.

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.

Another Straight Pool Drill

Here’s another drill I picked up from David Sapolis on a recent trip to El Paso, TX.  Spread all 15 balls randomly on half the table as indicated in the diagram below.  Place a cue stick (or just imagine a cue stick) about two inches beyond the side pockets.  You start with ball in hand, and the object of the drill is to sink all balls in any order utilizing only the four pockets available to you.  This drill will force you to plan your routes more simply and minimize cue ball movement…just the way you should be playing 14.1.  If any ball makes contact with the cue stick, the drill is over.  Good luck and happy shooting!

Pool Drills for Straight Pool

On a recent trip to El Paso, TX, I met with David Sapolis and we discussed Straight Pool (14.1) for an hour or so.  One if the most difficult parts of straight pool, at least for me and I suspect for many others, is the rack to rack transition phase.  Without a properly planned and executed break shot, your runs will be severely limited.  David suggested a couple interesting and fun games to help me practice this specific skill, and I present both of them below.

Practice Game:  5.1

Start with a short rack of only five balls.  Using a standard 8 ball type break, break the balls and immediately start your route planning.  Identify your primary and secondary break shots, your primary and secondary key balls, and any problem balls the need to be attacked early.  Once you’ve mapped out your entire shot sequence, start pocketing balls.  If you successfully run the rack, you can rerack all balls and start again with an 8 ball type break.  The primary objective here is to work on your route planning skills, not to work on running lots of balls or to work on break shots.  Here’s a helpful hint: use a soft break so that you leave one or two balls in good position to serve as a break ball.

Practice Game:  9.1

This is basically the same game as 5.1, except you start with a slightly larger rack of nine balls instead of five.  After the break, identify your primary and secondary break shots, your primary and secondary key balls, and any problem balls the need to be attacked early.  You don’t necessarily need to know the exact sequence for the entire rack, but you do need to deal with problem balls early.  If you successfully run the rack, you can rerack all balls and start again with an 8 ball type break.  Again, the primary objective here is to work on your route planning skills, not to work on running lots of balls or break shots.

The real game:  14.1

Now that you’ve gotten lots of practice planning for the transitional break shot, you can go back to 14.1 and see how much you’ve improved your game.  Good luck, and may the high runs be with you!

I’m Back!

Well, up until last week I hadn’t shot pool since November 6.  I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed my three month vacation away from pool.  But alas, there’s only so much time I can stay away before the pool bug starts to bite and I have to indulge my insatiable pool cravings.  Last Tuesday night I played a 14.1 match at Lucky Shot Billiards in Sunnyvale…and what a way to get your feet wet again!  Then last Friday night I played 8ball on a 6 foot bar box at a local dive bar for a couple hours…not the toughest competition I’ve faced, but it was loads of fun and I met some great people!  On Monday night I stopped by California Billiards to hit balls for a couple hours.  It was great to see my friends at Cal and start working out on the table again.  My recent sabbatical from the game gave me a chance to recharge my batteries and now I think I’m ready for the next step in my journey towards pool excellence.

An Evening With John Schmidt

I decided to take it easy tonight as I’m recovering from a very mild case of the flu, so I drove straight home from work to rest.  As I was sitting in my recliner and trying to decide how to occupy my brain, I glanced over to my bookshelf and noticed several straight pool DVDs.  I thought to myself, Ah hah!  This is the perfect evening for a straight pool education!  I grabbed a drink, a can of mixed nuts (pistachios and almonds), and a box of Rocher chocolates.  Ready!

The first video I watched was John’s “Run of 245” video.  The first thing that struck me was how young he looked when he shot the video.  Yikes!  Also, he ran balls with amazing speed.  When John recorded the run, he used a video camcorder, then came back later and over dubbed some comments for the viewers.  The primary reason I enjoyed the video was because I enjoyed observing his shooting style and watching the long run, but from an educational perspective, I was underwhelmed.

The second video was an amazing video.  In “Exactly How I Run 100’s,” John talks to the viewers (the camera) through every single shot all the way through the 164 ball run, and he does this while he is shooting!  I found this video to be most helpful from an educational standpoint, as you have the opportunity to think through the patterns with him, and you get to see how he constantly reconsiders risk and how his shot selections change as he progresses through the racks.

The third video was an Accu-stats video “112 Ball Run with Player Commentary.”  The video was recorded during a straight pool exhibition at the Derby City Classic in 2006.  The video was recorded, then later John and Pat Fleming come back and dubbed player commentary over the video.  This video is very professionally produced, and is good from both an entertainment and educational standpoint.

In my opinion, the Accu-stats video is not nearly as good as the “Exactly” video.  The reason is because in the Accu-stats video John and Pat discuss the shots that he makes, but there is almost no discussion about risk assessment and alternative shot options.  From an entertainment perspective, the Accu-stats video may be the best, but if you are an aspiring pool player and want to master the game of 14.1, I highly recommend “Exactly How I Run 100’s.”  It presents the game from the player’s perspective and makes you think through real world situations.

Well, that’s my evening with Mr. 400.  It’s after 10pm and the biggest issue I have right now is… I really want to go shoot pool right now!  Thankfully, this weekend is a long weekend so I’ll have plenty of time to play.  Wahoo!

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.